Friday, July 07, 2017

A Pivotal Moment

Michael Harris has written a must read column on the importance of journalism -- real journalism.  That kind of journalism is a group project:

It takes an invisible team coming together that the public never sees. It takes a reporter, or a team of reporters. It takes astute researchers. It takes relentless, meticulous editors. It takes lawyers poring over every word for legal pitfalls. And it takes publishers and editors-in-chief willing first to pay for it all, and then to risk the farm to publish it. Why? Because they believe in the motive, method and merit of what their teams produce in the public interest.

And, these days, that kind of journalism  is squarely in the sites of the powerful:

A recent poll by Survey Monkey found that 89 per cent of Republicans believe Donald Trump’s version of “the truth” over the reporting done by The New York Times and The Washington Post, which they see as “fake”.

These dipstick Republicans without a clue of how the real world of media works — they’re the fraudsters. These are not people who simply believe Trump is truthful, or that The New York Times publishes all the lies that are fit to print. These are people who no longer know what truth is — or worse, don’t care to know.

Stricken with democracy fatigue — or just so dumbed-down that watching Jeopardy is a major challenge — they have given up the struggle to know. They think it is “unpatriotic” to ask questions of their mendacious president — as Trump’s Liar Barbie, Kellyanne Conway, recently argued.

They don’t care if presidential briefings are shut down or conducted in the dark. They don’t care if the cameras are shut down or the microphones turned off. They’re ready to confer the halo of truthfulness on any bigoted hogwash that confirms their own smug and hateful biases. At best, it’s lazy nihilism. At worst, it’s embryonic fascism.

The same folks are behind the sound and fury over the Omar Khadr settlement:

There’s a rage-on in full swing on several social media platforms against the Canadian government giving any compensation to former child soldier Omar Khadr, let alone $10 million. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation already has collected 52,000 names on a petition to force the Trudeau government to withdraw its offer.

Only someone who has never read the Supreme Court of Canada decision on Khadr’s treatment by Canadian authorities could sign such a petition. Only someone who has never read Romeo Dallaire’s book about child soldiers — They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children — could post the kind of horrible vitriol being written about Khadr. It is so much worse than a mere failure of the imagination.

Democracy will not survive if the powerful manage to sabotage Harris' kind of journalism. We are at a pivotal moment.

Image: Slide Player


Lorne said...

I read a very interesting piece yesterday in the Globe, Owen, that suggests America is quickly sliding into fascism under Trump, and it requires the willingness of unthinking people supporting the indefensible:

"To varying degrees, these followers are learning to live with the White House occupant’s expressions of contempt for a free press, cruel stigmatizations from officially designated presidential “tweets,” and permissive winks to violence by the head of state."

A free and uncowed press is essential to any society that calls itself free.

Owen Gray said...

So Professor Orwin thinks Trump is too smart to be a fascist, Lorne? The problem is that a significant number of people are too dumb to see what he is. Thanks for the link.

Toby said...

I won't give any credibility to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation until it loudly protests subsidies and tax breaks to the oil and gas industries.

Owen Gray said...

Precisely, Toby. You can reliably predict which side of the debate the Taxpayers Federation will take.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

Having Trump as president Owen, is a daily reminder of the anti-intellectualism that permeates American culture. Trump is a visible symbol of this.

His excruciating mindless rhetoric whether vocally or written on twitter is frightening to behold.

Harris's kind of journalism is so important that if it is destroyed by the powerful we'll know for sure that we are living under a tyrannical state.

You're right, we are at a pivotal moment.

Owen Gray said...

Good journalists keep governments honest, Pam. That's why they threaten people like Trump.

Anonymous said...

Notice who his buddies, and those he never speaks out against, are- Erdogan, Duterte, Vlad.
I like that the writer called it- "lazy nihilism...embryonic fascism...". I think he is correct.

Anonymous said...

I should have first noted that I completely agree with his words on Omar Kahdr.

John B. said...

Only since you've mentioned it, Owen. On the Omar thing: how did we get from a CIDA swindle and a family that might have lived in this country on an uninterrupted basis for all of one or two years since the birth of their star-son to this sorry state of affairs? The kid is surely entitled to his entitlements; I'm told that's the law. Let's not argue about it. We're responsible for not trying to get him out, whether or not our gut tells us we shouldn't have been, and for violating his Charter rights in helping our friends keep him there until they could convict him. And if he's asking for an award, he's going to get something one way or another. That was a done deal once we sent in the stumblebums. But we'd better find the time at some point in our history as a post-national sucker nation to give our collective head one mother-of-all-shakes. Like why did Omar's dad pick Canada? Everybody's just lucky, I guess.

I really don't have much time for a lot of Justin's nonsense, but I don't think he it's right that he should be taking the political hit that's coming because of the stupidity of a couple of generations of his predecessors and their trusted flunkies - the whole damned lot of them. That includes the ones that enabled Omar's father right down to the ones that didn't care whether the kid rotted in jail both before and after his day in the Kangaroo Court or that their security professionals were trashing him in order to suck up to their American colleagues. Justin should have let the courts handle all of it all the way and, when it ended up costing the taxpayers twice or three times as much, he could have celebrated the best year-of-I-told-you-so since Al Gore smirked and rolled his eyes at Ross Perot's charts. And we wouldn't have to be taking that extra unscheduled slimy and sickening dose of Andrew Sheer now.

At the same time, I hope there wasn't some kind of a deal on the secrecy and timings to help shield the settlement cash from the American claims. Even better to have left it to the courts. After all, who wants something like this to be any more politicized than it has to be? Any takers?

Rural said...

On the same day that Khadr recived 10M for the years of abuse he suffered at the hands of the US whilst in their custody a hockey player received 1000M (over just 3 years) for chasing a hard rubber object around once in a while. Puts it in perspective for me.

the salamander said...

.. as usual, a phenomenal & timely missive, crafted & fired by national treasure - Michael Harris. I believe Colby Cosh measured up to such high standards this past week with his thoughful journalism re Omar Kadhr.. and Aaron Wherry's tweets caught my attention.

I think it critical in our ever evolving 'media' world, that folks (coherent Canadian folks) accept that facts, news.. current events, rumour, propaganda.. & stuff that has trickled down.. right down to abject partisan political fund raising.. is a huge and swirling matrix.. and we're all - well almost all - enmeshed in it.

Michael Harris did not come right out and say it.. but the clues are there. Modern media is not just about the investigative aspects - its also about the distribution aspects. How did I come upon the Harris article? Why via a link within a blog I follow. I might have seen a headline + link via National Newswatch this morning, but they tend not to present his work much lately - giving more space to Lorne Gunter's tripe or the usual suspects CNN - CBC etc etc. Via Twitter of course, a power & speed reader like myself can 'browse' an astonishing number of tweets that may inform or link or spew.. and via comments, whether part of a blog, or as responses to tweets, I can sample or wonder or be astonished.

In short.. I no longer 'read the paper' .. I am a transient media orca with distant but powerful loyalties to the resident media orca of my tribe. I also listen to podcasts. This American Life spun off a wondrous series 'Series' that is now in season 2 & that got me hooked. I may get into audio books via podcast. My fiancee, who I live with is an astonishing consumer. There is 'talk radio' on in this household 24-7 - after work the tv is on PBS & she is likely listening to multiple games via radio of the Pirates, Tigers or Jays.. football & hockey are welcomed to overlap of course.. all this while she conducts mysterious messaging with her political & factual internut cabals.. plus deals with any required after hours email + text decisions re her day job - managing a music legend.

We don't agree on The Kadhr Affair.. but she is less informed than I regarding all the military & imprisonment aspects, so I tone it down.. avoid clashing with her via twitter. She unfriended me on Facebook but she has facebook spies everywhere.. I know she knows the blogs I read or may comment on.. because she was reading them first. Michael Harris perturbs her. She is softening on The Mound of Sound.. and now believes Alexandra Morton re farmed salmon. She also feels I have Harper Derangement Syndrome.. but prefers I don't mention Trump.. she worries about my views on fracking and dilbit & First Nations. She has no children I have a tall cool son. Are we a typical Canadian family? Hardly. Maybe. But she does not read the paper either. She is curious, compassionate, athletic, concerned, active, intelligent to an extreme & can smell partisan political bullshit while its still inside the bullshitter.

My bet is she could help Michael Harris design the new media 'teams' that will reflect reality to Canadians.. and that's what he is screaming for... that's the challenge he is leading by old school example. We're big fans of Kevin Donovan too, at the Star. Kady in Ottawa via Twitter, but its those secret cabals & indy bloggers and dynamic tweeters that are wowing us too. Plus the biologists & scientists who present truth about environment, species to us.. on those same new channels.

Owen Gray said...

Fascism can only succeed if citizens get lazy, lovingit. And, as is true in so many areas of life, it's easy to get lazy.

Owen Gray said...

If we really want to be informed these days, salamander, we can't rely on the sources we used to regard as the gatekeepers -- which means we have to be energetic and curious enough to seek out new sources, and then make judgements about how much good sense is behind each.

Incidentally, being able to smell partisan political bullshit while it's still inside the bullshitter is a special talent. You're a lucky man.

Owen Gray said...

In his announcement yesterday, Ralph Goodale signaled that he expected the American widow would have her day in court, John. So I doubt the court proceedings are over.

But you raise a good point. We accept people from all religions and from all over the world. But there is nothing wrong with carefully vetting applicants, be they refugees or anyone else.

Owen Gray said...

A good point, Rural. And fans will pay big bucks to see him play.

the salamander said...

.. her dad was a vet in southwestern Ontario, Owen..
As the eldest, she rode shotgun on so many of his calls
That's a lot of barns.. & a lot of sense of bullshit..

Owen Gray said...

Anyone who has spent anytime around barns knows the real thing, salamander.