By Letter to the Editor on March 15, 2017.
The outrageous entertainer Liberace embodied a dictum: “Nothing succeeds like excess” like an elephant in the room. Jonathan Kay, Editor-in-Chief of the Walrus magazine, spoke on the CBC TV about the dilemma journalists faced during the 2016 U.S. election. The now elected president was such a reprehensible figure that he should have been ignored. But he was also so omnipresent in the media that no journalist could afford not to cover him. So he became famous. And it worked.
During the 1970s, the World Council of Churches was widely condemned by mainline media for its decision to support African liberation movements such as Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. They accused the church of supporting Communist terrorists. Archbishop Ted Scott, then Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, was derided as “Red Bishop” because he was also the head of the World Council of Churches. I was expelled from South Africa after a three-day detention. We suffered much negative publicity.
However, late Hugh McCullum, then the editor of the United Church Observer, said to the effect, even bad press is good for publicity because it draws public’s attention. People will know you exist. Notoriety still is a fame. Otherwise you remain nobody. This is why twisted minds drive people to commit terrible crimes to be famous.
Many people no longer read newspapers and have moved away from TV to social media. Hence, knowledge is Twitter length; mere 140 characters. Nobody seems interested in perhaps more relevant details. So to be a recognizable name is good on the election day. Watch the Conservative Leadership race and see who gets more attention. A reality TV personality.
How often the reference was made of the now U.S. president on social media is truly phenomenal. It was a huge exposure. It does not matter how negative it was, it’s an amount of the coverage that counts. Those who didn’t like him should have ignored him. Being ignored is the worst thing that could happen to megalomaniacs. But how can one ignore a big, ugly thing in the same room? It was the dilemma Jonathan Kay referred to.
Now an elephant is stomping around the country destroying what many decent people cherish. But the country is so divided that no one seems to be able to effectively stop it. Let’s hope it won’t happen in Canada.
Tadashi (Tad) Mitsui
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