Dr. Dawg

The Media Party and Mr. Li

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Li encounters Canadian democracy.JPG

The “Media Party” moniker was awarded to Canadian journalists by the buffoonish far-right bloviator Ezra Levant. From his fringe perspective, reporters other than the gaggle of lip-flapping wingnuts at the SUN and its failing TV channel are Liberals, or at least liberals, closeted or otherwise, and the conservative message isn’t permitted egress.

I’m going to side with Ezra—in part.

But first things first. Every major newspaper in Canada but one endorsed Stephen Harper and his Conservatives in the 2011 election. Embattled Conservative Senators Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy were for many years prominent television journalists. Unless their backs are against the wall, pundits like John Ivison and John Ibbitson, to name but two of many, may as well be on the PMO payroll.

Yes, there are some, like Andrew Coyne and Dan Gardner, who have showed increasing distaste for the government and its secretive and often thuggish methods. There are others, like Jeffrey Simpson, whose longstanding support for the Liberals is on the record. But to argue that the commentariat in Canada is in general anything other than right-of-centre would be simply foolish. Which brings me directly back to Ezra Levant.

There is a Media Party in Canada, all right, but it’s not a political cabal. It reflects, rather, a complaisant, lazy group-think. The Parliamentary Press Gallery in particular is a vast trove of unfurrowed brows and comfortable idées reçues. Real old-time journos like Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor, who dug like navvies into the robocalls scandal, merely serve to demonstrate how indolent their colleagues have become.

Original thinking is the worst conceivable sin for the members of the Media Party. They are not there to challenge, but to reinforce. They are not there to prod their audiences into wakefulness and reflection, but to lull and mesmerize.

Like a real political party, the Media Party is no monolith, but there are caucus boundaries that are rarely crossed. Any differences among them represent an infinitesimally small portion of the possible range of political thinking and options that should be part of the national talkscape. It’s OK to be Conservative, or Liberal. But the NDP, when the media deign to notice it at all, is usually a target of mild derision. Even after the party formed the Official Opposition, the media still tended to run off to the Liberals, not the NDP, for a comment to “balance” the picklesmoke pouring from the PMO. The Green Party? They aren’t even on the media map.

Politicians and activists who insist on taking more “radical” positions incur the knee-jerk wrath of the Media Party. Take the sexism and thinly-disguised racism on genteel display when Theresa Spence was conducting her hunger strike last year, for example. Or (with Andrew Coyne an honourable exception), the scorn heaped upon supporters of proportional representation during the BC and Ontario referenda.

Why question? Why genuinely debate? Why take a stand that differs markedly from the political wisdom of the day? Why rock the comfortable cruise-ship on which they all have been assigned first-class berths? Best for these incessant preeners to cough up ideological hairballs while they patrol the perimeters of permissible political thinking.

Which brings me, by a long if linear route, to Mr. Li Xue Jiang, bureau chief for China’s People’s Daily and his recent encounter with Canadian democracy.

Li had the colossal nerve to insist upon asking the Dear Leader a question, after a slot had earlier been offered to him to do so. Things got a bit physical, with a PMO staffer trying to pull him out of line, to which he responded by pushing her away.

“She asked me to give up this question to your Canadian journalist,” Li said later, adding he told Vaux it was his last chance on the trip to ask a question.

“I didn’t agree to give up. So I am in the line, and ready to ask a question and she grabbed me several times, so that’s why I pushed her,” Li said.

Following the CBC’s question, Lecce called another reporter to the mic. At that point, Li tried to grab the microphone from the technician, “to ask a question,” he said.

Three RCMP officers were nearby and grabbed him.

…Li said the RCMP officers “said I couldn’t ask a question. I said why?” Li said he told the Mounties that Canadian journalists had agreed he could ask a question. “It’s not democratic.”

Indeed it was not. If the story had been told without identifiers, one might have thought it was one of our own trying to pose a difficult question to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Just imagine the outrage in the Canadian media! In any case, no matter where this might have happened, it was a thuggish, ham-handed display.

The real story, however, isn’t this incident on its own, but the utter servility of the Media Party in general. Blogger “Kev” cites this passage from the CBC coverage of the incident:

As is now common practice at Harper news conferences, the number of questions is decided by the prime minister’s staff and announced to members of the media, who determine by consensus which issues need to be addressed and which reporters are best to pose them.

To which we might add:

Just before the announcement, Li and the Canadian media were told by a PMO staffer it wasnt an option as the list had already been approved by the PMO. [emphasis added]

I dunno what you want to call this, folks, but it ain’t exactly the crusading journalism of my youth. To be blunt, it’s bloody acquiescence by a tired gang of privilege-seekers. And the fact that the media have knuckled under to Harper in this slavish fashion, and like good little lapdogs lost no time going after Li for his impertinence, shows just how far things have degenerated since the Dear Leader took power in 2006. Now the Canadian media are all about telling power to truth—and Li Xue Jiang found this out the hard way. It must have made him a little homesick.

UPDATE: Dividing the crumbs: the SUN’s David Akin tells it like it is.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on August 25, 2013 12:11 PM.

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