Monday, September 13, 2010


Ian Davey is taking it right and left for his terse remarks about the
Sun chain, those folks coming soon to a TV near you:

I’ll just say that it was once said about the Toronto Sun that it’s a newspaper for people who can’t read, so I think that probably applies to the whole chain.

Obviously that one provided an opening the size of a barn door for the barbarians to come thundering through, with the "lock and load" folks, of course, leading the charge. But they also faltered:

This smug little Toronto elitist just called you an illiterate — you, and the 20% of the Canadian public, hundreds of thousands of you, who are loyal readers of Sun Media’s chain of newspapers.

We can fault Davey for being marvellously impolitic, of course, as well as inaccurate--obviously Sun readers can read. Accuracy, however, has never been the Sun's strong suit either, as a quick check on the numbers just quoted serves to illustrate.

But the other, more serious, slip on the Sun's part was to quantify those who are aligned with the "shoot the Tamils" crowd. 20% of the population? That sounds about right.

Davey's remark reminded me of one attributed to the American free speech crusader Zachariah Chafee: "I note that I have been attended by the Luce publications. You know the ones I mean; the one for those who cannot read and the other for those who cannot think." He was referring, of course, to Life and Time, respectively. If Davey had said that the Sun i
s "a newspaper for people who can’t think," he'd have been telling nothing but the sober truth.

The Sun
specializes in vulgar, uninformed comment intended to inflame prejudice and damp down reflection. And there's a constituency for that. Davey didn't express himself well, but that's precisely what he was getting at, and--let me go out on a limb here--it's what a lot of us believe, even if we sometimes forbear to say it out loud.

Being peaceable Canadians, we don't want the Viking war party to notice us over here in the corner. But as we watch them eagerly rip and tear, we have a right to our own thoughts. We, the other 80% of the country, aren't "elitists." We're just people, with varying political philosophies and levels of education, who don't feel like joining the mental equivalent of a baying lynch mob, egged on by "just plain folks"--like Pierre Karl Péladeau. We know elitism when we see it.

Back to that mob, which Davey, in damage-control mode, says he didn't mean. 20% may be a bit of an underestimate, but there are people who don't like thinking too hard, who prefer visceral reactions instead, who choose to see the world through a fog of right-wing clich
és, and who just happen to form Stephen Harper's red-meat base. The latter knows what he's doing when he makes "Harvard-educated" an epithet, when he subjects knowledge to crude ideological filtration, when he makes prisons and warplanes a priority instead of education, health, science and the arts.

The most enthusiastic anti-elitists, in fact, are cultured millionaires with enormous reserves of cultural, political and material capital. They can make good money off their gullible, less-fortunate followers, conditioned to shuffle like zombies wherever they are led.
Hence the Sun chain, breaking everything down into easily-digestible nuggets of fear and intolerance--filling, as the old solecism goes, a much-needed gap.

Spare Davey a tear. He said, if clumsily, what a hell of a lot of us know to be perfectly true.

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