January 29, 2001
Earlier this month, the B.C. Human Rights Commission came out with a report about employment injustice in the provincial civil service. Entitled Not Good Enough!, the report berates the government for not meeting employment equity hiring targets.
“As we enter the 21st century, aboriginal people, people with disabilities, and members of visible minorities continue to be severely underrepresented in the public service,” it claimed.
If you managed to read to the end of this mind-numbingly repetitious exercise in verbosity, you would have realized something most curious. Not Good Enough! is not an analysis of government practice, but rather a self-serving kvetch that is attitudinally biased and methodologically unsound.
Nevertheless, it does have one redeeming virtue: it can serve to show how propaganda routinely masquerades as informed commentary in our alleged “Information Age.” Here are four propaganda devices from the report that perhaps you can find in other writings:
Assume the truth of your position without providing a convincing argument for it
The report asserts that the civil service should, but doesn’t, reflect the ethic and cultural make up of the population: “The fact that government has not achieved its objective of a representative workforce is a serious concern to many organizations and individuals, as well as the Human Rights Commission. The time has come to examine why.”
I asked Chief Commissioner Mary Woo Sims for an explanation. She said these “targeted groups” need role models to encourage them to apply, but that answer is hardly adequate.
Use only information that supports your position
The report is based on the findings of six public forums (three for each designated group) held between last March and May. The report's authors heard from government staff, “particularly those who are aboriginal, a member of a visible minority and/or have a disability about ongoing barriers to employment in the public service.”
The self-serving nature of the report is betrayed by the inherent presumption in the questions posed: “What are the barriers to hiring, promotion, and retention...?”; “What concrete steps should government and related partners...take...?”; and “What role can the B.C. Human Rights Commission play?”
We don’t know the veracity of the evidence, no supporting case studies are cited, and the government does not get a chance to rebut the charges. Besides, if the commission wants to “play” it should declare its bias and leave the objective analysis to a competent agency.
Because critics pose a threat to the propagandist’s basic truth (see point one), counterarguments are mentioned only to be summarily dismissed:
”Myths about employment equity act as barriers. For example, it is often perceived in the field as a quota system. As well, employment equity programs are seen as unfair, preferential treatment for the designated groups. This barrier is sometimes referred to as employment equity backlash. It can affect the credibility of an individual with their colleagues and superiors if there is a perception that a person was hired on the basis of a quota rather than merit.
“Employment equity has been perceived as a feel good, politically motivated initiative. As such, the bureaucracy has only half-heartedly implemented it.”
Are these really “myths?” It obviously never occurred to Sims to imagine that these criticisms might be valid. I asked her if falling employment figures for these designated groups might simply be the result of rational career choices. “We don’t have exit interviews with those who leave public service,” she answered.
Since the aim of propaganda is to elicit assent to a dogmatic position, mantra-like repetition of a limited number of pat phrases is key to subverting the audience’s critical faculties.
In 43 pages of actual text, I counted the number of times the following words and phrases appeared: government, 110; designated group, 107; equity, 100; employment equity, 87; public service, 79; representation/representative, 74; aboriginal, 69; barriers, 49; diverse/diversity, 47; people with disabilities, 38; visible minority/minorities, 33; and others.
To top it off, the report concludes with the Commission (an appointed body of politically correct apparatchiks) telling the government (the public’s elected representatives) to defer to its authority, in the name of the Constitution and the Human Rights Code.
When Gordon Campbell becomes premier this spring, he might well consider putting Sims out of a job and repealing the noxious Human Rights Code. In fact, he might consider replacing the whole politicized Human Rights apparat.