There are several end-of-year update squibs that I want to write, some cheerful (Ipperwash), some pretty grim (Pakistan).
But 'way back in August, in comments to our discussion about Montebello, Alison of Creekside, who also writes to The Galloping Beaver and who has taught many of us so much about the dreaded SPP, reported on a failure of mainstream Canadian journalism that I think has much wider implications. I meant to write about it then and didn't, so I do it now.
Here is what Alison wrote:
Re media anodyne dismissals. If I may rant on a little bit here, CBC's news coverage of Harper's jelly bean comment is a horrendous case in point.
Their tv coverage of it opened with Harper's comment : “Is the sovereignty of Canada going to fall apart if we standardize the jellybeans? Maybe Mr. Dion thinks so."
Then they cut to a folksy street interview with jelly bean manufacturer David Ganong and ask him about his cross border packaging problems.
No mention that David Ganong is one of the ten Canadian business leaders in the North American Competitiveness Council advising Harper on deregulation, no mention that he's a director of the CCCE and has endorsed their vision of "deeper economic integration", no mention that he's a director of the Conference Board of Canada, no mention that he's a director of SunLife Financial and past director of Air Canada, no mention that he is a donor and sponsor of Atlantica, the plan to form an economic unit of New England states and Atlantic provinces, and no mention of his real problem with jelly beans, which is that his Mexican competitors manufacture them for a fraction of his cost.
Nope, CBC left all this out, leaving the impression that he's just a nice old guy unnecessarily hampered by government bureaucracy while trying to eke out a living making jelly beans.
I think that that is easily one of the most significant pieces of well-informed commentary I've met in the last year, and I think that especially because of how I have spent far too much of my time this past year. Scandalous gossip follows on the turn.
Just short of a year ago, some of us who had been following the CIA leak case for years (in my case, ever since pogge started to teach it at babble.ca) were drawn into the daily live-blogging of the Libby trial at Firedoglake, which will stand as a touchstone moment in the history of the blogosphere, I do believe. This isn't the place to try to write that history, which is complex.
But it is urgent, I think, for Canadians to pay attention to one of the major subplots that emerged from that drama, to be shocked by what was going on among the journalists who had become privileged Beltway insiders in the early years of the Bush administration, and to howl out loudly against any such behaviour among our own journalists.
Without question, the curious adventures of Judith Miller of the New York Times made life hardest for those of us who believe profoundly in the first article of every democrat's Bill and Charter and Declaration. Why would we offer members of the fourth estate special constitutional protection if they have decided to make careers out of laundering government propaganda? That wasn't, y'know, the point of enshrining freedom of expression.
Almost every other journalist who took the stand at the Libby trial or was even mentioned came off looking like an absurd, grovelling courtier to a snivelly, smirking, grubby regime whose time, we have to hope, is fast coming to an end. If I were Tim Russert, for instance, and Cathie Martin had just told the world that Dick Cheney's office believed they "controlled" me, I sure wouldn't be on national TV any more -- but he is.
And there is our problem. So Tim Russert and Bob Woodward and their ilk are shameless in Washington. That is an appalling fact of our time, but there you go. They have not done their jobs; they have not lived up to the faith that citizens of a democracy put in the fourth estate; they have, some of them, helped to undermine clear, independent, critical thought about the most basic interests of the citizens of the United States. And then, of course, there are all those dead bodies overseas ... But in Washington, little changes.
This will not happen in Canada, yes? It will not happen. We cannot let it happen.
I don't know how we stop it, except by being as smart as Alison and by getting the word out, about the propaganda and the facts both. This is very hard work for a volunteer army, but it is a privilege to know so many people who have joined up anyway.
Thank you, Alison, for that exemplary rant, and for your inspiring example. Here comes a new year. I know you're ready.