December 12 2003
Dear Editor/Bob MacDonald,
RE: Liberal-friendly media slam united right By BOB MACDONALD -- Toronto Wed Dec. 10 2003 RM archive copy
Once again I am forced to laugh in disbelief as a writer in the Canadian media slams that media for being "lib-lefty" dominated - it would be most enlightening if you could expand on that accusation just a bit, since MY perception - and that of most "lefties" I know (I would not call myself "liberal" any longer, for reasons I will touch on in a minute) - is just the opposite - we feel that the majority of the Canadian media has shifted markedly to the "right-wing" perspective over the last 20 years or so, and there are hardly any sane "lefty" voices to be found at all in the Canadian media anymore, outside of the pages of the Toronto Star!
Let me briefly answer some of the things you write, in demonstration of what I say.
First, to begin your "lib-lefty" accusation, you complain that "...Throughout the campaigns to unite Canada's two conservative parties ... our heavily lib-left media ha(s) emphasised the negatives...". Well, let's have just a quick look - I don't have time to go back through months of headlines, but a quick look at a few from the last couple of days shows:
Dissidents dismissed: Harper focused on building unity
Nova Scotians irked by Brison's move
True to form, Clark goes out a loser
Merge then stay right
Build a new party and people will come
Fractured right heals itself
MONTREAL GAZETTE - Credible alternative in the making
NATIONAL POST - Making it a race
LONDON FREE PRESS - Leadership key for new party
SUDBURY STAR - New national Conservative Party offers stability to Canadian political circus
WINNIPEG SUN - Right unites
SASKATOON STARPHOENIX - Tory diehards too pessimistic
EDMONTON SUN - Out with the old
VANCOUVER SUN - Once again, Joe Clark displays an inability to handle reality
NATIONAL POST - The real story going forward is that nine out of 10 members of both parties decided to co-operate in future by voting to merge now
NATIONAL POST - Yesterday's Tories
VANCOUVER SUN - Brison's hasty, selfish move does voters a disservice
- now Bob, that is just a SMALL selection from the last couple of days, that I could lay my hands on easily, and I challenge you to find a "lib-left anti-unite-the-right" bias in any of the above (they are all quite the reverse, actually) - which cover, you might note, the entire country, from Vancouver through Edmonton and Saskatchewan through Sudbury, London, Toronto and Montreal to Halifax - and I know I have read, over the last little while, similar stories from EVERY province and major city and media outlet, in quantity. Yes indeed, there have been a +few columnists who have written disparagingly about the "unite-the-right" move - but they are FAR from representing any kind of majority opinion (as expressed in the pages of the nation's media). This has been the dominant kind of perspective since the whole idea started a few months ago, and were we to undertake a comprehensive survey of headlines over this time I think you know as well as I the great majority of coverage would be from the same favourable perspective. Prove me wrong!!
So now that we see it is quite easy to demonstrate a decidedly "conservative" and favourable “news story” outlook on the "unite-the-right" movement, rather than lib-left across-the-board condemnation as you accuse the nation's media of, secondly concerning the "lib-left" bias of the media, let's come at it from another direction, and think of the columnists writing in Canada's papers - again, we can't possibly look in a short letter at everyone whose byline appears over an opinion piece, but what about those represented in the major media in the country? I would direct you to these internet sites, which feature probably most, if not all, of the major Canadian columnists writing today in the Canadian media:
National Post/Financial Post Columnists (NP also represents CanWest, as you know, the Asper chain, who do not have a listing of their own re columnists, but do have info here Canwest info )
Canoe columnists (Sun papers)
Toronto Star columnists
Globe and Mail columnists
- now please, Bob, you undoubtedly know more of these people than I do, but, outside of the Toronto Star page which does have, one must admit, a bit of a centrist basis (I could go into a long aside on this, but that is not the point of this letter - but to call the Star "lib-lefty" these days is to misstate the case considerably - the entire political debate in Canada has been dragged considerably to "the right" over the last 20 years, and although the Star is admittedly the major Canadian outlet for the "left" edge of that spectrum, it is still pretty much in the middle of the political field, if you get my meaning - they have as many or more columnists supporting "conservative" notions such as "free trade" or lower taxes or joining Bush's campaign in Iraq as they do opposing them (do you +really want to call Richard Gwyn a "lib-lefty"?!?!?), and there is nobody writing there you could +legitimately+ call some kind of "lefty socialist", leaving hysteria and rhetoric aside for a minute, in the comparable sense that one might call any number of columnists for ALL of the other papers rabid right-wingers - names such as Diane Francis, Terence Corcoran, John Ibbotson, Margaret Wente or Elizabeth Nickerson come readily to mind - there are many, many more...), one would be hard-pressed - VERY hard-pressed - to find a regular "lib-lefty" voice in the non-Star sea of right-wing oratory put out by these people - go on, have a look! - and throw out a few names for us to examine their "lib-lefty" nonsense - or perhaps we could just contact the editors of these publications and ask them to give us the names of their "lib-left" staff writers (I expect the editorial board of the Post, the Globe, or any of the Sun or Canwest papers would have a good chuckle at that! - if they weren't so insulted they would sue, at any rate...). Well, I am getting facetious - as you well know, outside of the odd token guest columnist, these papers are solidly somewhere between right-wing and FAR right-wing in political stance, both editorially and through their columnists, and I would challenge you to demonstrate otherwise before slinging around any more wild accusations about the "lib-left" Canadian media.
Yes, of course, there have been a few stories in most media concerning Joe Clark's refusal to accept the merger, or about David Orchard's move to stop it, which seemed to offend you - but surely these are newsworthy things in the Canadian political happenings of the day that the media should cover - so what is your problem with this? - but as shown above, their opinions have certainly not dominated anything. Is it that, like the current American Republicans and their Faux “media” clones from where you people seem to get a lot of your direction, you can tolerate no dissenting voices at all - even when those voices actually represent a majority of popular opinion (on all the issues I have touched on and more, most Canadians are not in agreement with the right-wing stance but are indeed somewhere around the center - they want improved health care rather than ever lower taxes, for instance, and are generally approving that Canada did not rush off madly to invade Iraq behind George Bush, etc and etc)?? That is hardly democratic-sounding, but it certainly appears to be your position, reading between the lines of your words. And in truth, as the headlines above show (and there are, of course, many, many more the same) that although a few stories covered the activities of Orchard and Clark, the general editorial and columnist stance was solidly against them, and in favor of the merger - and to pretend otherwise is (to put it politely) simply to either ignore or be ignorant of the facts.
(In a related sense, I do not touch on the CBC here, being more interested in print media and commenting thereon in this letter, but again, all surveys and examinations seem to indicate that the CBC is +balanced+ in its presentation of news - that is, it does indeed feature voices from "the left", and it may be argued that some of the management have a “leftist: outlook on things (as the management of the Globe, Post, Sun and Canwest have a decidedly “rightist" outlook) - but at least as many, if not more, from "the right" (check out, for instance, the number of opinions supporting Bush's invasion of Iraq last winter vs the opinions opposing it - I will guarantee right now that the CBC had more commentators supporting it, even though most Canadians recognised that Bush was lying about his reasons and opposed his military incursion - but at least the CBC had voices from both sides, and I will equally guarantee that Canwest and the Sun and even the Globe carried virtually NO voices opposing that invasion, a FAR LESS balanced coverage than the CBC....) - which seems to offend you people to no end - very unlike the right-wing newspapers I talk about here, primarily Canwest and the Sun, where, very contrary to your assertions, a voice from the “center-left” is almost impossible to find - almost no balance at all to the right-wing demands for lower taxes, privatised health care, ever closer ties to America, "free" trade, etc and etc. Why do you apparently demand, through your constant complaining about anyone who dares disagree with you, that only your voices and opinions are ever to be heard in the Canadian media, and go off on such hysterics every time you see a contrary opinion - would it not be better, and more democratic, to respond to the arguments and views raised through ongoing debate rather than try to have the offending voice silenced?? (possible answer - you know very well that your opinions are not shared by most Canadians - but if your opinions and demands and one-sided interpretation of what is happening in Canada and what needs to be done about it are the ONLY ones Canadians hear or read, then they will be less likely to form independent opinions opposing yours...??? Your obvious fear of such contrary voices would seem to indicate this - we from the “lib-left” welcome debate - why are you so intent on stifling it????).
One other of your comments especially struck me, coming from a "conservative" who would presumably be rather strong on moral/ethical issues - you say, without further comment, that "...MacKay was often portrayed as the guy who broke his word with Orchard regarding unification..." - well, black and white, Bob, bottom line - did the man blatantly break a fairly important promise (one that was central in getting him elected leader of the party can hardly be considered an oath of no consequence!) within months of making it, in public, or did he not? Does that not bother you at all, regardless of any other political views? How do you suppose that you or anyone else can trust the man concerning any other promises he may make in the future - or Harper for that matter - or anyone else who is going along with this oath-breaker? They will obviously feel free to break any other promises they may make in the future at will, simply by saying, unilaterally, that things have changed, or claiming the greater good (as personally defined!), whatever! For me, at least, however, serious promises carry considerably more weight than that - but if that kind of casual attitude towards a man’s word is part of the "new conservatism", let me predict that you are not going to have many converts once people start thinking about how it works in reality - even in this cynical age, I know that many, and probably most, Canadians are trying to maintain decent lives in decent communities - and a central part of a decent life for anyone is keeping your word when you give it to someone, and being able to rely on people around you to keep their word when they give it to you (how indeed could we have a civilised society if all someone had to say to cancel any bond or contract or promise was "Oh! Haha!! That contract no longer applies - I changed my mind about following it! Tough luck - hope you're not too inconvenienced or it didn't cost you too much - but I don' really care hahaha!! byebye sucker!"). This casual dismissal of integrity is not sitting very well with a lot of people, let me tell you (Joe Clark showed the integrity he has always been respected for by NOT accepting McKay's "right" to behave in this way, or his rather pathetic justifications for doing so) - and think about the promises your "new conservatives" are going to make in the next election, and think about explaining to the people of Canada that the "New Conservative" party does not feel that keeping promises is an important value in the modern world or in Canada in the 21st century.
(We might note the continually falling voter turnout the last few years - do you suppose that has anything to do with lying politicians?? I certainly do..... and this isn’t going to help any, I think...)
Not something I would want to have to be doing myself, Bob, not me, nosiree. But then, most of what you right wing people get up to is not very attractive to me, so I guess that is no big surprise.
Regardless, I go on at length, and I do fear I am probably talking to a wall, as the old saying has it - as I show for one instance briefly above, the record of the past couple of decades seems to indicate that many if not most of the writers such as yourself who write in the Canadian right-wing media have little interest in factual representation of what is happening in the country - it seems that you regard politics as some sort of game, and you will root for "the home team" forever, with the same jingoistic fervour of "our team good your team bad and we will say any old kind of nonsense that makes our team look good and make up all kinds of stories to make the other team look bad with no regard to the truth or facts" - i.e. this constant whining about a non-existent “left-lib-dominated media in Canada" - regardless of what they do or who is on the team or how things change over the years. For things do indeed change, Bob, and have changed a lot in Canada since the great right-wing reactionary revolution went fully public in Canada with the election of Mulroney in 1984, and continued on that path with Chretien in 1993 after the Canadian people finally saw what Mulroney was really up to and gave him the biggest boot in Canadian history. As any honest, able-to-think-for-themselves student of politics in Canada must acknowledge, the federal Liberal party is now the party of "the conservative right", with the Chretien-Martin agenda of tax cuts, “free” trade and “globalisation”, and reducing spending on the social support system of Canadians to levels not seen since 1950, as Martin himself bragged about a few months ago. How you people can continue to pretend that the Liberal party represents any political area around the "center-left" continues to amaze me - but I suspect you have your reasons - most Canadians depend on this very media for explication of the issues, and being fed the Sun and Canwest papers every day in most communities in the country, do not really understand well about this, an Alice-in-Wonderland or through-the-looking-glass backwards impression of what is happening in Canada constantly reinforced by your right-wing media and right-wing columnists (such as yourself, Bob! - surely you wouldn't include Bob MacDonald as part of the "lib-left" media overrunning the country!!!! - or do you feel all alone there on the Sun page of columnists!!! hahahaha - small joke - as you well know, you fit right in with people like Ted Byfield and Walter Robinson, Douglas Fisher, Greg Weston, Paul Jackson, Christina Blizzard, and all the rest - go on!! outside of the token lefty David Suzuki, name me another Sun lib-lefty!!! Or a couple from the Canwest group - or even the Globe!! - Go on!! I dare ya!!!).
Oh well, I indulge myself too much, as we lefties tend to do, not being tied down by sound-bite and money-money-money-time-is-money the-market-rules imperatives and stuff like that, and we both know very well that such a letter as this will NEVER be published in the Sun, or the Canwest papers (Jonas did his dutiful right-wing dogmatic rant about the lib-left dominated Canadian media as well a few months ago, to which I also replied, which letter was also not printed or even acknowledged), since it questions things you people do not want questioned, and in ways that point out the fallacy (to use a polite word) of your positions, so I'll leave off for now.
But a small challenge nonetheless if you dare - respond to this in some way, and try some facts rather than imaginary sour-grapes-in-the-sky rhetoric to make your case for a "lib-lefty" dominated media in Canada, in response to the case that I have, in a small way, outlined above, that the media is actually right-wing dominated. Perhaps we could pick a range of issues of the day - same-sex marriage, gun control, the "war" in Iraq, terrorism, privatising health care - things like that, that have a rather obvious "lefty-righty" split of opinion - and then take a few minutes and make lists of the positions of the major media and columnists on them, and see which side generally gets the most space on a day-to-day basis? I certainly feel that the right-wing position is heavily favored in the Canadian media overall, with the acknowledged exception of certain small pockets of "lefty" opinion, primarily the Toronto Star - but if I am wrong about this, I would certainly like to know - heck, it would free up a lot of my time if the "lefty" perspective that I write from myself was indeed being well represented in the Canadian media, as I would no longer feel this obligation to write to people like you and the papers in Canada concerning correcting the false impressions that the rightwing media usually presents about all kinds of things (oddly enough, since ALL of my letters are, like this, rather "lib-left" in perspective, you'd think some of them would get printed in the "lib-left" media - but they never are!!!).
A final sort of litmus test to anticipate the argument you would be sure to make were you to respond to this - you people always say that the Canadian people have shifted rightward politically, and you are thus simply representing popular opinion - but what about health care? Poll after poll after poll shows that somewhere around 70-80+% of Canadians want a fully funded, well-functioning public health care system restored to Canada - and yet, with the lone exception of the Star again, ALL of the other media in Canada, and 99% of the non-Star columnists, are pushing for more and more privatisation of that health care system. Would you care to reconcile those facts with the conention that you people are simply reflecting public opinion in Canada, rather than actually trying to shape it?
Cheers!!!, as my Brit friends say -
[[aka RM HAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!!!!!!]]
(Canadian citizen, Ontario and PEI, came here with CUSO in 1994, now teaching)