More Evolution of the CBC Required

January 2016 Op-ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News

I’m a CBC fan since forever. I started listening to Radio One programs when Peter Gzowski hosted Morningside and you could hear him chain-smoking in the studio. When I started watching CBC TV we had rabbit ears for tuning in black and white hockey games. At that point programming hours would finish then the screen would revert to a test pattern of the head of an Aboriginal Chief.
As my life has progressed and society has changed, so has the CBC—to some degree. I’m the first person to sing the praises of all the journalists and foreign correspondents, and in general I’m proud of its high-quality programming and documentaries. Our national broadcaster is critically acclaimed worldwide.
But.
The mothership, as it’s affectionately called, is showing its age. If I hear Peter Mansbridge or Wendy Mesley use the phrase “visible minority” on the nightly National news one more time when referring to non-white people I may have a stroke. Those two words reveal much about white privilege and blind spots. There has never been a homogenous majority in this country and when I hear visible minority I want to yell at the TV: As compared to what, the invisible majority?!
CBC discussion panels showcase this problem further. When Mansbridge or Mesley gather their pundits, you can bet they’re all white. Another news program that really needs an overhaul is Power and Politics. Day after day, month after month, predictable white pundits give their predictable opinions on the important matters of the day. In the weeks after the Paris terror attacks Power and Politics ran daily segments about terrorism and the Middle East which did little more than stoke fear. Why didn’t the program include any Muslim Canadian pundits in those discussions? Why were the experts in Middle Eastern culture all white? Watching that program makes me think the CBC has forgotten about balanced reporting, not to mention irony.
And if this diversity-avoidance is allowed to continue, how soon before the CBC loses its ability to become relevant to younger generations? If the CBC wants to keep the interest and attention of Canadian viewers—and by extension the political will to fund its continued existence—then it needs to look and sound like the real Canada.
Younger generations are more informed because they’ve grown up with that thing called the Internet. They know way more about the world than my generation ever did. They’re media savvy, privilege savvy, race savvy, everything savvy, and they’re not going to accept phrases like visible minority or panels of all-white sparkle ponies trotting out their all-white expertise. If the CBC isn’t evolving as fast as it should because it’s afraid of alienating its base of long-term Boomer generation supporters like me, they can breathe easy. We’re along for the ride until the very end. And we’re eager to see the end of embarrassing old media and its sanitized, whitewashed perspectives. Time to get with it, CBC, because it’s 2016.

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Online Comment Culture

This week the CBC took an unprecedented step to close its online comments section after a story about a First Nations issue generated an incredible amount of racist vitriol, the most vitriol, in fact, of any subject the nation’s broadcaster tackles. I wish I had taken a screen shot of the comments before they were taken down. They were appalling. When I weighed in with my comment that First Nations issues—the facts and their historical context—need to be included in grade school programs across the land, lest another generation of ignorant bullies gets their information from older ignorant bullies, my comment provoked a reply from an anonymous racist who spewed ALL CAPS INVECTIVE in my direction. It was pleasant.

hippies were right

When a nation hides/ignores/avoids its ugly history it leaves gaps in the collective identity, gaps too often spiked with venom or what James Baldwin called “the vindictiveness of the guilty”. Canada has built a cherished myth around the successful, tolerant, multi-cultural mosaic and while the myth is true to some degree, it’s hardly the full story. As I’ve written previously, there’s an elephant in the room and if this country is to fully mature, it will have to accept and humble itself before the truth of the near-genocide of First Nations people.

But back to the CBC shutting down its online comments section. Hatred is to commentary what coughing is to flu season—it doesn’t take long before everybody is sick with it, and sick of it.

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War for Dummies

Easy instructions for readers of all ages! Recommended by experts in the weapons trade! Non-fiction by I. R. Soul!

KEEP THOSE FIGHTER JETS IN THE AIR

Bombing campaigns are important. Withdrawing your fighter jets from the Middle East, as Canada plans to do with its six CF-18s, is a big, big mistake. There’s absolutely no truth to the rumour that the best way to lose control of your country’s fiscal autonomy is to buy in; contracts signed with the Military Industrial Complex come with reasonable payment terms. You can trust us, we’ve been honouring our commitment to upgrade our product lines for nearly 100 years.

BE SURE YOUR MEDIA IS ON SIDE

There’s no point in confusing the little people, keep the stories simple! They have been well trained in loss and revenge so be sure to hammer home any losses on our side. Ignore casualties on the other side, it’s best to pretend there aren’t any. Encourage simplistic thinking, the only two protagonists allowed are Us and Them. There’s a fringe movement of lunatics suggesting the equation ought to be We = Us + Them but that is dangerously naïve.

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Canadian Lemonade

July Op-Ed for Bridge River Lillooet News

Recently, I emailed a criticism to a CBC radio show. While conducting an interview the host learned that slaves had been sold to buy molasses for the making of rum. Instead of the host commenting, she ignored it and kept the interview flowing along in the nice, polite manner for which she’s well known. I was shocked.

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Guantanamo

**In honour of the release of Omar Khadr, a 15-year-old translator-turned-soldier who was held for over a decade in the gulag otherwise known as Gitmo, and in honour of the documentary about his experience being aired on CBC Thursday, May 28, 2015**

Guantanamo

in the spring
when the air was sprayed red
at the Hotel Misty on the shoreline
on the edge of Guantanamo Bay

raccoons were calling themselves family
inspired by neon lights while
the Stumps played Muskrat Love
and Daisy spun in her polka dot skirt
her lips plump as mushrooms
and heart without purchase
at the Hotel Misty on the shoreline
on the edge of Guantanamo Bay
when raccoons were calling themselves
family inspired by Japanese lanterns
and the clock struck twelve darkness
descended no mere absence
of light while Daisy spun slowly
in her polka dot skirt, Major General
her partner The Stumps playing
the final refrain of Muskrat
Love at the Hotel
Misty on the shoreline
on the edge
of Guantanamo Bay

when the air was sprayed
red
it’s not what anyone wanted
the military calling us family
and the guns lying
next to the camera

I guess I’m not a nice person anymore

Recently I was listening to a popular, long-running arts and culture show on CBC Radio One and the host was interviewing a celebrity bartender. Who knew that celebrity bartenders exist, let alone have become so fascinating, but in any case, this fellow was being interviewed about all things rum. At one point, he told the host that African slaves were sold in order to buy the molasses required for making rum. This information made me feel sick to my stomach but more disturbing was the host’s reaction. In the sweet, modulated voice for which she’s known, she completely ignored the information. Instead, she sailed past, wowing about rum minutiae, asking a syrupy question, sounding impressed and being oh-so delighted with everything the celebrity bartender had to say.

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I Love the CBC. But.

Since I spend so much time with the CBC it seems appropriate that it’s the subject of my inaugural post.
On CBC Radio One, Anna Maria Tremonti and The Current, Eleanor Wachtel and Writers and Company, Nora Young’s Spark, Rex Murphy on Cross Country Check-up, and too many others to list. And I love documentaries, for which this country is world renowned: The Fifth Estate, the Nature of Things, Doc Zone and The Passionate Eye. And the foreign correspondents: Melissa Fung, Sasa Petricic, Neil MacDonald and Adrienne Arsenault. Too many incredible people to list. All smart, articulate, and dedicated who inform, educate, entertain and make me feel good and proud to be a Canadian.
Some hosts become like family and when they pass I grieve. When Peter Gzowski died, I cried and moped around for days. I still miss his smoky voice and laughter. And Barbara Frum on As it Happens, I still miss her, too.
I even love Peter Mansbridge, though a bit like a grandfather who can be out of step. For example, he recently used the term “visible minorities” when describing the absence of people of colour in this year’s line-up of Oscar contenders. I cringed, then fired off a protest email to the National. He has used this phrase before. So: Dear Mr. Dinosaur, there’s no “visible minority”, at best this is an offensive fiction which gets perpetuated by white people with glaring racial blind spots, not to mention delusions of an “invisible majority”.

And what’s with the editorial staff on the national news allowing this to be aired? Is the news patriarch too powerful to correct?