Letters from Green Island

Dec 24 2007

'Left' wing bias??? Who are you trying to kid??

Editor amayer@thejournal.canwest.com rwood@thejournal.canwest.com bwilkinson@thejournal.canwest.com letters@thejournal.canwest.com,

Re column by Lorne Gunter, CBC news coverage a bit of a charade - "... two glaring examples of why it cannot be trusted to report the news fairly, of how it uses the $1.1 billion extracted from taxpayers each year to fund its operations to promote its own narrow, left-of-centre agenda..." (original story also copied at the end of this letter)

It's somewhat odd that I would defend the CBC, as I have been criticizing it for many years now - but my criticisms have all been that the CBC has been moving rather too far to the RIGHT of the political spectrum, rather than the 'left', as Mr Gunter seems to believe, so perhaps a short examination of this apparent disparity would be in order.

As always with any contentious issue it is well to establish the playing field, so perhaps we ought to just start with the basic terminology, briefly. I think we could all agree on the following (if not you will have to tell me which particulars I have wrong, please) - a 'right wing conservative', in 'modern' Canada at any rate, is one who places the needs and desires of Big Business, Investors, Bankers and Capitalism at the top of the public policy list, promoting 'free' markets through such things as 'free' trade, smaller government, lower taxes, deregulation, minimal social programs, 'wars' on such things as 'terror' and drugs and lazy welfare bums, the Big Stick approach to Law and Order, following the Americans around the world invading whoever for whatever reason (bringing democracy!! and Free Markets!! to socialists and Bad People and other losers, I guess is the reason), and etc and etc. Leftie-Progressives, on the other hand (Canadian version), look for a more middle-of-the-road approach, trying to be fair to as many people as possible - business and markets are both good, but both (along with various other things important to the public wellbeing) must be sufficiently regulated to protect the public - for example, free trade is a good idea, but there need to be regulations to protect people (in both developing and developed countries) from ruthless exploitation by 'money is first and all!!' capitalist businessmen and investors who are wealthy enough to influence political decisions - 'fair' trade is what most progressives talk about; social programs such as health care are good and necessary, and should be properly funded even if corporations and bankers and investors and the wealthy people in general in our society have to contribute a bit more taxes than they really feel they ought to; trying to solve problems by passing harsher laws, or declaring 'war' on them and hiring more police and throwing a lot of people in jail, is not the most effective 'first line' solution to problems such as drug use; invading other countries as we have done in Afghanistan is a bad idea, and etc. There are other things, of course, the list is not meant to be exhaustive, but the general sort of division should be clear to most people. Nobody is going to accuse Conrad Black of being a 'socialist progressive lefty', and nobody is going to accuse David Suzuki of being a running dog capitalist neocon. I hope, anyway.

So when Mr Gunter and others accuse the CBC of a 'left-wing' bias, we should just consider which of the above general approaches it generally supports through its coverage of things, and the slant it affords that coverage at times - and it is quite obvious to any sort of honest and impartial assessment that there is much more support for right wing policies such as supporting 'free' trade, the Afghanistan invasion, the 'war on drugs', deregulation, lower taxes, reduced social programs (darn shame, they say, of course, but if we can't afford them, we'll have to adapt bla-de-blabla), and pretty much everything else, than anything promoting 'lefty' values such as fair trade or regulating banks properly or taxing them to pay for infrastructure maintentance etc and etc. Indeed, as I note regularly in my own non-mainstream publication, there is a very strong case to be made that the CBC is very much involved with some pretty serious propaganda SUPPORTING this overall neo-con, right wing agenda.

So what then are Mr Gunter and other media commentators who regularly write columns like this actually talking about? Are they just totally out of touch with reality, or is there perhaps some method to such apparent disconnect from reality? Why would any major media outlet allow such people to air such nonsense in their pages - after all, when we see a columnist obviously disconnected from the reality around us, then that does not say much about the quality of the media outlet either (well, actually, of course it does say quite a lot - but not complimentary).

Well, there's a couple of things, I think, going on here.

First, Canadians understand that the media is supposed to give them the information they need to know what is happening in their world, in terms of the information they need to make informed democratic decisions about their country's direction and so on. And they also are becoming more and more aware that there has been a taking over of many western democratic governments the last 20-30 years by right-wing oriented governments which favor corporate and investor interests - and if Canadians start to wonder why their media is generally promoting a far right wing agenda, but most of the Canadian people are actually center left types, as most polls show by the sorts of policies Canadians generally favor (health care over reducing corporate taxes, etc) they're going to start trusting the media even less than they do now, which might make the un-democraticness of the country even more apparent than it is - so this barrage of accusations of a 'lefty' media is probably designed, in part at least, to help prevent Canadians from understanding how far right most of the media really is, and thus examining their promotional efforts in favor of corporatism and moving more and more to the right with even more scepticism than they do now. Just more capitalist con-job stuff, sucking in the marks.

And secondly, in reality, Mr Gunter and the others are not 'normal' conservatives like we used to know in days of yore (names like Diefenbaker, Stanfield, Joe Clark, William Davis, Dalton Camp, and etc, come to mind - good people all, who cared about People before making more money for the already wealthy), but they are actually a more recent breed of faaaaar-farfarfar right 'conservatives', who came out of the closet, as it were, as a movement in the wider world fronted by people like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan some 30 years ago, and shortly thereafter by Mulroney in Canada. These people are not really 'conservatives' as we have known such people in earlier times, who were fundamentally decent people, but a newer breed of elitists who might more properly be called corpo-fascists based on their desired policies of instituting corporate governments primarily of, by and for the corporate/banker/investors, supportive of Big Business and treating the people more like serfs and slaves tugging the forelock in general and doing as Their Betters Require than citizens who rightfully own their democratic country. They dress themselves up in 'normal slightly-right-of-center normal nice-guy conservative' clothes to try to marshall some support, as they know that only a very, very small part of the Canadian population is anywhere near their desired far-right world, which is really something of a throwback to the days of noblemen and serfs and all knew their places, and if they were up front about what they are really promoting, they would have essentially no chance of having their policies implemented by any honestly elected Canadian government in this half of this century at least.

But then, in this farfarfar right worldview, what normal people consider 'right of center' is still, of course, well left of the far-far-far right paleo-cons as some people think of them, so they get a scary 'don't you dare contradict me!!!' look on their face that disinvites debate, and feel justified in using such terminology, even though on any balanced scale the CBC of the last 10-20 years has been moving further and further right of 'the real' center, as are all Canadian media these days, even the Toronto Star. (Yes, the CBC and Toronto Star have a couple of columnists who could be still considered legitimate 'lefty-progressives' - but a couple of columnists do not an editorial stance make, and there is no mainstream media in Canada which could legitimately be called 'lefty' these days, based on the opening definition of right-left I outlined at the first and considering the heavily corporate-agenda-favoring slant and spin of 90+% of their coverage - just look at the CBC promotion of the Afghanistan invasion, and how they love 'free' trade these days, their acceptance and promotion of ever-lowering taxes regardless of the damage to the country, and etc and etc.)

(It's a notable feature of far-righters like Mr Gunter that they have no tolerance whatsoever for sharing what they have apparently come to think of as 'their' media with any type of opposing voices - even though even a cursory examination of columnists in the major Canadian media indicates something like a 90% or higher prevalence of right-wing voices, this is not enough for the paleo-cons, and they scream in outrage anytime any single voice dares contradict their dominant monologue presentation of the way they want the world to be. It's kind of understandable in a way, as poll after poll shows that Canadians in general do not support this farfarfar-rightwing agenda, but tend to be much closer overall to the hated lefty-librul agenda of fair trade, good medicare, corporations NOT running the country's policies, not becoming an American puppet, and etc, and giving space to voices they can rally around to prolong the descent to feudalism is not something the impatient neocons want to allow - knowing, as well, I suspect, that their time is not unlimited to implement a government so strong that it cannot be taken from them, as Canadians are becoming more aware each year of the neocon agenda, and most do not like what they are seeing, hence the secrecy surrounding such things as the NAU and SPP, which will be hard to undo if Harper gets his majority next year and signs them into law - although Dion is as likely as Harper to go along, witness Chretien and NAFTA....)

Reading stuff like Mr Gunter's column here - any of the neocon stuff really - shows that they have a somewhat loose grip on reality - which is not that surprising, really, as extremists of any sort usually aren't too well connected to reality - how could they be extremists if they were?

For example, in this piece Mr Gunter accuses the CBC of 'lefty bias' for holding back a recent documentary film criticizing China just a wee bit - which is a bit discombobulating at first, as the lefties themselves were accusing the CBC of a RIGHT-wing bias a few weeks ago for holding back the film to remove something that might annoy the Chinese gov - and if we examine apparent reasons, you can only consider the latter POV to be somewhat more probable (the CBC denies any bias at all, of course), as who is anxious to do the olympics in China, the lefties or righties? It's a business thing all the way, as certain people expect to make a lot of money from the olympics, and don't want to endanger that windfall by pissing off the Chinese gov - and who is concerned with making huge amounts of money, lefties or righties???? Right. haha. Of course. But facts never got in the way of a neocon who could handle a keyboard, or a rightwing media pushing some agenda.

Or he was right offended (haha) that some lowlevel CBC reporter talked to some committee member at the recent and ongoing Mulroney-Schreiber hearings and suggested some questions he might ask Mulroney. This baffles me, as in principle at least, reporters and MPs talk all the time, and if a reporter has some info to share with an MP about a question that might be asked at an investigation, isn't that a good idea? If the reporter had information and held it back, wouldn't Mr Gunter be screaming about obstruction of justice or something? I don't know, but that sort of thing is a normal rightwing complaint, the lefties obstructing law-n-order. Or - well, I suppose it depends to some extent on who is being questioned - if one of Mr Gunter's fellow righties suggested some questions during the so-called Adscam 'liberal' scandal, would they all have their knickers in such a twist? Hmmm. Here, of course, we know, of course, that Mulroney was the traitor who lied Canada into 'free' trade, and turned the national debt into a golden goose for investors and an axe for Canadian social programs, and was the front-guy for the neocons as they moved into the open in their takeover of Canada, and was and is despised by most Canadians as much as he is loved by the neocons, so I suppose we can just put this complaint down to covering for one of his heroes. Not very professional - but then nothing about the current right-wing media in Canada is very professional - professionals have ethics, and with the propaganda and boosterism that is so prominent in the current Canadian media, CBC included, the word 'professional' would not find its way into any honest discussion of the lot of them.

And as for the complaint about the CBC examining 'christian' influence in the US gov recently, I can't seem to find anything on the CBC site to see what he is talking about, but the question he complains of seems unbiased enough, nothing at all like a 'have you stopped beating your wife' question. But one suspects Mr Gunter of dissembling again, as noted above - most people aren't concerned about 'christian' values in government, as these values are usually pretty widespread and benign (who actually objects to 'love thy neighbor' or 'do unto others'? - I suppose such things would get some rightwingers incensed) - but a lot of people are concerned about 'christian fundamentalists' taking over the US government ("Bring on Armageddon!!! Kill all the heathens!!!! My god is tougher than your god!!!! No birth control!! Sex is dirty!!! Kill the Gays!!" - and etc - they really are loonies, very, very dangerous loonies), and normal christians and christian fundamentalists are two very different bunches of people. As Mr Gunter also no doubt well understands, and if you ask 100 Canadians if they think christian fundamentalists should be running the US government, you're not going to get a positive response out of single digits I expect. So if the CBC show was actually about fundies getting too influential in the US gov, which they surely are, then it would be for good reason you would tend to phrase any questions a little differently if you're of the fundie position but want to pretend you're actually a nice guy, until you get elected anyway. And you sure as hell don't want any media exposing some of their crazy views and their growing influence to a public already leery of extremists.

I expect Mr Gunter would have some less than kind words about the Muslim fundamentalists who are running Iran and some other countries these days - and if you want to replace 'Muslim fundamentalists' with 'christian fundamentalists', you can figure why so few of the sane majority want any of them running any government, anywhere anytime.

Oh, well, enough for this one, as nobody is going to print it or respond to it in the MSM anyway - but I wanted to get those explanations down, as I haven't seen them anywhere else and anytime there is a chance I might be able to open a new eye or make a new synaptic connection in the body politic I just sort of feel I have to do my duty. FYI Journal editors - this letter is available on the net, at On Green Island - the gatekeeping function of the MSM has been pretty seriously compromised by the internet, as you can no longer pretend you don't get letters like this, exposing what you are really doing.

(And final note: If there are any aspiring journalist students reading this looking for something to do a report on, it would be VERY useful to get lists of the major columnists in the mainstream Canadian media, and see exactly what proportion of those who write on political things in any way could be called 'right' wing vs 'left' wing (leaving out the sports columnists, gossip columnists, etc, mostly - they're all part of the Box scam, in that they distract people from more important ways of spending time, but they can't be called 'overtly' rightwing in the same sense your average business columnist, for instance, blatantly promoting capitalism over labour, for instance, can). Very, VERY interesting. Although if you're looking for a job in any of those papers or TV stations, I suppose you wouldn't want to do something like this that would expose them for what they really are, as they'd certainly not publish it, and you'd never get a job with them after showing that level of desire for fact-finding facts they don't want talked about (there's quite a lot of them out there, check out The Box elsewhere on this page for some places to start). But if you're sort of a young and idealistic journalist who still believes in Canada and truth and honesty and democracy and things like this - well, it could be quite useful.)

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CBC news coverage a bit of a charade
Mother Corp kowtows to China and seeks role in Mulroney scandal
Lorne Gunter lgunter@shaw.ca
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All I want for Christmas is the dismantling of the CBC.

In the past month the state broadcaster has provided two glaring examples of why it cannot be trusted to report the news fairly, of how it uses the $1.1 billion extracted from taxpayers each year to fund its operations to promote its own narrow, left-of-centre agenda.

Of course, there are little examples of the corporation's bias every day: the way it looks for the most reasonable spokespersons to represent the liberal-left side of an issue and for inarticulate amateurs to represent the right-of-centre side. The adjectives -- controversial, contentious, right-wing -- it uses to describe conservatives versus the ones -- progressive, dedicated, moderate -- its uses to describe the left.

Most of the time Mother Corp's bias simmers just beneath the surface -- a sneer here from the host, a scoffing tone there from a reporter.

In a recent report CBC did on the influence of Christians in the U.S. government, all of the reporters and analysts who set up the segment and who commented on it subsequently were clearly hostile to people of faith with right-of-centre views. They framed the discussion in a way in which it was impossible for viewers to disagree with their slant and still appear sensible: Do you agree or disagree with the way conservative Christians are attempting to break down the separation between church and state?

This is what reporters and politicians sometimes call the "Do you still beat your wife?" question. There is no way a person who disagrees with the questioner can answer and still appear reasonable.

But how come the report included only conservative Christians seeking to instil traditional values in public affairs? How come there were no examples of social-justice preachers and priests who use their positions of influence to push for more welfare, or carbon emissions curbs, same-sex marriage or withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan?

Oh, that's right, because when faithful people share the same worldviews as CBC reporters and producers, they're merely being sensible and judicious. They are not dangerous fundamentalists hell-bent on destroying our way of life. So it never even occurs to the people devising the alarmist stories CBC runs to cover the threat from the left as well as the right.

Still, these are merely the daily drip-by-drip cases of CBC subjectivity masquerading as even-handed journalism.

The two recent examples that have completely blown the corporation's veneer of objectivity are much, much worse.

Last month, CBC pulled a documentary just hours before it was to air because China's communist government objected to the way the film unflattering portrayed its treatment of the spiritual movement Falun Gong.

Beyond the Red Wall repeated claims -- well documented by several sources -- that Beijing arbitrarily imprisons, tortures and uses Falun Gong members for slave labour.

The CBC claimed it had not withdrawn the documentary due to pressure from the Chinese government, although several CBC sources admitted the rescheduling came only after the Chinese embassy in Ottawa telephoned the corporation and asked that the piece be witheld.

Instead, it pulled the film less than five hours before it was to be shown because it wanted to do "due diligence" to ensure "it's a solid piece of work that will stand up to intense scrutiny." imprisons, tortures and uses Falun Gong members for slave labour.

This was just so much disingenuous spin, though.

The corporation had had the finished product in its hands for eight months. Its lawyers, fact-checkers and executive producers had given it the green light. Indeed, it had aired already on the French equivalent of Newsworld and once on the English all-news channel in the middle of the night.

It's hard to escape the conclusion that the CBC was permitting the Chinese politburo to dictate what it would and would not show. We know Beijing has already barred some journalists from the 2008 Olympics.

Perhaps the CBC cratered on the Falun Gong documentary because it feared losing the rights to broadcast the Summer Games. Whatever its motives, the incident did irreparable damage to the corporation's reputation.

Then last week we learned at least one CBC reporter was writing questions for Liberal MPs to ask of former prime minister Brian Mulroney when he appeared before the House of Commons's ethics committee. One CBC spokesman claimed the reporter had not written the questions, but rather had merely dictated them over the phone, but the difference is meaningless.

Here was evidence of our publicly funded broadcaster seeking to be a player in a national scandal. Not content to report the news, Mother Corp set out to make some.

The MPs on the committee were not embarrassing Mulroney enough, so the CBC decided to feed them questions designed to make him look even worse. And who knows, perhaps the answers may damage even the current Conservative government whose very presence in office clearly irritates the broadcaster.

Most Canadians no longer put their faith in the CBC; that's why so few of us watch it anymore. But we shouldn't have to fund its biased, agenda-driven coverage, either. lgunter@shaw.ca
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