Dangerous thoughts

We seemed to have reached a critical juncture in this country.  No this is not a reference to the pandemic, nor the staggering debt that is being incurred as a result of the favoured government approach to the virus, nor the damage done, to those in the low income groups in terms of future employment. 

This is not about the fact that the two most powerful political leaders in this country Mr. Morneau and Mr. Trudeau are ethically bereft; unable to understand life outside the gilded cages they inherited. Even though it is getting a little compelling that this is their second trip across that ethical and moral divide. 

 This is a reference to something more opaque and potentially more lethal to this country.  

This is a reference to the fact that we have become a nation of people where freedom of thought is now being challenged, tossed to the side, squandered away in the interest of correctness, in the interest of a far left liberal agenda.

We have become a country whose influencers are trumpeting a cause in which they clearly believe; but to be sustained they believe that there is no room for dissent or discussion. Follow and agree, or be expunged. Any contrarian voice will be drowned out by their myopic shouts— emphatic in their belief that they and only they, have seen the light. Only they can understand right from wrong. Only they possess the right to determine what and who goes forward. 

This is not a conspiratorial theory.  Valid conspiracies require orchestrated goals and some form of structure.  Rather, what we are allowed to hear or read is being controlled through some twisted form of protest osmosis, driven by a manic adherence to correctness, and a hysterical group of government leaders playing to an audience of progressives. And, it is being done with a level of arrogance not often seen in this country. 

The frenetic dialogue demanding acceptance of the progressive theories is often bizarre and unhinged from a factual foundation. The riots, the violence and the destruction which flows behind the placards is accompanied by an underlying discourse which in itself is intolerant of alternate views. 

We have developed a bad habit in this country of wanting to mimic the United States. True to form this call to action and form of censorship has been seeded and watered in the U.S. The issues of the United States are being portrayed as one and the same in Canada.  The history of racism, slavery and segregation to the south of us, is according to the fanatical few in this country, is one and the same as the plight of blacks or the indigenous in this country. This is patently untrue, but if repeated incessantly then it must be legitimate.  

There is a long list of censorship stories being told in the United States and in Canada. 

In the U.S. Steven Pinker, a best-selling author and Harvard professor who has often appeared on PBS and Joe Rogan where he deals with what one would call the more “difficult” subjects has been one of the recent victims.  His last book is entitled “Enlightenment Now: the Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress”. Bill Gates has called it his favourite book of all time. If Mr. Pinker has a theme to his writings, it is one of reason and science. 

This same Mr. Pinker has now been accused of racial insensitivity. In fact five hundred and fifty academics signed a letter seeking to remove him from the list of “distinguished fellows” of the Linguistic Society of America. Their charge is that Professor Pinker “minimizes racial injustices and drowns out the voices of those who suffer sexist and racist indignities.“ 

Professor Pinker’s real offence may be the fact that he has denounced what he sees as the close mindedness of the heavily liberal American universities and he has written about innate differences between the sexes and the different ethnic and racial groups. He is not playing along to their truth, therefore, he is now a high level target for those demanding his censorship. 

In contrast, in Canada, one of the “go to” experts on the CBC for Indigenous issues is Ryerson University Chair in Indigenous Governance Pamela Palmater. A person farther from Mr. Pinker in demeanour and speech could not be found. She, has seemingly unrestricted ability to spout her theories of colonialism, or to accuse police of “murder” in any cases involving the Indigenous. She took the occasion of Canada’s 150th birthday to describe it as a “celebration of indigenous genocide”.   

Ms Palmater, a lawyer, we need to remember is also a professor.  Yet, she is allowed to foist her beliefs and innuendo without regard to any objectivity and is never forced to point to the evidence. She is a fermenter of radicalism disguised as an academic. Apparently being indigenous allows her the freedom to launch disdain and invective on the police or others who may or may not agree with her concepts.

There are too many examples of this blinkered political narrative to list here, however this drive to censoring by the progressives is not going totally without notice. 

This month, 153 intellectuals and writers, signed a letter to Harper’s magazine on July 7, 2020 that criticized the current intellectual climate as “constricted” and “intolerant”. The signatories included Mr. Pinker, but also people such as J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood and Noam Chomsky. It criticized the present state of “illiberalism”. 

They called Trump “a real threat to democracy”, which no one should debate, but also hinted that the “cancel culture” on the left was as much as a threat.  The signatories included academics from Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia University.  

Michael Ignatieff was also a signatory, the former head of the Liberal Party of Canada. It is hard not to notice this paradox. 

Of course there was pushback to this letter too, and reflexively the left accused the signatories of representing “large platforms” at the expense of “marginalized groups”.  They said these writers who penned the letters were elitist and hypocritical. The “letter” has now become a rallying point for the left and they are now openly targeting those that dared signed. 

Michelle Goldberg an opinion columnist for the NY Times describes the climate of the newspaper as being “punitive heretic-hunting”. She describes illiberalism having set in, and now being enforced, in some cases, through workplace discipline, “including firings”. She believes that the “involvement of human resources departments in compelling adherence with rapidly changing new norms of speech and debate” is “frightening.” 

At this same newspaper, an Op-Ed piece was penned by right wing Senator Tom Cotton calling for a military response to civic unrest in American cities during the protests. It was an opinion, voiced in the opinion column.

This prompted more than a 1000 staff members of the NY Times to sign a petition demanding that the editorial page editor resign for allowing this opinion. He was forced to quit a few days later. The power brokers at NY Times, the paper that advertises itself as printing all the news that is fit to print, said that the opinion piece should not have been allowed as it “fell short of our standards”. Apparently free speech is not one of the “standards” of the newspaper. 

In a similar but lesser vein a B.C. RCMP officer , Dustin Dahlman was “suspended” and then resigned following a single person’s complaint that alleged that he re-posted “racially insensitive, rage-fuelled and anti-government” material on Facebook. 

He had posted about “too soft” police responses but the big offence was a re-posting a video where a man says: “If Black Lives mattered so much to you Blacks, then you wouldn’t be burning down our country like a bunch of offing heathens”. 

Let’s be clear that Dahlman didn’t say it, he re-posted it, thus implying being in agreement.  

My guess there is many in this country and especially in the United States who are not happy with the burning and looting which has followed many of the protests. Is  Mr. Dahlman’s comment  an inappropriate comment from a police officer? Yes. Should someone be fired for saying what hundreds of thousands of others are saying?  Admittedly, it is hard to defend in this case what seems illogical or even stupid, but if you believe in free speech then defend it you must.

There was a recent ridiculous story which came out of the San Francisco Police Department last week where the Chief has decided to not issue “mug shots” because according to the black Chief of Police William Scott, “This policy emerges from compelling research suggesting that he widespread publication of police booking photos in the news and on social media creates an illusory correlation for viewers that fosters racial bias and vastly overstates the propensity of Black and brown men engage in criminal behaviour”.

There is no mention where the “compelling research “ can be found, nor does he explain how it “overstates” the involvement in crime behaviour. 

In Vancouver the current City counsel has proposed that the Vancouver City Police eliminate street checks. The underlying fact that has stimulated this move is the apparent statement and belief of the progressives that there is racial targeting in these “street checks”. Again, they offer the total number of checks and the theory of “over representation”, but nothing further is explored in terms of a possible explanation.  It is a ridiculous policy based on specious research.

The CBC always ready to jump with both feet in the progressive cause, recently unveiled an in-house “investigation” that said that police shootings are up and that indigenous and persons of colour are disproportionately targeted. It is being broadcast as fact, irrefutable. A mild mention is given to the vast majority of the “over represented” victims having underlying mental health issues and substance abuse problems, but no mention of geographic locations or the high-crime areas in which they occur. 

In their story they make a great deal of the fact that in Winnipeg that Indigenous people represent 2/3rds of the victims but only 10% of the population. There is no mention that the most serious violent gang groups in Winnipeg are the Indigenous gangs.  

 Of the 461 police fatal encounters they “investigated” in the years 2000-2017 (which amounts to an an average of 27 a year across the Nation), only 18 resulted in charges against the police; nudge nudge wink wink . Despite the innuendo and heavy hanging “facts” hey do not present any evidence of a cover up. 

Some may suggest that this is just part of the intellectual pendulum in this country?  Maybe. But history suggest that it could go on for decades. 

There were times when the right tried to harness the ideas of the left, but one needs to go back to the 1960’s. The Woodstock generation was the harbinger of the exploration of liberal and leftist ideas. The protests against the “man” in those times fomented the seeds for the violence of the Black Panthers; the comedy of Lenny Bruce who went after the institutions like the Catholic Church; and the leftist separatist movement in Quebec which led to the formation of the FLQ in this country. The history tells us that attempts to ban and curtail the thoughts and ideas of the left by the right failed dismally.  

 The grand children of that leftist 1960’s viewpoint have now taken up the “new”cause.  The Panthers have morphed into the radical fringe of Black Lives Matter.  But likely, they will also find that censoring or banning the thoughts of the middle and the right, as part of their agenda, will also end in failure. 

Banning a second viewpoint, ostracizing those that hesitate to join their righteous movement will only serve to fertilize the neo-right. That is a separate and real danger which is now brewing in many parts of Europe and South America.  

It seems that this generation of protest has learned nothing from history and the mistakes of those that try to suffocate reasoned thought.

Instead of tearing down statues— study them, learn  what they represent. Change is possible, but it resonates only when it is founded on reason and respect. 

Photo Courtesy of Chris McBrien via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmcbrien/4188306468

Fires burning…

One wondered what would break the journalistic overkill on the Covid virus story. What could possibly interfere with that  endless diatribe of  stories?  The litany of accounts, after a few months were admittedly beginning to weaken slightly, as the practitioners of journalism began to pen items on how to wear a mask, the lack of yeast in the grocery stores, or the various coping skills of young and old when constrained in your individual hovels. The illogical and outright stupid began to blend with fragments of intelligent commentary but in the end it all became a stew of righteous and contradictory dialogues. The science on the virus was not clear then and it is not clear now. 

But fear sells and as such was the underlying theme running throughout the 24 hour news cycle—fear of dying— fear of others—fear of travel—fear of hugging—fear of having to wear masks which turned into fear of not wearing masks. 

The press finally tasting greater ratings after being in decline for the last number of years, fully gave over to the theory that the greater the pronouncement, the greater the fear generated, the more that people would be paying attention to those newscasts. They have always known that a multi-car crash always draws better than a two car fender bender, but this had the greatest potential—the ability to turn the daily infection numbers into a catastrophe of “never been seen before” dimensions.

Television news clearly told the banner producer on “Breaking news”, to just leave it running. Death was everywhere as if posing for the 5th Estate that pursued the glimmers of devestation .  The media became addicted. Pictures of bodies, pictures of people laying in the street, or pictures of gowned and masked fatigued hospital workers, sweat stains outlining their newly lined worried faces. 

In the early simpler days, the press always waited around for the picture or video of the body bagged victim, being rolled from the residence on a gurney. This virus was a new heaven to the throng of journalists who dutifully culled and edited videos from around the world, while sitting safely behind their laptops. Tents full of body bags or mass burial grounds were portrayed every night, over and over again, helping to keep the grim and ominous dark clouds hanging over the future. 

The media generated fear with single minded attention on a scale never seen before. The level of their deceit knew no bounds. Shallow unsubstantiated subjective reporting has now put the mainstream media in Canada in the category of grocery store tabloids. 

So as we entered the fourth month we braced for more covid stories while the death lottery numbers droned on. 

Then out of the blue, with head-snapping alacrity, that same intense media attention all swung south of the border. 

A new crisis was born and this new “crisis “contained all the elements of headline seeking editors and broadcasters; violence, crowds, tear gas, endless videos of police pushing the “innocent”, journalists being “targeted” with pepper bullets. A veritable smorgasbord of tweets, photos and videos were uploaded.  Unverified raw video, no background reporting, just a torrent of information from which to feed this new appetite for fear and consternation.  

Predictably, social media exploded, as did any pretence on the part of the Canadian media establishment of being “journalists”. Subjective, point of view, opinionated journalists have now replaced the old guard that had once prided themselves on being objective, who felt that they had a duty to report the news, not create the news. 

Damn the ethics and standards espoused for the last 100 years. Objective, fact checked and dual sourced reporting was now officially extinct. 

It has been replaced by the simple emphatic declaration stated and then presented as fact.  Black and white prognosis only, no longer room for the grey areas where most problems actually live. They have become accumulators of cellphone clips. Thirty seconds or stories of two hundred characters are now being encouraged, followed, repeated, and disseminated with alarming speed. The new short attention span generation, the selfie generation apparently needs to be satiated. 

Fear for your safety and those out of control police it has been decided now going to replace fear for your health. The death of a middle-aged black man has now been declared more dramatic than an eighty-four year old with “underlying” health’s issues. The fact that in Minneapolis that a man died at the hands of the police was the bonus, the fact that he was black was the ignitor to the combustible fuel of racism. The police were the obvious and easy targets.  

Thus, 21st century social outrage has once again been released. 

The Canadian media was not deterred in their presentations, even though it was hundreds of miles and a country away. They played the outrage at full volume and were then rewarded with Canadians now taking to the streets to protest racial inequality in the United States. Canada was pulled in by its proximity, and the internet pulled in the rest of the world. 

Videos began surfacing in Canada of various incidents throughout the country which the media now deemed as racist or intolerant. No details, no examination, just outright speculation and proclamations. 

The usual liberal fringe interest groups then began to emerge, excited by the prospect of a new fire to flame. The more vocal, outlandish, and hopefully photogenic, the more media attention they would receive. 

The Indigenous in Canada always willing to claim racism no matter the context, climb aboard the racist allegation train, a fresh spotlight pointed at them in which to air their complaints. There was no room or time for a counter narrative. Cameras immediately flashed to an Indigenous chief claiming assault at the hands of the police, which even in its subjective telling seemed dubious. A female is killed by police in Edmonston New Brunswick, which the media immediately imply is suspicious, hints of racism because she is “indigenous”.

Canadian media and much of the American media lives on the left of the political spectrum, so they spin victimization, and excoriate anyone with a counter view. They are thoroughly smitten by the  liberal democratic and “progressive” viewpoint. Everyone must comply with their viewpoint, to do otherwise is to pronounce you an “ist”…racist, chauvinist, misogynist— take your pick. 

Equally disturbing is that the new age politicians aren’t very far behind the media and what is “trending”.  They now always follow the herd. Where and when social media declares a story or video snippet to be of grave significance and it enjoys any kind of momentum, that is where you will now find the politicians. Politicos must be seen as on the leading edge, at the forefront of what is all good and righteous. As the Facebook or Instagram twirl begins to spin out of control a politician can not countenance disagreeing with the mob. Lead the mob, don’t be left behind or you court political insignificance or ostracization. 

So fully armed with a 30 second video clip as full and damning evidence they mount their pulpits; our Prime Minister and Opposition Leaders in full throat bemoaning the new “crisis”.  There is no time for debate or opposition. Trudeau is “deeply alarmed” over the incident involving the Indigenous Chief; Bill Blair comes out form behind the coat tails of Trudeau to chime in that “people across the country deserve answers” (on Twitter of course). The Indigenous Service Minister Marc Miller, on seeing only the initial report, despite any evidence “strongly condemned recent acts of violence by police against Indigenous people.” “I’m pissed, I’m outraged” said this Minister of the Crown using clearly his best Parliamentary language and putting his ignorance on full display.  

Is there anything wrong with this new age of media? Is there anything wrong with this semi-spontaneous “outrage”? The President of the United States is a great player of this game. Is there anything wrong with him standing in front of the White house with his bible, posing for his alt-right followers? Of course. Is there anything wrong with our Prime Minister, on the other side of the political spectrum, dressed in his current costume of long hair and a mask, kneeling amongst those protesting police brutality and systemic racism? Of course. These two individuals are very similar in their hypocrisy and deceit,  just opposite ends of the political stick. 

 It is this disturbing dumbing down of the facts that is the most concerning.  It is sapping intelligence and the need to think. It is crowd think. It is follow the herd and it is also fleeting. The need to react and deal with an issue and explore possible options to resolution is lost as quickly as it developed. The herd always moves on. 

Social media is spontaneous and therefore often leaderless. Its only mantra is that “everyone’s voice matters”, no matter how misinformed or irresolute that voice may be. Slogans and jingos are passing as possible policy. Apparently they want the disassembling of the Minneapolis police department, they just don’t know why or how to do it.

Make no mistake about it there is racism in all parts of the world, including our world. There is no denying of that fact. There are also bad cops, sometimes really bad cops. Why? Because they are human beings. There should be no tolerance for those that breach, but there must be a fair and just investigation as well. Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on the neck of George Floyd will face a trial. The other three officers, standing idly by were also charged. All the evidence will surface at the trial. 

But, George Floyd as a symbol of systemic racism?  A former convict with several convictions; high on fentanyl, and methamphetamine, and found with a baggie of powder at the time of the arrest. His most serious conviction involved him and others doing a home invasion, where he put a gun to the belly of a pregnant woman to force compliance. Is this who should be held up as the next Reverend King? 

A black conservative commentator Candace Owens recently brought up some interesting statistics. A police officer has an 18 1/2 times more chance of being killed by a black man in the United States, than a black man has of being killed by the police. She calls these protests and the black lives matter movement as “smoke and mirrors” in that the statistics simply don’t back up claims of systemic racism by the police. You may not agree with her, but you at least need to be allowed to hear her. The burning books mentality once confined to the right are now coming from the left.

We are truly in very unsettled times. Not because of covid, or riots, but because of the perilous road chosen by the media of this country and the dissolution of debate and learned thought. The media are fomenting fear and dissent in pursuit of remaining part of a social media fabric that now rules this 21st century. The politicians now govern and are being placed in power by implementing the tools of that same social media trade. 

Trump and Trudeau despite their political differences are now holding hands as they skip down this road to that dark spot where image has replaced substance. What it looks like much more important than what it is. 

And if you happen to be a police officer in these times, do not hope for any support from these same politicians, or your superiors, who are now poised to jump on this media driven bandwagon if given any opportunity. Their continued political and managerial existence depends on burning you at the stake.

In the last 48 hours police officers are being charged with new found efficiency,  Chief Saunders, the first black Toronto PD Chief, is running for the exit, and the National Police Federation and RCMP Commissioner Ms Lucki are in hiding. 

You are now officially on your own.