Saturday, February 14, 2015
Those dancing for joy at the end of Sun News are the same people who actively oppose free speech
The captain of the RMS Titanic clutches at a railing, icy Atlantic water rising at his knees. With the stern of his ship rising high out of the ocean, like an enormous, wounded finger pointing at a distant star in the night sky, he decides to take time to complain about a dolphin that just bumped into the side of his broken, doomed vessel.
That's the image that popped into my head when I saw The Toronto Star's Heather Mallick write, "Just watching Sun put me off my hinges," in a column gloating about the demise of the Sun News Network.
At a stretch, that explains the last four years, the time between Sun TV hitting the airwaves and shutting its doors this week, in the aftermath of an unfavorable CRTC ruling failed to put the conservative network on an equal footing with its cable news competitors. It's anyone's guess what put Mallick off her hinges prior to that, when this supposed fighter against misogyny and patriarchal condescension referred to Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin having a "toned-down version of the porn actress look."
Ironically, the column written by Mallick, whose paper was forced to pay libel costs after she maliciously defamed British writer Melanie Phillips by effectively saying she contributed to the mass murders committed by a Norwegian psychopath, is titled, "Canadians don't like bullies and Sun News fell short on that count." It might have been more accurately titled, "Only I'm allowed to bully, and if you disagree, you're a bully ."
But Heather Mallick is something of a running joke in Canadian media. More troublesome is the sentiment that not only acquiesces to, but approves of limitations on free speech for Canadian journalists.
That belief is not just confined to marginal writers like Susan G. Cole, whose platform, NOW Magazine, contains "journalism" primarily as an autosuggestion that it is something other than a prostitution-advertising service. It also comes from the very people who teach journalists.
Unlike Americans, "Canadians are uncomfortable with those rather extreme expressions of free speech," says Jeffrey Dvorkin, who is the director of the journalism program at the University of Toronto.
That may be true for someone whose experience of Canada is limited to the intellectually-barren classrooms of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, or the aggressively sanctimonious coffee houses of the Annex neighborhood, both of which are contained in U of Toronto's environs. But in other places, among other Canadians, given the choice between unfettered free speech and a society where the government and our journalistic "elite" get to decide what can and can't be said aloud, very few would choose the latter.
Certainly not every Canadian journalism professor nor journalist has succumbed to that puerile manifestation of political correctness. Fortunately, this are still many who recognize that for democracy to function effectively, there is an absolute need for a diversity of voices and perspectives.
But we're in a sorry state of affairs that many in education and journalism, the two professions that should be the most ardent defenders of free speech, are among its most outspoken enemies.
We're already seeing the result of that in a generation of journalists who self-censor, and present biased reporting designed not to offend what they perceive as their audience's delicate sensibilities.
Today, they won't tell you what they don't want you to hear. But the way things are going, they'll be telling you what you are and are not allowed to hear. And if the Heather Mallicks of this world are to be the gatekeepers of acceptable speech, then a very cruel, stupid Canada lies in store for us all.