“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” — Joseph Goebbels
MONTREAL, QC. — Some time ago, political parties figured out that dumb people vote too. Why go to the trouble of presenting intelligent arguments in support of a platform that would only be fully understood by so few? There is a huge pool of the electorate that is easily influenced by other means.
The politics of division, negative ads, and fear mongering was popularized.
Similarly hard core sports enthusiasts study game footage, pour over statistics, and seek out in-depth analysis. It’s no different in the NHL. But as hockey reaches new fans and diverse markets, those new to the game arrive looking for the mega-mall rather than the specialty shop.
In stepped the 24-hour sports talk shows to fill the void. But the burning question screamed, where would they get the content? There is only so long that one can discuss the latest power-play scheme or the idiocy of the trapezoid rule.
While Montreal likes to think of itself as having the most knowledgeable hockey fans in the world, the house of cards is teetering. Booing home team game stars, disrespecting foreign anthems and valuing birthplace more than talent are just a few of the dents in the Best Fans cup.
Just as political parties appeal to fringe special interest groups, sports talk radio learned to feature the crazy fan. You know the one. They are exasperated, at their wits end, and always making the call just before they tear up their fan club membership card.
Many readers will recall “Angry Sal” who became somewhat of a cult hero during the first round of the playoffs last Spring against Washington. The rant of an obviously frustrated Canadiens fan was exploited by an opportunistic radio host. It wasn’t pretty.
On Saturday night, “Harry” called a Montreal radio station to announce that he was giving away his collection of Canadiens loonies. Harry hates goaltender Carey Price so much that he is becoming an Ottawa Senators fan. He is divesting himself of all things bleu, blanc et rouge.
Let’s all wave goodbye to Harry.
My personal favorites are calls that begin, “I didn’t see the game, but…” Of course, let’s hear from someone who hasn’t got the first clue. If a radio station was interested in an intelligent debate of issues, how would these people get on the air?
The truth is so boring.
Instead, some radio personalities have learned to state something outrageous, repeat it often and reinforce it by recruiting and spotlighting fans who can be described as being on the edge.
Soon, these crazy ideas, promoted and repeated in the hothouse environment, start to be considered part of the mainstream and assumed to be supported by a majority.
It’s scarily similar to the formula described by Goebbels.
The Minister of Propaganda said that truth was the biggest threat to this approach. If you host a radio show, it’s easy to maintain the message within the bubble. Callers who might bring reason are simply screened out.
Whether driven by curiosity or ego, some hosts have decided to step outside the cocoon into the realm of social media. To their dismay, they are encountering very knowledgeable fans who are capable of making rational and intelligent arguments. It’s just the kind of Kryptonite that could destroy their insular world.
So what’s a radio host to do?
Well, if he’s on Twitter, there’s the power of the block.
We’re not talking about blocking someone for rude or threatening behaviour but for an alternative view or in some cases, simply asking for clarification.
Yes, I read somewhere that it was “vitally important …to use all of its powers to repress dissent.”
It’s sad situation. A so-called celebrity who allows personal insecurities to get in the way of communicating with some bright, reasonable people.
Why is this important?
It’s more than just an opportunity lost to engage with fans. It is the ideal environment for agenda-driven journalism. Issues are primed for manipulation.
How many people really participated in mocking a goaltender, booing an anthem, or rioting in the streets?
Some commonly held myths were born in such a setting: Canadiens management having a policy restricting player negotiations during the year; Andrei Markov saying ‘nyet’ to the captaincy of the team; and Price demanding a five-year contract.
None are accurate.
But what about when falsehoods turn to character assassinations? You may recall the fairy tale about the Kosititsyns and Roman Hamrlik being involved in mob activity. We were told that exposing it would be the worst scandal in the 100-year history of the Canadiens from which it was uncertain whether the organization would recover.
It was nonsense.
It’s not only players who are targets. Matthew proudly wore his Carey Price jersey out to Complexe Sportif Bell in Brossard to watch a Canadiens practise. He was met by a group of angry Price-haters who verbally-assaulted him.
Why is this happening? We have been treated to mega-doses of commentary from the lunatic fringe over the radio waves describing the Canadiens number one goaltender as being lazy, aloof, disinterested, immature, unmotivated, arrogant, reckless, undisciplined, and self-absorbed.
And how do we know this? Well, someone’s neighbour’s cousin knows a guy who saw him… “Oh really,” says the host. That is, of course, is in addition to his own little “sources-say” gems.
Is this anything more than tabloid journalism?
The combustibles have been added, and the pot stirred. It’s usually at this point that the reporter claims no responsibility.
Is there any wonder why a vacuum exists and is being filled by the new media?
Regarding the issue of Carey Price, right now, it’s a powder keg. The Canadiens fan community has been described as being on the verge of civil war.
There is a small but vocal group who are filled with hatred who have lost all ability to make rational judgments. They demand blood.
How did we get here? There are many reasons. But the biggest slice of the pie has to go to the media who stoked a controversy in their own self-interest.
Objectivity be damned when BBM ratings are to be gained.
The more important question is how do we get through it? There is a path. It will be bumpy but manageable.
It won’t be easy to put the dragon back in the box. It involves open discussion, objective and responsible reporting, and eliminating pedestals for the nut-bars.
But what happens when the host and content of the show is such that it mostly attracts wing-nuts?
To that I say, Canadiens fans deserve, and should demand, better.