media and think-tank researcher

Donald Gutstein

About

I’ve studied the media and right-wing think tanks for two decades. My concerns are to understand how and why the Right is winning the war of ideas and to encourage the Left to get on the battlefield. Conservatives have successfully framed most issues. Progressives need to create their own frames, not just respond to conservative frames, which is a losing strategy.

Publications and teaching

I’ve written four books on a variety of subjects, the most recent being Not a Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy (Key Porter 2009). I’ve also written books about the commercialization of the Internet (e.con: How the Internet Undermines Democracy, Stoddart 1999), foreign investment in Canadian real estate (The New Landlords: Asian Investment in Canadian Real Estate, Press Porcepic 1991) and my first book, Vancouver Ltd, (Lorimer 1975), about Vancouver’s planning and politics.

In addition to these books, I’ve written dozens of articles, many of which you’ll find on this site. I’ve also written chapters in academic texts, and I’ve started a blog on media, propaganda, right-wing think tanks and framing.

I taught in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University for more than two decades and am now an adjunct professor at the school. I taught a course in documentary research, which gave students the skills and confidence to find out for themselves. I also taught an introduction to journalism in Canada course, as well as courses in information policy and propaganda analysis.

For about ten years I taught urban politics in the Department of Political Science at SFU, and I taught several sessions on researching local stories for Langara College’s Journalism Program.

News media analysis

My interest in news media analysis was developed through our work in two media-monitoring projects in the School of Communication. First was Project Censored Canada, an upper-level undergraduate course in which students researched and ranked a year’s top ten under-reported stories. Later, this project became NewsWatch Canada, in which students explored double-standards and blind-spots in the news. I worked closely with colleague Bob Hackett on both projects. The work led to the publication The Missing News: Filters and Blindspots in Canada’s Press (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives 2000). We were later joined by Shane Gunster and Kathi Cross.

Architecture and community activism

Before I entered the field of communication, I was trained as an architect, receiving a Masters degree in Architecture from the University of British Columbia in 1972 and teaching there for several years. During those years I worked in a citizens’ group in my neighbourhood of Kitsilano, fighting city hall and developers who were forcing massive and unwanted development on the community. I also worked for more than a decade on municipal, provincial and federal elections.

Presentations

I’ve given numerous keynotes, presentations and workshops, to groups as various as the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ Harry Crowe Conference on Universities at Risk in Ottawa,  the Calgary Chapter of Council of Canadians, New Westminster and District Labour Council 2011 Annual General Meeting, B.C. Teachers Federation 2010 Summer Conference, Journalism Program at Thomson Rivers University,  and Alberta Teachers Association 2010 Banff Conference.

Not A Conspiracy Theory

If you’re wondering why you didn’t see reviews of my book in the mainstream media, you might find the following of interest. It is an excerpt from a rejection letter I received when I was trying to find a publisher. (My thanks to Key Porter and then managing editor Jonathan Schmidt for agreeing to publish the book.)

“[The manuscript] is well written and he certainly takes a strong position, but I don’t think I could generate enough support for it. It would be a challenge to publicize a book in the very media channels that he takes on so vociferously. I can’t say I disagree with his points, but I fear an uphill struggle. It’s an interesting idea and the proposal I have to say is very well put together.”

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Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada

harperism cover

Margaret Thatcher transformed British political life forever. So did Ronald Reagan in the United States. Now Canada has experienced a similar, dramatic shift to a new kind of politics, which author Donald Gutstein terms Harperism. Among its key tenets:

  • A weakened labour movement – and preferably the disappearance of unions – will contribute to Canada’s economic prosperity
  • Cutting back government scientific research and data collection will improve public policy-making

The success of Harperism is no accident. Donald Gutstein documents the links between the politicians, think tanks, journalists, academics, and researchers who nurture and promote each other’s neo-liberal ideas.