Current music: “Turncoat” — Anti-Flag

I love when both the National Post and Ottawa Sun have the same headline. “Blonde bombshell,” they both declare, in a move that is both amazingly sexist and entirely predictable. Which one is the tabloid again? It would be impossible to do an analysis of the daily media today without commenting on Belinda’s defection, but frankly, the coverage was what you’d expect. The right-wing columnists are either pissed at Belinda or say they never liked her anyway; the Star thinks she made the right move; and the “news” stories deal with a) the coming confidence vote b) what it means for the Tories and c) what this means for her and Peter MacKay.

So instead, I’m going to take a different look at this. Namely, what stories got bumped to make room for the orgy of coverage of Belindagate (yes, I coined it, deal with it).

The Senate rushed through legislation that will create a database of DNA samples from convicted criminals, electing not to hear committee testimony from the Canadian Bar Association and others regarding its legality. Oh yea, and this is despite assurances from Senators earlier this week that they were looking forward to the committee stage and would not simply rubber-stamp the bill. The only person who appeared at the committee was Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, who sponsored the legislation. The only papers that carried the story were the Windsor Star, Montreal Gazette, Edmonton Journal and Ottawa Citizen.

A group of seven African leaders, including the newly-reputable Moammar Gadhafi, rejected any intervention in Darfur by non-African troops. They also reaffirmed Gadhafi’s role as chief negotiator between the warring parties. This story ran in the Montreal Gazette, Edmonton Journal, Winnipeg Free Press, Calgary Sun and Windsor Star.

Allegations of American interrogators defacing the Koran have been around for several years, including in reports in the U.S. and international press. Several former Guantanamo Bay detainees stood by their claims about the desecration. I’m going to write more on this in a bit, but there was an Associated Press story available to our wire-copy-loving media and only the Montreal Gazette, Edmonton Journal and Vancouver Sun decided to run anything on it, despite the ongoing coverage of the Newsweek controversy in almost every major paper.

The Ipperwash inquiry heard tapes from a phone conversation recorded the day before OPP officers shot and killed an unarmed native protester in 1995. The conversation featured OPP Inspector Ron Fox, the force’s liaison officer for aboriginal affairs at Queen’s Park, explaining his worries to Acting Superintendent John Carson, who headed police operations during the crisis. Seems Insp. Fox was worried that top-level government officials (including then-premier Mike Harris’ executive assistant) were on “a testosterone high” and not ready to listen to concerns about police intervention in the standoff. As has been the case with all Ipperwash coverage, CanWest completely ignored it. Only the Globe (a recent arrival to the Ipperwash scene), Toronto Star and London Free Press got the story.

Canadian fighter jets were deployed to escort a Boston-bound flight from Milan to an airport in Maine after a passenger on board matched the name of someone on the no-fly list. It was later proven that the guy with the same name wasn’t the no-fly guy. This was in the Montreal Gazette, Cape Breton Post and Calgary Sun.

Getting frustrated yet? Me too. There were actually a few more, but these were the biggest ones that I could see. Who knows what didn’t make any of the papers.

Newsweek controversy
Okay, a Megalomedia reader asked earlier this week what I thought of the whole Newsweek controversy, and given that the story is still making the papers, I’ll share my thoughts now.
First and foremost, I’ve ranted before on the willingess of the press to go with off-the-record sources. It’s dangerous because when shit hits the fan, the press is left holding the bag (mixed metaphor alert).
However, this is the sort of story that warrants an off-the-record source, because it’s not likely to come out any other way and despite what right-wing nutbag Dennis Prager (see today’s National Post) would have you believe, this story does need to be told.
The right-wing pundits in the U.S. did what you’d expect, they took this story and used it to illustrate the liberal media’s bias. What gets me is how the major media in Canada left Newsweek out to dry too. Newsweek handled this pretty well. When it became clear that their source may have screwed them, they appologized. When the source recanted, they retracted, despite having other sources that backed them up and accounts from several former detainees.
But to read the comments in the Canadian press, you’d think they’d done something the rest of the press wouldn’t dream of doing.
The fact is stories like this run all the time. The difference here is that this story was the straw that broke the camel’s back and prompted some riots that, sadly, turned violent and fatal.
As for the source, I can’t believe that so many papers are buying the Pentagon line. Here we have a government department that has routinely lied to make their point (WMD in Iraq, for one), under the umbrella of an administration that admits to paying journalists to lie for them. Why is their word suddenly credible in the face of several other witnesses? Why should I suddenly believe Donald Rumsfeld.
The fact is, I have no idea whether what Newsweek wrote was true or not. Neither do the columnists, editorial writers and pundits who were so quick to attack what was said to be a very reputable magazine. It’s a he-said, she-said debate and to accept either side’s spin as truth is irresponsible.


  1. thanks Joe!

    i was just really surprised that, by doing the most completely predicable thing in the world (i.e., flat-out denial), the Pentagon managed to discredit an explosive story in the eyes of, well, much of the North American media.

    as to the story’s ‘truth’ value, i think my point was that, either way, the media seems to have handled this one irresponsibly.

    when you accuse the American government of serious misconduct, you better have the goods to back it up and the resolve to weather the inevitable political bs storm heading your way. but by running the story ASAP and then capitulating at the first sign of opposition from the Pentagon, Newsweek in fact contributed to the discrediting of its own story.

    but, more generally, you’re right to say ‘boo’ to the mainstrean media for taking the Pentagon line at face value and making this story look like the creation of a bunch of bleeding-heart liberals. wha? the american government — who is holding uncharged, untried persons in total disregard for international law and human rights, and in an illegally occupied piece of Cuba, no less — acting in a morally questionable fashion? unthinkable: trash this story.


  2. However, this is the sort of story that warrants an off-the-record source, because it’s not likely to come out any other way and despite what right-wing nutbag Dennis Prager (see today’s National Post) would have you believe, this story does need to be told.

    So there’s a pressing public purpose to publish an inflammatory story with a questionable source? People once believed much the same thing about the
    Kuwait incubator story.

    The fact is, I have no idea whether what Newsweek wrote was true or not.

    They retracted the story. That’s good enough for me.

    As for the right-wing pundits. . . you’re right, they shouldn’t be spinning this into a textbook case of liberal bias. But I don’t really care about them. Nor do I care about the Pentagon. I care about the thousands of Muslims who went on violent rampages for no good reason. I don’t hold Newsweek responsible for that, and I agree their retraction was very by-the-book. But the media is well within its rights to cover the human tragedy that resulted from that story, and to ask that things like this should never happen again.

  3. Phronetic Man,

    I wouldn’t call their source questionable, that’s the thing. It was an experienced journalist using a trusted source that he’d gone to many times before. To the cynical eye, it looks more like the source was bullied into recanting by his higher ups in the Pentagon.

    The fact that you point to the incubator story is ironic, given that there is a fair bit of evidence that the U.S. administration helped them spin it. As the article you linked to pointed out, the president of the U.S. PR firm that pushed the story worked for Big Bush before joining the private sector.

    Finally, as to the validity of the story, Newsweek retracted it but the editor (or publisher, I can’t recall which for sure) made a public statement saying he stood behind the original story but retracted it on principle because the source bailed. There are eyewitnesses who said they saw the Koran desecrated and I’m not entirely willing to take the Pentagon at their word these days.

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