Score one for Pierre Poilievre. After tattling on the CBC to Elon Musk, who apparently spent $44 billion to become the world’s most powerful digital hall monitor, he notched a victory when the public broadcaster’s main Twitter account was tagged with the same label Twitter has recently stuck on the BBC, PBS and other public broadcasters. “CBC officially exposed as “government-funded media,” he crowed. “Now people know that it is Trudeau propaganda, not news.”

To be clear, there is nothing in the new label — one that, so far, has only been applied to CBC’s corporate account — that actually says that. It’s no secret that the CBC is funded by taxpayers, and it remains editorially independent of the government of the day, just as it was when Poilievre and prime minister Stephen Harper were in power for almost a decade. More to the point, government funding is not tantamount to the dissemination of propaganda, and if it is, then someone should tell the good folks at Postmedia, which collects many millions in government handouts every year.

But Poilievre’s provocative use of the term “propaganda” speaks to his real mission: not informing Canadians but confusing them. Former Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer hinted at this in his 2020 resignation speech. “Challenge the mainstream media,” he said. “Don’t take the left-wing media narrative as fact. Please check out smart, independent, objective organizations like the Post Millennial or True North. There are other places to get news. Let’s stop being the silent majority.”

Poilievre has taken that argument to a whole different level. In addition to his now-familiar broadsides against the CBC, he took a run during a recent press conference at the independence and integrity of The Canadian Press, an organization that has always remained steadfastly apolitical and nonpartisan. “The CBC, frankly, is a biased propaganda arm of the Liberal Party, and negatively affects all media. For example, CP is negatively affected by the fact that you have to report favourably on the CBC if you want to keep your number 1, taxpayer-funded client happy.”

By taking the CBC and other mainstream organizations out to the rhetorical woodshed, Poilievre is trying to create space in the media landscape for organizations like True North (one with clear and unambiguous conservative ties and which also receives government funding through its charitable status) and other right-wing media startups. His repeated claim that the CBC and other mainstream organizations are engaged in “propaganda” is deeply ironic, too, given that the actual propagandists are the ones he’s trying to empower.

This is, by the way, the same strategy Musk is using in his own much larger war with the press — and the truth. The Twitter overlord’s decision to put a “state-affiliated media” label (one he later amended to “government-funded”) on organizations like the BBC, PBS and NPR seems deliberately designed to both undermine their standing with the public and dilute the labels that previous Twitter management had applied to genuinely state-affiliated media organizations like Russia Today, Sputnik and Xinhua. And if Musk’s animus towards legitimate news organizations wasn’t already abundantly clear, he stripped the New York Times — and only the New York Times — of its verification status after it refused to pay the ransom for his Twitter Blue service.

Like the right-wing populist politicians he’s so chummy with, Musk is deliberately muddying the water on what is and isn’t legitimate journalism. In effect, he’s channelling Steve Bannon, who identified the media as the enemy and said the best way to deal with them was “flooding the zone with shit.” With Twitter, Musk has the most powerful shit-flooding device on the planet at his disposal, and he seems determined to use it as aggressively as possible.

That torrent of turds, and Poilievre’s willingness to open the sluice gates here in Canada, is already having an impact on our democracy. EKOS Research founder Frank Graves created a “disinformation index,” a 15-point scale that “measures how strongly respondents have bought into four pieces of disinformation and how strongly they reject one piece of correct information: vaccine-related deaths are being concealed from the public, COVID-19 vaccines can cause infertility, COVID-19 vaccines can alter a patient’s DNA, inflation is much higher in Canada than in the United States, and climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this is leading, but the results of this research when they’re applied to partisan preferences are still striking. In a poll conducted earlier this year, those who scored zero (that is, they correctly identified the conspiracy theories and the one piece of accurate information) indicated a strong preference for the Liberals (39 per cent) or NDP (35 per cent), with just 12 per cent supporting the Conservative Party of Canada. But as the disinformation index scores rose, so did Conservative support, with 68 per cent of those with a “high” score of five or above preferring the CPC and 12 per cent supporting the PPC.

What do Elon Musk and Pierre Poilievre have in common? Both want to take the fight to the "mainstream media" — and both are damaging our ability to have a fact-based conversation in the process. @maxfawcett writes for @NatObserver

It’s no wonder Poilievre wants to defund the CBC. It’s no wonder he’s taking aim at The Canadian Press. And it’s no wonder he wants to undermine the credibility of any journalist or media organization that refuses to cater to his fact-challenged brand of politics. By deliberately dumbing down the conversation and confusing Canadians about who and what they can trust, he’s trying to tilt the political table in his favour. The operative question now is whether Canadians are going to let him get away with it.

I’m thrilled to announce that my newsletter is joining Canada’s National Observer’s roster. You can expect my signature, no-nonsense analysis delivered to your inbox in a personalized newsletter format each week. Subscribe here and never miss one of my columns.

Keep reading

National Observer should add a share on Mastodon button. For a good Canadian Mastodon instance, go to, or NO could spin up an instance of their own to share their articles with the world. We need to end-run around Twitter now.

Agreed. Ethical organizations and people need to stop supporting unethical organizations and people. I've deactivated my Twitter account. Musk is only going to make Twitter a worse alt-right propaganda platform. Our subscription to Twitter supports his uncivil and dangerous behavior. That's not cancel culture. It's having boundaries based on our values.

It is a proven fact that the Biden administration had the FBI infiltrate the twitter organization to impact the results of the 2020 election. Are you saying this did not happen?

So wrong Len. You can't provide one iota of proof of what you assert in your post.

By the way, "Len", how much do you get paid to post there?

It may or may not be a proven fact, but just making a bald statement reflects no proof, and no "facticity."

Please cite a credible reference.

We've got to stop enabling the conservative narrative; there are many cultures that SHOULD be cancelled.

Yeah, Tyee's there, thanks for that link; I've been thinking about that....

I agree!

I cancelled my Twitter account shortly after Musk took over what was a dumpster fire to begin with and turned Twitter into a raging forest fire. Musk has only managed to accelerate propaganda and misinformation. Poilievre's base are not the sharpest tools in the shed and will believe any garbage that he spews. Are these people too lazy to fact check anything or are they just that illiterate and naïve?

I went over to which is a much better platform and certainly far more intelligent users than you will find on Twitter.

I wouldn't be surprised the Stephen Harper's global terrorist organization the IDU (International Democrat Union) is behind dismantling democracy around the globe. Conservatives have been systematically using the media and organizations to promote their agenda under the guise of freedom, political liberty and equality. The conservative actions around the globe have not even come close to their declaration of principles. It seems more about control and pushing extreme religious nonsense onto the people.

Trudeau has been in power for seven-and-a-half years. During that time the number of bureaucrats in the federal civil service has ballooned by 31 per cent. An astonishing number, especially when you consider that companies such as McKinsey are now billing the government approximately $21 billion per year to do the work of…the government. 

Hey Len, are you a real person and how much are you paid to post here?

Where are you getting your facts from?
These are the numbers on the Canadian government website at:

Number of employees in 2020
300,450 active employees (282,980 in 2010)
Represents 0.79% of the Canadian population (0.83% in 2010)

Between 2010 and 2020, the population also increased:
the population of Canada grew from approximately 34.1 million to 38.0 million (an increase of 11.4%) and
the number of federal public servants increased from 282,980 to 300,450 (an increase of 6.2%)

On ne peut pas jouer comme CBC, NPR etc sont pas une bras du gouvernement. Elon Musk a raison. Quand a CBC fait un rapport de la situation de Julian Assange? Contre cette geurre fou en l'Ukraine? Ils ont leur propre narratif -- exactement ce que le gouvernement veut. Quand a CBC questionné les vaccins? JAMAIS!

M. Guilford, on n'est pas ici pour faire le procès de la CBC/Radio-Canada, ni des vaccins. On discute la chronique dans lequel M. Fawcett regrette que M. Poilièvre se sert de façon éhontée d'une pompe à faussetés, en l'occurrence Twitter, pour appauvrir la teneur du débat politique à l'échelle nationale. À votre avis, quels médias sont sans biais? Où devrions-nous aller pour nous informer?
Bonne journée

Jordan sez:

We can't play like CBC, NPR etc are not an arm of the government. Elon Musk is right. When did CBC report Julian Assange's whereabouts? Against this crazy war in Ukraine? They have their own narrative -- exactly what the government wants. When did CBC question vaccines? NEVER!

-end quote-

Jordan, do you mean the designation applied to the CBC by Saudi government owned Twitter?

Jordan, voulez-vous dire la désignation appliquée à la CBC par Twitter, propriété du gouvernement saoudien?

I suppose Pierre Poilievre already has all the Canadians who don't know what's good for them, and if he tries harder than harper, scheer and otoole he can grab up all the ones who don't care what's good for anybody else. But, that not the Conservative party. And, whatever is the opposite of peace, order, and good government was never a conservative value.

“Big spending, big deficits, big debt, high taxes, high inflation and bond market challenges are not the path to prosperity,” Holt said in a report to investors Wednesday that described the country’s federal government is “addicted to high spending. We are headed for big problems”
When the Liberals claim they have the lowest debt to GDP ratio in the G7, it's because they calculate it in a different way from other countries. They include revenue from the Canada Pension Plan & Quebec Pension Plan as gov't assets even though they can only be used for pensions

Hey Len, are you a real person and are you paid to post here?

Unh ... Len! GDP isn't about government assets.
It might be a good idea to learn the difference between government revenue and GDP.
Also, perhaps, a bit about how the CPP actually works.
I expect the Quebec Pension Plan works similarly to the CPP, but someone talking about it should also check it out before speaking, lest they betray their ignorance.
(I don't know who this "Holt" is, but he doesn't sound like he's given to accurate speech, or that he has any kind of grasp of fract.)

Is that echolalia, or do I have an earworm?

Just to be clear, depending to some extent on just what the money is spent on, big spending and big deficits often are in fact the path to prosperity. Austerity, on the other hand, is not.
People who claim otherwise are working from certain characteristic false assumptions, such as the idea that money taxed and spent by the government just disappears rather than being part of the economy, and the idea that sovereigns controlling and issuing a currency work the same as individual households when it comes to debt, and for that matter the idea that households rarely have a good reason to go into debt. In real life, if you want to make a household analogy, governments going into debt to build infrastructure (which will increase economic growth) or social housing is somewhat like households going into debt to buy a house so they'll have a roof over their head or education for the purpose of gaining a higher income in the future. Except it's less problematic than that because, again, households don't get to issue their own currency.

On the other hand, governments going into debt to buy subsidies for oil companies is kind of like households going into debt at a gambling casino--all the money goes to some rich bastard, probably foreign, and does nobody else any good.

I deactivated my Twitter acct last week due to the increasingly obvious trajectory for it. I was spending as much or more time angry and blocking garbage accts as I was engaging with those I follow.

PP is sending an obvious message that those outlets who loft softballs at him or treat him as a buddy are legit news services and those who don't support the Liberals and should watch their backs.

Trudeau has been in power for seven-and-a-half years. During that time the number of bureaucrats in the federal civil service has ballooned by 31 per cent. An astonishing number, especially when you consider that companies such as McKinsey are now billing the government approximately $21 billion per year to do the work of…the government. 

Mr Jordan Guilford has made a comment in French; the linguistic quality of his comments (vocabulary, sentence structure and spelling mistakes ) is extremely questionable. Since this is an English-speaking media, he should use that langage in order to promote his conspirationist theories.

His comment in French also raises an interesing point about the actions of Twitter and Mr Poilièvre. The adjective « goverment-funded media » is applied to CBC, BUT NOT TO RADIO-CANADA ! As far as I know, Radio-Canada/CBC is the same legal entity and share a common bubget. Mr Poilièvre seems to send conflicting messages  to each side of the Two Solitudes ! Could this be a « divide and rule » tactic? In Québec, the French-speaking conservative MP’s are « not available » to publicly comment on this situation !!!

I disagree massively with what Mr. Guilford has to say; it's dangerous nonsense. But if he's going to say it, I have no problem with him saying it in French. First of all, French is an official language of Canada and I think it's out of line to denounce people for using it. Second, if fewer people on this site, which is probably largely used by Anglophones, understand his dangerous nonsense, that's a good thing. Even better if he used the Ainu language, which hardly anybody speaks, or best of all if he said it in Etruscan, which absolutely nobody understands.

Trudeau has been in power for seven-and-a-half years. During that time the number of bureaucrats in the federal civil service has ballooned by 31 per cent. An astonishing number, especially when you consider that companies such as McKinsey are now billing the government approximately $21 billion per year to do the work of…the government. 

Hahaha.....well, not being bilingual, what DID he say? From his previous posts I assume a massive defence of his brilliant, misunderstood hero?

Great article Max, chock-full of useful information.
What's cheering about this latest move of PP is that, in his excitement at scoring that point Max mentions, he's not only gone waaaaaayyyy too far as usual, but on a much bigger stage with a much bigger right-wing "playa" who is currently being watched, world-wide, and closely, for further signs of instability/meltdown in real time at a time when "mental health" has never been a more salient topic AND billionaires in general (soon to coin the phrase trillionaires) have never looked worse.
It's not like throwing his and the CPC's lot in with the crazy-ass, insurrectionist Republicans wasn't bad enough already; now he's lining up with the mad genius suspected of maybe plotting to take over the world. Or something.
So PP is definitely "going for broke." He wasn't joking when he said he was running for prime minister.
Again I marvel at the utter otherworldliness of the male ego, and muse on the saying, "the bigger they are the harder they fall." I can't wait.

Yes. Conservatives don’t realize that debt is just a number. It’s not real money. We need to give Canadians what they want now. Conservatives should stop worrying about the future. The debt doesn't matter because we can let our children and grandchildren can pay it off.

Frankly, I do think the CBC (and BBC) claims for independence from government are quite overblown. Not that they're necessarily in thrall to the specific government of the day, but there are some areas, of foreign and even economic policy, that stay kind of the same from government to government (eg helping destroy democracy in Haiti for the benefit of sweatshop owners) that there is no way the CBC is going to question. So in that sense, there's nothing necessarily wrong with the label "government-funded".

But more broadly, what it does is present a fake distinction, where government information is implied to be propaganda, and private information is implied NOT to be. But private media outlets are mostly owned by plutocrats and strongly influenced by plutocratic advertisers and they absolutely are pushing their own propaganda. They are not better than government broadcasters in that respect; on average they may well be worse. Twitter itself is a pretty good example. Most of the alt-right mediasphere should have an "oil-funded-media" tag, while a lot of the mainstream media would be "Wall-street-funded-media" (I guess Twitter would just be "shithead-funded-media"). In general the idea that the private sector should be considered a "good" baseline while the public sector is a "bad" deviation from that is fundamentally mistaken and also closely tied to right wing ideology.