Tote Bags of objectivity

I’d like to give mad ‘props’ to my wonderful friend Laura for pointing out the inherent hypocrisy of every journalist who accepted one of those sexy Liberal tote bags at this weekend’s convention. Remember that next time any journalist ever complains about politicians not fully disclosing their own conflicts of interest. . . way to auction off your credibility for a free duffle, fuck-nuts. I’d like to think integrity is worth a little more than Liberal swag.

RCMP officers killed by pot laws and gun registries!
Wow, that didn’t take long. Already, the papers are filled with delusional rants about the failure of Canada’s gun registry and calls for scrapping the decriminalization of possession small amounts of pot. The Liberal convention was plagued with demands that Canada get tough on grow ops.
You know what? Maybe Canada should get tough on grow ops, but not because of one isolated event. The Canadian media are suckers for this type of reactionary bullshit. Politicians see the wave of emotion across Canada and call for action, and rather than call ‘bullshit,’ the media eat it up. Don’t let these opportunistic pricks off the hook, ask them some questions. Especially at the Liberal conference, the Liberals are in power, and have been since 1993, for god’s sake! They’re the ones who make the laws that have, apparently, failed.
Let me make this perfectly clear. Roszko would have shot those cops regardless of how strong the law on grow-ops was. He would have shot them whether or not there was a gun registry. Running a story on A1 under the headline “Massacre prompts ire over ‘futile’ gun registry,” as the Post did, makes a mockery of a legitimate tragedy. Quit letting politics set your coverage agenda.

Libelfest 2005
Wow, nothing like taking advantage of Canadian libel law, eh? In this country, you can say whatever you want about the dead. Thus Roszko is described as a monster, accused of molesting and raping kids, and proclaimed to be crazy. Was he a monster? Sure. Did he molest and rape those kids, probably. Nuts? Quite likely. Do any of those things belong in a news report? I doubt it.
Of course, the columnists take this to a whole new level. The Globe’s Christie Blatchford takes the opportunity to call the shooter a “mass murderer,” despite his never having been convicted of the crime. If he was alive that would be libel, but since he’s dead, tar and feather his rotting corpse.
Blatchford keeps on rolling though, taking aim at the entire province of Alberta. She writes “indeed, the only element of the grim story that preceded Mr. Roszko’s catastrophic finale four mornings ago that appears authentically Albertan, albeit in a manner far more tragic than comic, is that he was not just a pedophile, but also a gun-toting, authority-hating one.” I’m sorry, what? Being a gun-toting, authority hater makes you “authentically Albertan?”
My brother, sister-in-law and neice are all Albertans, thanks for the heads-up Christie. I’ll wear my kevlar next time I visit.

My gun’s bigger than your gun
The Post features a piece by author Paul Palango, who has written two books on the RCMP. Palango says it’s time for the RCMP to drop the Dudley Do-Right, soft-power approach to policing. Clearly, he argues, the massacre in Alberta shows that this approach is a failure.
Interesting argument.
However, as many reports last Friday noted, this is the largest killing of RCMP officers since the 1800s. The RCMP is alone in the world in that regard, according to Rex Murphy.
Contrast that with the Post and Citizen’s coverage of the Toronto Police’s former drug squad. Apparently, there are even more charges pending for the corrupt cops on that beat.
Nobody would accuse the Toronto cops of being soft, yet here they are being investigated.

There are clearly some concerns about police policy at play in the Alberta shootings, but it’s unfair to imply that the RCMP has to adopt the gun-waving, SWAT-deploying tactics employed by other police services around the world. It’s unfair to say that all the other reasons to decriminalize pot possession are invalid. And it’s ridiculously unfair to suggest that the gun registry failed and should therefore be scrapped. This was an isolated incident that warrants investigation and possible procedural changes for the RCMP.
Anything bigger than that is reactionary, self-serving and dangerous.

While we’re on the subject of Ms. Blatchford
There are two issues I want to touch on here. First, reporters should never write columns and vice-versa. Blatchford’s pieces drift back and forth between comment and reportage, but today she actually shared a byline on A1 and had a column on A4. That’s unacceptable. How can a reader be expected to believe anything is objective in her coverage on A1 when she comments on A4?
Second, the fact that she writes for the Globe at all is symptomatic of the bullshit newspaper war between the Post and the Globe. Her Post columns epitimized what the Globe claimed to be above. This pull-on-the-heartstrings, high-school drama class monologue-style bullshit that she churns out was the target of much criticism. . . until she looked to jump ship. Suddenly she was a respectable writer.
There are more examples of this pettiness, and when they next appear, I’ll be sure to point them out.

Missile defence, are we still talking about that?
There’s a plethora of BMD stories today, but the Post’s A1 story on a COMPAS (yes, COMPAS again) poll of business leaders is a real beaut. Apparently, 85 per cent of CEOs say Canada’s missile defence decision will be a barrier to business links – most notably in defence and aerospace industries.
Makes sense, Canada says no to missile defence, the missile defence agency doesn’t issue contracts to Canadian companies.
But there’s one problem – according to a government study, Canadian industries were not prepared for missile defence business. Several government briefing notes said that Canadian businesses were far behind U.S. and European competitors and would be seriously hindered in any bids for contracts regardless of Canadian involvement.
The details are in a lovely pile of documents on my desk, obtained by filling out a simple Access to Information request.
It wasn’t hard to find, but I guess it was slightly harder than asking COMPAS to do a poll of business leaders. Besides, the government studies would have contradicted much of what has been argued by the Post over the last few months.

Continuing on the missile defence theme, Globe columnist Lysiane Gagnon wrote a hilarious, hypothetical exchange between Bush and Martin as a rogue missile decends upon B.C. It’s great, she has Martin dithering (remember, cause The Economistcalled Martin “Mr. Dithers” awhile back!!), while Bush goes ahead and shoots down the missile!
How rich and clever, why didn’t anyone think of that before?
Oh wait, there was that Ottawa Sun editorial. And that Globe and Mail editorial. And the Gary Dunford column.

Oh, and boobies!
Check out the photo on A1 of the National Post. Hottest Lebanese protester ever!

Man, I remember when Monday was the slow news day.


  1. I think, Joseph, that there are very few reporters who would change their opinion of the Liberal party for a tote bag. Sure, avoid conflicts of interest… but I’d like to think that it would take more than a $20 canvas bag to buy off the people who bring me my news.

    But then, I’m an idealist.

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is Blachford not also implying that Albertans are pedophiles? The direct implication of the sentence is that there are higher rates of pedophilia in Alberta, but this would logically imply that Albertans must be more likely to be pedhophiles.

    Or at least that their kids are hotter.

  3. It’s not that they are going to change their opinion of the Liberal party, just like it’s not that a cabinet minister is going to tailor legislation to suit his holdings. . . it’s that you never know.

    It’s the pot calling the kettle black scenario, these journalists, by accepting a kickback (albeit a fairly cheap one), have surrendered their moral authority on any politicians failure to disclose such kickbacks in the future.

    I know you don’t agree with the principle of the appearance of conflict of interest being as dangerous as actual conflicts, but it’s a fairly central journalism ethical guideline.

    These journalists have just pissed all over that.

  4. I beleive the direct quote was “Thanks for the bag, I’ll just put my objectivity in it and carry it around with me.”
    If it makes you feel better, I didn’t actually see anyone using one. However, I spent most of my time with the hilarious CBC tech people who relentlessly mock everyone.
    Aaaaand, back to essay.

  5. In any case, I have always stood by the maxim that journalists have it wrong by accepting the small shit like tote bags and shunning the big stuff like outright bribes. My objectivity (or even my ppearance of objectivity) is worth a hell of a lot more than a tote bag or free spas (Hi, Republican national convention reporters!).

    Six figures, opening offer. Come on, people. Have some personal pride.

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