Dr. Dawg

The media mobbing of Julie Payette

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journo.jpgNot long ago, veteran journalist and editor-at-liberty Jonathan Kay wrote an article about social media “mobbing.” It turned out, in fact, to be mostly a tendentious attack on the Left—there was scant mention of the routine mob action of the Right in Cyberville when Black and First Nations folks raise the issue of racism, or women merely open their mouths—but you know, he had a point. The social media do concentrate and amplify opposition, sometimes for its own sake. It’s risk-free, often safely anonymous activity that, as one person admitted years ago on Usenet, “brings out my inner asshole.”

But let it not be said that the legacy media are above that kind of mucking about. The media mobbing of the woman who is to become our new Governor General is a case in point; one for the journalism textbooks, assuming such things exist.

Julie Payette is, in a phrase, larger than life. She is an electrical engineer, an astronaut, a qualified commercial pilot, a musician who sang with the Montreal Symphonic Orchestra Chamber Choir, she’s fluent in six languages, holds 27 honorary doctorates, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada. I would not be one bit surprised to learn that this amazing woman could leap tall buildings with a single bound.

In other words, she’s the tallest of tall poppies. So the professional scribblers, wearing their own relatively minor achievements on their ink-stained sleeves, lost no time trying to cut her down.

And just look what they found! She was briefly charged with assault after a complaint from a vengeful spouse, but the charges were dropped a mere two weeks later. And before that, a jaywalker stepped in front of her SUV as she was proceeding through a green light: Payette swerved to avoid her, but struck the pedestrian, who died of her injuries. No charges were even contemplated: she was asked to provide cellphone logs to prove she was not using the phone at the time, she did, and she was not.

Umm..that’s it. That’s all. A classic nothingburger, with special sauce.

But the hacks have wasted vast amounts of ink and pixels going after her and, by extension, the person who appointed her—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. And something tells me they aren’t done with this non-story yet, even if these newshounds were momentarily distracted by the utter scandal of the current Governor General helping the Queen down some stairs.

I urge readers to peruse the articles linked below, all of them, to observe spin in action, made somewhat miraculously in this case because there was no top in the first place.

The “story” broke in iPolitics. The PMO has “no comment,” we are told—which, there being nothing to comment on, is hardly a surprise. But here’s how the MSM set to work:

The background search record shows that on December 8, 2011 the assault case was entered nolle prosequi, meaning the prosecutor opted to not proceed with the charges. This most commonly occurs in domestic disputes because the victim refuses to press charges, witnesses recant, or the district attorney sees little chance of conviction. There’s no explanation in the background records obtained by iPolitics of what transpired or why the charge was dropped.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what’s known as “innuendo.” Textbook case of same. Triple-distilled.

It didn’t take long for the partisans to use this non-story as yet another stick to beat Trudeau with. “Double standard!” shrieks Robyn Urback, gleefully comparing apples to oranges. She reminds us that Trudeau expelled two MPs from his caucus after complaints of sexual impropriety had been made. The glaring difference in what she coyly concedes is “not a perfect comparison” is, of course, that no investigation of the MPs had taken place, but in Payette’s case one had, quickly clearing her. “Presumption of innocence” is what we all enjoy before a criminal trial, or, by popular extension, an investigation. But actually being cleared almost immediately (or tried and acquitted) is considerably stronger than a mere general presumption before an investigation/trial is completed.

Veteran journo Susan Delacourt weighed in as well, with an article that we social media addicts would call “concern trolling.” Oh, there is surely nothing to hide, nothing at all, why it could even make Payette look more relatably human, but if only the PMO would talk to us here at iPolitics! And she goes on to employ the same faulty comparison as Urback.

The Toronto Star, meanwhile, appears to be on a bit of a crusade. Not only was Payette cleared of an assault charge; she wasn’t charged for an accident that wasn’t her fault, too. But here’s the Star hed:

“Reports of dismissed assault charge prompt questions about vetting of Julie Payette for Governor General role.” Prompt questions? About vetting? As though being cleared of a charge in two weeks—found innocent, in other words—would be something to get her struck her off the GG shortlist? Really?

And here’s the dek:

“Payette, a former astronaut and Trudeau’s pick for governor general, has called the dismissed second-degree assault charge a case of an ‘unfounded’ allegation.” Note the suggestive shudder-quotes around the word “unfounded.” Triple-distilled innuendo once again.

In the story itself, this finding of innocence is transformed into “potentially embarrassing information.” Embarrassing? To be cleared of a charge?

And here’s the Star hed for a later story: “Future Governor General Julie Payette involved in fatal collision months before assault charge in Maryland.” I’ll just leave that there.

Oh, one more. This is the CBC’s hed: “Julie Payette’s vetting for governor general questioned amid ‘disquieting’ revelations.” Disquieting revelations? That she remains innocent after an unfounded charge was quickly withdrawn and she was demonstrably not at fault in a traffic incident?

If anything demonstrates the tribal nature of journalists, particularly those inhabiting the Parliamentary Press Gallery, this non-story should serve as an exemplar. Even a decent professional like Susan Delacourt has succumbed to those tribal loyalties, closing ranks with her fellows. What is actually eating them? Why, the PMO won’t talk to them about it—that is, indulge them in their eager pursuit of a snipe.

So just watch the tribe continue to wring a flood from a damp J-cloth. It’s what they do, when actual substance is nowhere to be found.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on July 20, 2017 12:41 PM.

Ottawa Police violence against women: one swallow doesn't make a summer was the previous entry in this blog.

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