The national news media are biased. No news here.
The media have never made a pretense of objectivity. They don’t claim to be unbiased, or particularly factual for that matter (although it may appear that way). Not that the monolithic liberal media machine has said it in such unambiguous terms, but anyone who is paying attention knows that “neutrality” is a “great white” myth.
Take the headlines of several national newspapers on the issue of same-sex “marriage,” as an example. It could be argued that this issue is the single greatest controversy in Canada in a decade. But when the story first hit, the media reported it simply as a generational “thing.” Canadians were as split on the issue. Overtly implied in every headline or lead story was that the “35-and-under crowd all support same-sex ‘marriage.'” Not necessarily impugning age and wisdom, the Economist intimated, “Canada is Cool,” because the youth are “with it.”
The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily, is particularly adept at the art of headline bias. In its Sept.17 issue, the Star sneered at the involvement of Pope John Paul II as he tried to parlay Catholic politicians. Having girded itself with the responsibility of “watchdog over foreign interference,” the Star decided that the Pope was a threat to Canadian democracy. In a headline characteristically ominous, the Star warned of the nasty side of “religious interference” saying, the “stage is set for a long and possibly ugly debate. Religious leaders have waded into the fray.” Obviously, shades of the Inquisition were dancing in their minds. (The National Post, which is usually thought of as the most “conservative” of Canada’s dailies, was only slightly more daft: “Vatican raises stakes in gay debate.”)
But the Star’s liberal bias is too obvious, making it easy fodder. The real aggressor is the Globe and Mail, which is the epitome of biased media because it has mastered the art of appearing “bourgeoisie” when in truth it is mostly “proletarian” in orientation.
In characteristic indignant fervor, the Globe’s editorial headline of Sept. 16 read: “It’s time for Mr. Martin to speak on gay marriage.” In Red Tory circles, this constitutes real gravitas. Granted, Martin tends to listen far more than he speaks, but elites of every persuasion (especially Red Tories) absolutely adore him for that – unless, of course, he’s listening to the wrong people (social conservatives).
As it stood, Martin was behaving “too politically” with “same-sex marriage” and the Globe wouldn’t stand for it (this, perhaps, was the reason Paul Martin didn’t get the paper’s coveted “Nation Builder of the Year” award).
In the same editorial, the Globe stated: “A motion opposing gay marriage, which the Canadian Alliance is putting before Parliament today, is an opportunity for Paul Martin to demonstrate his leadership on an issue where his voice is badly needed.” Apparently, Stephen Harper’s leadership didn’t suit their debonair tastes. Stockwell Day’s certainly didn’t. But neither did that of the federal Liberals of the past. As the Globe stated, the Liberals had performed “shamefully” and acted “weak-kneed” when in 1999 they sided with the Reform Party of Canada in defence of marriage “in a 215 to 55 decision.”
But the real trouble with the media’s bias isn’t the fact that it is blatant, or in-your-face, or so we-don’t-give-a-rip. The real problem is that Canada’s media, by and large, are arrogantly suffocating. They have a penchant for patronizing sanctimoniousness and at times, the air that fulminates off the printed pages gets so thick, it nauseates even the most tolerant of us. The year-end reports are a prime example.
A Time magazine editorial (Canadian edition) announced that Michael Stark and Michael Leshner, the two men who made headline news by embracing after saying their nuptials, were the choice for “Canadian Newsmakers of the Year.” In the opening statement, Time set the tone as only a liberal can: “Like a great Shakespearean comedy, the gay community’s battle for equality in Canada culminated in a wedding.”
It’s not the point about the wedding that nauseates. It is the elevation of homosexual activists to the status of a Shakespearean hero that hits the stomach. Granted, the “marriage” of the Michaels was a lead story. And granted, it signaled, as Time said, a “cultural revolution.” Granted also, it takes a news magazine the calibre of Time to arbitrate for Joe Average Canadian what is the apex of Canadian news. But then, the Michaels aren’t the first to lead a revolution – the Marquis de Sade did as well, and look what he gave the world.
But arbitration is somewhat of an insignificant point. After all, if the national news can’t determine what makes the year’s greatest story, who can? Besides, this year’s lead stories really pale in comparison. And Time’s analysis of the year’s lead stories is really poignant.
We had elections that “shook up politics in eight of 10 provinces.” Ottawa went through “a slow-motion regime change,” the first of its kind in the history of democracy. There was SARS, fires “ravaged the West,” mad cow disease, the biggest blackout to hit the northeast, and a hurricane that nearly levelled Halifax. Obviously, it makes clear sense that “the Michaels are Canadian Newsmakers of the Year.”
Once again, however, the Globe and Mail’s take takes the cake. Their recipients aren’t the Michaels, and the title of “Newsmakers of the Year” is too paltry, of course (partly because it doesn’t elevate gay “marriage” to celebrity status, but mostly because it doesn’t honour the Globe enough). But the issue is the same. Only in the Globe’s case, it has arrogated to itself the authority of crowning the recipient with the dignity of Canada’s “Nation Builders of the Year” award.
Martin was a contender, it seemed. But, says the Globe, as the “reading of this year’s finalists attests, that will require genuine nation-building accomplishments over the next 12 months, not just promise of accomplishment.” Instead, the crowning achievement of 2003, the tour de force, was the monumental ruling handed down by the Ontario Court of Appeal. In other words, it was a panel of judges who collectively contributed in building this nation in the most “genuine” and significant way.
“In our own discussions,” wrote the Globe, “several editors spoke about how the judges accentuated the most positive, generous part of the Canadian character, and in so doing, furthered the cause of Canada as an inclusive society. One editor said simply: ‘They put into practice the theory of the country.'”
Now they’re determining what constitutes a real Canadian character.
Rev. Tristan Emmanuel is a pastor at Living Hope Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Vineland, Ont. and author of Christophobia: The Real Reason Behind Hate Crime Legislation.