Tony Gosgnach
The Interim

A series of recent articles, photos and cartoons in the Globe and Mail newspaper has enraged Christians and social conservatives from coast to coast with its biased coverage and insinuations that there is something untoward about Christian involvement in the democratic political process. It has also pointed out, once again, that despite any postulations to the contrary, the Globe is anything but a conservatively oriented newspaper.

The recent series got underway with the paper’s coverage of a pro-marriage rally on the lawn of the Ontario legislature on Victoria Day. Although pro-marriage advocates vastly outnumbered gay rights supporters by more than 300 to one (in real numbers, more than 9,000 versus about 30), the Globe ran a photo of the gay rights demonstrators beside a solitary pro-marriage supporter kneeling in prayer. The caption under the photo left the impression that there were two marriage-oriented rallies of about equal size taking place that day.

Then, on May 26, Rheal Seguin’s Globe article carried the headline, “Voters in poll fear Tory agenda.” Lost in the fine print of the article was the fact that more poll respondents actually said they don’t fear the Conservatives leader’s (allegedly) social conservative outlook: “When respondents were asked whether they were ‘afraid’ of Mr. Harper’s positions on ‘abortion, the death penalty and same-sex marriage,’ 39 per cent said yes and 43 per cent said no.”

The Globe continued with a May 27 article by reporter Gloria Galloway entitled, “Christian activists capturing Tory races.” It described Christian activity as a “political penetration” at a time when the Conservative party is allegedly trying to “distance itself from hard-line social conservatism.”

Galloway reported that “some” Conservatives argue Christian activity is “an unfortunate turn” and she resorted to quoting Ross Haynes, who lost the Conservative nomination in Halifax to a candidate recommended by a Christian minister. Galloway said unnamed “others” within the party are “extremely concerned” by the developments.

The same day, columnist Jeffrey Simpson chimed in with, “Why Stephen Harper is going to lose more sleep,” again taking up the theme that Christian and social conservative support and involvement is a political liability. Christian candidacies “pose a difficult political challenge for Stephen Harper” and, “Little could be more politically lethal,” Simpson wrote. “This time, Mr. Harper will have more of these (Christian) candidates to worry about.”

The Globe followed up the next day with an editorial cartoon of Harper sporting a splinter, in the shape of a cross, impaled in his index finger. Then, Galloway was back on May 30 with the article, “Single-issue candidates on wrong track, Tories warn.” In that piece, she quoted unsuccessful Conservative leadership hopeful Tony Clement as saying his party has “made it very clear as a party that we are not pursuing any restriction of the rights of women when it comes to abortion.” Candidates, Clement added, have a “right” to run, so long as “they sign on to 100 per cent of our platform issues … The minute they veer one centimetre away from the defined policy position taken democratically by our party, then I have a problem.”

Hugh Segal, who ran for the leadership of the old Conservative party, opined that he didn’t see a problem with Christian involvement – “as long as the organization’s policy remains balanced.”

The rather blatant anti-Christian sentiment triggered an outpouring of letters to the editor and other communications of concern to the newspaper’s management, which may have prompted the paper to temper its coverage with a May 30 editorial suggesting “there’s nothing sinister” in Christian activists working to secure Conservative nominations.

There is “no innate contradiction between being staunchly religious and politically involved. Democracy invites all comers and leaves the public to decide who’s right for the job,” the editorial concluded.

But the damage, by and large, was done. Even a Jewish radio talk show host in Winnipeg, Charles Adler, jumped in to offer comments on the Globe’s articles. “The truth is, the Globe gets a free throw in this country, as do other media, when it comes to castigating Christians,” said Adler in a National Post column. “I am becoming increasingly opposed to those in media, academics, polling and politics who wish to deny some individuals and groups a place at the table.”

Another Jewish journalist, writing in the Calgary Sun, Ezra Levant of Western Standard magazine, asked: “Shouldn’t bigotry against Christians be just as unacceptable as bigotry against Jews?”

Fr. Alphonse de Valk, editor of Catholic Insight magazine, questioned whether it was actually Conservatives or Globe and Mail personnel who were truly concerned about Christian involvement in the political process. In an article entitled, “The Globe’s agenda to drive Christians out of politics,” he wrote, “The Globe’s recent articles, reflecting panic, show what happens when evangelicals and Catholics begin to flex some muscle by taking an interest in national politics. Let’s keep it up.”

In a statement, David Krayden of the Defend Marriage Coalition said the outrage over the Globe’s articles was “overwhelming,” resulting in an editorial policy that “seems to have changed almost overnight.”

The controversy even made waves south of the border, with well-known Canadian journalist Ted Byfield remarking, on the U.S. website, that the Globe’s concept of Christian “implies ignorance, superstition, gullibility, illiteracy, intolerance and sexual repression.” The paper, said Byfield, believes, “Ignorant bigots are trying to take over Canada.”

The Hamilton-Wentworth Family Action Council, meanwhile, urged its supporters to consider complaining to the Globe and then boycotting it until it apologized for its “hateful attacks” and showed some respect for Christians.

In fairness, the Globe has not been the only media outlet trumpeting the line that Christian involvement is some kind of threat to the democratic political process. The Toronto Star – known derisively as “Pravda” or “the Red Star” in social conservative circles – ran a May 30 article entitled, “Tory image in peril, some fear.”

It suggested that “moderates” in the Conservative party were concerned Christian organizations who were successful in winning control of a “clutch” of riding associations in B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia. It quoted former Reform party and Canadian Alliance strategist Rick Anderson as saying, “The conception Canadians have of religious conservatives is of Bush Republicans who want to run their lives.”

Nonetheless, it is the Globe that has unjustifiably had the reputation of being an at least nominally conservative publication. Although it may be true, to some extent, from a fiscal standpoint, it is certainly not so from a social standpoint. Canadian pro-life advocates point out, for example, that the Globe has long been a media outlet calling editorially for unfettered access to abortion in Canada.

In 1984, the Ontario Press Council upheld a complaint that the Globe acted “unfairly by ignoring the right to life organization’s Mother’s Day eve rally and by assigning a reporter to a pro-choice rally that same weekend.” In 1985, it dismissed a complaint that the Globe unfairly handled a review of a book by abortionist-turned-pro-life-activist Dr. Bernard Nathanson.

In 1986, the press council upheld a complaint that the Globe unfairly reported that what was then known as Campaign Life was recruiting children as part of a “last resort” strategy. Instead of being a gracious loser, however, the newspaper responded with a vicious editorial entitled, “Truth is another victim.” It expressed no regrets over its erroneous accusation, further blasting the pro-life movement for a “dirty exercise in character assassination.”

Another, unsuccessful complaint in 1989 concerned the Globe’s use of the terms “pro-choice” and “anti-abortion” to refer to the two sides of the debate. Pro-lifers were upset that their opponents were given the more positive label, but the newspaper justified its apparently biased stance by contending that, “We’re not serving the groups we are reporting on. We’re serving our readers.”

Things took a further turn for the worse with the ascension of homosexual William Thorsell to the helm of the Globe in 1989. Needless to say, his sexual proclivities resulted in even less favourable treatment of the pro-life, pro-family perspective within the paper’s pages.

As Gerald Hannon noted in the pages of NOW magazine, Thorsell was “surprisingly public” about his homosexuality, going to gay bars, attending Pride Day and accepting invitations from gay organizations. “His newspaper became known as one that would generally editorialize in favour of most gay community initiatives,” said Hannon.

Douglas Fisher, of the Sun Media parliamentary bureau, noted that Thorsell shifted the Globe’s editorial and feature lines “to constant advancing of gay and lesbian rights … Thorsell did for sanctioning homosexuality what Beland Honderich, as boss of the Toronto Star, had done several decades ago in building the popular case for a national pension program and country-wide medicare.”

In January 2001, the Globe became part of the new media conglomerate, Bell Globemedia, which also owns the CTV television network – also no friend of the pro-life, pro-family movement. CTV is noted for, among other things, televising an abortion committed on Mother’s Day, slandering the Aid to Women crisis pregnancy agency through its W-Five “investigative journalism” program and, more recently, broadcasting the Henry Morgentaler whitewash biopic Choice.

With Edward Greenspon becoming editor-in-chief of the Globe in July 2002, things didn’t get any better. In many ways, he continued the pattern established by Thorsell and, in some ways, deepened it. The paper has continued its slanted coverage of social and moral issues and maintains a solidly left-wing editorial stance on them as well.

The Globe outraged pro-life advocates early in 2003 with a series of articles by feminist columnist and zealot Heather Mallick, who called for Henry Morgentaler to be named to the Order of Canada. Mallick also viciously attacked pro-life supporters in general and members of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus in particular.

That set the stage for more biased coverage during recent intrigues at the federal political level, including the demonization of evangelical Christian Stockwell Day during his tenure as leader of the former Alliance party. Of course, as has been seen recently, the paper is on a new kick of depicting Christians and social conservatives as some kind of threat to the democratic political process. Curiously, there has never been an expose of what influence homosexuals, pro-abortion activists, feminists and other such types have within federal political parties.

Some continue to propagate the illusion that the Globe is somehow conservative – or at least right of centre – in orientation. Author Lawrence Martin, who has worked for both the Globe and Southam News, suggests “the odds against the left seem stacked at this paper.” Remarkably, he identifies Margaret Wente, John Ibbitson, Marcus Gee, Drew Fagan, Norman Spector and William Thorsell as “right-wing columnists.” Jeffrey Simpson and Hugh Winsor, meanwhile, are put forth as “centrists.” Social conservatives in Canada might be forgiven for laughing at Lawrence’s contentions.

Christians and social conservatives offended by the Globe’s reporting and editorial positions can take some solace in the fact that the paper is in distress – or, at least, struggling – financially. A November 2004 Macleans magazine article reported the Globe continues to suffer from its inability to kill off the rival National Post and is acknowledging that that aspect of the newspaper war is unwinnable.

“No one has been harder hit than the Globe,” said Macleans, adding that the paper is hobbling along at the break-even point or, at most, making or losing $5 million a year. It used to command a 15 per cent profit margin in the mid-1990s. The parent BCE Inc. is said to be wearying of the ongoing battle, as the paper fights to keep spending under control. That has meant belt-tightening, fewer freelance stories, a lower page count and voluntary buyouts to trim its staff.

That’s where a potential boycott by Christians and social conservatives may prove effective. With such a precarious financial position, it is perhaps no surprise that the Globe has attempted to temper its recent anti-Christian and anti-family articles with an editorial and other articles that have offered different perspectives.