Bad rap: Musings on government directed culture

I’ve always had this nagging feeling that government should do more to promote a positive image of places like New Brunswick. It just seems so capricious to leave it to the media or even social media. In both of those environments New Brunswick stories are more likely to be told if they are negative. If it bleeds it leads. Anne Murray’s lament about “a little good news” remains in force today.

Of course that is not entirely true. There have been stories in the national press about people moving to Atlantic Canada during the pandemic. It’s not quite right to say the stories all have to be negative but they have to be interesting and it just so happens that crime, murder, plant closures, bad weather, reports on the dependency of the Maritimes, EI usage, etc. seem to be more interesting.

So, should government actively promote a positive image of New Brunswick culture by commissioning books, music and other art that project a positive story of the province? Should the taxpayer fund story telling about how great the place is to live and work? Maybe pay David Adams Richards to write about the lovely, bucolic life in rural Miramichi these days?

In my youth I would have said: heck, yeah. I’m tired of reading about how backward and miserable we are in the drive thru province.

The Chinese government is paying rappers to sing government propaganda. There was a great story on this in the Economist magazine podcast complete with audio clips. For added benefit, these government-funded rappers tell their stories in both Chinese and English. Instead of booty, drugs, gangs and guns, these Chinese rappers are telling stories of western decadence and efforts to subvert the peaceful rise of the Chinese nation. It’s awful. Well, to my ears it sounds just like the rap you can find on Spotify but the lyrics are so strange it overwhelms the music. Imagine Chance the Rapper reading out government press releases in rhyme.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe government shouldn’t overly direct the stories told about New Brunswick.

Fund cultural and artistic activities, yes, but don’t try and be directive about what artists want to say. They are telling our stories and do not need any help from government bureaucrats.

Heaven help us all if we ever turn on the radio to hear the next generation Stompin’ Tom Connors rapping about the benevolence of the PEI government.