Dear Mr. Pierre Juneau, President CBC

Surely it is time for the CBC to do some soul-searching when it finds it has put out an edition of The Journal like the one last night in which Barbara Frum interviewed Federal Justice Minister Mark McGuigan. Here you have two full-grown adults engaged in national dialogue, one asking all the wrong questions and the other responding by disclaiming responsibility in the first place. That would have been bad enough, but the interview had a context, namely, abortion – which turned it into a re-enactment of the scene of Christ before Pilate; Barbara Frum acting as spokesperson for the crowd, alleging that 72% of them are crying out for blood and Mark McGuigan playing Pilate, washing his hands of the implementation of the injustice and declaring “ I am innocent of the blood of these victims; let the provinces look to it!”

You, of course, can hardly be responsible for Mark McGuigan, but surely you have some interest in your reporter’s approach. At any rate the CBC is going to make the history books as representing some kind of nadir of foolish broadcasting when it allows to proceed, as if it were all in the day’s work, a line of questioning dealing with a holocaust of human lives unparalleled in the history of the world as if nothing more significant were being dealt with than, as they say, the re-arrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic. Barbara Frum finds herself saying things like, “Since a woman is free not to have an abortion, why should she not also be free to have an abortion? Why only one choice?”

Is there some law that says that newspeople, who make their living by words, must be incapable of identifying cant?

Let me, newspaper-style, go over the ground again: one cannot be insensitive to the industry and courage involved in going on the air before millions of people virtually every night, interviewing people – sometimes hostile people – about world issues. It is precisely the weight of responsibility implicit in this work that accounts for the star-blasting crash when a reporter broaches the subject of abortion, and, instead of indicating some awareness that he – in this case, she – is talking about the most obscene assault on human life in the history of man, she makes it sadistically plain that she thinks the holocaust should be magnified. This in the name of a bit of pro-abortionist cant: “Remember, we are not pro-abortion, we are pro-choice.” Anyone who has given the matter two seconds thought knows what the choices are: they are life and death. Barbara Frum, on the evidence, thinks one should be free to choose death.

I don’t really believe she thinks that, of course, but, if she doesn’t why does she pretend to? Have the Michelle Landsbergs and Laura Sabias and Doris Andersons, all of whom identify the choice of death as an exercise of freedom, made a Procrustean bed which their younger sisters in the media must now be made to fit? Is mindlessness to be the hallmark of communications now that communications have become so technically advanced?  “Do you believe in polls?” asks Barbara. “Seventy-two percent of the people say that abortion should be a matter between the woman and her physician,” seeming to forget that morality is not something that can be discovered by way of a majority vote in the first place, and seeming to forget that such a rationale turns the medical profession into an institution for taking life, not saving life.

If Barbara Frum had interviewed the Minister of Transportation and argued with great force that since motorists are free in this country to drive on their own side of the road they ought also to have the choice of driving head-on into the oncoming traffic; the authorities at the CBC, one would think, would be concerned. If she were to interview Andy Brandt, the new provincial Minister of the Environment, and argue that since people are free to breathe clean air (if they can find it!), they should also be given the choice of breathing toxins, the CBC would, one would think, be concerned.

And if the new Minister of the Environment were to respond by saying, “Yes, that is why we are not going to change the law, because we want people to have that choice”, one might expect the CBC to invite the Minister to return and demonstrate that he, too, had not gone out of his mind.

One would not expect the interviewer to press him hard and say, “yea, but you have certain (flabby and weak-kneed) restrictions on pollution, and people want them removed (it says here). You are restricting freedom. We want more polluted air.”

Barbara Frum stood her point on its head. The law needs changing alright, but to the exact reverse of what she intimated. Instead of expanding the war on children, we have to stop it.

Unless Barbara Frum has persuaded the CBC authorities that it is useful to talk about giving pestilence a place in the sun.

Yours truly,

Joseph Thompson

Response :

Dear Mr. Thompson,

I have been asked to thank you for your July 8 letter to Mr. Juneau concerning an interview with Barbara Frum and Justice Minister Mark McGuigan on the subject of abortion broadcast on The Journal of July 6.

The CBC must attempt at all times to be fair, objective and unbiased in its news and current affairs programs and we regret that, in your view, we failed to meet these criteria in this issue of The Journal. In cases where controversy or differences of opinion may exist, we try to present all points of view, although this is not necessarily attempted in the same program.

We are sorry to know that you believe our coverage of the pro-life/ abortion issue to be unbalanced. However, in dealing with a subject such as pro-life/abortion, on which both strong pro and con views are held, it is difficult to say anything whatsoever without disturbing at least one part of our audience.

We appreciate your taking the time to let us know your views, and I have sent a copy of your letter to the Director of Television News and Current Affairs at our network centre in Toronto so that he may be aware of your dissatisfaction.

Yours Sincerely,

John H. Smith

Letter #2:

Dear Mr. Smith,

Thank you for your response to my letter of July 8, 1983, regarding an interview of Mark McGuigan by Barbara Frum, whose name, by the way I apologize for misspelling. I foolishly assumed for it some linguistic kinship with Erich.

Thank you, too for the lucid expression of the CBC’s philosophy of broadcasting. I hope you can pass the following along to the policy-makers at head office, for, on the evidence, some of their current assumptions on the subject of abortion are not viable.

The key sentence in your letter is, “In dealing with a subject such as pro-life/abortion, on which both strong pro and con views are held, it is difficult to say anything whatsoever without disturbing at least one part of our audience.”

  1. It is a primary mistake in broadcasting to assign priority to pleasing anybody, let alone everybody. The truth will do.
  2. If the whole world held the same “view”, and the view were false, nothing would happen except that the false assumption would keep on bearing its bad fruit until somebody noticed and corrected it.  As Gilbert Keith Chesterton said fifty years ago, “if the aircraft designer makes a mistake in his calculations, the airplane will correct the mistake by crashing to the ground.”
  3. The assumption that there is any strength in any pro-abortion “view” is false. Pro-abortionist’s “arguments run to things like pointing out how nicely decorated the abortion clinic is, or how unpleasant pro-lifers are that they object to the legalization of the choice of death for the innocent. They sometimes get closer to the point (as opposed to attacking the person) by suggesting between the lines that an unborn child is not a child. This is not a strong argument. It is so weak that there is not even any need to refute it; it contradicts itself.

Pro-life people by contrast, say that an unborn child is a child. That is a strong argument, strong with the unassailable strength of the simple truth. In other words, there are not two sides to this question. To quote G.K. Chesterton again, it is useless to talk about giving pestilence a place in the sun. The CBC’s assumption that there are two sides to the question is simply causing the CBC to be a source of disinformation. I would add, “and the laughing-stock of every thoughtful viewer,” except that the issue is much too serious for laughter, even the shallowest. One does not laugh at Radio Germany’s “balanced view” of the Holocaust.

Yours truly,

Joseph Thompson