Same Alarmism, Different Century

Green Che - Reuters.jpg

Writing in yesterday's Toronto Star, David Suzuki Foundation CEO Stephen Cornish pulled out all the stops to warn us yet again that "the biosphere is at a tipping point," the "very survival of our species" is threatened, and if "we continue to abnegate our responsibilities" we will "become passive spectators of our own demise." But not to worry. Cornish promises "salvation" (he actually uses this word). "We must rethink our economic model of exponential growth, planned obsolescence, overconsumption and waste," he says. "Far better to proactively design and engineer a circular, renewable and more just economy, than to stand by helplessly awaiting whatever reality brings."

Meanwhile, over at the Globe and Mail, yesterday's lead op-ed was written by Becky Bond, senior adviser to Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, and Adam Klug and Emma Rees, co-founders of Momentum UK and committed Corbynistas. The three eco-radicals are en route to Ottawa, where they have generously offered to "share with Canadians everything we know about mobilizing communities—especially those marginalized by politics-as-usual—in the service of an all-in people's movement for massive political change." Well, lucky us—or, more to the point, lucky are the signatories to the Leap Manifesto, who are going to need all the help they can get to convince their NDP comrades that "Canada is ripe for a Sanders/ Corbyn-styled insurgency" that includes "an emergency mobilization in response to the climate crisis."

There was a time, not long ago, when venerable news outlets like the Star and the Globe might have been wary of such blatantly self-serving advocacy. (Well before the advent of "fake news," readers fretted a good deal about yellow journalism, planted stories and advertorials.) It is entirely the prerogative of a free press to publish op-eds by environmental lobbyists and foreign partisans, of course, but still we might wonder, what is the end game? Do the managers of Canadian news outlets believe, perhaps, that such targeted messaging will draw young people back to traditional media? We hear incessantly about the fragility and naïveté of millennials—and thus of their receptivity to old-school activists like Suzuki and stalwart socialists like Sanders and Corbyn. But there is more wishful thinking behind these generalizations than hard evidence. Young Canadian voters are as savvy as their elders, and they are every bit as invested in their country's continued social, technological and material progress. They may not have living memories of the horrors of twentieth-century collectivism, but they certainly know a successful and prosperous country when they see it.

As durable as these doomsday media narratives have proven, it is evident that mainstream news media are doing Canadian politicos no favours in reproducing them ad infinitum. Odds are that the dream of transforming the NDP into some sort of trans-Atlantic eco-socialist vanguard will next week prove to be yet another dead end for the party—and possibly even the undoing of leader Jagmeet Singh. Not for the first time, and no thanks to our national press, the party of Ed Broadbent, Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair will find itself in the unenviable position of having to remind its radical fringe what country they have wandered into.