Canada’s collaborators

A racist column published recently by the Vancouver Sun shows yet again that Canadian media is willing to platform hate.

The cryptic, belated apology Vancouver Sun editor Harold Munro offered for publishing Hecht's column strikes me as perfunctory and disingenuous, writes Mitrovica [Screenshot/Vancouver Sun]
The cryptic, belated apology Vancouver Sun editor Harold Munro offered for publishing Hecht's column strikes me as perfunctory and disingenuous, writes Mitrovica [Screenshot/Vancouver Sun]

To flourish anywhere, hate requires collaborators.

Donald Trump’s hatred should, by now, be as familiar as it is blatant. He has had many collaborators – past and present. Conspicuous among them were and are his media accomplices – far beyond the far-right cocoon of Fox News.

Major American media outlets still routinely publish and broadcast the exculpatory, reality-defying apologies of Trump’s collaborators – in the specious name of journalistic “balance”.

Not too long ago, America’s hater-in-chief was feted by the corporate press, where he was often encouraged – with little, if any, dissent – to give stuttering vent to his odious, racist notions and fabricated conspiracy theories.

Despite its bucolic image, Canada is also an undeniable haven for the virulent hatred that Trump has trafficked in.  

While a hate-monger has not taken up residence inside the prime minister’s office lately, Trump’s repellent “ideas” and the charlatans who peddle them have found a welcoming home throughout Canada’s mainstream media, a consequence of editors turning collaborators – whether they too are prepared to admit or not.

The latest episode of this pernicious phenomenon occurred late last week when the Vancouver Sun – a major Canadian daily newspaper owned by the financially on-life-support media syndicate, Postmedia – published the rancid meanderings of Mark Hecht, a geography instructor cum social historian.

Hecht’s point: Canada’s ethnic diversity fatally undermines its social cohesion and economic prospects and could trigger a Balkan-like “bloody mess”.

His prescription: “…the minimum requirement is that we say goodbye to diversity, tolerance and inclusion if we wish to be a society that can rebuild the trust we used to have in one another and start accepting a new norm for immigration policy – compatibility, cohesion and social trust.” 

Unsurprisingly, Hecht’s “new norm for immigration policy” would “absolutely” mean “excluding certain people from one’s society” in favour of “a sprinkle of Protestantism”.

Simply put: Visible minorities and Muslims must be kept out. Meanwhile, more white Christians must be wooed in.

By any measure, Hecht’s crude “remedy” mirrors Trump’s retrograde “thinking” to the vile T.

The reaction to the Vancouver Sun’s implicit, if not explicit, validation of Hecht’s loathsome sectarian views was swift and mostly unflattering.

Long-time readers cancelled their subscriptions, and a slew of Vancouver Sun writers and reporters took to Twitter to disavow the “racist” column and question how it was published.

While commendable, their, at times, anguished responses, reflect a striking naivete and rampant institutional amnesia.

The Vancouver Sun and other Postmedia newspapers across Canada have traditionally been an enthusiastic portal for columnists who share Hecht’s race-based and xenophobic litmus tests. This is undeniable.

To suggest, as many Vancouver Sun editors and correspondents have, that Hecht’s column is “not us” means being willfully or blissfully blind to the newspaper chain’s wretched history on this lamentable score. Indeed, Postmedia’s proprietors have reportedly made it plain – editorially speaking – that its hard-right disposition will become even more acute.

That is why the cryptic, belated apology by Vancouver Sun editor Harold Munro strikes me as perfunctory and disingenuous. (Munro insisted he had not read the column prior to its publication.)

“An opinion article by Mark Hecht published in Saturday’s Weekend Review section and online contained views that do not meet the journalistic standards of The Vancouver Sun and do not represent the views of our editors and journalists,” Munro wrote.

Hecht’s column was accepted precisely because it met your ideological “standards” and represents “the views” that have been routinely expressed in the newspapers you and other Postmedia editors are responsible for, Mr Munro.

Truth is, Canada’s corporate media opinion pages are dominated by white men and women with the requisite right-wing, academic, diplomatic or journalistic credentials. Hence, the white, male Vancouver Sun editor providing prime editorial real estate to a white, male academic’s foul tract.

Munro’s vague commitment to ensure that “this does not happen again” belies the fact that “this” keeps happening again and again with the collaboration of editors who would, no doubt, chafe at any suggestion that they are enablers of hate disguised as “free expression”.

The opinion editor at Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC, apparently believed it right and in the public interest to allow Sheila Gunn Reid to air her predictable “free speech” martyrdom complex in a column on November 7, 2016. 

Two years earlier, Gunn Reid, a “contributor” to Rebel Media – an online circus of far-right personalities masquerading as “journalists” that has had to fire other hosts and contributors for their Nazi allegiances – penned a tweet where she described Iranians and Iraqis as “sandbox savages”. 

Now, any sentient, responsible editor would consider that revolting tweet a disqualifying offence. Not at the CBC, which granted Gunn Reid valuable space to whine about how a sentient, responsible UN official was reluctant to accord the Rebel Media contributor media credentials to attend a climate-change conference.

Two days later, on November, 9, 2016, Peter Mansbridge, the CBC’s then “chief correspondent” and host of its nightly newscast, The National, invited Ann Coulter – the unofficial Miss America of hate – on the programme to have an agreeable tete-a-tete about Trump’s unexpected presidential victory.

Mansbridge treated Coulter with an almost fawning deference and respect, praising her prescience in predicting Trump’s win. Buried, forgotten or verboten, of course, was the telegenic white nationalist’s transparent and ugly record of unrepentant racism and homophobia. 

The near 10-minute interview was the definition of the normalisation of hate. It was and remains a disgraceful stain on Canada’s publicly-owned broadcaster. 

A few months later, the CBC compounded its reliably atrocious editorial judgment by interviewing Gavin McInnes, another Rebel Media contributor and founder of the Proud Boys, a group that the extremism-monitoring Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) designated as a “hate group” after cataloguing its Islamophobic and anti-Semitic ravings. (McInnes is suing the SPLC.) 

The timorous CBC host, Hannah Thibedeau, chose instead to introduce McInnes as the leader of a “men’s movement”. She ended what amounted to a CBC-sanctioned, friction-free Proud Boys advertorial with this polite adieu: “Gavin, thanks for joining us.”

Subsequently, a CBC PR man was trotted out to explain, unconvincingly, that the network had “erred” in not challenging “some of (McInnes’s) and the Proud Boys’ controversial views” and for failing to acknowledge his “anti-Jewish sentiments”. 

Note the instructive pattern: platform hate, then limply apologise for, or qualify, why you platformed hate.

Introspection is not a practice I usually associate with large swaths of Canada’s increasingly lean mainstream media. Once Hecht, Coulter and McInnes recede in the rearview mirror, whatever recuperative lessons might be learned quickly become lost on editors and the aforementioned pattern will inevitably repeat itself. 

Soon this may happen with hundreds of millions of dollars of public money designed to bail out the withering fortunes of legacy media outlets like Postmedia. 

In the prevailing context, that is wrong and appalling since it will reward collaborators rather than censure them.  

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

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