18 Jun 2016

Old Canadian media promote
Washington’s agenda word for word

An analysis of Canadian mainstream media’s reporting of U.S. President Obama’s visit to Vietnam recently was so biased that stories may as well have been written by the White House.

Just about all traditional media provided Washington’s pre-packaged message to the Canadian public:

The good guy Obama was in Hanoi to lift the U.S. arms embargo on Vietnam so it could defend itself against the aggressive Chinese, and do what the U.S. could to help the country modernize.  In return, the U.S., one of the worst violators of rights in the world, expects communist Vietnam to improve its human rights record.


Obama’s visit to Vietnam wasn’t an important story for Canadians but, nevertheless, it is a good example of how American interests dominate coverage that appears in our mainstream media.

The Toronto Star apparently was the only major Canadian news outlet to carry a substantial story clearly outlining China’s concerns over the implications of U.S. expanded relations with Vietnam.

The Winnipeg Free Press ran a story that briefly mentioned China’s concerns.

Major news companies covered only one point of view


However, the following news organizations reported the story the way Washington would like to have it: At CTV News Channel and CBC News Network hosts read just about the same story ad nauseam for hours.  The stories likely came from The Associated Press, which is strongly biased in favour of the United States.

In addition, CTV News Channel carried an interview with Donald Baker of the UBC Asia Studies Centre in which Baker presented only U.S. objectives.

A Global News reporter in Toronto voiced over a full report that laid out the U.S. point of view. From what I could see, CTV National News did a 30-second voice over, while CBC’s The National apparently didn’t cover the story.

The Globe and Mail reported the basic pro-U.S. story only on its website

The Ottawa Citizen and The Calgary Herald posted a clip of Obama’s speech on their websites, while The Edmonton Journal did not appear to cover the story.

As frequently happens at old media, three papers covered the lighter side of Obama’s visit. The Vancouver Sun, The Montreal Gazette, the and the Halifax Chronicle-Herald reported on Obama’s pre-arranged $6 lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.

13 Jun 2016

Now I know why my friends don't
want to hear about climate change

About three years ago I decided to devote a lot of time to writing about the threat of climate change. I felt then – and feel now – that the planet is going to be in one hell of a worse mess in a few years unless we take action on a scale never seen before concerning any other threat in history.

After I had published two or three items on various news sites, I was surprised – actually shocked – to learn that, compared to other topics I have written about – such as international financial mismanagement and the evils of neo-liberalism – very few people read the climate change articles.

To try to find out why this is the case, I spoke with a few friends. Most said the thought of dramatic changes occurring on earth were too overwhelming to deal with. Worse still, they felt they couldn’t have any influence on what will happen.

As it turned out, hardly any of my friends wanted to learn more about the threat or find out how they might help fight climate change.

People reacting emotionally to climate change


I don’t know the psychological state of my friends, but an Australian psychologist believes she knows why millions of people are reacting emotionally to climate change.

This climate activist traveled to Paris to demonstrate during the UN climate change conference in December. Masses of people must show the same resolve if we are to hold climate change at bay.

Dr. Susie Burke of the Australian Psychological Society says that, as life on earth becomes more abnormal over time, it can bring on all kinds of feelings in people. Knowing this, I’d say some of my friends are in what is perhaps an early anxiety stage concerning the threat of climate change. As conditions worsen, their symptoms can be expected to worsen.

“Many people may feel seriously concerned, frightened, angry, pessimistic, distressed, or guilty in response to climate change,” she says. “Qualitative research finds evidence of some people being deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to their inability to feel they are making a difference in stopping climate change.

“New terms such as ‘eco-anxiety’ or ‘climate change anxiety’ are sometimes used to describe this.”

Dr. Burke says that if people experience something like an extreme weather disaster, the impact on them can get worse.

1 Jun 2016

Protest against Kissinger/Peres like the ‘70s; maybe it’s time for some new tactics

One afternoon last week I took part in a protest against former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres being allowed into Canada. Both spoke at a Simon Wiesenthal Centre fundraiser deep inside the bowels of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The protest was staged by the group Actions4Palestine, but, as someone who was a regular at protests 40 and 50 years ago, I was disappointed by the small size of the protest crowd, and that our group made no attempt to explain their cause to passers by.

The protest was definitely justified. Kissinger, who turned 93 last week, is one of the worst living war criminals. In 1973, he masterminded a U.S. scheme to help a brutal military dictator overthrow Chile’s democratically elected government, and supported brutal regimes in a number of other countries.

Shimon Peres supported several Israeli actions against Palestine, include serving in the Haganah, a Zionist Militia that massacred Palestinians during 1948-1952.   He was involved in the massacre of Jenin and gave the green light for Israel’s violent incursion against besieged Gaza in 2008.

The Canadian Jewish News reported that almost 2,500 people attended the fundraiser, which raised more than $3.75 million for the Centre.

While some 130 folks said on Facebook they would come out for the protest, fewer than 70 showed up.

A bullhorn was used to blast out slogans that were repeated by placard-carrying protesters as they walked back and forth on the street and later stood on the street in front of the Metro Centre.

The demonstration reminded me of any one of a number of protests I took part in during the 60s and 70s, except perhaps more people would have shown up in those days.

Our group had no intention of trying to disrupt the meeting by getting into the building, perhaps by a back entrance. Many of them were long-time protest warriors who have experienced police violence.

30 May 2016

50 years of great Investigative Journalism,
from 'This Hour' to Amy Goodman

Over the years I've been fortunate enough to hear some of North America's top investigative journalists speak.

One recent evening it was Amy Goodman, the amazing do-it-all journalist with Democracy Now, the independent U.S. radio and TV program. She gave an uplifting (for any journalist or would-be journalist) talk – ironically from the bowels of the CBC, where a lot of great journalism has been dying in recent years.

(Note: The hour-long Democracy Now radio program is available on some university or community-oriented stations in Canada. I highly recommend it. )

The evening was sponsored by the Canadian Journalism Foundation, which was created to boost corporate journalism in the country. Asking the questions was Globe and Mail Editor-in-Chief David Walmsley.

When it was announced Goodman was coming to Toronto, I was surprised and disappointed that her journalistic integrity might rub off on the Globe and Mail, which, among other things, fired all of its progressive columnists over a period of time.

From Left: Amy Goodman | Michael Maclear | Walter Stewart 
Goodman, a tiny, engaging woman, has certainly been one of America's top journalists over the past 20 years. She emphasized the importance of journalists giving voice to the voiceless – going to the places where (in terms of media) there is silence.

Goodman described how she and fellow investigative journalist Allan Nairn came close to being shot at point blank range while trying to stop the military from massacring dozens of people in East Timor in the early 1990s. Goodman and Nairn were spared, possibly because they made it clear they were Americans and the weapons used by the soldiers were made in the U.S.

In those days, I knew Allan Nairn as a sometimes nervous and distant voice over the telephone. I was a producer with the CBC Radio Sunday Morning program, and we took in Allan's dramatic stories over the phone about the atrocities in East Timor, as well as his stories from other hot spots.

I never got to meet Allan Nairn, but over the years I learned a lot by listening to speeches by some of North America's top journalists.

11 May 2016

The tale of two communities in crisis: Fort McMurray and Attawapiskat

Crisis situations are shaking two Canadian communities to their very core – the terrifying wildfires that destroyed Fort McMurray, and the epidemic of attempted youth suicides on the Attawapiskat First Nations reserve.

The question arises: Why are billions of dollars being pumped in to deal with one crisis while the other is all but being ignored.

By the time Fort McMurray is rebuilt, it’s likely that governments will have spent $2-billion or more.   Donations from Canadians will reach into the millions. And a representative of one of the big insurance companies estimated they will be required to pay as much as $9-billion to restore homes and businesses.  

Justin Trudeau receives a gift of sweetgrass and a canoe
from  National Chief Perry Bellegarde after addressing
 the Assembly of First Nations. 
I have no quarrel with anything that is being done to help the people and community of Fort McMurray.  The destruction and emotional distress suffered by residents is taking a heavy toll. Like thousands of other folks, I have made a financial contribution.

What I do object to is that, in comparison, the federal and Ontario governments are doing practically nothing and spending a pittance to alleviate the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat, a poverty-stricken, isolated community of 2,000 located 720 km north of Sudbury.

The youth crisis reached epidemic proportions just days before the fire outbreak in Fort McMurray. Eleven Attawapiskat young people attempted suicide during the same night. Local hospital staff, unable to deal with the situation, became frantic.

Following an urgent appeal for help, the federal and Ontario government sent a handful of medical specialists to comfort the young people.

28 Apr 2016

Justin Trudeau: Will he be remembered as the man who saved Canada or the Prince of Selfies?

By not telling Canadians the truth about the governments' almost certain inability to control future carbon emissions, Justin Trudeau is guilty of downplaying the greatest issue ever to face the country and the world - an issue that will have dire consequences for our children and grandchildren.

So far Trudeau has avoided the seriousness of the issue by talking in generalities. Starting with the UN Climate Summit in Paris and again in New York last week, the Prince of Selfies assured Canadians that the Liberal government will wrestle those troublesome carbon emissions to the ground.

In New York, there were the all-too frequent pretentious statements: "Today, with my signature, I give you our word that Canada's efforts will not cease."

And just to prove that he is a self-styled world leader in this area, Trudeau added: "Climate change will test our intelligence, our compassion and our will. But we are equal to that challenge. I encourage other signatories to move swiftly to follow through on their commitments."

Smiling generalized speeches are good for the ego and opinion polls, but Trudeau should be using his powerful position to motivate Canadians to take part in a massive national campaign to tackle global warming.

But while critics say much of Canada's non-renewables must be left in the ground if we hope to meet our emission targets, Trudeau refuses to take a firm stand either way. Questioned by reporters at the Liberal Party retreat in Alberta last week, Trudeau said he would not comment on a "hypothetical" new route for Gateway but stated "the Great Bear rainforest is no place for a ... crude pipeline."

Meanwhile, Canadians continue to pollute the atmosphere at a record pace.

2 Feb 2016

MEDIA IN CRISIS - 1:
Why feds should step in to
help democracy's watchdogs


"I think newspaper readership is strongest 
among people who are soon going to be dead."
-- John Miller 
former senior editor at The Toronto Star 

A flourishing, capable news media is the oxygen of democracy. In Canada, our traditional oxygen-providers, the mainstream corporate-owned newspapers, are dying. We need to come up with something better to serve our communities.

Since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen papers in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa bizarrely merged; a potentially disastrous strike in Halifax. The Guelph Mercury’s last print edition. The closure of The Toronto’ Star’s printing press, and gradual shaving back at every paper in the country.

Not all papers are losing money, but none is flourishing. And none still provides the scope or depth of balanced news essential to a citizenry that wants to be engaged.

How has this happened?


MEDIA IN CRISIS - 2:
Citizens, government need to plan now to have quality media in future

Canada’s mainstream media are in a state of incipient meltdown. They no longer deliver the volume or quality of news that Canadians need to be informed about important happenings in their communities, let alone to participate in a healthy democratic process.

The corporations that own traditional newspapers, seeing their revenues and readership dissolve, have opted to cut jobs and slash the content that used to provide their product’s value.

News on the Internet: Everyone will get in on the act! 

This is a serious problem for the way our democracy is supposed to work, and it is not going away.
It is time for governments—federal, provincial, and municipal—to step up and find a way to make sure that Canadian communities once again receive the news and information they need to function properly.

I explained in an earlier column why it would be the wrong choice for governments to support the same media that are failing under profit-driven corporate ownership.

Instead, the best solution to our growing news crisis is for governments to provide the financial support needed so that community-based Internet news sites will be sustainable.

Finding government money for public interest news shouldn’t be a problem. Governments already spend millions of dollars to support the diversity of Canadian magazines, privately owned TV stations, and, of course, the CBC.

We also all need to recognize that the transition to Internet-based delivery for disseminating news and information is only accelerating, will soon be virtually complete.

Instead of thinking about the way news dissemination is now, with newspapers hanging on, we need to envision what conditions will be like in, say 10 years, and begin working toward that time frame now.

How? Here’s what I’d like to see happen.

20 Jan 2016

Don't weep for censoring, right-wing
Postmedia newspapers

Another 90 dedicated journalists in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa lost their jobs Tuesday as cutthroat Publisher Paul Godfrey slashed away again in an effort to turn Postmedia into a profit-making business. 

In a bizarre move, two competing papers will continue to be separate entities, but there will be one set of editors and most journalists will be shared.

Paul Godfrey - CEO Postmedia Corp
In Vancouver, the Sun and The Province will come under one roof. In Edmonton, the Journal and the Sun will come together; in Calgary, the Calgary Herald and the Sun; and in Ottawa, The Ottawa Citizen and the Sun.

This latest maneuver, in effect, reduces the four cities to print media monopolies. Even as weak as the original Postmedia and Sun papers were, they still competed with each other. Now the same editors will assign reporters from both papers.

10 Jan 2016

Struggling to manage your life?
Our destructive system is likely to blame.

I was dismayed by the comments of two women on CBC Toronto’s Metro Morning recently. The program deserves credit for planning throughout the week to deal with issues of stress and the fact that most people don’t have enough hours in the day to deal with important, often crucial, matters.

The two women were picked at random on the streets of downtown Toronto. They told the CBC horrendous stories about how difficult their lives are – from being unable to meet the needs of their children, to too much stress at work, not enough money for childcare, and having no time to themselves.

But, if like the two women, you’re under too much pressure in your life and you don’t have any free time, keep in mind it’s happening to just about everyone, and it’s not your fault. It has to do with the way the economic system we live under us putting the squeeze on most of us.

How serious is the problem? A poll conducted for the Heart and Stroke Foundation revealed that half those interviewed were unhealthy because of their lifestyle:

  • 44% of respondents said they had no time for regular physical activity.
  • 41% said healthy meals take too long to prepare. 
  • More than half (51%) said fast food outlets don't have enough healthy choices. 
  • And almost a third (31%) said the time they would like to spend being active they instead spend commuting.