Enough Bluster and Bluff on the Trial of Duff — the Media are Fit for a Cuff

All the Queen's horses, and all the Queen's men, ripped poor Duffy to shreds again.
All the Queen’s horses, and all the Queen’s men, ripped poor Duffy to shreds again.

Canadian media is stricken with garrison mentality. The twentieth-century literary critic Northrop Frye first coined the term to elucidate on a theme he noticed recurring in Canadian literature. Garrison mentality refers to the archetype of a small community preserving itself by demanding all inhabitants conform to the settlement’s rigid sense of propriety (applicable to the Senate, too). The term explained why CanLit was so dull and unoriginal, but it also shed light on Canadian identity. Literature mimics reality and reality mimics literature.

The Canadian mainstream media is a tight-knit group who control the official narrative of the stories they deem newsworthy enough to grace their pages and airwaves. The most recent recrudescence of the media’s garrison mentality is the grossly excessive coverage of the Duffy trial. What an absurd contradiction it is that our compromised Canadian media pats itself on the back for not stooping to (dying) British and American gutter journalism but then unleashes all of its long-repressed, pent-up viciousness upon one–possibly dying–pariah. Easy to kick a man while he’s down, I guess–especially with the threat of libel chill from those still standing–but Canada is bountiful with Chaucerian charlatans desperately deserving their fair share of malevolence.

“See that woman over there? The one that looks like she just licked a homeless guy’s ass?” Mike asks Riggan in last year’s Oscar’s best picture, Birdman. Edward Norton’s character is referring to a fictional Broadway critic of the New York Times, Tabitha Dickinson, who holds all the clout in making or breaking productions in The Big Apple. Tabitha Dickinson’s uncanny doppelganger is National Post columnist Christie Blatchford, who looks as if she’s just smelled “explosive” flatulence from disgraced senator Mike Duffy’s derriere.

Blatchford also has a predilection for writing about assholes. “[H]e could sew an arse in a cat,” wrote Blatchford, quoting a Newfoundlander colloquialism in describing Duffy’s lawyer’s adept abilities in one of her pieces from last week. Though I have to admit that Blatchford is the most able at keeping the Duffy ad nauseum at an obnoxious minimum, her latest installments have become a tired exercise and a waste of a talent that could be applied to pressing issues.

Down from Blatchford, the Duffy trial coverage descends into the dark irony of the theater of the absurd.

Rex Murphy, the man that pontificates on integrity from above high on the CBC pundit’s pulpit, has a penchant for quoting the bard from Avon-Upon-Stratford. Well allow me to try my hand at it. “Out damn’d spot! Out, I say!” Rex cries from within the hallowed halls of the besieged CBC fortress as he tries to wash the black from his hands. Heavy lies Rex’s crown. Canadaland reported early last year that The National‘s sole pundit was paid by oil companies “an estimated 25 times in the last five years, at a rate as high as $30,000 a pop.”

Rex artfully dodged and dismissed the concerns of a conflict of interest as just “a few vicious blogs” in a National Post column in which he failed to disclose just how cozy he is with Canadian oil companies. (“Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.”) According to Rex, big bucks can’t influence his “bon mots.” But my how the thin-skinned Rex can be “vicious” to his straw man and whipping boy Neil Young when he is lampooning the environmental movement. Of course it wouldn’t have the same bite if he had to preface his diatribe with, “I’ve been paid tens-of-thousands by Canadian oil companies.” This concession would’ve certainly dulled his barbs when he joined the lynch mob in guillotining Duffy for dodging questions of his dubious Senate dealings in 2013. But the 2015 Rex is a little more cautious with his caustic words, perhaps because there is a little more scrutiny placed upon his sanctimonious sermons.

Johnathan Kay, former Comments Editor for The National Post and current Editor-in-Chief of The Walrus (the magazine read by all true-patriot-love Canadians, didn’t you know?), displayed typical symptoms of the mainstream media’s garrison mentality in his defense of Rex. Kay’s bizarre pretzel logic twists from the claim that CBC viewers and Post readers must demand Rex disclose before he should have to do so (even though disclosure is supposed to inform an oblivious audience in the first place) and then turns to the pathetic excuse that it would be highly impractical and almost impossible to disclose such an exhaustive list of engagements (his editorial skill of abridgement be damned). In Kay’s defense of Rex’s journalistic integrity he also said that most journalists take part in the paid speaking circuit and that it’s a morass. For some reason Kay isn’t too eager for more light to be shone on the foggy dealings of today’s journalism. (Maybe it has something to do with him assisting in writing Justin Trudeau’s “autobiography”?) It’s a murky mystery indeed.

See, that’s the beauty of questionable ties in the media, news manufacturers make the news, thus they can stay mum on the rot in their own lot. That’s why Peter Mansbridge keeps a straight and stern face when he reports about Duffy’s travel expenses while he himself gets paid an undisclosed amount from taxpayers, made exorbitant amounts from speaking engagements that jeopardize his journalistic ethical integrity (CBC finally changed their rules on paid speaking gigs–excepting freelancers like Rex), and has his own shady travel expenses.

But I digress. The CBC’s Rosie Barton and Kady O’Malley–similar to the blabbering Rosencrantz and Guildenstern–twitter incessantly about the creeping petty pace from day to day of the Duffy court proceedings. Their structure-less narrative is oh so postmodern. Too bad it leads to unreadable ramblings signifying nothing. The CBC live blog gives up-to-the-minute updates of the Duffy trial. Every little minutiae is parsed in their palavering. When the two get bored with the monotony of listening to unfamiliar legal jargon they tweet about their mundane lives or make irrelevant observations about the courtroom.

Yet one shouldn’t be surprised by this incredible waste of the CBC’s resources and the public’s time and dime. This is the same CBC that steadfastly defended Amanda Lang’s clear conflict of interest with RBC. This is the same CBC that spends lavishly on parties for its man-child George and sent former cultural host and egomaniac Gian to Sochi, yet continues to cut jobs and claims it needs more of our money.

But again, I digress. To be fair, Rosie-crantz and O’Malley-stern aren’t the only ones guilty of horrendous Duffy coverage. Maclean’s, the prophet, published an article entitled “Mike Duffy in the Trial of the Century.” If the magazine’s divination is true, how anticlimactic courtroom dramas will be for the next 85 years.

Other more intriguing headlines were the public money Duffy used to hire journalists. Of course this story wasn’t covered all too much, it’s uncomfortable covering your own after all. It would also start shining light on just how cozy journalists and politicians are in Ottawa.

Nevertheless, much of that chumminess might come to an end quite soon as journalists could be prodded from their reticence. The soon-to-be-released Auditor General’s report on Senate expenses should give the public more of a glimpse into just how close journalists are with their subjects. If the 2009 United Kingdom parliamentary expense scandal is any predictor, the General’s report will herald in the true trial of the year, the one of public opinion, and the verdict will undoubtedly be that both senators and members of parliament are guilty of going hog-wild at the taxpayer trough. Furthermore, many more journalists may yet be implicated in the sordid affair.

Misery loves company–and Duffy will be waiting to greet them at the door.

CBC’s Impudent Prettification of the Niqab

CBC Certified
CBC Certified

Ever since Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared the niqab a symbol of an anti-women culture back in the middle of March, the mainstream media has been in a febrile hysteria. Never mind the modest concession asked for — simply removing the blatantly patriarchal garb during the citizenship ceremony — the mainstream media cried wolf.

The Toronto Star predictably and unquestioningly championed the niqabi woman (herself not yet a citizen and with an ideology vastly different from most Canadians) who took the government to court and has thus far won the right to don the face-covering while swearing allegiance to the Queen. Of course the paper decried that Harper was up to his wily ways of fear-mongering and politicking, and its unCanadian to expect and assert that new arrivals unmask — no matter the incompatibilities the niqab imposes on our culture’s traditional custom of interacting openly face-to-face — we should all just grin and bear it on our visible faces, and trust the guest of honour at the ceremony peering back at us is returning a genuine smile (don’t you dare imagine a smirk).

The Star (the most popular paper in Canada) and The Globe and Mail (the paper that considers itself Canada’s publication of official record) both had left-leaning, off-kilter responses to Harper’s comments. They invoked the vapid argument of defending and protecting our mosaic multicultural tradition of inclusiveness, a position that, when too steadfastly held, descends into over-accommodation, cultural relativism, and — ultimately — conviction-less nihilism.

Both papers were in all likelihood shocked when they begrudgingly published the contradicting findings of a poll suggesting a strong majority of Canadians (67%) actually agree with the ban. Their image of a dastardly Harper, a James Bondesque evil genius, held true in so far as he weighed the mainstream media’s response against that of everyday Canadians before ringing the bell. The opposition leaders and media watchdogs unwittingly slobbered and obeyed Pavlov’s command.

But joking aside, the mainstream media then saw that they had an earnest duty to enlighten us benighted fools. The Star, The Globe, and CBC all cherry-picked niqabis to tell their side of the story. No ex-Islamic, secularist, or liberal Muslims were invited to the table.

The most flagrant example in the past few weeks of this pro-niqab propagandizing was the public broadcaster’s The Current‘s segment entitled “2 niqabs and a hijab: 3 Muslim women talk about the face covering.” In this puff piece the veteran journalist (talk show host?) Anna Maria Tremonti interviewed three pro-niqab women who chose to wear it of their own volition in adulthood. Tremonti started off by saying that her show wanted to give voice to an underrepresented voice within the current debate over the niqab. She then continued the softball interview by asking what their experiences were when they first decided — by their claims, completely independently — to wear the niqab. Shomylah Hammad responded, “Nobody had any issue with it.”

Tremonti instantly replied with a leading question, “What about your husband?”

“Oh my God, he was the only one that … had issues with [me]. He didn’t let me wear the niqab. We had arguments for days and days and I had to convince him … eventually he said okay, it’s your choice.”

(See benighted fools, the niqab is empowering for women. Women wear it in defiance to their husbands’ demands.)

Tremonti, ever the cheerleader, then said, “That’s really interesting because I think a lot of people make the assumption that women who wear the niqab are wearing it [because] their husbands want them to or order them to.” She later opined, “It’s interesting how many myths you can shatter if somebody asks. If we ask and you tell. And you both made the point that you are wearing this by choice.”

Who’s the one politicizing the niqab now? It’s truly amazing how Tremonti claims to believe that these carefully selected guests on her show represent the Muslim community at large, and that their three views dispel the notion that the niqab is a patriarchal symbol that’s anti-women. After listening to The Current‘s attempt at brainwashing the majority of Canadian public from its apprehensions towards the niqab, I was spurred from grinding my teeth to grinding a proverbial hatchet in chopping down these gross distortions of the truth.

I attempted to contact the staff at The Current shortly after the propagandist piece aired. Without a response to my emails, I tweeted the two producers behind the segment. Pacinthe Mattar tweeted back, ” The idea was to get women who have direct experience with niqab to speak for themselves, including woman who took hers off.”

The major problem with that statement is that the woman who took hers off only did so out of physical discomfort. Nobody was their to represent Muslim’s who face harassment, ostracism, and even death for turning away from Islam.

The other producer, Samira Mohyeddin, tweeted, ” The story was about the PM’s comment and Muslim women. Not ex-Muslim women.”

The problem with this response is Canadian niqabis Muslim women are only a small portion of Canadian Muslim women as a whole. Even tweets from non-Muslim white Canadians were included at the opening of the segment. Also, why leave ex-Islamic women out of the debate? If anyone is underrepresented in this debate, isn’t it them?

In one of my emails to The Current I suggested they speak to Eiynah, a Pakistani-Canadian woman who believes in separation of mosque and state and wrote a scathing piece entitled “An Open Letter to Niqab-Supporting Western Media.” In her article she lambasted the sheeple who trivialized the niqab debate by participating in the narcissistic slacktivism that was #dresscodePM and #doyouapprove. These two hashtag campaigns had halfwit leftists — likely to have also participated in the fads of KONY 2012, #JeSuisCharlie, and the Ice Bucket Challenge — tweeting pictures of themselves in ordinary clothing asking PM Harper if their attires were acceptable, as if a scarf compared to a full-face-covering niqab and all the patriarchal and religious baggage that accompany it.

Shortly after I sent the email and others had tweeted Eiynah’s viral blog to The Current, the show’s staff contacted Eiynah. “We spoke over the phone as they were probably wanting to see where I was coming from and learn about my views … But shortly after our conversation … I heard back and they said they weren’t pursuing an interview  with me as (coincidentally) that topic had now been bumped for something else.”

I guess The Current is booked solid with segments such as “The Design Behind the Office Cubicle”, “Limited Edition Brands”, and “Peace in the House: A not-so-religious Jew and her Orthodox siblings.” (The irony of that last segment still kills me.) But CBC still has plenty of time for pro-niqab stories.

Screenshot_2015-04-08-01-02-24 Screenshot_2015-04-08-01-03-09

Tarek Fatah, the founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, believes CBC has a no-fly policy towards anti-Islamic Muslims. Eiynah’s experience and the recent coverage by the CBC suggests this is indeed the case.

Adrian Harewood, a CBC news anchor, denies CBC is prettifying the niqab with petty objections. He claims many anti-niqab voices are aired on CBC’s Radio Canada — too bad for us anglophones it’s all in French.

“I found it to be sad that they were discussing having a choice of colour in niqabs as if it was some great freedom.  And it was apparent that the host was not going to ask any difficult questions.  She was well intentioned and polite. But I did not feel she did a good job speaking about some of the underlying issues. It could obviously be a lack of familiarity with the subject. This is why they need to speak to someone from within the community, but on the other side,” explained Eiynah.

“Islam is a sensitive subject. And everyone seems to be walking on eggshells around it.”


Notes: 1) If you think The Current and CBC are whitewashing the niqab then please send them this article via email (thecurrent@cbc.ca) or twitter (@TheCurrentCBC) and tell them you’d like to hear a segment entitled “2 Liberal Muslims and an Apostate.” Eiynah and others like her deserve better from our public broadcaster.

2) Tarek Fatah’s belief in a no-fly list for ex-Islamic guests at CBC is quite possible. CBC has a hiring policy that is overly accomodating to minorities. A recent job posting told white males they need not apply. Another policy bans the use of the word terrorism by its journalists. Here, listen to CBC’s craven ombudsman shortly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre.