Monday, March 23, 2009

The killing of dissent, Ch. 375

Canada's New Government™ rules a new Canada: the ideologues are in charge, and no deviations from the line are to be permitted.

A mere symptom: far-right NaPo columnist Lorne Gunter gets a free spot on the editorial page of the Ottawa Citizen
this morning to unleash what has to be the most ludicrous and incompetent attack on the CBC ever published outside the wackier bidonvilles of the blogosphere.

"The CBC," says this evidently delusional fellow, "will never be able to exorcize its left-wing missionary zeal -- for global warming, for Islam, for big government, Barack Obama, multiculturalism, public health care, human rights commissions and so on." Remove its funds and pull down its buildings, he says. (He doesn't tell us whether the people inside will be permitted to evacuate first, but given the eliminationist bent of some conservatives these days, it's a question worth raising.)

One must assume, from the list above, that Gunter's own positions run contrary, which of course is the crux of all this. Bias, after all, is just another word for "those who disagree with me." A word or two, then, about Gunter's own abundantly evident biases before returning to the main point.

On climate change he's frequently overstepped the bounds, recently getting his facts so egregiously wrong that he's had to apologize (last paragraph). The "for Islam" bears more than a passing mention, though, because he reveals more by that, perhaps, than he'd intended.

What does he mean by "for Islam," and why is it an example of "left-wing missionary zeal?" None of my political allies, at least to my knowledge, keeps a Koran in a secret drawer and hauls out the old prayer mat five times a day when no one's looking. I couldn't figure out the Qibla in my house if my life depended on it (well, not true, thanks to the miracle of the Internet).

"For Islam?" Gunter lets the mask slip there. Because the CBC does not, of course, proselytize for any religion. It does, from time to time, talk about Muslims--the people--in a less-than-unsympathetic light. Tapestry might even have, on occasion, tried to bring us a better understanding of a religion that extends possibly some distance beyond "slavery and rape."

But Gunter is merely expressing here grunting xenophobia that we find in the various dank corners of the aforementioned blogosphere, and in places like Hérouxville, not to mention amongst some of the more unevolved residents of Stephen Harper's own home town.

One could pick apart his other examples of alleged "left-wing missionary zeal" for some time, but just a couple of points. Barack Obama, as I think even his most enthusiastic supporters would concede at this point, is hardly a "leftist," at least if we take his positions on Afghanistan, gay rights, executive privilege and a horde of other issues of the day seriously.

I haven't heard anything on the CBC recently extolling the virtues of big government either, although I'll give Gunter public health care and a couple of the other scary things he mentions. Not that the CBC actually pushes these positions, of course--it simply provides a venue where we can hear them. There aren't many of those left.

Lest anyone consider this post an uncritical defence of the CBC, perish the thought. I'd be prepared to give up CBC-TV in a heartbeat if we could use the funds to improve CBC radio. Under the dreadful administratorship of Richard Stursberg, crappy labour relations, bad "renewal" decisions, the misguided attempt, through dumbing-down, to capture the yout' constituency, and really, really bad afternoon programming have become the rule. The days of Max Ferguson, Peter Gzowski, "Fireside Al" and James M. Minifie are over. The throttling of the CBC began under Brian Mulroney, and has continued apace since then: appalling stewardship has merely exacerbated the process of piece-by-piece demolition.

And yet the noble body yet breathes. CBC radio has allowed us to keep in touch, to continue to build the relatively benign "imaginary community" that is Canada. On CBC--and nowhere else in radioland--we hear genuinely informed and thoughtful comment, the Massey Lectures, Ideas, and (contra Gunter) many different points of view. I wouldn't trade As It Happens for any other evening radio news programme, and it's not because I hear only my own point of view reflected back to me.

But that's really the key, here, isn't it? Because, while many of the folks I know would be bored out of their minds hearing only the opinions with which they agree, conservatives appear to be made of different stuff. For far too many of them, opposition is literally anathema--a curse. They boil up in frenzy, lashing out in all directions, sometimes even killing when their pat little idées reçues are challenged.

While "balance" and "bias" will always be hot-button terms, they have been maliciously deployed of late to screen out, shut down and demonize alternative points of view. And this climate of increasing intolerance is not confined to newspaper columnists by any means. Witness the recent disgraceful pile-on against pro-Palestinian university students by assorted politicians, commentators, university presidents and lobby groups; or Jason Kenney's recent targeting of Muslim associations; or the exclusion from our country of the (admittedly unpleasant) George Galloway.

The aim, of course, is to root out any dissent from conservative ideology. And the embattled CBC, as noted, is about the last place one can actually hear in-depth commentary that challenges the conservative doctrine. As noted, though, conservatives don't like being challenged, and given that they are in power, propped up by former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff, the night is fast descending. Gunter's column is but a symptom of what we are now facing: an all-out attack, on many fronts, against dissent in Canada.

So will it be the Massey Lectures, classical music and the clash of various points of view on As It Happens--or wall-to-wall Lowell Green? I think we all know what Lorne Gunter's preference would be. What's yours?

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