Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - January 13, 1975, Lethbridge, Alberta
4 THE UTHBRIDGE HERALD Monday, January 13, 1975 The effects of violence Recent "copy-cat" crimes in Calgary and elsewhere in Canada have revived the debate over the desirability of restraining the news media from cover- ing violence too graphically and in too much detail. They have also provoked a renewed concern about the effect of the portrayal of violence in movies and TV shows. Censorship is not something readily embraced by democratic societies. Its association with totalitarian regimes and its potential for abuse makes it abhorrent. That kind of cure looks to be almost as bad as the disease. Public opinion, especially if it is ob- viously informed, could bring about a change in the way news is handled. It is not likely to cause editors and directors to cease to cover violent events, however. Attempts to give the public newspapers or news broadcasts dealing only with good things have been failures. This is not necessarily an indication that people glory in the gory; it has something to do with the realization that the good and the bad exist together so that the one without the other falsifies the picture of life presented. A persuasive case might be made, on the other hand, for modifying the way violent news is handled. In the interests of the safety and health of the public those responsible for the handling of news could be convinced that it is desirable to try to play down those events that might stimulate the "copy- cats." There are, indeed, some indications that a toning down of the presentation and portrayal of violence would be a socially desirable thing to do. This is par- ticularly so in respect of television. The effect of TV has been studied by quite a number of psychiatrists, sociologists and behavioral scientists resulting in a strong impression .that violence portrayed on TV, encourages the accep- tance of aggression as a mode of behavior as well as suggesting specific forms for its expression. Some may say that more research is required on this matter before controll- ing bodies can be expected to apply pressure for change. Yet the U.S. sur- geon general's advisory committee's investigation into TV and social behavior, after a three year study and the production of five volumes of reports, produced the verdict, "we now know there is a causal relation between televised violence and anti social behavior which is sufficient to warrant remedial action." A debate on the issue of how much and in what detail violence should be per- mitted to be portrayed has gone on more or less quietly for some time. It needs to engage a wider segment of society and become more vigorous. Credit costs Among the things The Herald periodically worries about editorially is the easy, credit available in society today. Almost everyone has access to it; few seem to be able to resist its allurements. The consequence is that outstanding consumer credit has risen in Canada from billion in 1960 to billion by mid -1974. This suggests that a lot of people are probably over their heads in debt and that the country may be paying too high a price for tolerance of the credit system. One of the costs, as spotlighted by the CTV's recent Sunday night inquiry, comes in the form of marriage breakup. The tensions produced by indebtedness lead to quarreling with resultant emotional wounds that frequently fail to heal. Direct costs to society of broken marriages could probably be calculated in terms of the impaired productivity of individuals and in relation to the aid "I see we finally got our own given to pick up the pieces. Indirect costs of the weakening of the social fabric are simply incalculable. Another cost comes in the criminality increasingly associated with the credit system. Attempting to police the system against abuse is costly enough but is un- doubtedly dwarfed in comparison to the price paid in the apprehension and in- carceration of those actually engaged in fraud in relation to credit. Not enough attention is being paid to the long term effect of the materialistic focus of the credit system. Resulting in the indulgence of unbridled covetousness as it does, there must be some harm done to the spiritual quality of human ex- istence. The values that man has come to honor and cherish over long periods of time have a fragility that could easily be overwhelmed and destroyed in the heedless and feverish pursuit of materialistic ends. A breathtaking turn on the tightrope By Bruce Hutchison, Herald special commentator The law on hangings Senator Hastings, in his Lethbridge visit last weekend, made a point that not enough people appreciate. It is simply that mercy toward criminals is the prerogative of the head of state in vir- tually every country. The statutes may prescribe punishment, the courts may order it, but always the monarch or president or other supreme state authority may reduce it. That is the part of the law, just as much as the statute is part of the law, in Canada and practical- ly everywhere else. It was not "illegal" for Nixon to pardon (conditionally) Hof- fa, or Ford to pardon Nixon, or the government of Canada to spare a con- victed criminal from execution. The senator made two other points worth noting. First, the judge or the juries in four of the five death penalty cases already commuted by the present government, had recommended clemen- cy. Second, although there have been no hangings of murderers of policemen (or anyone else) since 1962, the trend is to fewer such murders of policemen than in the years when hangings were the accepted thing. ART BUCHWALD President Ford is obviously preparing to make a turn of about ISO degrees in his economic policies well, 90 degrees at least. This must be a difficult feat when he walks, without a safety net, across a Grand Canyon unforeseen by his guides and experts only a few months ago. But breathtaking as it looks to the spectators on either bank, the feat is common in politics everywhere. Statesmen of the abler sort have done it over and over again, Canadian governments being especially deft in the art of sudden rever- sal. Here we witness an un- written law of the democratic process which compels almost every government elected on a certain platform to enforce the opposite, as Presidents Wilson, Roosevelt and Johnson (not to mention Prime Minister Trudeau) did in their time. These men were not dishonest, not even incon- sistent. They merely adjusted themselves to circumstances that changed overnight, or seemed to. In public affairs yesterday's wisdom often becomes today's folly and tomorrow both will appear foolish, as every man has found in his private affairs. No one should be surprised, therefore, or blame Mr. Ford when he promised to cool the American economy last autumn and now thinks of heating it with tax reductions, the largest budgetary deficits on record and the old fuel of an inflated currency. Besides, if he refuses to change course the Democratic Congress will make him do it and blame him for the results. The simple fact is that, sur- veying the alternatives of inflation and depression, the two banks of the awful canyon, the American (and Canadian) peoples evidently prefer inflation if they must make a choice. But no such choice is likely to be presented in Mr. Ford's approaching State of the Union message, any more than it was presented in John Turner's last budget. Instead, it will be argued, as the president's experts are arguing already, that no choice need be made because inflation must decline before midsummer from natural causes and then, according to plan, the economy will rise by next autumn. Everything, in fact, is well under control not directly by state intervention, you un- derstand, but indirectly through the reliable functions of the economic system, if only it is left alone to find its customary balance on the tightrope. Yet many of the people who mouth this conventional wisdom are demanding, at the same time, that the state intervene massively by spending more money, and printing it if necessary, by reducing taxes, subsidizing various industries, restricting 'imports, launching huge public works programs, even rationing gasoline and otherwise interfering with the market. One man's radical socialism is his neighbor's conservative laissez-faire. On the other hand, Mr. Ford's advisers, with wisdom conventional yesterday and unconventional today, are urging him to do none of these things, or as little as possible, lest he overstrain and break the tightrope. On the other hand, some of the leading Democrats in the Congress are urging him to control everything directly, fix wages, profits and prices, and regulate a market which has failed to regulate itself. Whoever is right or wrong in the argument now beginning, and whatever the inflationary or deflationary results, something very queer has happened to the market when prices rise while production falls, cheap foreign goods are regarded as dangerous to the family budget of the poor, wages increase with increas- ing unemployment and the law of supply and demand refuses to work as it should. To a layman like Mr. Ford the old .classic market of his college text books must look like a sad youthful memory, a caricature of Adam Smith, an insult to Maynard Keynes. But the market of ideas is working overtime in Washington, Ottawa and elsewhere. It produces new stimulants, sedatives and notions of all sorts every day. Doubtless it will produce some gray compromise between Mr. Ford's black and white alternative to serve for the time being. Meanwhile his forthcoming message can propose no more than the latest ad hoc, experimental move to be changed as occa- sion requires. At no point, however, will he and the Congress admit, or perhaps realize, that their temporary measures are making permanent changes in the system, cooking a new omelette to last a long time. For this culinary feat, too, there is a famous precedent and allegory, in Canada of all places. Blondin, the great French equilibrist, walked over Niagara Falls, on a tightrope, in 1859 and, midway, while blindfolded, actually cooked an omelette on his portable oil stove and ate it at leisure, as you may read in the En- cyclopaedia Britannica. (A lady in the audience, quoted by the Toronto Globe, said Blondin had done nothing extraordinary since she could cook a better omelette on her own crude wood stove at home, but most observers thought that the chef had per- formed quite well under the circumstances.) Anyhow, as a pioneer of the truly balanced diet Blondin had one important advantage over Mr. Ford. He knew his tightrope, and his profession after intensive training. Mr. Ford, like other typical statesmen, is untrained in that balancing skill and he carries a heavier burden on his shoulders, hardly less than the future of the world economy. No wonder he finds the sudden turnabout rather dif- ficult. Even if he gets 'safely to the far side of a canyon wider than Niagara, his omelette, though its recipe may be improved by later chefs, will never be entirely unscrambled, the broken eggs put together again. That is the hardest fact for us, the breathless spectators, to get through our heads. We prefer to believe that, after brief detour, things will soon return to normal, which is surely the wildest notion of all. Nice guys finish last Attitude of lawlessness Berry's World By Rob Bull, Herald Quebec commentator WASHINGTON "I'm getting sick and tired of having a nice guy in the White Sugarbush said the other day. "But, Sugarbush, it was less than a year ago that you said you were sick and tired of having a crook in the White House." "I don't want a crook and I don't want a nice guy." "Then what do you "How do I know? Isn't there something between a crook and a nice "I guess so. What bothers you about Presi- dent Ford the "He seems so sincere. He is'the kind of guy I would buy a used car from." "Of course. We'd all buy a used car from Gerry Ford." "The trouble is you get the feeling he doesn't know what he's selling. One day he telis you to buy the car, and the next day he tells you not to buy one. He may be a nice guy, but he's a lousy car salesman." "Sugarbush, you can't be mad at a presi- dent because he's such a nice guy." "Oh, yeah? Who says I can't? If you have a mean guy in the White House, you can blame him for everything unemployment, the recession, the price of sugar, the drop in the stock market. It makes you feel good to lay the whole thing right in his lap. But if you have a nice guy in the White House, he makes you feel guilty. I'm sick and tired of feeling guilty." "People still'blame President Ford for I said. "But there is no real heat behind it. Your anger doesn't come from the gut. Now take Nixon. You could really get mad at Nixon. Every time he came on television your blood boiled. You could scream at the TV set. We all knew he was lying to us, and we didn't feel guilty about hating him. We knew he was responsible for everything bad that was happening to us. Even if he wasn't, we wanted to think he was. As long as you have somebody to blame for your troubles you can survive. The reason people are mad at Ford is that they can't get mad at him." "It's not I admitted. "Why do you think Gerry Ford is such a nice "He can't help Sugarbush said. "Some guys are born nice. It might have been his early upbringing. Maybe no one was mean to him when he was a kid. Whatever it was it wasn't his fault. But why should the rest of us pay because Gerry Ford had a hapRV childhood? "When a man becomes president he should rise above his niceness and become the SOB we expect in our presidents." "You make an awfully strong case against nice guys. Maybe Ford will stop being nice after a few more months in office and a few more articles like this one." "No Sugarbush said. "You just have to look at him to see he'll never change. He doesn't know what it is to be mean. He doesn't Jiave it in him to create the loathing we all need to keep going." "All right, Sugarbush. You don't want Ford in the White House. Whom do you "1 know you're going to think I'm crazy but what about Spiro "Agnew? Why "He can be awfully mean when he wants to be. He's just as bright as Ford, but no one has ever thought of him as a nice guy." MONTREAL-When the Quebec royal commission into the construction industry began its work Chief Com- missioner Robert Cliche said: "This will not be a police in- quiry or a political investiga- tion and we have no intention of starting a smear campaign. We hope rather to find prac- tical and concrete solutions for the future." The purpose of the inquiry was to look into.the whole pro- vincial construction industry will] emphasis on two main fronts, the freedom of workers to belong to the union of their choice and the behavior of management and labor on construction sites. With patience, humor, com- passion, occasional anger and a great deal, of hard work the commission team has stayed fairly close to its task. About a third of the hearings haye been held behind closed doors, some of these sessions being fishing expeditions others an attempt not to damage reputations un- neccessarily. When the commission hands in its report now scheduled for March there will be several specific suggestions for struc- tural changes in the industry. But Judge Cliche realizes that such changes cannot effectively alone change the basis of the problem which is the illness of our society, a declining belief in right and wrong. "There is the attitude among some officials, for ex- ample, that the criminal law is negotiable, that assault in a hotel corridor is a criminal offense but not on a construc- tion site. "A boss has the praiseworthy purpose of mak- ing a profit but he goes too far buys peace from a union leader. The union leader who wants to promote the welfare of the working man is right but not when he resorts to terror and brutality to achieve'this." Commission lawyer Paul Arthur Gendreau sees part of the problem in the materialism of society, the desire by too many people to consume more and work less. The judge feels that the relatively recent urbanization of most Canadians has also contributed. In smaller com- munities society has pressures which can be brought to bear which make people responsible for their actions. People find out what other people do. The personal isolation of city life makes people less- accountable to others. One way to bring home the facts of life to modern Cana- dians is through the media and Quebecers, both individually and as members of organ- izations, have been enthralled by the modern miracle play presented by the Cliche in- quiry. An example is Christian Van Houte, a consultant to the commission anc! on loan for months now from a major private company. His com- pany president told him a few days ago to stay with the in- quiry as long as they needed him. The experience would be valuable. So first there was the fascination with the details. Then the shock of under- standing occurred of finding out how normal attitudes made it all of how everybody was responsable. Quebecers are not the only people with these attitudes. Third part of scries of three. "Shopping lor a new car has become almost HicUthbridcjc Herald 504 7th St. S. Leihbridge. AlbeMa LETHBRIDGE HERALD CO. LTD. Proprietors and Publishers Second Class Mail Registration No. 0012 CLEO MOWERS. Editor and Publisher DON. H. 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