Friday, August 22, 2008

The Awakening

Finally. The commercial media and paid staff are just now starting to get the picture.

First, we have this from yesterday which took the Christian/Political right complaint against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and gutted it by calling it frivolous, unconvincing and a cheap shot.

No kidding. How long did it take the Globe and Mail to sort that out in their infallible editorial minds?

Then, via Birth Pangs, we get Colby Cosh at (of all places) the National Post loosing a fusillade on the Canada Family Action Coalition which accurately describes the nature of its complaint against Chief Justice McLachlin. Utter garbage and completely bizaare.
Her lack of personal culpability doesn't appear to matter to CFAC and its executive director Brian Rushfeldt, which rejected her defence indignantly. Her back is the one that happens to be in whipping range, and the CJC provides a convenient venue for formalized vexation. If social-conservative groups wonder why they sometimes have trouble getting what they consider a fair hearing from the general public, now would be a good time to ask themselves how fair they are themselves.

CFAC's letter of complaint is a bizarre document even if one overlooks the sheer improbability of having a Chief Justice cashiered over some supposed act of jiggery-pokery involving the Order of Canada. CFAC's Web site, whereupon the hyperlink to the letter is currently broken, has marshalled "42 organizations" in support of their missive; eccentrically, the "organizations" include several small businesses (Can Am Fabricating and Welding stands strong in favour of life!) and at least one private citizen.

Note: Cosh puts the term 42 organizations in quotation marks if, for no other reason than to point out that some of them are small businesses and individual private citizens. Better research would have yielded a few more facts about those businesses. There aren't several - there is actually only one.

Its arguments, rest assured, are no less weird. The Constitution of the Order states that a member may be terminated if his conduct marks "a significant departure from generally-recognized standards of public behaviour which is seen to undermine the credibility, integrity or relevance of the Order." According to CFAC, Morgentaler's years of challenging abortion law are obviously in violation of "the norms of society": Ergo, the Chief Justice of Canada must be fired. It's simple logic, people!

The letter also claims, on who knows what authority, that two members of the Advisory Council -- the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage -- opposed Morgentaler's appointment. Chief Justice McLachlin, it states, "overruled" their votes, which, one supposes, is an insane way of saying that they were outvoted in a ballot conducted by the Chief Justice. CFAC claims to be doubly outraged because a Privy Council boss and a deputy minister are "democratic voices" who "act according to the elected Government and the people of Canada." Indeed, what could be more democratically accountable than two unelected civil servants?

Again, finally, someone is getting the picture. Of the claims made by CFAC, none of them marry up properly with the constitution of the Order of Canada or the responsibility of the chair of the nominating committee. But we knew that some time ago and by Wednesday Chris Bird at Osgoode Hall Law School had clearly laid out how remarkably dishonest the CFAC complaint was/is.

I'm not accusing the National Post's Colby Cosh nor the editorial board of the Globe and Mail of anything nefarious here. In fact, most of us appreciate the national exposure of the true nature of CFAC's "complaint". But let's be right up front with it: by the time the G&M and NaPo editorials hit the street both of those papers had given voice to the CFAC, McVety and others, without scrutinizing their words and a serious amount of damage had already been done. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was forced to defend herself publicly against ludicrous charges which neither news organization (and others) combatted with simple fact-checking, an accurate description of the groups making the complaint nor the dishonest nature of the complaint itself.

In fact, it was the lack of completeness in the G&M and NaPo coverage which spurred bloggers into extracting a more complete picture of what was really going on. That's not a bad thing but it highlights the point that by the time the G&M editorial and Cosh's opinion piece were written all of the information appearing in those pieces had already been assembled and published and was available to anyone at a desk via a simple Google search. And it had been done by unpaid electronic-age pamphleteers producing information in their spare time.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think that puts the for-profit paid media on a very secure footing. Give voice to a small collection of religious whack-jobs engaged in a smear campaign and then, after a loosely organized group of citizen desk-top publishers expose the truth, write almost exactly the same thing.

Nice, but there's something missing.

Most bloggers have no desire to become a primary source of news and breaking information. In fact, most of us want to do nothing more than comment on the stories the for-profit media produces. By way of credit we link to the published work and quote what has been written. It's time the for-profit media did the same in return.

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