Green Island Letters

Original article: The day I finally lost all respect for The National
(appearing in The Canadian Journalism Project, July 27 2011)


Submitted by Dave Patterson on August 16, 2011 - 12:02pm.

Saw a comment by Mr Knight on the Tyee a couple of days ago (, directing here and soliciting comments - and am taking him up on that offer.

My interest is thus: I have a great interest in helping my country - and world - be a good country for all of us; I think Democracy is the way to do this; I think a good media is absolutely necessary to a good Democracy; and I think our 'democracy' is in pretty dire trouble now, and our media is not only not doing their job which is a good part of the reason we are in such trouble, they have actually, over the last couple of decades, slowly been transformed into a central part of the problem.

First, a couple of comments on the issue at hand.

(1) First, I don't quite get the connection between the title and the ensuing rant - Mr Knight says he has been watching the National decline in quality for years, and apparently the relegating of the official ending of the Cdn 'mission' in Afghanistan to non-headline status pushed him over the line. They've been up to far more egregious things than this on the CBC on a very regular basis (pretty much daily..) the last few years, it seems to me, I can't imagine a relatively small editorial decision of this nature having such an impact - but I guess we all have different ways of looking things.

2. Which may be related to - apparently Mr Knight supports the Afghan "mission" (why else would he be so upset at this pushing the story away from headline status?) - I myself don't support it at all, and one of the reasons I myself gave up on the CBC years ago was their apparent acceptance of the idea that they were, basically (with all of the Cdn media), working hand-in-hand with the government to sell the 'mission' to Canadians. (somewhat contrary to the view of Mr Alboim, in his later comment .. the preponderance of 'pro-mission' views I hear on the radio compared to the rare voices questioning it, not to mention the often thinly-veiled hostility of interviewers to anyone daring question it, compared to their friendly attitude towards those supporting it, makes it very clear where the CBC stands on 'the mission'. Which is not, I would suggest, their job - especially when there has rarely, if ever, been a majority of Canadians supporting this completely illegal invasion, nor has it ever been publically debated as to whether we ought to be invading another country that never presented any threat to us. It's not the job of the CBC to get the Cdn public on board to any particular policy through biased coverage of that issue. (Mr Dvorkin calls the Afghanistan coverage 'somewhat uncritical(ly)' in a later comment - must be looking for some kind of 'understatement of the year' award ...)

3. I suppose a 'disclosure' is in order at some point - I live in Thailand, and never watch television - but for about 3 years my internet connection has allowed listening to the CBC radio - at which I was thrilled at first, having been a CBC radio addict for many years prior to coming here (1994), and missed it greatly - but it was not long before my joy turned to disbelief, and then dismay, and then anger, at how far my great CBC had fallen in 15 years (like the rest of my country, for that matter). No more did we have a relatively middle-of-the-road selection of shows, with almost exclusively pretty intelligent speakers from all around the middle of the political spectrum talking intelligently with intelligent, more-or-less politically neutral hosts about the things going on in our world, it had turned into another monologue NWO- promoter, dominated by rightwing hosts and guests, and with a generally considerably lower level of intelligence all across the spectrum. Exceptions can be pointed to, certainly, but the overall 'quality' level of hosting and interviewing and "news" coverage is something I would expect in college radio, rather than the CBC. I expect the great Gzowski isn't listening anymore, after some countless number of turnings in his grave - hell, he probably wouldn't qualify for a job with the new CBC, for that matter - far too intelligent and willing to talk reasonably with anyone. But I draw dangerously close to a rant ..

4. Although most of Mr Knight's comments are directed at the National, when he says "..In the main, however, Canada's public broadcasting flagship The National is no longer in service to the Canadian people.." - I would add - this pretty much applies to the whole CBC. As with Mr Knight (and many others), I was pretty much appalled at the endless, and largely breathless and adoring, coverage of 'the young prince and his storybook bride' that dominated the CBC and all other media a few weeks ago - this is not indicative of a media devoted to telling *adults* what they need to know to make intelligent, informed decisions about what is going on in our country and world - it is more of a media encouraging citizens to think of themselves as serfs, in a kings-and-serfs world. Happy serfs by and large, to be sure - but still -

5. I very much agree with the first comment, by Michael Knell, with the caveat that I wouldn't confine the comment to the television - I think the newspapers are not a lot better. Some, perhaps, but not a lot.

6. Afraid I must take exception to Mr Knight's July 29, 2011 - 8:06am comment, in which he states National journalists acted in Afghanistan with "..insight and conspicuous integrity..". As a debating position, my rebuttal statement to this notion would be something along the lines of 'in Afghanistan, Canadian journalists have basically played the role of embedded propagandists whose job is to tell Canadians what a great job 'their' military is doing bringing democracy and freedom to the poor beleaguered souls of this country' - I could doll that up a bit, but that is basically what I have been hearing on the CBC the last few years, with only a handful of non-embedded commentators ever allowed to question this, and then only to a point - there's never, that I've ever heard (or seen elsewhere in the Cdn media), been any analysis of the validity of the excuses that were used to start or continue this (in my view and that of many others) completely illegal invasion, or the various rationales that have been used to continue it - by and large, the media is working *with* the government, to 'sell' this mission to Canadians. Not the role of a media in a democracy.

7. Well, there's a great deal more I would like to comment on here, and a great deal more I would like to add - but I grow long for a comment. I have been watching and writing about the Canadian media for quite a few years, however, as central to my own broader ideas about what is going wrong and what needs to be done here, and if anyone is interested in any of my analysis of what is happening with the Canadian media these last few years, you could start here - Canadian Media: Reporting or Managing the News of the 2008 Election? . The issue the essay is built around is past, of course, but the general analysis is as valid now as it was then. I have sent many things to many Canadian journalists over the years talking about how I think they have been doing a somewhat less than stellar job, with comments such as in this essay on various particular issues, and gotten no response at all - which may, of course, be the result of intelligent judgement that I'm a nutcase of some sort nobody has time for - or perhaps I'm seeing and getting into things far too clearly that would be far, far too uncomfortable for those I have written to to want to deal with. If anyone wants to get a small discussion going here on the state of Canadian journalism, from a truly critical and 'out of the box' perspective - I'd be happy to play your devil's advocate.

(and I would note that I do not think all Cdn journalists are intentionally churning out propaganda, and spinning and otherwise gatekeeping what appears in the Cdn media - although it seems a pretty inescapable conclusion that those at the upper levels know exactly what they are doing, I expect most in the lower levels are in the same box as most Canadians, and believe the things they have been taught all of their lives to believe, and truly are trying to do a good job, and tell Canadians what they need to know within the limits of that box. It is helping people to understand and escape from that box that I try to do. Believe me, if you think journalism is a thankless job sometimes, you ought to try this one ...)


Dave Patterson
Canada, Thailand, Green Island
March 2011

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