Thursday, September 30, 2010

This is not my Canada; This is not my Media

There was a time when the pen was mightier than the sword. That was a time when people believed in truth and regarded truth as an independent power and not as an auxiliary for government, class, race, ideological, personal, or financial interest.
Paul Craig Roberts
Good-Bye: Truth Has Fallen and Taken Liberty With It
At the end of September, Rick Salutin, an award-winning, left-leaning columnist, was fired by the Globe and Mail. His second last article, 'Stephen Harper – the last Straussian?' received over 590 comments. The first sentence is pure Salutin:
People keep asking why Stephen Harper acts as he does, it looks so buttheaded. He seems to muck up his own prospects: firing decent people, lashing out, raising the partisan rhetoric, proroguing Parliament haughtily, binging on military toys, mauling the census – he’s a bright boy, it’s hard to figure.
I am curious why the Globe and Mail is not publishing the numerous letters questioning why Rick Salutin was fired for writing articles of such gravitas, and supporting his twenty years of incisive political analysis. Indeed, Rick Salutin's final paragraph in his last article, 'Rob Ford and the loss of Hope', was censored by the Globe and Mail, as farewells are 'not permitted'. Rick gives a clarion call against Rob Ford coming to power, and states 'It's the failure or shortfall of hope that leads to fear.' As the London School of Economics responded by letter to the Queen, when she asked why their experts had not foreseen the economic meltdown of 2008, that 'it was a failure of imagination', so it will be for Toronto if we elect Rob Ford, and turn back the progressive policies enacted during the past seven years under Mayor Miller. Our actions will show that we no longer believe that our city that it can be a better place to live, and we will permit it to be ruled by suburban interests, rather than responsible urban planning and engaged environmental and social stewardship. Collectively, we care much more than Rob Ford for our city, and we have much more knowledge of how it can be run.

Is such a censored dismissal Straussian, Globe and Mail? Hundreds of thousands of readers, and Rick, deserve a proper explanation. 'Redesigning' is not enough. PM Harper pays $75,000 of our tax money to have a new media company monitor negative online comments, and no doubt, he just pressed the panic button to notify them to quickly repudiate the readers' indignation and howls of support for Rick. You can read the online comments here. Off with his head, the Conservative Privy Council Office said, and the Thomsons agreed. It doesn't pay to be controversial.

In their attempt to attract younger Internet savvy readers, who are not accustomed to investigative reporting, and prefer larger pictures, the Globe and Mail has revamped the newspaper to have a more glossy tabloid look and feel, with one of the issues that 'define Canadians' extolling the bright future of the armed forces. In the Globe's recent 'Canada: Our Time to Lead' TV ad, touting the redesign, a young woman, riding a bicycle on a country road toward the camera, says that 'Canada is not defined by universal health care or peacekeeping'. Funny- last time a poll was run in Canada, 80% of respondents said healthcare is the crown jewel, and distinguishing attribute of Canadian society, and why we accept high taxation levels. This subtext of this ad asks us to envision a new Canada, militarized and 'open for international business'- a corporate Canada we are beginning to know, driven by unsustainable, neoliberal policies for endless exploitation. Who will take care of us when media corporations own us, and our messaging? Curiously, Irshad Manji, 'Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare' has been chosen to replace Rick Salutin. The independence of the fourth estate is no longer.

This silencing of the media opposition is just another instance of what I have known for some time- the leftwing media is being censored and sidelined, soon to be extinguished, as part of the campaign against freedom of information in Canada. PM Harper holds a stranglehold on media relations stronger than any other prime minister in Canadian history. The scientific community's head, and right to speak, is on the block, as well, as the byzantine process of asking for scientific data has been enforced, no doubt, to control press releases about the recent, peer-reviewed report about the poisoning of the Athabasca River due to the runoff of the tarsands' tailings ponds. It is hard to speak when your head has been cut off.

On July 27th, I launched a formal CRTC complaint regarding the inequitable coverage of the G20, which prioritized images of police cars burning over issues peacefully presented by non profit and non governmental organizations. On August 16th, I received a phone call from a bigwig in one of the major Canadian TV networks. His tone was pugilistic, and twenty-five minutes later, after he mocked my commitment to march, I felt discredited, and verbally beaten up, for defending my rights to have adequate, or any, media coverage of the civil society response to the G20. I was told that footage of the 'violent riots was fresh, new, important and newsworthy', whereas the democratic discourse surrounding the dismantling of civil society, and fire sale of Canada to private interests, was a tale told again, and again, and was simply not newsworthy. 'Anyway,' I was told, 'the people in the Labour Parade on Saturday did get 30 seconds of airtime.' Let's divide 25-40,000 citizens by thirty seconds each, and see if they can get a word in edgewise.

I hung up the phone feeling that the onus was on the left to provide more and more flamboyant spectacles of protest, and that the left, by its nature diverse in its concerns, is beholden to provide a unified message for easy media consumption. It is the job of activist organizations to be credible public relations firms, and perform theatrically, for a few seconds of media coverage, although the pockets of our opposition run deep, lined with our tax money being readied to be used against us, such as hiring a new media firm to troll online comments, or looping clips of a police car burning ad infinitum. Whoever controls the media, controls the mind (Jim Morrison).

What is newsworthy was the current exponential speed, impact, and secretiveness of the media campaign attempted by the Prime Minister's Office to extinguish our democratic right to free speech through a Category 1 news channel, SunTV, nicknamed 'Fox News North' by Margaret Atwood. Fox has repeatedly undercut President Obama during his time in office, and its unrelenting critique of his administration is often perilously close to slander. SunTV would be a mirror image of Fox News, and a house organ of the Conservative party, as developed by Kory Teneycke, Mr. Harper’s former director of communications. Next, the Conservative Party will try to beam this news channel into schools as part of the curriculum, just after students rise for the new national anthem - 'O Say can you See'. 'No, I cannot, I do not have access to different media sources and opinions. I am blinkered by the government.' The public outcry has been swift, and there are over 87,000 signatures on a petition against this news channel initiative on

As a new media professor, I am aware that investigative reporting has become increasingly expensive for news networks, and print media, as media content becomes less profitable because of online access to primary source coverage, and decreased advertising revenue (read Clay Shirky's 'Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable'). I was reminded by the TV network representative that the alternative press culls from the mainstream media's content through search engines, yet his company bears the brunt of employing stringers on Parliament Hill. If I had had greater presence of mind, I would have reminded him that the alternative press reporters were denied access to the Fake Lake media press resort during the G20.

Disenchanted after the phone call, I was left feeling that mainstream media assumes that involved analysis regarding policy is considered too complex for the average citizen. This is condescending in the extreme, as evidenced in the brilliant citizen media reportage in the Real News Network, Democracy Now, and Tyee, which use the web and Youtube as outlets for distribution. I have turned to citizen media to supplement my media diet, and found such gems as Kevin P. Miller's "A QUESTION OF SOVEREIGNTY", which defends John Turner's nationalistic views of Canada. Historically, it recounts Mulroney's free trade agreement in 1988, and Bills C-51 and C-6, which have formed the basis of the yet-to-be passed Bill C-36.

Bill C-36 needs to be stopped for the following reasons, according to Kevin P. Miller:
In the new Bill C-36, Health Canada has proposed that the powers provided to Parliament should be forfeited so that Canada can “honour its international agreements and commitments.” If Bill C-36 and similar Bills are adopted, foreign entities, multinational corporate interests, Codex, WTO and WHO would be free to write self-serving laws that affect Canadians — and they could do so by bypassing Parliament completely.

Perhaps this is what they mean by 'Free Trade' — 'free' of oversight by elected officials.
In three weeks, PM Harper will attempt to hammer the last nail into the Comprehensive European Trade Agreement, which will make us the only company in the world which has free trade agreements with both the US and Europe, undercutting our sovereign ability to control international trade agreements, provide municipal services, and employ our own citizens. The government is dismantling regulation federally through C-36, and sub-nationally through CETA.

And despite signs, signs, everywhere signs, all 8,500 Economic Action Plan signs, carefully monitored by PM Harper and his Privy Council Office, with obligatory, Monday updates by eighteen, overstretched departments and agencies, that my quality of life is better under the Conservative regime, I know that there has been more environmental destruction during my lifetime than any other generation, and that PM Harper, and his ongoing advocacy of the tarsands, thus oil consumption, is directly related to why over three hundred diesel, rather than electric, trains daily will be running blocks from my house, and directly through and beside seven west-end parks, affecting my community's health, until 2020. Rob Ford, of course, cannot be convinced that the upcoming cost of 33 diesel engines and 11 ARL vehicles is three times that of electric, and that the final tally is even higher, once electric vehicles are bought in 2020 to replace diesel.

One of these Economic Action Plan signs is planted in front of the field house in MacGregor Park. I have written about my neighbourhood park, MacGregor Park, extensively in my blog, and enclosed this Youtube clip of children performing there:

I recognize this sign for what it is - part of a false advertising media campaign generated, controlled and tightly monitored by the federal Conservative Party. This flimsy sign is just another testament to the federal, and provincial, disregard of environmental and urban planning policy in citizens' best interests, constrained by the tightening of restrictions on access to environmental information, and the loosening of these regulations to privilege sole-sourced contracts to their corporate allies. Prisons, fighter jets, and the creation of a Conservative news network are more important than the right of children to play without harm to their health, and Ontario's right to clean, quiet, sustainable transit. The direct cost to me? At least $1000.

To finish as I began, another quote by Paul Craig:
Wherever one looks, truth has fallen to money.
Wherever money is insufficient to bury the truth, ignorance, propaganda, and short memories finish the job.
The policies being tabled will affect us long after the memories of the Action Plan have faded. Afterwards, we will ask "Where is my Toronto? Where is my Canada? And where is my media?" if we do not speak in defense of the dismissal of Rick Salutin, in support of a progressive mayor, and against the passing of C-36, and the final round of CETA, now. Unlike PM Harper, I believe Canadians are fully capable of determining our own international trade agreements, contracts for municipal services, and need for univeral healthcare, all of which require sovereignty, and a strong Mayor of Toronto working on our behalf.

Call to Action:
To defend Rick, please email:,,,

To support the fight against CETA, please demand permanent exemption for municipalities from CETA by supporting the Council of Canadians, and emailing your city councillors to support the Logan Lake Resolution, and also to vote against C-36.
More at

Paul Craig Roberts,'Good-Bye: Truth Has Fallen and Taken Liberty With It' at
Rick Salutin,'Stephen Harper – the last Straussian?' at
Rick Salutin, 'Rob Ford and the loss of Hope', at
Globe TV Ad, 'Canada: Our Time to Lead',
Bruce Wark, 'Rick Salutin out as Friday Globe columnist' at
Kathryn O'Hara, 'Canada must free scientists to talk to journalists' at
Clay Shirky,'Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable' at
Jane Taber, 'Margaret Atwood Takes on Fox News North' Petition, 'Canada: Stop "Fox News North'- Close to 100,000 signatures, and important to sign!
Kevin P. Miller, 'A Question of Sovereignty', and
'Green Pan Am Games, Green Parks and the Right to Play' at