On the perils of misquoting

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of media analysis, I want to go slightly off topic and talk about the military’s first gay marriage (read about it here). I think the best part of this story is a quote from a Canadian Forces spokesperson in the CanWest story (you need a subscription, but it’s here). The guy basically said the military doesn’t much care whether their soldiers are gay, straight or otherwise, as long as they can do their job.

I’m not going to suggest that’s the attitude of the rank-and-file, as I don’t know one way or another, but man, I long for the day when we can all look at gay rights issues that way. I understand that activists have to make their fight into a spectacle in order to have their voices heard, but I look forward to a time when it’s no longer an issue. Live and let live, and all that.

I got to the National Post before the rest of the CanWest papers today and read an interesting piece on Pat Martin and the Devils Lake drainage controversy. Now, the original Canadian Press article can be found here. Go read the lead at least, you’ll need that to follow the rest of this post.
Now, the Post took that story and ran it under the headline “Let Americans freeze in the dark, NDP MP says” with this lead:

“Canada should be prepared to cut off energy supplies to the United States and “let the bastards freeze in the dark” if the George W. Bush administration allows the Devils Lake diversion to flow polluted water into Manitoba, NDP MP Pat Martin said yesterday.

Interesting, that’s not what the CP article said. The Post goes on to explain in the fourth paragraph that Martin was quoting Manitoba residents, but based on the headline and lead, you’d think we had another Carolyn Parrish incident on our hands.

The Citizen and others make it even worse by cutting down the CanWest story and just running the lead and second graph. The fact that Martin was citing Manitobans is never explained. This is irresponsible and dangerous. Given that CanWest papers, primarily the Post so frequently decry the poor relationship beteen Canada and the U.S., you’d think they’d be wary of fanning the flames unnecessarily. But no, sloppy journalism wins again.

A quick word on a shitty editorial
The Post ran an editorial supporting Guantanamo Bay that made my stomach turn, but I have to highlight one particularly confusing passage. It’s the last two sentences of the lead. They’ve just finished describing some of the interrogation techniques, then say:

“We would not quite go along with those right-wing bloggers who say this sounds less like true torture than it does the plot for the long-awaited sequel to Animal House. But it certainly resembles the latter more than the former.”

Read that again. Did the Post just essentially say “we wouldn’t agree with people who say this sounds more like Animal House than like torture, but it certainly looks more like Animal House than torture?” Do they realize that “sounds like” and “resembles” are not opposites so much as synonomys?

And finally. . .
I saw this and thought it was interesting. Try as I might, I couldn’t find this story anywhere in the Canadian media.

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