Politicians, police, press responsibilities - Denny Scott editorial
Over the past 14 months, I’ve wrestled with the idea of our responsibility, as a newspaper, in the pandemic, the lockdowns and the stay-at-home orders, especially when it comes to those who want to rail against said measures.
It’s a tough place for The Citizen’s editorial department to be in because every week you can see larger media outlets giving more ink, more screen time and more air time to people who are arguing against the measures without any kind of accreditation, scientific evidence or, in some cases, common sense.
There very well may be scientific arguments out there against the measures the province has taken (and I mean contrary to the lockdowns, I don’t mean the scientific arguments that we know about that say the province isn’t doing enough), however every time we’re shown people fighting against it, we’re shown what I’ve always called the LEP - the Loudest, most Entertaining Person.
When I was growing up, the entertainment industry had an entire subsection based on the LEPs - most of which was mid-day entertainment. Shows like The Jerry Springer Show, Ricky Lake, and The Maury Povich Show capitalized on the most dramatic members of the public and, quite often, those people were also loud and ill-informed. Be honest: no one’s going to judge you for knowing exactly what I’m talking about. If you ever watched the shows for more than 15 minutes, you likely heard something said like, “You’re not the father” and wild hijinks ensued, so you know exactly the kind of people I’m talking about.
Now, however, instead of being front and centre in the midday talk show, the LEPs are being featured by legitimate news corporations or, even worse, given regular platforms on quasi-legitimate news services.
Monday morning showed one of the worst kinds of LEPs during a CBC report on the pandemic in Alberta.
A woman said the pandemic must not be that bad because her immunocompromised husband, who had never donned a mask during the pandemic and attended gatherings, was still alive and kicking.
She said if it was as dire as everyone was making it out to be, he “would have been dead six times now.”
Anyone with half a brain would normally dismiss this kind of argument, but when it’s presented by an organization like the CBC, it lends some credit to what is being said.
Apply what she says to anything else that’s dangerous in life:
• I’ve been in a car accident, but I didn’t die, so it must not be as bad as everyone says.
• I smoke, but I don’t have lung cancer, so it must not be as bad as everyone says.
It’s a stupid argument, but because, as news outlets, we feel like we have to cover both sides of a story, and some outlets sometimes end up giving a platform to people with completely false and damaging arguments.
Our job in giving the right people the right amount of coverage is difficult, and we’re doing our best, however events like the Church of God services in Aylmer are making it even more difficult, because politicians are throwing their support behind them, further muddying the waters.
An estimated 200 people were at the church for a service on April 25, and if you check out the church’s YouTube video, none who were featured were masked.
In attendance (and also unmasked) were independent MP Derek Sloan and MPP Randy Hillier, both of whom were, in the past several years, removed from their respective Conservative parties.
Why are they important? Well a couple weeks back in The Citizen’s editorials, we talked about the importance of leading by example and why we would be more than happy to take some pictures of local politicians getting their vaccines. It’s important that our elected officials show they are committed to the same goals as us by acting like they do.
In being a part of these illegal activities, Sloan and Hillier aren’t just showing they have no regard for a deadly disease that has claimed the lives of millions of people, they are also showing a complete disregard for the rules, common sense and the authorities.
That’s where the second P in the headline comes in: the police. It would be easy for me to say that we need to see these politicians chained up and taken in, as well as Pastor Henry Hildebrandt, who not only leads the services, but lambasts his fellow clergy for not doing the same. Unfortunately, these politicians and pastors have found an easily-led flock who might not be dissuaded by seeing their leaders led away in handcuffs. They may actually be emboldened by it and it could lead to even worse situations.
When it comes to the legitimate press, the politicians and the police, we’re all (except for Hillier and Sloan and similarly mis-informed politicians) walking a tight-rope trying to do just the right amount of our jobs without galvanizing the groups who are putting themselves and others in danger. Some of us are going to fall but at least we’re trying to keep the public safe.