How would you like to get a gift from your employer? Last year the president of the National Research Council gave each of his more than 4,000 employees a $3 gift certificate at Tim Hortons. Offered in recognition of professional contribution to the NRC, Canadian Press reported 65 laid-off workers were naturally insulted getting the voucher for coffee and a doughnut on what turned out to be their last day on the job.
John Kenneth Galbraith identified "the conventional wisdom." Gore Vidal talked about "received opinion (henceforth RO)." Noam Chomsky wrote about how the media "manufactured consent." George Lakoff showed how "framing" is used to structure debate.
None of these commendable efforts to open our eyes to what high-placed people want us to believe (for their benefit, not ours) captures adequately the current attempts by the Harper government to mislead and fool Canadians about issues that matter to their well-being: resource exploitation and environmental protection.
In 2009, the then-minority Harper government smuggled a seemingly innocuous phrase into the federal budget: "Scholarships granted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) will be focused on business-related degrees." Yet this humble sentence garnered a 20,000 signature-strong petition presented to Stephen Harper by MP and future NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton. For graduate students who signed the petition, the one-time funding increase doubled as a barely audible declaration of intent which sought to nudge Canadian arts research towards the interests of capital.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest scientific society, chose Vancouver to hold its prestigious annual conference. This is no small matter. The scientists of the AAAS lead the way on issues of the highest importance to humanity. The health, wealth and indeed the future of our planet depend on their expertise.