A litany of media misdeeds

Dear Diary:

We begin this week with the entirely predictable knee-jerk reactions of those who style themselves as guardians of journalism while simultaneously working to undermine the same.

The first is inspired by Michael Den Tandt’s column distributed through the presses and portals of Postmedia – an apocalyptic institution dedicated to sucking marrow from the bones of Canada’s newspapers.

All should be saddened by Friday’s tragic events in La Loche, Saskatchewan, where four died and seven were wounded following an armed assault on a school. Clearly, at this stage, many will wonder why this took place, just as some still ponder how it came to be that five young people were murdered at a house party of university students a couple of years back.

There is speculation that the shooter was provoked because he was endlessly teased about having big ears, which may be so but doesn’t explain why so many big-eared people have managed to negotiate life without going on a homicidal rampage. But, whatever, the facts is that at this stage the motivations are unknown. Den Tandt insists, however, that this situation “resonates differently” largely due to the fact that the community and, everyone assumes, the shooter are Dene people and in support he lists the well-worn list of poor social conditions that often plague aboriginal communities. The commentary concludes with the thought that “Canada’s original sin remains untouched.” In other words, he’s figured it out:

Most of the victims are Dene. The alleged gunman is Dene (we think). The community is Dene and therefore of course people pick up guns and go on homicidal rampages. And, it’s all the fault of someone else. Most Dene people, the vast majority of whom bear whatever indignities they are faced with in life with physical, moral and emotional courage, should be outraged by such stereotyping.

These appalling generalizations, delivered with a doe-eyed “resonates differently” mentality perpetuate a destructive narrative of victimology that solicits a faux white empathy for the killer when it is his victims we should prioritize in our thinking. Normally, when innocent people are murdered, one expects the sympathy to fall on the side of the victims but, oh no, using a race-based white guilt paternalism, common commentary immediately defaults to Canada’s “original sin.” Oh please. Here’s an idea: start treating Dene people as people – common folks who when it comes to things like this are just like the rest of us – and stop with the latte-laced, self-serving, I’ll-be-popular-at-cocktail-parties “original sin” routine.

Marsha Lederman, provoked by criticism of her craft on Facebook, wrote what we’re sure she thought was a stirring defence of why we all have a stake in the future of mainstream media in which she attempted to list its necessities. In doing so, there were a few giveaways, most in a single paragraph:

“Without good reporting, Rob Ford might still be considered some kind of hero and brother Doug Ford could be Toronto’s mayor; Jian Ghomeshi could still be hosting Q (not q); Bev Oda might at this very moment be sipping overpriced, taxpayer-funded orange juice.”

Thanks goodness we have unbiased, objective reporters dedicated to making sure Doug Ford never became Toronto’s mayor. Whatever will we do with fewer of them? Rob Ford’s misdemeanors were exposed by a website and, ultimately, because the Globe and Mail paid money not to its journalists but to people who make their living in an even more dubious fashion. And the Ghomeshi story first came to light through a pitch from a freelancer. But, sure Marsha, we’ll give you the orange juice scoop. That changed the world alright.

We couldn’t recall the last time a pipeline spill resulted in 47 people being killed, let alone as horribly as people died in Lac Megantic a couple of years ago when a train filled with oil derailed and engulfed the town in flames.
So, as proof that we would never be a good fit within mainstream media, we checked to find out and it turns out that, according to the Transportation Safety Board the last fatality in a Canadian pipeline incident was in 1988.

None of the facts, including that 59% of spills involve 1 cubic metre (or less) of “gas oil or other petroleum product” get in the way of breathless reporting epitomized by this piece by the CBC. Nor of course does it matter to the likes of Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre that the amount spilled annually is basically equivalent to three teaspoons of gas slopped by an individual at their weekly gas station fill up.

And of course it is inconsequential that transporting oil by rail is 4.5 times as dangerous as it is via pipeline or that cleanup technologies have improved to the extent that 99% of liquid spilled is recovered.

No, no, no these are the thoughts, according to Coderre of the same sort of people who “believe that the Flintstones is a documentary” – a slag coined, as Rick Bell points out, by Warren Kinsella many years ago when it was fun to make fun of Stockwell Day for his religion.

Coderre, bless his heart, did not specify whether it was westerners in general to whom he was referring or a specific pro-prosperity breed but it really didn’t matter. None of the usual suspects who are so swift to denounce the slightest level of denigration towards “an identifiable class” and who see “diversity as a strength” denounced Coderre for his smug slanders because Canada has pretty much declared war on oil and Alberta and Saskatchewan, who have been paying the country’s bills – including Quebec’s Cadillac day care system and hydro subsidies, for decades. Nice.

Speaking of dog whistles, what to think of #pmjt’s latest musings in Davos that he doesn’t want Canada to be known for its resources so much as for its resourcefulness – a trite phrase that betrays a common Laurentian/Upper Canada College view that, well, you don’t actually have to be very smart to “dig things out of the ground.” This was more than ably dealt with by Rex Murphy so we will add only this from a correspondent in the West:

“The essence of the difference between Laurentian elites and westerners is that the former are obsessed with the view that “how smart do you have to be to dig things out of the ground.” Westerners think the answer to that is “plenty” but also ask in return “how smart do you have to be to inherit your daddy’s money?