Monday, September 18, 2006

Independent Alternate History

According to Wikipedia, alternate history or alternative history is a subgenre of speculative fiction (or some would say of science fiction) that is set in a world in which history has diverged from history as it is generally known. Alternate history literature asks the question, "What if history had developed differently?"

It's known by historians as "counterfactual" history.

There are some classic practitioners of the genre. One is Harry Turrtledove who has produced alternative history fiction based on what if the South won the Civil War, what if aliens invaded earth during WWII and what if the Spanish Armada succeeded in conquering Britain.

Local practitioners of this form of specialized speculative fiction include Dr. John Fitzgerald, Jim Halley and the latest contributor, The Independent newspaper.

Local lawyer Jim Halley and ambassador to Ottawa John Fitzgerald have both posited that a great golden age of the province would continue to this day if not for Confederation. Much of their public remarks have centered on the response to the question, "what if Confederation never happened". Their response has always been that we would have been much better off culturally, spiritually and economically.

I think it would be fair to say that Fitzgerald has devoted much of his career to demonstrating that the fictional film "Secret Nation" is actually a documentary.

Mind you their reasoning has always been weak, their arguments flabby and evidence pretty flimsy at best. Their conclusions have never been able to stand up to rigorous analysis by anyone who lacked their ideological convictions and political predispositions and prejudices.

Now we can re-welcome the Independent to this list of political/historical fiction publishers. It was not enough that this "newspaper" already muddied the public discourse with their previous work of fiction: a project, quarterbacked by editor Ryan Cleary, proporting to be a provincial-federal balance sheet.

I need not repeat here that the project was riddled with ridiculous omissions, misplaced categorizations and incomplete numbers all resulting in misleading conclusions which led precisely to what the working group wanted to conclude from the very beginning no matter what information they came across: that we are being screwed by Confederation.

Now editor Cleary, in his ongoing attempt to stave off total collapse, has initiated a new project: Our Terms of Union. He's assembled an eclectic collection of "experts" to examine the Terms of Union and suggest alternatives.

Now I have no problem in principle with that kind of thought experiment. It's always an interesting pastime to revisit the past and explore what might have been. But it looks like it won't even have that basic legitimacy of being that.

In the same way the balance sheet project panlel had no economist or even an accountant on board, this panel contains no historian or constitutional notable (all due respect to John C.).

So far it looks more like what the Indy has become famous for: an ill-conceived bitch session at the status quo backed by a myth-based revisionist review of history culminating with the inevitable constitutional/fiscal wish list worthy of a child's list to Santa Claus.

And what's the point of that?

Already the basic philosophical ideological underpinning of the Independent's work is already nakedly clear: a cult of victimhood where we are the sainted hard-done-by's led down the garden path by Smallwoood and the Confederates to be ruthlessly mugged by the evil triumvirate of Ottawa, those "damn'd furriners" and Big Oil assisted by the self-interested traitors from within.

It's a point of view that is sad, corrosive, unhelpful and which insults the intelligence and integrity of those who live in this province. It's also wrong.

I'm still waiting for this newspaper to become a newspaper and get away from being a yellow broadsheet of half-baked polemics masking as investigative journalism. Whatever else this project might be, one thing is for sure: it's not journalism.

No comments: