Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fort McMurray, Alberta

Before joining the CBC, Newfoundland's Rick Mercer was as politically-engaged humourist who had a talent for pointing out contradictions in the capitalist mode of production. In the video above, he travels to Canada's oil sands capital of Fort McMurray under the auspices of a man in search of work.

In the past, a Rick Mercer visit would inevitably uncover local contradictions, hypocrisies and injustices. But in the video above, Mercer does not so much uncover truths as perpetuate myths and reinforce stereotypes.

At 2:15, Mercer says, "So this is one of these places where people are from everywhere else, isn't it?" to which the Quebec-raised mayor replies, "Very much so, yes." Up until then (and indeed until the end of this 4:34 instance of inverse ethnography) we see no indication of a First Nations presence. Nor, for that matter, anyone who is not of European descent.

At 3:14, Mercer asks, "Now what about the population make-up -- men versus women?" to which the mayor replies, "Um, you know, it all depends on where you are. The hard numbers say that we are 50, about 55% male and 44% female." But rather than enquire about this mysterious 1%, Mercer, who is an out gay man, plays to the heterosexual: "If you're a single male, um, you may have a hard time finding a date."

To be fair, Mercer has taken shots at oil sands exploitation in his "Rick Mercer Report". But for every shot he takes, it seems he follows up with a lengthier, neoliberal-friendly infomercial, like the one that kicks off this post.

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