by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
Canada Monitors Internet in Order to Promote Seal Hunt Propaganda
The story actually first broke in the media in 2010. For some reason it recently resurfaced as a news story, although now there is something else to mull over about what is the worst, sleaziest and most disreputable Canadian government I have ever experienced ... but I can’t get into that here. The story I refer to is that the current government paid $75,000 to the Social Media Group for a pilot project to monitor online chat rooms and political commentary with a view of “correcting” any “misinformation” pertaining to the commercial East Coast seal hunt, now once more under way, in spite of a miniscule market for the product, declining seal numbers as a result of the loss of sea-ice essential for whelping and worldwide condemnation of the cruelty inherent to the hunt.
Other governments play similar games, although usually not in defense of killing wildlife. For example, in 2008 we learned that in the United States the Pentagon expanded “Information Operations” to set up websites that looked like legitimate foreign news services, but which promoted U.S. military propaganda to “correct” news that was “inaccurate.” Israel produced a network of supposed citizen bloggers after the Internet hummed with criticism of some Israeli actions. And the company, Monsanto, is notorious for its “fake citizens,” invented in the 1990s to use social media to counter concerns about genetically modified food, while currently there are various efforts afoot — fueled, so to speak, by the fossil fuel industry — to discredit concerns about global climate change.
Determining facts when the power of big government and big business is employed to dilute the factual landscape with fictional claims requires a greater degree of sophistication, analytical skill and, ideally, knowledge of the subject than most of us possess with regard to most issues. Abraham Lincoln (1809- 1865) said you could fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, and for the Harper (or any other) government or big business, that’s all you have to do. You don’t have to fool all of the people all of the time in order to foment confusion and disinformation.
The Harper government recently announced more cuts to Environment Canada, with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency being due to get a 40 percent cut in the new budget year. This is the same government whose minister of natural resources, Joe Oliver, said in January that people opposed to a proposed pipeline through pristine wilderness, including aboriginal groups whose lands were affected, were “radical,” and fumed that they were funded by U.S. and other foreign money. Apparently he had no similar concerns about who funds Big Oil. The true irony is that Oliver thought such folks “... don’t take into account the facts but are driven by an ideological imperative.”
Huh? Look, without getting all philosophical about the nature of “truth,” surely the most fact-driven group of people on the planet is the scientific community, and yet again and again their concerns have been ignored by the Harper government, just as they are ignored by the extreme right of the Republican Party in the United States. The situation is bizarre and a sad indictment of human intelligence.
The seal hunt is an anachronism that reflects an era where fortunes could be made by exploiting the raw resources, and they still can be, if we simply ignore any negative results. It is as if, to these ideologues, the future does not exist, so don’t worry. If the Americans won’t buy our oil the Chinese will, and damn the consequences of avoiding any annoying regulations.
The Harper government closed the northernmost station examining ozone depletion, and is trying to change the law that provides protection for fish-breeding habitat by dispensing of the responsibility and has done as close to nothing as is possible to combat climate change. I could fill pages with examples of how the government is running roughshod over fact-based concerns, but what’s the use? Facts, officially, don’t matter. We are a country run on myth, and, of course, fossil fuels, and damn anyone for daring to prove, or even mention, the cruelly short-sighted folly of our ways.