Canadian Media Is Killing Us Too
On A Broken System
What do you get when a German Nazi launches into an attack on the Canadian Prime Minister?
According to CTV, a three day news story where you quote her like any right thinking Canadian should give a single fuck what she has to say.
And people wonder why the Canadian media is so fucking hated.
One of the things that’s been super instructive about understanding the Canadian media’s descent into hell is having written a book, because even as the structures are different, the mechanics aren’t very different – this is all, fundamentally, a conversation about choices, and the Canadian media has three of them in this spot. Choice 1 is not cover the speeches from the German Nazi (member of the Alternative for Deutschland, I’m not being glib) or the Croatian anti-vax nutter, Choice 2 is to cover it with a headline of “Far-right MEPs Attack Trudeau” (and move the fuck on two days ago), and Choice 3 is to deputize them as legitimate political actors whose opinions matter, and continue to hype their speeches. And the media made the third choice.
There is a limited number of TV segments in an hour of news, there are a limited number of spots on the CTV or CBC websites, and what you put where is a choice. How you frame things is a choice. All of this that you see is the product of choices made by people you’ve never heard of. Who made the choice to quote a Nazi as if her opinion matters? I have no idea, but that was a choice, and one that matters – even if there will never be any public scrutiny of that choice.
When I wrote Salvation, I had to make a series of choices – which characters are elevated to the main stage, which are minor characters, and there’s a thousand of them. Sometimes, you don’t even realize you’re making a decision, but you did – and in the aggregate, you end up revealing a lot. Did I realize at the time that my choices were what they were? Not really – I was just trying to get from the beginning of a scene to the end, but looking back, there are a dozen choices I made which were reinforcing, and which in totality completely change the book.
The media can get away with a bad framing once or twice and it can be forgiven and forgotten, but when it isn’t accidental and it isn’t a one-off, you have to start to wonder what the fuck we’re doing here. Why is the Canadian media so willing to carry the water of Huawei’s own Jean Charest but unable to accept that Justin Trudeau should be in Europe during a European crisis? Why is much of the commentariat acting like Charest getting the endorsement of Mike Harris is a gamechanger when Mike Harris’ endorsement of Belinda Stronach in 2004 didn’t do shit – back when people still gave a flying shit what Mike Harris thought? At some point, this stops being mistakes, and it becomes a choice.
If your choice is to view criticism of the Prime Minister as legitimate regardless of the source, and to give the candidate you think can beat him an easy ride in the Conservative Leadership race, you’re no longer doing journalism, you’re just doing hackery. Now, that’s easy for me to say, because I’m not a journalist – I don’t break news, I react to it. And most importantly, nobody’s confused about where I stand and where I sit. Everyone knows the unfiltered contempt I hold the modern Tory Party in, and therefore, nobody takes what I have to say as the words of an unbiased, impartial journalist. I’m opinionated, brash, cocky, and an asshole – but I wear all of that on my sleeve. And the Canadian media as a whole is attempting to maintain the veil of impartiality while wearing nothing more than a Tory sweater.
The other main place I write is TheLines, where I write a weekly political betting column and some other odds and ends for the company, as needed. It’s a good gig – it’s a great gig, actually – and the thing that’s so great about it is I have full editorial control over what I write about for my political betting columns. I’ve never been told to take a line, I’ve never been told what to write or what to say, but once, I got asked if I could write about the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary, right when Dr. Oz announced he was running for the Senate. I complied, because why wouldn’t I, and because I knew why they wanted a piece on Oz that week. They’re a site trying to grow their political betting content, and Dr. Oz as a topic was going to draw eyeballs. It made sense, and because I didn’t mind not having to find a topic that week, I complied willingly.
The other thing about that column that was memorable was the tweet I sent, where I was “really finding it hard to not call him a quack every paragraph” as I wrote it. The reason I couldn’t was because that’s not their style guide, that’s not how they want their articles to be written. It’s not my place to tell my readers for that piece whether Oz would be a good Senator or not, it’s to tell people whether he will win a primary, and then if so, a general election. That’s the fucking job, and so it’s the job I did.
The reason this all sticks to me now is that I understand a basic truth – I have a different job when I write for myself than I do when I write for TheLines, and so I have to write differently. If this sounds like a sob story, it isn’t one, trust me – I love writing for them, I love writing here. But they’re different things, and I would be doing my job badly if I could not realize that. When I write about Australia (which, I promise, soon!), I’ll have to, at least at first, tone it down a notch, because plenty of the Canadians and Americans who read my work won’t know more than a cursory amount about the place I’m writing about, so I’ll have to make sure to explain who all the people are and some of the history in a way I don’t have to do when I’m writing about Justin Trudeau or Joe Biden.
The rest of the Canadian media is either as clear-eyed as I am about the job they’re doing, and they keep making these monumental fuckups intentionally, or they’re ignorant of how to do their jobs, which means they should be summarily fired. If they’re intentionally skewing their coverage to the right, either out of instinct or out of commercial pressure, then they’re scumbags. If they’re less aware of how their decisions intersect with each other than a dude with a Substack, then they’re incompetents who need to be shown the exits. Either way, the fact is simple – we’re seeing a Canadian media constitutionally incapable of doing its job properly, and they’re not just killing themselves, they’re taking the country they are supposedly serving with them.