Dean Allison latest to blame the messenger

“What we are seeing today is authoritarian, military style measures carried out against peaceful protesters on the orders of Justin Trudeau,” local MP Dean Allison tweeted near the end of the now-all-but-forgotten “Freedom Convoy” siege of Ottawa, on Feb. 18.

“What’s worse, it’s all being cheered on by the Ottawa and Toronto journalist class. Absolutely sickening.”

I care less to take Allison to task for his political views on a relatively soft-touch police operation— which, pathetically, required federal measures to execute— to end an illegal blockade painfully delayed by hallmark Canadian bureaucratic traits of white privilege, unpreparedness, and incompetence, but I took the “journalist class” shot personally.

I don’t know Allison beyond two conversations I’ve had with him, in which I found him to be jovial and intelligent. As such, my guess is that he’s smart enough to know that the ever-shrinking group of people who report current events for a living are not part of an elitist cabal that hold ulterior motives about vaccinations (Allison did not reply to a request for comment for this item).

MP Dean Allison. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Some in the “Ottawa and Toronto journalist class” Allison referred to spent the two-plus weeks of the occupation being spat at, shoved, and verbally assaulted whilst simply doing their jobs. Just as one example, while doing a live report on MSNBC, CTV’s Glen McGregor was called a “fucking sleazeball,” a “Nazi” and was told “the media is the virus.”

As somebody who has worked in and out of media for 20 years, I can confirm that many in the industry lean liberal on the political spectrum. Yet the idea that mainstream journalists are wild-eyed, far-left fascists is insane. But that’s what more and more right-wing politicians want people to believe, as more and more of these people silo themselves in their own information networks that eschew facts in favour of confirmation bias.

Consider how right off the bat in his U.S. presidency, Barack Obama was labeled a socialist by most Republicans. Never mind that actual socialists despised Obama, the label fed what many wanted to believe. This was around the same time that failed vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin coined the sick-burn term “lamestream media.”

Mainstream media members make easy targets because of this idiotic belief out there that they’re part of the ruling class. Maybe it’s because some of them are on TV with good hair—good hair used to be an unspoken prerequisite back in the day. [Editor’s note: Can confirm.] Yes, some journalists live very well and are certifiable egomaniacs. I know some of them and even consider a few of them friends. However, the vast majority are underpaid, overworked, and within the shrinking concentration of media companies in this country living under constant threat of layoff.

The other issue is that too many people don’t know the difference between an opinion column (like what you are reading right now) and news reporting.

Among other things, news reporting requires sometimes talking to, and getting quotes from, public officials. I can’t believe I have to explain it this way, but if you disagree with medical professionals like Drs. Theresa Tam or Anthony Fauci, don’t blame the messenger. That’s like calling Canada Post a communist stooge because past-due notices are dropped in your mailbox.

That’s like calling Canada Post a communist stooge because past-due notices are dropped in your mailbox

Yet that’s what the likes of Allison are essentially encouraging amid a world that is increasingly at war with knowledge and facts.

The most recent extreme example of this is Vladimir Putin’s decree that any Russian journalist that uses the word “invasion” to describe his war on Ukraine could face a 15-year prison sentence (for the record I watched 20 minutes of Putin’s propaganda channel RT last week, 20 minutes I’ll never get back, where they referred to the invasion as merely a “special operation”). Meanwhile in Hong Kong, the Chinese government has been thwarting or outright shuttering pro-democracy media outlets for three years now.

Obviously, these are worst-case examples half a world away. Yet you may understand why this newspaper was concerned when a local councillor recently tried to move a motion that could have seen press access to Town Hall banned. Anti-democratic ambushes can happen close to home, too.

Is the media perfect? Of course not. In my experience elsewhere, too many outlets rely on Twitter to shape their news lineups and talking points rather than doing old-fashioned reporting. Yet much of that is due to aforementioned understaffing and budget cuts. It’s not likely to change much, either, as people continue to silo informationally and the market keeps fragmenting. Hell, if you think that disinformation and “fake news” is bad now, wait until deepfake video technology is truly refined.

That much may be unstoppable, but what we don’t need are politicians —whom the journalists that remain must hold to account for there to be any semblance of functioning democracy —attacking them or using code that gives tacit permission to others to do so.