Monday, February 16, 2009

Mindset Journalism

In his book, The Death of Free Speech, John Ziegler examines how the news media have created arbitrary, biased, and illogical rules for determining what can and cannot be said in the public arena. Ziegler limited his investigation to secular events.

But his observations hold true for media reports of religious matters. Is it laziness or a propensity for steel-trap thinking that develops the rigidity all too evident in the common media? It is akin to censorship. Two recent examples.

1.   Pope Benedict XVI recently lifted the excommunication on a number of Catholics, one of whom, Bishop Richard Williamson, was later exposed as a holocaust denier. No matter what the multitude of Catholic news agencies reported, the secular press refused to acknowledge that the lifting of the excommunication and the holocaust denial were in no way related. The media linked the two events, often in the same sentence.

2.   The reportage of the profoundly troubling sex scandals within the Catholic Church is another example of mindset thinking. Child Maltreatment 2006, a report of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, states that 66 per cent of sexual abusers are parents, other relatives, unmarried partners of parents, friends or neighbours, and that only 0.5 per cent are "professionals." And clergy are a subset of "professionals," and Catholic clergy a subset of clergy.

The 2007 Annual Report of U.S. Catholic bishops, prepared by outside auditors, identified 15 allegations of childhood sexual abuse in the American Catholic Church from 2000 to 2007, an average of fewer than two per year. A 2007 investigation by the Associated Press identified 2,500 public school teachers who from 2001 through 2005, had their teaching licences revoked or restricted as a result of sexual misconduct with minors -- an average of 514 per year. The ratio of abuse in American public schools to that of the Catholic Church runs as high as 275 to one.

This in no way excuses any of this behaviour. All perpetrators must be prosecuted. But this does illustrate the media bias as to how these dreadful incidents are reported.

Folly Continues at the Ontario Human Rights Commission

In 2008, the Ontario Human Rights Commission smarted at the realization it had no jurisdiction to punish a journalist for what it perceived as "Islamophobia."

The Commission's website purports to define Islamophobia. The result is a wandering, erroneous and grammatically embarrassing effort. Such commissions wallow in vagueness, preferring to deal with feeling rather than fact. They exclude objective judgement, a condition favoured by the Utopian activists who inhabit such institutions.

Unable to impose political correctness on the media in Ontario, OHRC Chair Barbara Hall called for a national press council with compulsory membership for on-line media services. She would empower this yet another bureaucratic overseer to expose any breach of professional standards on the Internet, as she would like them to be.

In a manner exemplary of its communication skills, the Commission articulated, "Ensuring mechanisms are in place to provide opportunity for public scrutiny and the receipt of complaints, particularly from vulnerable groups is important, but must not cross the line into censorship."

From an editorial in The National Post: ". . . making all writers, bloggers and broadcasters hostage to a national press council is merely the first step toward letting the Barbara Halls of the world decide what you get to hear, see and read."

This attempted expansion of government intrusion was in reaction to the proposed curtailing of human rights commissions' jurisdiction as recommended by Law Professor Richard Moon. He wrote, "The use of censorship by the government should be confined to a narrow category of extreme expression --- that which threatens, advocates or justifies violence against members of an identifiable group."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The old public relations trick -- isolate the victim

One public relations trick is to isolate the victim, make him/her feel that they are the problem, that their complaint is unique, and that they should stop bothering us.

1.   Many years ago, I complained to the Public Relations Manager of the Toronto Transit Commission about the terrible smells which then emanated from the Summerhill subway station. He replied he had never heard of the problem, but made a note of it. Two or three years later, a business associate wrote to the TTC about the same matter. The letter she received was from the same person I had spoken to earlier. His reply was that he had never heard of the problem before.

2.   After returning from a package trip to the United Kingdom, I lodged a complaint with British Airways about the hotel they had reserved for me. The building was so decrepit water from the suite above mine leaked into my bathtub. Their reply was that no one had ever complained about that before.

3.   On another occasion, I pointed out to Canada Post the slow delivery of a first-class letter within Canada. Their reply was that they preferred to talk about the vast majority of their mail that does get delivered in due course.

4.  All of which brings to mind the old joke about the "Bug letter," except it's no joke. It's a normal public relations manoeuvre.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Iceland Can Bank on Canada

Letter to the Toronto Star. Published October 24, 2008.

Iceland's financial deep freeze has rendered its banks incapable of meeting international obligations, and its reserves unable to cover demand for cash withdrawals. Among angry depositors are 120 British municipalities, hospitals and charities, including Cambridge University. The government hopes the nationalization of its banks will solve the problem.

There is but one solution to Iceland's problem. The banks must renege on all foreign obligations, absolutely and totally. Indeed, the nation itself must declare bankruptcy. This unilateral action will render nugatory threatened European legal action.

Once the ice chips have settled, Iceland need only apply to Canada for provincial status. We can readily absorb its 300,000 inhabitants constituting less than one per cent of our population. We will have a debt-free province, a stepping stone to Europe, and another spectacular place to visit within our boundaries.

Another stage of Canada's manifest destiny entails reviving the plan to add the Turks and Caicos Islands to our domain. Taking its 30,000 sun worshipers into our fold poses no problem. Britain has found the colony's lawmakers to be corrupt. We can easily depose them, using our strong police presence in nearby Haiti.

Canada and the European Union have begun serious trade talks. With Iceland in our fold, we will already have a foot in the door.