Thursday, September 27, 2018

An Unreliable Narrator

In fiction there exists what is known as the unreliable narrator, which can be defined in this way:
It is a character who tells the reader a story that cannot be taken at face value. This may be because the point of view character is insane, lying, deluded or for any number of other reasons.
It is a useful convention for a number of reasons, including the misdirection it allows the author to engage in. An example of such a narrator would be Anna Fox, the protagonist of the recent bestseller The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn.

It seems to me that politics, by its nature, encourages the unreliable narrator. All leaders and their surrogates tell their version of truth, a truth diluted, even perverted by their electoral and policy goals. For example, the Conservatives regularly rail against what they see as Liberal fiscal profligacy, while the Liberals are always keen to portray Andrew Scheer et al. as crypto-racists. As for the the federal NDP, well, I'm not sure what story they are trying to tell these days.

Here in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford (and believe me, I abhor using that particular word combination) is proving to be an unreliable narrator extraordinaire as he strives to convince Ontarians that the former Liberal government was nothing more than an extended exercise in flagrant, unrepentant criminality.
Perhaps emboldened by weekend chants of “Lock her up!” the premier convened his caucus first thing Monday, and summoned the media to make a melodramatic announcement:

Doug Ford told Ontarians to “follow the money.” He boasted of a forensic “line-by-line audit” that would prove incriminating. And he claimed the numbers tell a damning story of Liberal “corruption” and enrichment.

Invoking his majority muscle, Ford announced a special “select” committee to “compel” evidence in a legislative witch hunt, lest Liberals “walk away from this.”
The foundation for this exercise in damagoguery is the claim by Finance Minister Vic Fedeli that he has discovered a coverup that puts the provincial deficit at $15 bullion, $8 billion more than was disclosed.

The only problem with this claim is that it is orchestrated nonsense, because
the outside report he ordered up, and relied upon for those claims, said no such thing. For all the overheated allegations that the last government “cooked the books,” the undisputed truth is that its pre-election budget was an open book, fully vetted by the province’s auditor general (even if she disagreed with the bottom line Liberal analysis).
Unreliable narrators rely on people getting swept up in the story, so much so that they do not think about what they already know or should know.
As for that supposedly damning forensic audit, it was no such thing. Peter Bethlenfalvy, the minister who ordered it up, sheepishly admitted to reporters later that it was produced by private sector “consultants” at EY Canada — not qualified auditors in the firm’s audit department. It was “not a forensic audit, not a line by line review,” he acknowledged.
And, in a classic technique employed by the unreliable narrator, Doug Ford is glossing over something the report did reveal:
...the quickie study noted that spending increases within the Ontario public service were virtually zero during the Liberal years. What has risen, significantly, is spending on health care and education — precisely what Ford promised not to cut on the campaign trail.
The Star's Martin Regg Cohn says that these exercises in deception and demagoguery serve only to debase our democratic discourse. That may well be true, but unfortunately, amongst the electorate, there are far too many happy to engage in that kind of destructive conversation.


  1. It speaks volumes that so many of us are content to tolerate this, Lorne. We ought to see it for what it is, abuse of the public trust. We don't demand better.

    1. We are our own worst enemy in so many ways, Mound.