Friday, September 08, 2006

Bill Rowe - Zealous Guardian of the Orthodoxy

I don't have a problem with healthy debate and disagreement. In fact, it can be fairly said I live for it.

I've been a competitive debater, coach, judge and organizer for nigh on 25 years. I spent many happy times traveling throughout Canada, the USSR, Europe and up and down the US east coast visiting top universities where I verbally beat up on the very best the global debate circuit had to offer. Of course I received beatings in return; that's the way the game is played.

My debate style was described by some as "take no prisoners" and that is certainly the style I continue to coach and advocate to this day. You learn fast that you don't go for the low blow; that's an automatic loss and a petulant admission of defeat. Besides, if you are any good at all, it's just not necessary; there are just too many legitimate augments to make on any given issue.

So when I put a call into one of our fair province's talk radio shows, I look forward to crossing swords and exchanging positions and views with the host on the issues of the day.

I'm a big fan of Randy Simms, for example. He's smart, tough, fair, unerringly accurate, even-tempered, even-handed and unwaveringly courteous at all times; he's always game and he's never nasty. He's the best thing in talk radio today, in my opinion.

However, it's been long observed by many fans of the genre that the character of the afternoon show with Bill Rowe has become darker with a negative undertone. Callers are more likely there than on other shows to be cut off or their point of view casually and summarily dismissed. There is audible impatience with other points of view and there is a tendency to quickly resort to negative labeling rather than dealing with the issues.

Opposing points of view and callers themselves, are frequently labeled "stupid" or with other similar epithets.

But today, Mr. Rowe truly outdid himself.

I called this afternoon to comment on Premier Williams' reaction to Harper's letter on the offshore. In that letter Harper stated that Hebron was a commercial dispute and he would not get involved.

My points were threefold:

  1. Premier Williams should not have been surprised by this response since Harper himself said exactly the same thing months ago;
  2. Even if Prime Minister Harper did agree to initiate fallow-fields legislation, it would be unrealistic to expect him to make it retroactive and so this would have no effect on the Hebron negotiations anyway; and
  3. Provincial governments since Peckford have fought (legally, constitutionally, politically) to eject the federal government from offshore oil jurisdiction so that the province could manage the issue for itself: royalties, terms of negotiations and benefits. Therefore it is incongruous for this provincial government, to become disagreeable about the feds staying out of the very jurisdiction the province has worked so hard to eject them from.
One would think that these points might become the basis for an interesting and substantial discussion. And that's the way it would have gone with another host. Mr. Rowe's preferred response, however, was to sidestep the issues, attack me for being partisan and accusing me of selling out the province for my position.

It's not often I'm accused of selling out the province for simply offering a legitimate and responsible alternative point of view from his.

I'm not sure what provoked such a violent and unfair reaction. Perhaps he believes that questioning prevailing provincial government orthodoxy is tantamount to heresy. Maybe I just caught him on a bad day. Or it could be that he was annoyed that I specifically rebutted points made in his regular Saturday Telegram column with a letter of my own.

In any case he clearly needs to exhibit more professionalism in his broadcasting activities than he has shown today. It's sad to see a man of promise and ability reduced to defending the status quo with low-rent ad hominim attacks and intolerant dogmatic political cant.

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