Special interest groups often invent destructive rumours to advance their causes.
Faced with a barrage of fake news, ordinary citizens have only one real defence: insisting on truth. Democracy stands on a foundation of honest debate, not manipulative mistruths.
Consider the mistruths being spread about Alberta government’s long-overdue efforts to restore environmental health and social fairness to our public lands.
Many baby boomers remember family camping trips, trout fishing and healthy outdoor adventure along the Eastern Slopes.
But laissez-faire mismanagement of our forest reserves in recent years coincided with the growth of off-highway vehicle use. OHVs too often shred vegetation, erode soil and create drainage gullies.
Well-designed trails can reduce the damage. But we don’t have those trails.
Instead, off-roaders use seismic cutlines, old logging roads, cattle trails and any other linear feature they can find.
That has created a web of eroding, muddy, noisy trails. Some OHV users try to behave responsibly, but damaged land and lax enforcement have given rise to a growing minority of aggressive vandals. Families like mine no longer camp and fish in places we once loved.
Organized OHV groups insist all we need is better-built trails and more enforcement.
They say they’re glad to share. Now that the government is acting on their advice, however, it is reaping a harvest of anger instead of thanks.
Two years ago, the government hired 23 new enforcement officers, just as the off-road groups had asked. Recent land use planning in the southwest promises a well-engineered motorized trail network in places that don’t conflict with wildlife, fish and other users.
Reducing motorized use to what the land can handle will offer the rest of us the chance again to hunt, fish and hike in quiet places.
In short, the government plans to make room for all users, increase enforcement and build proper trails – just what OHV groups once said they wanted.
But the fake news machine is in full throttle: ads and internet memes warn that all OHV use is being shut down.
Rallies warn of a dark conspiracy to close public lands completely.
There is no such conspiracy.
Others say that the government’s science is fraudulent.
When truth won’t advance one’s cause, fake news become the weapon of choice. Engaged and active citizenship is our only defence.
The government will soon seek public comment on draft land use plans for our Eastern Slopes.
Albertans need to form their own opinions based on facts, not react to mistruths spread by self-interested minorities.
KEVIN VAN TIGHEM,
Author of Heart Waters/Sources of the Bow River and Our Place/Changing the Nature of Alberta
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Mr. Van Tighem, I’d like to correct a few of your comments. The NDP government is not listening to the OHV organizations. In fact, they often minimize any interactions with these groups. It’s surprising how many meetings are rescheduled and relocated at the last minute with little notice. The 23 newly hired officers you mention are only enforcing the rules of the new government. Meanwhile, the new government is creating expensive infrastructure that caters to the hipster tourists, in areas that most hipster tourists won’t bother to go. Since taking office, there has been no significant investment in OHV trails or water crossings. These are facts, easily verified with google searches.
We have a very unfortunate situation in Alberta today where the majority of the press treats our government, and its extreme left supporters, as media darlings. There is no voice too speak against any of the fake news these groups generate. There are many examples in the Lethbridge Herald, the Calgary Herald, the Edmonton Journal and others of “news” that is slanted towards the extreme left.
For instance, on October 15, 2017 Annalise Clingbell of the Calgary Herald (she has since left the paper) wrote an article titled “Poll says 55% of Albertans support more rules for off-highway vehicles”. The headline suggests that in fact most Albertans would agree with the extreme left supporters such as Y2Y, CPAWS and their counterparts. However, as the article points out, the “research” was performed by a third party organization, the survey questions were not released, there was no information available on how the phone numbers called were chosen, and the “most Albertans” referred to the in the headline were among 1,481. This of course means that, according to Annalise, that 815 individuals from an illegitimate survey performed by a fringe organization, with no review or supervision, was transformed into “55% of Albertans”. See what she did there? The Calgary Herald isn’t some volunteer run village publication, an Annalise is not some no name reporter. And she, like the majority of the media hounds in Alberta today, believe they have the right to socially engineer a conclusion among their readers. It’s not only wrong, it’s dangerous. Never in the history of mankind (sorry…”people-kind”) has this ever been a good thing. Ask the Germans in the early part of the last century how that worked out for them. Nothing good will come of it here in Alberta, today.
Your article is not about fake news, as the headline suggests. It is, in truth, fake news itself. It is nothing more an opinion column written by a member of the extreme left. It, like most of the current publications on the subject, ignore facts, lean on fake “science” (yes, if it isn’t peer-reviewed, it is fake!), and tell Albertans they need to “think for themselves” while socially-engineering the desired thought-outcome.
It’s estimated that anywhere from 60% to 80% of people will read only the headline of an article, even when they share it. A cleverly worded headline, and a few carefully chosen words and sentences (such as including the word “noisy” when describing trails) go a long way in forming the opinions of a reader. You could have done better on your headline, but the intent of your article is clear. Present yourself as qualified source, being a renowned Albertan Author. We’ll overlook the fact that your rather expensive book was government funded and received tax credits to publish, and that the publisher is arguably more extreme left than you are. Next, suggest that the “good guy” government has been listening to OHV organizations, in spite of the very real facts to the contrary. Then use the lack of investment by this government to suggest that YOUR desired outcome is the only solution. There’s your real science, Kevin – Social Engineering. You, and the self-interest minority organizations of the extreme left that you associate with are the REAL problem in Alberta today. As long as we have a government that supports you and your agenda, we are in very real and serious trouble. It’s unfortunate that our only hope today is in Jason Kenney (a whole topic of its own), but what this extreme left government has proven is, even the old fat-cat PC government cared more about Albertans everyday lives than the “Orange is the new Green” NDP eco-extremists do.
By the way, in case you’re wondering, I’m not a member of the “extreme right”, as Rachel Notley would like “Albertans” to believe. At best I’m a centralist, but the truth is, politics disgusts me. This whole image is so far from the truth it’s ridiculous. The real majority of back country enthusiasts are intelligent, level-headed, caring people who have seen our natural world in a way that many city-dwelling voters have never experienced. Some of us even have MEC memberships. I might qualify as a trendy old hipster after all! You know, one that loves nature, enjoys the back country, camps, hunts, fishes, rides horses & mountain bikes & OHVs in the summer and sleds, skis, camps and snowshoes in the winter.