Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jan. 17: Mea culpa - and I apologize to David Gauvin....

Several days ago, I was angered by a news story in the NewsToday section that violated a basic principle of journalism. A news story exists only to tell us what happened, not to tell us what to think about it. But NewsToday carried a major story about the Paris shootings which opened with a highly emotive sentence designed to create hatred rather than to tell us what happened.

I wrote to the ombudsman about this, and received an excellent response. She agreed with my point, and investigated how this happened, and reminded staff that this is wrong.

Then she noted my comment that the responsible person was probably David Gauvin since he is listed as editor of the section. On this point, the editor assured me I was wrong, and that he was not involved. She also suggested, very gently, that it would be nice if I were to apologize to him. And she's right, of course.

David Gauvin, I do apologize for mentioning your name. That was sloppy jounalism on my part, and I do regret it.

In general, I was impressed by the ombudsman's handling of this. My experience of such offices is that they are usually used to cover up for the paper. But in this case there was a real investigation, action seems to have been taken; and it looks as though the ombudsman is well worth taking seriously.

For Jan. 16, section A is the usual zero. Perhaps its low point is a photo on A6. It's only point is - and I'm not kidding - that downtown Moncton turns on the lights after dark. Wow! Eat that, New York.

However, the editorial page is another good one. Even the editorial is decent - if a little shallow. Alec Bruce and Norbert Cunningham are both thoughtful, reasonable, and convincing. Norbert is perhaps a little too kind to the Christian churches - though the kindness doesn't interfere with his main point. Our Christian churches have a long history of being cheerleaders for aggression and conquest. Indeed, Christianity has often blended - to this day -  with racism to become a major factor in justifying the conquests and killings of empire-building. The whole justification for the British Empire was based on the racial superiority of the English-speaking peoples and their churches. The same was true of  American expansion after 1775, and still today. God has destined America to rule the world

That's why missionaries, however good their intentions, are commonly hated among conquered people. They realize the missionaries are being used to destroy their societies.

I have nothing personally against missionaires. It was a former missionary who Christened me. He was much loved in our church. Those were hard years, and this was a district that was poor even in good  years. And, as my father once told me, people often got home from church to find a few dollars that had been tucked into their pockets as they shook hands with the minister after the service.

The minister and I didn't talk much at the christening, but we met many years later when he was in his 90s. He was the kindest, gentlest man I ever met. His name as Gamal Craik, a Welshman who worked in the coal mines from the age of six. He learned to read from the older miners who used to read The Bible aloud during their breaks, way down under the surface. In that way, he taught himself to pass the entrance exams for divinity school, and then to spend most of his life in Africa.

He most certainly was not an evil man. But such men were hated over much of the world because the colonized soon realized that these were the advance agents of societies that would destroy and impoverish them. And that's built into Christianity with its obsession on making conversions. I think the rest of the world would feel better if the Christians who have had so much impact on the societies would just behave like Christians.

On op ed, I wish Justin Ryan would say more, much more about the work he does in multiculturalism. I presume that's why he was hired. But so far, it's pretty light stuff.
NewsToday is a dead loss. We are on the edge of war in Ukraine, possibly on the edge of nuclear war. And we have military forces there. So far, we have not been told about how the Ukraine military has probably destroyed peace talks with its shelling of Russian   civilians in east Ukraine. We've been told almost nothing about that strange, Ukraine government that the US supports and which includes prominent Naziis and billionaire foreigners. We haven't been told about the widespread starvation or about the crash of the Ukraine economy - with western bankers scurrying to get whatever payments they can before there is nothing left to take.  There seems to be runaway corruption on both sides in this crisis we have created. And there might be a nuclear war in it. But that's not important enough for the Irving press. It's big story is on the closure of Target stores.  
For Jan. 17, there is at least some news in Section A. There's a lengthy treatment of the official resport of the Bourque killings of police in Moncton - and of steps that have been taken to improve security.

There's a more disturbing report that Rotary Club is setting out on a five-year programme to end homelessness in Moncton.  There's something wrong with a society that leaves it up to volunteers to ensure that its members have homes. And there's something disgusting about a city that can raise a hundred million and more for a  hockey rink, but which leaves its homeless to starve in the cold.

The low point is on p. !7 "Price is Right stage show coming to Moncton". Yessirree we can all get tickets and even be called to "come on up" for the most distasteful display of greed and consumerism on earth. It will be at the Moncton Wesleyan Centre. (Why am I not surprised?)
On the editorial page, both Norbert and Bill Belliveau talk about our provincial budget problems, and the need to cut taxes. There have been lots of columns on this. Yessirree - raise taxes, cut education, cut health...but never a mention of the role played in this by the growing wage gap, and the happy days tax rates for the rich, or the great cost of doing favours for the the rich - like giving away our forests and building a super-expensive hockey rink - not to mention wide-ranging powers we give away to big business in free trade agreements.

I have taught in public schools where average class size was 25 to 35 - as Norbert suggests. It doesn't work. Worse - New Brunswick is in the literacy toilet in comparison with almost any other part of the developed world. And some people want to cut education?  Duh, we really need a hockey rink.

As always, Norbert trots out his "experts", Donald Savoie and Richard Saillant who are, we are told, "non-partisan". Well, I don't really trust "non-partisan experts" who have never said a word to offend those who hold the real power in this province. Nor do I trust phony think-tanks that spring up with fancy names and associate themselves with otherwise respectable universities.

What is going on around the world is that the very rich have created a financial crisis - not for themselves, of course, but for everybody who isn't rich. This isn't the first time. It's been a long-term pattern for this world. They create a crisis. Then we have to pay for it in loss of services and higher taxes. They destroy jobs. Then they tell the unemployed they're lazy.

The inevitable and clearly foolish promise is that by making the rich very, very rich, we give them the money to create jobs and employment. In fact, I don't know a single instance in world history in which that has been true. We made the rich super-rich in the 1930s; but it was a war that ended the depression, not the spending of the rich. The rich have killed millions of people and taken trillions of dollars out of the Congo. But the people of the Congo have yet, after almost a hundred and fifty years, to get anything but poverty, misery and death out of it. The rich became rich out of Guatemala, Haiti, Central America in general. But the people are still worse off than ever.

When you make the rich richer, there is no spin-off. But  Norbert's "non-partisan experts" won't ever say that.

Brent Mazerolle talks about Target, has nothing to say, but says it anyway. And even Gwynne Dyer, who raises an interesting point about our growing life span, doesn't take it anywhere.
There is nothing in NewsToday unless you really, really care that Montreal has a shortage of Charlie hebdo copies.

Okay. I don't know who is responsible for the abysmal choice of news in NewsToday. But I most certainly will not apologize to whoever that clown might be.
The Faith page is back to being a disaster. And the churches seem to do nothing but eat.

On C13, Isabelle Agnew writes with a palpable excitement about what she has learned in university. She credits St. Thomas University for that and, as I read her letter, I was impressed that St. Thomas had done this. It's not common. I attended four universities over a ten-year period - with exposure to, I guess, over fifty professors. Of all those fifty or more, only one generated any intellectual excitement in me. For the rest, I have long since forgotten what they taught, or even who they were. Good for STU!

As usual, all the student columns are worth a read.

F6 and 7 have the usual Home of the Week with two pages of photos of a house that is huge and expensive but of no great architectural interest, and of no interior merit whatever. Why does the Irving press do this? Not one reader in a thousand could ever afford such a place. And there is nothing to be learned from it.

Certainly, the only way I could get on is by meeting a desperate widow who is wealthy, and so blind and deaf she could imagine me as attractive.



  1. AS to your comment on Christian missionaries, I would recommend that you read the book, "Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire" The authors, Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker offer a new lens on the history of Christianity, from its first centuries to the present day, asking how its early vision of beauty evolved into a vision of torture, and what changes in society and theology marked that evolution.

    It explained much to me.

  2. Thank you. Israel is now cursed with a new breed of missionaries. American fundamentalists have been captivated by the prophecy that the end of the world will be signalled by the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. So that have flooded Israel with missionaries to knock on doors, and ask people if they've heard the good news.

    They're very excited by the end of the world.