Monday, March 17, 2008


Pressing Rock Bottom. Media Sleaze and CanWest Global Communication. ASPER NATION reviewed by Robin Mathews

Maclean's Magazine prints other things than advertising and propaganda for the Right. We're told. But when it isn't being paid to advertise, it seems to do so for free, stretching truth sometimes until it snaps. And almost always on behalf of the Big Leader - the George Bush view of "Liberty" administered by For-Profit Anybody.

Fidel Castro, for instance, turned Cuba from being an illiterate, oppressed whorehouse and gambling den for the rich of the U.S. into a country with one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world and almost full literacy. He did it while holding off hundreds of assassination attempts by the U.S. and an ugly, inhumane, on-going trade-and-other embargo.

Maclean's gives the story to you straight. "The long life and brutal times of the world's last true Communist dictator" (March 3 08).

Maclean's doesn't say the U.S. is almost the whole reason there's a Fidel Castro story to tell. The magazine doesn't say Castro rose out of the U.S. dominated sewer called Cuba to give it some life and hope. The U.S., then as now, was psychotically determined to destroy that Nobody on an island of six million people with few natural resources. Castro dared to champion a non-capitalist, co-operative society. And so the U.S. raised him to the level of a major world figure as the demon of the century.

The idiot policies of the U.S. guaranteed Castro's heroism, his survival, and his centrality to twentieth century and, so far, twenty-first century politics. (If you're reporting facts and history, Maclean's seems to say, and it hurts our propaganda, don't report.)

Then there's the Maclean's love affair with the convicted felon who founded The National Post. If Jesus Christ had been discovered alive and at work in Canada over the last two years, Maclean's would have given more column inches to Conrad Black. Why? Read on.

Consider Black's most deliriously fawning disciple at Maclean's. As a friend of mine remarked: "whatever Mark touches, he leaves a steyn". In a brief respite from working on the apotheosis of Conrad Black, Steyn "gives himself" to a review of a book by Robert Harris, a former close ally of ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Harris has written a novel with some barely disguised actual people to show who Tony Blair really is, as Harris sees him.

Steyn writes a totally cock-eyed, reactionary take on the Harris novel. Is that what's bad? Or is it that Steyn is farther Right (as they say) than Attila the Hun?


What matters is Steyn's (to put it gently) looseness with truth and the facts. None - except major columnists for The National Post perhaps - will accept Steyn's outright fantasy offered as simple truth - that Tony Blair forced the Bush Bunch through six months of negotiations at the UN in 2002-03 while "Saddam snuck all his WMD off to Syria or wherever." (March 17 08 p. 63) What's more, Steyn treats the pre-war Iraq peace movement as a cancer, for it "metastasized" into a "seething mass of global discontent". The fact that the U.S. was seen more and more to be faking a reason to attack Iraq doesn't cross Steyn's mind - though it obviously crossed the minds of those who made up that "mestastisized" peace movement. To Steyn, Tony Blair did it all. Please.

The sane world now knows - despite all attempts to fake - that Saddam Hussein did not have Weapons of Mass Destruction. So Mark Steyn simply fabricates, creates a Saddam Hussein who did have them. By damn! Of course! Not exactly fronting for Rogue State lunatics, Tony Blair gave Saddam Hussein (that man of magical cunning) time to sneak out (under the noses of total U.S. surveillance) his arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and deliver them -- "to Syria" -- "or wherever".

An editor - in this case Mark Stevenson of Maclean's - who allows such crappola to pass as fact can't pretend to be running a serious magazine. Call it Macphantasy's. Call it Maclie's. Don't call it Maclean's.

Two points: first, if it's history and fact, and it hurts our propaganda, don't tell it. Secondly, fabricate anything you need to support the contemporary Attila the Hun world view. Don't consider the truth secondary. Don't consider it at all.

Maclean's is a bellwether, a canary in the Canadian coal mine. From a great Canadian national magazine it's become an intellectual serial rapist of many of the issues important to Canadians. And - as bellwether - it's only one among the major "journalistic" pack.

Just look at the book by Marc Edge about the founding and growth of one of the sleaziest media concentration monsters in Canadian history: CanWest Global Communications. The book by Marc Edge is called ASPER NATION, Canada's Most Dangerous Media Company (New Star Books, 2007).

The evidences of CanWest's scandalous near-monopoly position are visible across Canada. But they are most dreadful in B.C. where B.C.'s three major dailies, the dominant TV station, and a heavy list of community papers are Asper-owned. That might not matter if policy were something else than a rigid Attila the Hun'ism apparently enforced by tacit policy, self-censorship, and fear.

Only a few weeks ago CanWest fired the decades-long publisher of the Vancouver Courier, Peter Ballard, for, it is said, not being "corporate" enough, meaning, I take it, not sacrificing truth enough to CanWest policy. Never mind that several people told me they couldn't see any difference between the Courier and anything else CanWest. Its tiny shade of difference was considered so important that tiny protests were made in remaining tiny independent publications.

Nevertheless, I still remember a year or so ago one of the Courier's bold columnists writing about a major group wanting to save B.C. Hydro and B.C. ownership of B.C. rivers - that are being sold out secretly at breakneck speed by the Gordon Campbell Attilas. The columnist reported that no invited government person would attend the group's meeting - empty chairs kept visible to make the point.

Wait till next week, the columnist wrote. I've more to tell about the occasion and the issue. And so I waited. I looked. I hunted. No second column on the subject appeared that I could find. Why? Need you ask? That's the "good" CanWest paper, said to be worth protecting.

It gets worse.

BC Mary is the person who has kept the on-going internet site to cover everything about the corrupt sale of BC Rail by the Gordon Campbell government, the scandal involved, and the court action arising out of it - for years now. She was (commendably) worried about CanWest's apparent complicity with forces trying to kill the story - especially B.C.'s major CanWest paper, the Vancouver Sun.

So in August she wrote to ask why the Sun hadn't covered a court event in what is perhaps the most important court case in B.C. history - one that could well show the Gordon Campbell government is illegitimate and bring it crashing down.

Showing her innocence, BC Mary asked for "an intelligent summary of what's happening".

Managing editor of the Sun, Kirk LaPointe responded with a casual note: "Hi Mary. The truth is, nothing much has happened in the process, so we haven't been consuming resources during this heavy holiday season on non-news.

But we are at work on a piece that will move in the next two or three days, so bear with us."

Mary waited 12 days for the new piece and then wrote back. Out of his cage sprang Kirk LaPointe, furious that BC Mary had published his casual note, fuming about confidentiality, discourtesy, and on and on. "There is nothing further to discuss", he wrote. But not before he told her he would never help BC Mary again in the future. Help? Again? A joke?

Why the sudden anger? Because, I suspect, that deeply sunk in CanWest, Attila the Hun culture, Kirk LaPointe casually wrote - as I read his note - that a move in the most important trial in B.C. history is "non news". (How did he know, anyway, if his paper didn't cover the event?)

His note also confirms, it seems, the personnel slashing policies of CanWest. It's summer, and so B.C.'s largest newspaper has no one to cover the on-going BC Rail Scandal. And then -- and then -- LaPointe gently seems to mislead BC Mary, saying the Sun would have news in two or three days. To shut her up?

Anyhow, she didn't "shut". And so LaPointe - it would seem - used to CanWest methods, went ape, spilling ego and little else in all directions.

That would be funny, except as Marc Edge shows in ASPER NATION, the destruction of journalistic integrity in Canada has been a mission of Canada's "Attila the Hun Club" for some years.

Conrad Black - as what used to be called a Social Darwinist, meaning, in brief, someone who believes in the survival of the fittest - was early into the mission. Showing nature to be, one might say, Black in tooth and claw, he set about major media concentration, personnel slashing, and intense profit-seeking - and he frankly admitted his intention to serve the Right. All the while he crowed about improving Canada's journalistic standards. Some have actually been taken in by Black's persistent self-promotion.

But wait. Hasn't The National Post under Conrad Black, and then as a part of the Asper Corporation, had propaganda and service to The Attila the Hun Club as its primary roles? At the sacrifice of everything else, like even profit? In the ten years of its life the National Post has lost millions of dollars every year. Why keep it going then?

Why, to elect Stephen Harper. And aren't these its other goals? - to destroy Canadian Social Insurance. To destroy Medicare. To make Private Corporations Canada's government. To join the U.S. and fight its wars. To keep people like the people of B.C. in the dark about the BC Rail Scandal. In short, to keep in power people like Gordon Campbell of The Attila the Hun Club.

Marc Edge's book should be required reading by every grade ten class in Canada so that every literate Canadian learns how journalism in Canada has been dragged toward the sewer by Conrad Black and the Asper family's CanWest Global Communications.

If I were to begin quoting from Marc Edge's book, I might not be able to stop. But to shorten the matter, Izzy Asper's statement: "Let commerce rule -- not the law" about sums it up (p. 60). (And perhaps Conrad Black followed the idea a little too closely.)

As Sociologist Larry Patriquin wrote after studying The National Post (2004), in its coverage of taxation issues, the Post's material fits "the classic definition of propaganda". It was, he said, "a discourse in which incomplete information is presented to people with the purpose of distorting their view." (Edge, p. 97)

As if to show how bad it can get, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter - from the Land of the Bland where killing and slanting news is a Major National Pastime - commented in 2005 about CanWest's B.C.: "News coverage has been so slanted that Vancouver's daily papers should be read at a 45-degree angle. With its blatant biases and recent cuts in staffing, CanWest demonstrates the perils of having a daily paper monopoly". (p. 222)

Perhaps the ugliest story in Edge's book is the one about Izzy Asper with the staff of a New Zealand newspaper just purchased. Asper asked one staff member and then another and then another what they did, and each, apparently, was happy to say things like they were pleased that their task was "to make sure our audience gets the most carefully researched news and information possible."

That wasn't what they were supposed to say according to Asper. "Wrong," said Izzy, "You're all wrong and that's why you're bankrupt. You're in the business of selling soap." (p. 52) If Asper had added they were now also in the business of selling Right wing propaganda for The Attila the Hun Club, his statement would have been "all in".

Something else Marc Edge conveys to this reader is perhaps more troubling than all noted so far. Black and CanWest have harassed, fired, and fought with so many good Canadian journalists that a real question is left about the ones who remain. Even if they have talent and lots of integrity, they might as well not have. That seems to be the message of ASPER NATION, Canada's Most Dangerous Media Company.

Sleaze is the name of the game in present journalism in Canada. It would be wonderful if one could say, "except of course for the newspaper or news chain X". But one can't. Even the review of Edge's book in the Globe and Mail (Feb 9 08 D11) calls it "partisan if comprehensive", and "unabashed polemic".

The book, ASPER NATION, gave the Globe and Mail room to do a major piece, to editorialize, and to say loudly and clearly how it rejects the Black/CanWest mode of operation and how it wants a full scale rebuilding of media ownership in Canada to return responsibility to the Fourth Estate and what we call 'the electronic media'.

The Globe and Mail chose not to do that. And we know why.

Some readers have asked about Robin's career. Here's a little bit about his contributions to the Canadian scene, which comes from The Literary Encyclopedia:

Although a poet, playwright and academic, Robin Daniel Middleton Mathews is best known as a militant advocate of Canadian nationalism and resistance to American imperialism. Mathews was born in Smithers, British Columbia. He completed an Honours BA in English at the University of British Columbia with an undergraduate thesis on Matthew Arnold and an MA at Ohio State with a thesis on Henry James. After working for a year as a radio producer for the CBC, Mathews began a PhD at the University of Toronto where he was an unconvinced student of the mythopoeic theorist and critic Northrop Frye.

Mathews abandoned his doctoral studies after taking up a teaching position in the English Department of the University of Alberta in 1961. He published his first collection of poems, The Plink Savoir, in 1962 and his second, Plus Ça Change, in 1964. In 1963 Mathews and three of his colleagues attended the inaugural Council Meeting of the newly-elected mayor of Edmonton, who had been unseated five years earlier over a breach-of-trust indictment. When he confronted the Mayor, Mathews and his colleagues were arrested and jailed, then later tried and acquitted. Mathews and his colleagues subsequently pursued a protracted, unsuccessful civil suit against the Mayor, the City and the Chief of Police. This series of events proved a defining moment in Mathews' life and career.

In 1965 Mathews published his first collection of 'political' poems, This Time, This Place. When two philosophy professors, whom Mathews had championed, were denied tenure, Mathews resigned his position at the University of Alberta and took his family (his wife Esther and their three children) to England. He taught at the University of Leeds before moving to Paris where he lectured at the Institut Britannique. Mathews's first play, a comedy entitled A Breakfast of Diamonds, was mounted by the Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre for the all-Canadian Dominion Drama Festival in 1967. Mathews and his family returned to Canada, carrying a collection of posters from the May 1968 General Strike (the collection is now housed at Simon Fraser University). Mathews joined the English Department of Carleton University in Ottawa in 1968 and one year later, with James A. Steele, published The Struggle for Canadian Universities which presented the compelling and provocative argument that Canadian universities discriminated against hiring Canadian professors.


Thank you Robin.

Thank you Mary.

This needs to get wide readership in this province and this country - it should be linked in every progressive publication available.

I don't know if the worm has turned yet, but it now has a manifesto.

Well done!
Noted in passing:

Cynical press plays down improprieties of its friends

Letter to the Editor
Vancouver Sun: Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Re: Moral outrage is muted when our officials behave badly, March 13

I sympathize with Gordon Wilson's anger at the loss of moral outrage with the antics of today's officials compared to the time he was so mercilessly pursued by the fourth estate in British Columbia.

However, I would take exception to his attributing this lack of moral outrage to the "masses." Rather, it can be ascribed to how much a cynical, biased press tries to play down the impropriety of its political friends and how much hysteria this same press wants to whip up against its enemies -- or the enemies of its masters.


Do you see the main theme here? Everything comes back to the press and this is wrong. The press is to report the facts. Not the facts as they see it. Not to whip up a media frenzie when it suits their political masters or their myopic owners. Report the facts to the people without hidden meanings. Tell it like it is.

Anyone who beleives half of what they read in the Mainstream Media is a fool.
Thanks to DPL for spotting this strange media item online:

Ottawa lays charges against CN Rail for oil spill
The Province: Tuesday, March 18, 2008

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Ottawa has laid three charges against Canadian National Railway Co stemming from an investigation into an oil spill into a lake near Edmonton, Alberta in 2005, the government said on Tuesday.

Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada said they have charged CN, Canada's biggest railway, with one count of allegedly depositing a substance harmful to migratory birds into Wabamun Lake, and two counts for the alleged disruption or destruction of a fish habitat.

The charges stem from an investigation into the derailment of a CN train at the popular fishing and boating destination west of Edmonton on August 3, 2005 and the release of hundreds of thousands of liters of fuel oil into the water.

[Following is only a caption under an old photo of a CN engine, a strange way of reporting on back-to-work legislation in House of Commons, don't you think? - BC Mary.]

Managers drive rail cars at the CN MacMillan Yard in Toronto, in this February 10, 2007 file photo. The House of Commons voted on Tuesday to shorten debate surrounding the government's legislation to force striking employees of Canadian National Railway back to work. REUTERS/J.P. Moczulski
View Larger Image

A first court appearance has been set for Wednesday in Edmonton's provincial court.

"Fidel Castro, for instance, turned Cuba from being an illiterate, oppressed whorehouse..."

Dubious word choice, since these days Cuba is famous for sex tourism.
Anonymous 1:10,

Really? I thought the Philippines held that dubious honour.

The pre-Castro era of Fulgencia Baptista was very bad ... I think that's the point Robin is making.


Hi Mary,

Mr. Willcocks has a story on his blog site (paying attention) that’s saying that the Campbell government is trying to block any one from the gov. side from testifying in the frank Paul inquiry.
It's really difficult, isn't it? ... to figure out why a government would spend so much time trying to stall the workings of the court system.

Thanks for the reminder, which allowed me to go over to Paul Willcock's place and leave a message of thanks there. The more journalists who shine their investigative spotlights on these things, the better.

Bill Tieleman has a fine head of steam up this evening, too. Well worth dropping in at his blog.

Speaking of Cuba as a sex spot. Have you noticed the story and eventual removal of the governor of New York. Seems the difference is the US model charges more.

It's been tough in Cuba with the US embargo but the locals do have a great health care system now, and the illiteracy rate as Bill mentioned is something both the US and Canada would like to have. Lots of tourism with Canada being a big percentage, and of course a number of US government folks wandering around.
The following comment was noted on The Tyee web-site. F.y.i. -- it needs to be sourced; but if proven true, it's an alarming situation. - BC Mary.

Did you know Ipsos Reid was owned by CanWest? From the eco-density story at Tyee:

ipsos reid poll

brian gough
3 hours ago
I found out something shocking today --canwest global owns -thevancouver sun -province-global news -chek news-chorus radio -cknw -national post

- and believe it or not --they own ipsos reid polling!

ipsos conducted a poll - on next bc election - the poll is totally flawed -- check the columns to the right on income levels - the 40k a year are voting big for the ndp the higher incomes 80k plus are voting big for bc libs ---the only problem is the sample size! 160 respondents -fall into the 40k column -- 190 respondents fall into the 80k plus- well if you switch the amount of respondents around -- instead of the ndp at 34% --and the bc libs at 46%-- its almost reversed --- and I assure you my freinds there is more 40k a year people in bc then there is 80k plus a year people!

but even worse -keith baldrey on local news -cknw news -the province the sun - every news agency is flogging this skewed poll! calling the ndp dead!

I now know why mainstream media has been ignoring (run of river - fish farms - forest giveaways - ken dobell - bc rail!) we have a media mogul in canwest global on a propaganda campaign -and if media talks -they're FIRED ---- a la rafe mair

-- spread the word-- check the ipsos reid poll yourselves, google up can west global -and learn for your selves!


Repeat: this needs to be sourced. But if proven correct, this is 101% serious. - BC Mary.
More about Ipsos-Reid ...

... the Ipsos data is here:

We're working on the apparently cozy connection between CanWest and Ipsos-Reid.

Hope to have further information in a day of two.

The link shown above will give you a few eye-poppers, though.

BC Mary

And on the matter of CN Rail and its' use of the BC Rail line. In 2005 the CNR deposited over 40,000 litres of Sodium Hydroxide into the Cheakamus River north of Squamish wiping out an (under)estimated half million fish, their habitat, and any other living thing that got in its way for miles downstream.

Both the Federal and Provincial governments laid charges and this week in North Vancouver Provincial Court, in Judge Moss' courtroom Case #49026-1
has begun. Anyone in the area should attend if possible. It would be very interesting to see how this case plays out. Lets hope it's not anything like the BC Rail case that has been ongoing since 2003.

As a matter of interest, has anyone else seen anything about this case in the MSM?
You can read more about the Angus Reid connection on p. 11 of my first book, Pacific Press: The Unauthorized Story of Vancouver's Newspaper Monopoly.
Marc Edge ... Thank you!!

Very good of you to drop by with that information. We'll stop trying to re-invent the wheel now, and look for Pacific Press: The Unauthorized Story of Vancouver's Newspaper Monopoly.

And thanks very, very much for the hard work you've done on the general topic of a free press as the underpinning of a democratic society.

Just an hour ago, I had cut out a Toronto Star story: "A national disaster, made for TV" ... sub-titled "As we speak, Canada is quietly negotiating away rights to our water. The cloak-and-dagger dealings mirror the subject of a critically acclaimed CBC series [Intelligence] that was dropped late last year. Co-incidence?" Apparently not.

So it's getting worse ... and we're so indebted to you for opening so many doors for us.

I'm happy to help. And keep up the good work! My nose for news tells me there's something big in this Railgate thing.
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