Archive for ‘Journalism’

January 13, 2015

Anti-semitism, balance and the new world order

This one is a very difficult article for me. So many opposing emotions amid so much anger and disappointment regarding the ‘Left’. I am afraid this missive may ramble and be, at times, incoherent. Such are my thought processes at the moment.

I write this several days after the Paris terrorist spree.

In the past 18 months there have been several terrorist attacks on the Jewish community in Belgium and France at schools, museums and synagogues resulting in as many deaths as at Charlie Hebdo. In response there have been no massive demonstrations, no ‘je suis juif’ signs in the streets.

These were not considered an attack of French culture. Not until Charlie Hebdo was attacked was there a perceived attack on ‘France’.

I have watched a lot of mainstream media coverage in the past few days. The attack on the Jewish store has invariably been called an attack on a ‘kosher supermarket’. Why is it so hard to say ‘Jewish’? Why has the store not been referred to as Jewish? I find that very interesting.

More disturbing has been CBC Newsworld coverage that, at first, almost ignored the attack at the Jewish store relegating it to a ‘hostage taking’ at a ‘kosher store’. When, over two days after the attack CNN first paid seperate attention to the issue of anti-semitism it was very strained. Under a banner across the TV screen that read ‘anti-semitism in France’ there was a discussion of the topic. But the discussion paid very little attention to anti-semitism, instead choosing to keep a ‘balance’ in their reporting the discussion centred mainly on the need not to succumb to Islamophobia. What need is there for balance in this situation? Why cannot Muslim instigated anti-semitism be discussed as a topic without trying so hard to be ‘balanced’.

After 9/11 there was a lot of media attention given to the concern of avoiding Islamophobia. I have no argument with that. Only by finding unity can we move forward. However post 9/11 there were more documented cases of anti-semitic outbreaks than of Islamophobic ones. In France as well, while there have been incidents of vandalism at Mosques, as repugnant as those are, Muslims are not being gunned down in the streets, in their schools or on the way home from Mosques.

Anti-semitism is on the rise in France. But polls have shown that among the Christian French anti-semitism has remained at relatively stable levels. Most anti-semitism in France originates among the North African derived Muslim community. But everyone is afraid to talk about it.

And when it is discussed, Israel is usually brought into the equation. I, as do many Jews, disapprove of much of what the Israeli right is doing. But the fact that I have to state that speaks to the collective punishment that the Jewish community is subject to. If Russia is being obnoxious to Ukraine is it acceptable to hate people of Russian decent living in Toronto? Why do Jews, most of whom support Israel strongly but feel uncomfortable with much of its current policies, have to bear collective punishment?

Why do we have to ‘balance’ the criticism of Muslim generated anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel?

Now on to John A MacDonald. Yup, I do see a connection

This is the 200th anniversary of his birth. TVO had a programme about the anniversary and, of course, to balance out the programme there was discussion of John A’s warts…of which there are some.

There has been a recent attempt to paint him as a  genocidal leader intent on destroying Aboriginal culture in Canada. I’m no historian but Richard Gwynn, whose two volume biography of John A I very much enjoyed, is a progressive man and, I think, a pretty honest one. He says the attempt to smear John A is historically untrue. He also said, and this is my point here. that today there are no academic historians with enough guts and integrity to stand up to the current theme considering Aboriginal treatment by John A. Why should it take guts to speak truthfully about history? And why are academics so ‘group think’?

Which leads me to my last theme, the outrageous behaviour of some dental students at Dalhousie University. We all know about the misogynist Facebook comments. We all condemn that. That’s not the point.

I was listening to a CBC radio program on this issue which had three panelists. One was a defence lawyer (not personally involved in the case) and two academics…one a diversity person at McGill ,I should have know from her title, as a diversity advocate, that she would have been an idiot (sorry but these people congregate under that banner). She referred to the female students at Dalhousie Dental Faculty as ‘survivors’. Yes…survivors. If you don’t see the absurdity of using that term in this context then you might as well stop reading now.

I know nothing about Richard Florizone, President of Dalhousie, but I think that a restorative justice approach to what happened is a thoughtful and courageous response to what happened. With the religious Left on a rampage for ‘justice’ by which they truly mean a public lynching, it is very courageous for him to say ‘wait a minute, we need to take the time to deal with this properly, equitably and honestly’ before proceeding to summary execution. We know from books like Richard Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow, Joseph Heath’s Enlightenment 2.0 and the work of Steven Pinker that a rushed decision is often a flawed decision.

Who more than an academic should know that thoughtful dialogue and discussion is what is needed in these matters. We have to enact cultural changes not just punish misbehaviour. Yet the witch hunt is being led by academics. There was a time when I thought academics were leaders in progressive thinking. By progressive here I mean thoughtfulness and inclusiveness. But then I remember that there were large pro Nazi academic movements on the campuses of Germany in the 1930s. And similarly the concept of freedom of speech seems only to be offered to like minded people here in Canada by so many on the Left but particularly in academia.

I wonder if Charlie Hebdo attacked progressive values the way it attacked religious values whether the Left would be so upset by the recent terrorist events.

As my friend just expressed to me, what I am saying is that the ‘handwringing about a possible backlash against Muslims, the rush to judge the Dalhousie students and the condemnation of John A’ are all part of a suffocating and revisionist view of history that promises to subvert evidence based analysis of the facts. George Orwell had a lot to say about all this.

And no, I will not accept criticism that my article today stems from a growing conservatism on my part as I age. I have always held these values. But I am afraid many I know only hold these values when they support their world view. Groucho Marx once said ‘those are my principle and if you don’t like them, well I have others’.

I used to identify myself as a Marxist. I still tend to look at the world this way but I’m thinking I’m more of a Groucho-Marxist.

September 27, 2012

Is Rob Ford really an indictment of our educational system?

This has been troubling me for a long time.

Rob Ford was elected on the basis of ‘respect for the taxpayer’. Having said that, he has skirted conflict of interest issues for several years. He has been caught using City staff to help in his private affairs (like coaching football kids).

Now there are allegations that he wielded influence to get the City to do some paving at his business.

He has cost the City millions in cancelled transit plans that were previously committed. He wants to build subways in places that planners warn are not economically viable and will, therefore, cost us millions down the road.

He hires expensive consultants to advise on budget cuts, none of which have panned out.

And now that he cannot ram through City Council any of his ideas he has taken his marbles and, essentially, gone home. At taxpayers’ expense. He calls this ‘respect for taxpayers’.

His brother this week called all reporters ‘pricks’ for asking the Brothers Ford questions they don’t like.

Just two weeks ago a public opinion poll showed 42% of Toronto residents (yes, mainly suburbanites) have a favourable view of Rob Ford.

So, what’s happening here? Why is Rob Ford so obviously a useless Mayor with so high an approval rating?

The only thing I can come down to is our educational system. We may score well internationally in Math and Reading skills. But I am guessing if there were a test for critical thinking Canada would do awfully poorly. How else could people read the newspaper and not say about Ford: ‘what an idiot’?

Surely it’s time to question an educational system that allows this to happen. Now, I know that there is a tendency for all progressive people to assume that an educated populace with perforce be left wing. And I admit to similar feelings. However it is possible that one could come to an informed conservative conclusion. But even so, people like Ford would not be electable. The point is that people should be able to at least spot a sham and ask questions to come to an understanding of issues.

And isn’t that really the main purpose of our education system? Oh, I know. Everyone is all up in arms about teaching kids things so they can get a job. But an informed citizenry is really what it’s about. And we are failing miserably at that. And our toady and uneducated press isn’t helping.

Frankly, if I were a teacher (or any kind of educator) I would be embarrassed by the election of people like the Fords. I think every school teacher should look in the mirror and ask what they can do in the classroom to make sure that their students can think. Otherwise, why go through the motions?

February 5, 2012

Why can’t reporters understand Stephen Harper?

The following is a Letter to the Editor of the Globe and Mail yesterday that didn’t get published:

Reporter Joe Friesen has perpetuated the misunderstanding of our Prime Minister in his ‘Stephen Harper’s census’ (Feb 4, 2012). He says that Harper, while playing the demographic card to insist that we cannot afford the current old age security benefits, nevertheless refuses to understand British Columbia’s demographic arguments in favour of a more generous federal contribution to Medicare payments for its older population.

Mr Friesen apparently just doesn’t understand Harper at all. Harper isn’t employing or ignoring the facts of demographics at all. Harper has an agenda of less government and fewer social programs. He has a vision of a Canada unlike what we’ve experienced for generations. His announced intention is to remake Canada in his conservative image.
No amount of facts or ‘evidence’ is driving Harper’s decision making. When the facts are in his favour, he gladly employs them. When not, he ignores them. This is a case of ideology trumping common sense. One thing this is not, contrary to the article, is ‘puzzling’.
This type of misunderstanding of Harper is rampant in the Report on Business and elsewhere in the newspaper world.
Reporters cannot understand why StatsCan would be gutted when it provides necessary information about demographics and such that are crucial to government planning. They couldn’t understand why the Prime Minister, an ‘economist’, would lower the GST (which ended up being partly responsible for our current fiscal deficit, but, also very handily the very excuse to cut government services). Neither made sense and they found it ‘puzzling’ that an intelligent man like Harper would be so evidently ignorant of such things.
Harper’s crime agenda is much more obviously crafted. He is increasing jails and making the justice system more rigid and punitive at a time when crime stats have never been lower (now there’s a good reason to get rid of StatsCan). This is simply and obviously playing to his base. Interesting, though, how conservatives who do not believe in a role for government always end up with enormous bureaucracies to administer ‘justice’ to those who fall out of line.
Most reporters understand the crass nature of Harper’s justice policies. Somehow, though, they are blinded by his economic policies. The fact is, Harper either doesn’t understand economics at all or is simply too ideologically driven to care. I believe it is an unhealthy combination of the two.
Why don’t journalists get this?
January 4, 2012

Mark Schatzker in the Globe and Mail…

Is it just me or is journalist Mark Schatzker really that lame.

He is the only journalist at the Globe who finds the Left on City Council hilarious but not the Brothers Ford. Not only that, but I think he has been hired to write whimsical and funny stories on local politics but I haven’t yet cracked a smile on reading any of his work…something which I do very infrequently, I admit.

He thinks that talking out of the side of his mouth is innately funny. Yet with all the fodder provide by the likes of Mammoliti and the Fords he cannot find anything really funny to say.

In today’s Globe (Wed Jan 4) he has an article ‘Stop the chicken busts’. It is apparently about how difficult it is to buy homestead chickens in Canada. But, and I should have known this, what the article is really about is a tirade against supply management of poultry in Canada. Yep, if there is a right-wing cause, Mark is on it!

You know, I wouldn’t mind so much if indeed he did have a sense of humour. There is a Seinfeld episode about a dentist who converts to Judaism for the jokes. You really should see it to understand my complete distaste for Schatzker.

July 7, 2011

Eating Matt Galloway

Well, he’s done it again. Matt Galloway of Metro Morning on CBC Radio I mean.

He lives in downtown Toronto and I am convinced he’s out to ruin my leisure life. During the FIFA World Cup he talked about a certain Portuguese restaurant on College St as having the best patio in Toronto at which to watch soccer.

Well that did it for me getting a table on the patio last summer.

Now he has a schtick where he is asking people to out their best kept secret places to take out of town visitors to see the real Toronto. This week someone from the Cookbook Store spoke about the great sandwiches at a little place that I frequent on the way back from a long bicycle ride. It only has about four outdoor tables and cannot handle a crowd. I haven’t been there since the program but I presume that’s been ruined as well.

So what’s with that, Matt? Are you out to ruin my life?

I’m going to have to start following Matt around so I can out his favourite places so he can see how it feels.

March 27, 2011

Election Diaries: The game has begun?

Or so the press would have you believe.

I know, to many progressive voters the choices are less than ideal. And what real impact will the outcome of this election have on the future of our lives, never mind Canada? But it does seem a little odd that with all the civil disruption going on across North Africa and the Middle East where people are literally dying for a chance to vote, that here in Canada we suffer what the press likes to call ‘election fatigue’ after only four elections in the past seven years.

But CBC is covering the election like a TV game show. Every day they announce a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’, they hype it for their own journalistic self promotion.

Now I’m all for fun and humour. But the media is part of the further denigration of our democracy. As ineffectual as going to the polls every four years (or sooner in this case) may seem, it is still an essential component of citizenry.

And there are indeed issues to be discussed and decisions about the future to be made. Let’s look at some of these in the days ahead.

A couple of things that perplex me are

…why are the Conservatives considered by many to be better stewards of the economy when their track record is quite to the contrary

…why is the term ‘coalition’ considered so poisonous to many

More later.

Last minute addition: Sunday night (March 27) and our public broadcaster has added a new ‘segment’ to their election coverage: Political Name Calling. Their ever intrepid reporter, Reg Sherren,  looked up a woman in Alberta with the name of “Elizabeth May’ (you know, the same name of the Green Party leader).

Now, stay with me on this one, the segment is not about politicians calling each other epithets. No it’s about ordinary people with the same name as a politician. Wow, got me on that one CBC! I mean who would have thought of that?

This apparently makes Ms May National Newsworthy. Reg interviews her and has a quick look around her town of Manning, Alberta. Not surprisingly he finds support for the Conservative Party. Elizabeth, however, cops to having voted Green in the last election. Wow, not only insightful reporting by the never to be outdone CBC, but also with a quirky ending.

Now that’s what I think Friends of Public Broadcasting has in mind when they campaign to preserve the CBC.

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