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Lefty media bias? Hardly

By Dave Patterson  Posted by siamdave (about the submitter)     Permalink
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Editor @thejournal.canwest.com,

Regarding the column by Lorne Gunter, CBC news coverage a bit of a charade - "... two glaring examples of why it cannot be trusted to report the news fairly, of how it uses the $1.1 billion extracted from taxpayers each year to fund its operations to promote its own narrow, left-of-centre agenda..." we need to confront what is meant by left vs. right in today’s neoliberal culture.
It's somewhat odd that I would defend CBC, as I have been criticizing it for many years now - but my criticisms have all been that CBC has been moving rather too far to the RIGHT of the political spectrum, rather than the 'left', as Mr Gunter seems to believe, so perhaps a short examination of this apparent disparity would be in order.

As always with any contentious issue it is well to establish the playing field, so perhaps we ought to just start with the basic terminology, briefly. I think we could all agree on the following (if not you will have to tell me which particulars I have wrong, please).
A 'right wing conservative', in 'modern' Canada at any rate, is one who places the needs and desires of Big Business, Investors, Bankers and Capitalism at the top of the public policy list, promoting 'free' markets through such things as ‘free trade’, smaller government, lower taxes, deregulation, minimal social programs, 'wars' on such things as 'terror' and drugs and lazy welfare bums, the Big Stick approach to Law and Order, following the Americans around the world invading whoever for whatever reason (bringing democracy!! and Free Markets!! to socialists and Bad People and other losers, I guess is the reason), and etc and etc. Leftie-Progressives, on the other hand (Canadian version), look for a more middle-of-the-road approach, trying to be fair to as many people as possible - business and markets are both good, but both (along with various other things important to the public well being) must be sufficiently regulated to protect the public. For example, free trade is a good idea, but there need to be regulations to protect people (in both developing and developed countries) from ruthless exploitation by 'money is first and all' capitalist businessmen and investors who are wealthy enough to influence political decisions. ‘Fair trade’ is what most progressives talk about; social programs such as health care are good and necessary, and should be properly funded even if corporations and bankers and investors and the wealthy people in general in our society have to contribute a bit more taxes than they really feel they ought to; trying to solve problems by passing harsher laws, or declaring 'war' on them and hiring more police and throwing a lot of people in jail, is not the most effective 'first line' solution to problems such as drug use; invading other countries as we have done in Afghanistan is a bad idea, and etc. There are other terms, of course.  The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but the general sort of division should be clear to most people. Nobody is going to accuse Conrad Black of being a 'socialist progressive lefty', and nobody is going to accuse David Suzuki of being a running dog capitalist neocon. I hope, anyway.

So when Mr Gunter and others accuse the CBC of a 'left-wing' bias, we should just consider which of the above general approaches it generally supports through its coverage of things, and the slant it affords that coverage at times. It is quite obvious to any sort of honest and impartial assessment that there is much more support for right wing policies such as supporting ‘free trade’, the Afghanistan invasion, the 'war on drugs', deregulation, lower taxes, reduced social programs (darn shame, they say, of course, but if we can't afford them, we'll have to adapt bla-de-blabla), and pretty much everything else, than anything promoting 'lefty' values such as fair trade or regulating banks properly or taxing them to pay for infrastructure maintenance etc and etc.
Indeed, as I note regularly in my own non-mainstream publication, there is a very strong case to be made that the CBC is very much involved with some pretty serious propaganda SUPPORTING this overall neo-con, right wing agenda.

So what then are Mr Gunter and other media commentators who regularly write columns like this actually talking about? Are they just totally out of touch with reality, or is there perhaps some method to such apparent disconnect from reality? Why would any major media outlet allow such people to air such nonsense in their pages - after all, when we see a columnist obviously disconnected from the reality around us, then that does not say much about the quality of the media outlet either (well, actually, of course it does say quite a lot - but not complimentary).

Well, there are a couple of things, I think, going on here.

First, Canadians understand that the media is supposed to give them the information they need to know what is happening in their world, in terms of the information they need to make informed democratic decisions about their country's direction and so on.  They also are becoming more and more aware that there has been a taking over of many western democratic governments the last 20-30 years by right-wing oriented governments which favor corporate and investor interests.  If Canadians start to wonder why their media is generally promoting a far right wing agenda, but most of the Canadian people are actually center left types, as most polls show by the sorts of policies Canadians generally favor (health care over reducing corporate taxes, etc), they're going to start trusting the media even less than they do now, which might make the un-democraticness of the country even more apparent than it is. 
This barrage of accusations of a 'lefty' media is probably designed, in part at least, to help prevent Canadians from understanding how far right most of the media really is, and thus examining their promotional efforts in favor of corporatism and moving more and more to the right with even more scepticism than they do now. Just more capitalist con-job stuff, sucking in the marks.

Secondly, Mr Gunter and the others are not 'normal' conservatives like we used to know in days of yore (names like Diefenbaker, Stanfield, Joe Clark, William Davis, Dalton Camp, and etc, come to mind - good people all, who cared about People before making more money for the already wealthy), but they are actually a more recent breed of faaaaar-farfarfar right 'conservatives', who came out of the closet, as it were, as a movement in the wider world fronted by people like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan some 30 years ago, and shortly thereafter by Mulroney in Canada.
These people are not really 'conservatives' as we have known such people in earlier times, who were fundamentally decent people, but a newer breed of elitists who might more properly be called corpo-fascists based on their desired policies of instituting corporate governments primarily of, by and for the corporate-banker-investors, supportive of Big Business and treating the people more like serfs and slaves tugging the forelock in general and doing as Their Betters Require than citizens who rightfully own their democratic country. They dress themselves up in 'normal slightly-right-of-center normal nice-guy conservative' clothes to try to marshal some support, as they know that only a very, very small part of the Canadian population is anywhere near their desired far-right world, which is really something of a throwback to the days of noblemen and serfs and all knew their places, and if they were up front about what they are really promoting, they would have essentially no chance of having their policies implemented by any honestly elected Canadian government in this half of this century at least.
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But then, in this farfarfar right worldview, what normal people consider 'right of center' is still, of course, well left of the far-far-far right paleo-cons as some people think of them, so they get a scary 'don't you dare contradict me!' look on their face that disinvites debate, and feel justified in using such terminology, even though on any balanced scale the CBC of the last 10-20 years has been moving further and further right of 'the real' center, as are all Canadian media these days, even the Toronto Star.
Yes, the CBC and Toronto Star have a couple of columnists who could be still considered legitimate 'lefty-progressives' - but a couple of columnists do not an editorial stance make, and there is no mainstream media in Canada which could legitimately be called 'lefty' these days, based on the opening definition of right-left I outlined at the first and considering the heavily corporate-agenda-favoring slant and spin of 90+% of their coverage. Just look at the CBC promotion of the Afghanistan invasion, and how they love ‘free trade’ these days, their acceptance and promotion of ever-lowering taxes regardless of the damage to the country, and etc.

It's a notable feature of far-righters like Mr Gunter that they have no tolerance whatsoever for sharing what they have apparently come to think of as 'their' media with any type of opposing voices - even though even a cursory examination of columnists in the major Canadian media indicates something like a 90% or higher prevalence of right-wing voices, this is not enough for the paleo-cons, and they scream in outrage anytime any single voice dares contradict their dominant monologue presentation of the way they want the world to be.
It's understandable in a way, as poll after poll shows that Canadians in general do not support this farfarfar-rightwing agenda, but tend to be much closer overall to the hated lefty-librul agenda of fair trade, good medicare, corporations NOT running the country's policies, not becoming an American puppet, and etc, and giving space to voices they can rally around to prolong the descent to feudalism is not something the impatient neocons want to allow - knowing, as well, I suspect, that their time is not unlimited to implement a government so strong that it cannot be taken from them, as Canadians are becoming more aware each year of the neocon agenda, and most do not like what they are seeing, hence the secrecy surrounding such things as the NAU and SPP, which will be hard to undo if Harper gets his majority next year and signs them into law - although Dion is as likely as Harper to go along, witness Chretien and NAFTA.

Reading Mr Gunter's column – or any of the neocon articles - shows that they have a somewhat loose grip on reality.  This is not that surprising, really, as extremists of any sort usually aren't too well connected to reality - how could they be extremists if they were?

For example, in this piece Mr Gunter accuses the CBC of 'lefty bias' for holding back a recent documentary film criticizing China just a wee bit - which is a bit discombobulating at first, as the lefties themselves were accusing the CBC of a RIGHT-wing bias a few weeks ago for holding back the film to remove something that might annoy the Chinese government.  If we examine apparent reasons, you can only consider the latter POV to be somewhat more probable (the CBC denies any bias at all, of course).  Who is anxious to hold the Olympics in China, the lefties or righties? It's a business thing all the way, as certain people expect to make a lot of money from the Olympics, and don't want to endanger that windfall by pissing off the Chinese gov.  Who is concerned with making huge amounts of money, lefties or righties? Right. haha. Of course.  But facts never got in the way of a neocon who could handle a keyboard, or a rightwing media pushing some agenda.

Or he was right offended that some low level CBC reporter talked to some committee member at the recent and ongoing Mulroney-Schreiber hearings and suggested some questions he might ask Mulroney. This baffles me, as in principle at least, reporters and MPs talk all the time, and if a reporter has some info to share with an MP about a question that might be asked at an investigation, isn't that a good idea? If the reporter had information and held it back, wouldn't Mr Gunter be screaming about obstruction of justice or something? I don't know, but that sort of thing is a normal rightwing complaint, the lefties obstructing law-n-order. Or - well, I suppose it depends to some extent on who is being questioned - if one of Mr Gunter's fellow righties suggested some questions during the so-called Adscam 'liberal' scandal, would they all have their knickers in such a twist? Hmmm.
Here, of course, we know, of course, that Mulroney was the traitor who lied Canada into ‘free trade’, and turned the national debt into a golden goose for investors and an axe for Canadian social programs, and was the front-guy for the neocons as they moved into the open in their takeover of Canada, and was and is despised by most Canadians as much as he is loved by the neocons, so I suppose we can just put this complaint down to covering for one of his heroes. Not very professional - but then nothing about the current right-wing media in Canada is very professional - professionals have ethics, and with the propaganda and boosterism that is so prominent in the current Canadian media, CBC included, the word 'professional' would not find its way into any honest discussion of the lot of them.
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As for the complaint about the CBC examining 'Christian' influence in the US gov recently, I can't seem to find anything on the CBC site to see what he is talking about, but the question he complains of seems unbiased enough, nothing at all like a 'have you stopped beating your wife' question. One suspects Mr Gunter of dissembling again, as noted above - most people aren't concerned about 'Christian' values in government, as these values are usually pretty widespread and benign (who actually objects to 'love thy neighbor' or 'do unto others'? - I suppose such things would get some right wingers incensed) - but a lot of people are concerned about 'Christian fundamentalists' taking over the US government ("Bring on Armageddon!!! Kill all the heathens!!!! My god is tougher than your god!!!! No birth control!! Sex is dirty!!! Kill the Gays!!" - and etc -.  They really are loonies, very, very dangerous loonies). 

Normal Christians and Christian fundamentalists are two very different bunches of people, as Mr Gunter also no doubt well understands.  If you ask 100 Canadians if they think Christian fundamentalists should be running the US government, you're not going to get a positive response out of single digits I expect. So if the CBC show was actually about fundies getting too influential in the US gov, which they surely are, then it would be for good reason you would tend to phrase any questions a little differently if you're of the fundie position but want to pretend you're actually a nice guy, until you get elected anyway. And you sure as hell don't want any media exposing some of their crazy views and their growing influence to a public already leery of extremists.

I expect Mr Gunter would have some less than kind words about the Muslim fundamentalists who are running Iran and some other countries these days - and if you want to replace 'Muslim fundamentalists' with 'Christian fundamentalists', you can figure why so few of the sane majority want any of them running any government, anywhere, anytime.
Oh, well, enough for this one, as nobody is going to print it or respond to it in the MSM anyway - but I wanted to get those explanations down, as I haven't seen them anywhere else and anytime there is a chance I might be able to open a new eye or make a new synaptic connection in the body politic I just sort of feel I have to do my duty. FYI Journal editors - this letter is available on the net, at On Green Island - the gatekeeping function of the MSM has been pretty seriously compromised by the internet, as you can no longer pretend you don't get letters like this, exposing what you are really doing.

A final note: If there are any aspiring journalist students reading this looking for something to do a report on, it would be VERY useful to get lists of the major columnists in the mainstream Canadian media, and see exactly what proportion of those who write on political things in any way could be called 'right' wing vs 'left' wing.  Leave out the sports columnists, gossip columnists, etc, mostly - they're all part of the Box scam, in that they distract people from more important ways of spending time, but they can't be called 'overtly' rightwing in the same sense your average business columnist, for instance, blatantly promoting capitalism over labour, for instance, can).  

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