Wednesday Night #1517

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Prologue

Judging by the early high-decibel roaring of the election campaign, we are doomed to the contrarian’s view of the month of March – this one will not go out like a lamb. It looks like a long (possibly tedious) stretch from now until May 2nd
Meantime, whether on the subject of politics or geopolitics, we should all bear in mind the findings of this article (Thank you, David Mitchell!)
How facts backfire
Researchers discover a surprising threat to democracy: our brains
“Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.”

So Wednesday Night will offer a bit of respite this week as we celebrate the artistic achievements of two Wednesday Nighters – Wayne Larsen and John Curtin.

Wayne, as most of us know, is a busy and talented man In addition to being an accomplished artist, journalist, and teacher of journalism at Concordia, he is the author of several wonderful books. We are delighted to celebrate his latest, Tom Thomson: Artist of the North which follows his successful biographies of A.Y. Jackson: The Life of a Landscape Painter and James Wilson Morrice: Painter of Light and Shadow. We have enjoyed Wayne’s tales of his research and are so pleased that he has offered to share some of them with us all on Wednesday Night.
John Curtin‘s latest oeuvre, was completed in record time as the project, originally scheduled to air in the Fall, had to be accelerated to catch the pre-nups audience. CBC’s Doc Zone will feature “Chasing the Royals,” (a study of the – sometimes bizarre – relationship between the media and the Royals) on Thursday the 31st at 9PM. The documentary is part of a double feature that unofficially kicks off the CBC’s coverage of THE upcoming wedding on April 29. [That would be the wedding that Stephen Harper will NOT be attending]. John’s film is preceded at 8PM by “Marketing the Monarchy,” which looks at the creation and sale of souvenir merchandise from commemorative crockery to $5,000 paperweights. That should be pretty entertaining, even if it is not one of John’s creations. [Update: available online at http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/doczone/ – go to right-hand bar and click on watch online]
Robert Galbraith is exhibiting a new talent, this time for architectural photo journalism. For those who have missed his recent pieces, check out these two; as always the gorgeous photos tell the story even more vividly –
(1) A history-enhanced mansion : Modern touches embellish traditional brick-and-stone styling
(2) History for sale in Old Montreal : the Hostellerie Pierre du Calvet
We would be remiss if we did not mention our Greeks bearing intellectual gifts. In his role of AHEPA president, Ken Matziorinis has issued a cordial invitation to Wednesday Nighters to attend on April 4, a Groundbreaking Conference on Emerging Hellenic-Israeli Relations. See Scrapbook 2011 for details.
And on April 14, Kimon Valaskakis invites Wednesday Night friends and colleagues to the long-heralded Montreal Dialogues presented by the New School of Athens. The one-day conference at the ICAO HQ looks at lessons to be learned from the Canadian Socioeconomic Model in the Post-Crisis World. All details, including the Registration Form can be found on the NSoA website.
There will, of course, be other items on Wednesday Night’s agenda including the turmoil in the Middle East, the dilemma faced by the coalition (yes, this is a good word in this context) over what comes next in Libya, where it is increasingly apparent that “be careful what you wish for” should be the principal guideline for every policy wonk. As the BBC’s Jonathan Marcus points out in his Analysis “Continuing air attacks will reach a point where they are no longer ensuring the protection of civilians but aiding the offensive operations of the rebels. Some might argue that point has already come.” Meanwhile, the Independent has a story on Tuesday that the West willing to strike immunity deal with Gaddafi to end conflict . We are of two minds about this. On the one hand, we deplore the idea that the Brother Leader might get off with not even a slap on the wrist (although, one hopes, without his millions), but if that’s the only way to end the fighting and get rid of Gaddafi, then perhaps it is the wiser path. But what kind of message does it send to other despots?
The situation in Japan continues to be of concern, while the world applauds the steadfast, dignified and almost unbelievably gracious behaviour of the Japanese population.
The world economy appears to be wobbling a bit, although this may be just another of Ron Meisels’ cycles. According to the BBC, Euro economists expect Greek default, while Finance chiefs urge caution over Latin economy because of looming risks to the region’s post-crisis rebound from the effects of a Chinese economic slowdown and US economic policy uncertainty. In other developments, Cleo suggests that one story to watch is Russia-China Oil Price Dispute Valued at $100M
And then, as mentioned at the outset, there is the Canadian federal election. While we hardly intend to comment on the minute-to-minute frenzy (or lack thereof), we would like to draw your attention to a few items that you may have missed and that are worth your consideration.
(1) The discussion of the validity of polls by the At Issue Panel (scroll about 60% through the video) they – notably Alan Gregg – commented that polls only scratch the surface of public opinion, and that the media pay attention to the wrong results. Interesting point that some 30% of the under-35 population do not have a land line, therefore they are unreachable.
With that caveat, we would like to know whether you believe that Mr. Harper’s emphasis on the Coalition Scare is a good tactic – especially now that it seems to have bitten him back.
(2) John Ibbitson: Five reasons Ottawa is turning you off
Canadians seem more distanced from their federal government than at any time in living memory. While separatism may be on the wane in Quebec, apathy could well be the biggest threat to national unity. What’s causing it? And what do we do about it? What is interesting is that Ibbitson goes on to counter each of the items, highlighting why it is important to pay attention – and vote.
Note: One organization working to combat the universally-identified problem of youth apathy is Ilona Dougherty‘s great organization Apathy is boring
(3) While it seems that most Wednesday Nighters agree in condemning Attack Ads of any and all political parties, the piece on The National (start at 32:50) analysing the current political ads is both entertaining and informative.
(4) Finally, for all but the most committed/intransigent, we think that the CBC Vote Compass initiative is a really good idea.
Whatever your political persuasion, or lack thereof, do join us for dialogue and diatribe.

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