Sunday, January 04, 2009

Media Bias: Are the Shameful Practices of the Toronto Star and Columnist Linda McQuaig the Natural Progressions of Liberal Dishonesty?

The leftist bias and activist drumbeating of today’s major media is as self-evident as it is plentiful. A look at how major media acts in North America’s most liberal cities gives us an indication of the true dangers that media bias poses here.

The examples below should serve as a vital wake up call to conservatives to relentlessly point out the biases of the media at every turn so as to prevent our voices from being wiped out of the public debate. Certainly, the lengths that the dominant media of left leaning cities goes to in trumpeting their point of view (while fervidly quashing out all others) gives us a prelude to the dangers of unopposed media bias anywhere.

Toronto is a major metropolitan, one that is home to a large number of hard working people, businesses and corporations. It has its own stock exchange. The city’s most widely read newspaper is the Toronto Star and anyone who is familiar with that paper knows one thing: The Toronto Star isn’t only biased. Its one sidedness rivals that of the Pravda of the 1970s. What makes it even more dangerous is its pretense of neutrality.

The Toronto Star takes great pleasure in playing fast and loose with the truth. While it purports to be a news service, the fact that it is no better than any propagandist journal that was ever printed in the Soviet Union is provable. You can point to it. Unlike most papers, this reality becomes obvious upon reading just a few issues. And the more you familiarize yourself with the paper, the greater your disgust at its dishonesty, its falsification of facts and the agenda driven manipulations that grace not only its op-eds, but also its front pages on a daily basis.

Years ago, when I lived in Toronto, I was a short time subscriber of the Star. Never before had I seen a paper in which the other side of any issue isn’t only attacked, its points are rendered non-existent. In the narrow minded and false world of the Star there are no conservatives. Unless, that is, there’s a need to incite hatred or disdain among readers. That’s where conservatives make for very useful fodder.

Attacks range from the comical to the obscene. Star columnist Richard Gwyn once opined an entire piece on how Canadian conservatives aren’t Canadian at all. That column, while audacious, was actually mild by the Star’s standards, by which Conservatives have routinely been maligned and falsely ascribed character traits that would be unkind if said of a vampire bat.

The reasons for conservative views are never published. All that the Star will tell its readers is that conservatives are “dangerous,” “extremists,” and so forth (and those are mild examples of what’s written in its pages). In doing so, they refer not to third world revolutionists, but rather to those who espouse opinions that are shared by the majority of Americans, Western Canadians and indeed many Eastern Canadians as well. Simply put, what the Star is doing isn’t just keeping their readers ignorant of any other point of view. Their tactics are fanning the flames of hatred against a large segment of Canadians on a daily basis.

If a conservative were to write of liberals with one iota of the smears, jears and slurs that regularly grace the Star’s hallowed pages, he or she would find themselves in front of a Human Rights Tribunal. Yet in the minds of the Star’s editors, their unending attacks on conservatives are just the way things are.

Liberals who get their opinions of conservatives from news sources such as the Star are as clueless to what we think as were citizens of the Soviet Union of the Western world and of the mechanics of a free market economy. (The Pravda, the Star’s East Block soul mate, routinely described Western countries as places where people are left dying on the street as others pass by and laugh.) And while such one sidedness is not the exclusive domain of the Star, the Star is alone in the viciousness, vindictiveness and obsessive drumbeat of its attacks. What’s more, it also plays fast and loose with hard facts.

One tactic the Star uses is page placement. When a poll, not matter how dubious or singular in nature, shows the Liberals leading in public opinion, you can expect to see it reported as a front page story. By contrast, Conservative leads are relegated much farther to the back. The same is true with regard to favorable and unfavorable news about the respective parties.

This juxtaposition was best seen when former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien famously offered up what he claimed to be a two year old napkin to show that he had no interest in a golf course that benefited from government funding (official records told a different story than the napkin). That story was sent to the inside pages of the Star. The fact that the then Canadian Alliance, the conservative opposition party, had accepted a perfectly legal anonymous donation was page one news. Yes, the party had passed a resolution that all donations be public, the only party to do so at the time, but an oversight by the opposition involving no impropriety hardly trumps a willfully effected prime ministerial scandal.

But that’s just how Liberals play politics. That’s no excuse, but it’s to be expected. What transpired only shows the Toronto Star to be a non-independent political mouthpiece, a spin paper, not a news source. What’s shocking about the Star is best illustrated by another example that happened in the same year.

When the 2000 intifada broke out among Palestinian militants, much of the world was appalled. It grew worse when innocent children were targeted for assassination by Islamic extremists. The Star, which had long been a ridiculously one sided advocate for the Palestinian side also condemned the baby slaughter, but said that it makes the world not care what happens to either side.

In the Star’s world, Israel’s self defense was as disdainful as the Palestinian targeting of children. And isn’t that the extent of how the radical left views the military, even with regard to measures needed for self defense? They view self protection with disdain and those who engage in it as second class (at best) to the supine quasi-Marxists that make up the so-called intelligentsia, a misnomer with no better meaning of the latter word. In the eyes of the Star, it does not matter that Israel only took possession of the territories in an unprovoked war in which enemies that had attacked it since the first day of its existence sought to wipe it off the face of the map. Nor did it matter that it was Israel, and only Israel, that initiated all peace measures in the hopes of securing a real peace and was the only party to ever give any concessions, wishful acts that were instead viewed as signs of weakness by the terrorists and therefore led to more attacks against the West’s only reliable ally in the Middle East. Israel did what it needed to in its defense.

Although Israel did not start the shootings, defensive actions taken by Western allies are typically viewed with condescension by the Star, that would instead have Israel host a big kumbaya for all sworn enemies surrounding it. This disdain of Western self preservation is also what leads the Star to largely ignore Chinese communist brutality, Chavez’ attacks on individual rights, acts of brutality that are par for the course in fundamentalist Iran and China and Iran’s overtures to Venezuela, which may well be the beginnings of a Cuban Missile Crisis-like situation.

Similarly, the Star has taken great liberties with its nonsensical portrayals of revisionist history. In the run up to the 2006 Canadian election, the Star featured an op-ed penned by a Toronto high school teacher that Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John. A. MacDonald, would be a Liberal if he were alive today. The fact that even the most cursory glance of policy and political philosophy shows that all prime ministers up until Louis St. Laurent were much to the right of today’s Conservatives (with Lester Pearson having the most in common with today’s Stephen Harper) was apparently lost on the Star. And par for the course, no opposing op-ed was allowed.

In another case of political spin disguised as journalism, the Star also offered up a pre-election whopper that the Conservative platform would reverse Canada’s social programs to pre 1919 levels. I may not have read all of the Conservative Party platform, but certainly doing away with Medicare, the Canada Pension Plan, disability and unemployment benefits would have caught the attention of more than the Star’s hysterical op-ed page.

And it gets worse. Even fallen war heroes are not immune from the Star’s political skew. As Michael Petrou pointed out on Macleans’ blog, just a few weeks ago the Star ran a headline that highlighted the uncle of a fallen soldier’s claim that Afghanistan was a lost war. The Star had interviewed the soldier’s mother, who had mentioned that her son, Cpl. Thomas James Hamilton, believed strongly in the cause and had volunteered for three tours of duty. The Star buried those facts inside the story and ran with the politicized headline instead, giving readers an overall impression that stood in stark contrast to the fallen soldier’s beliefs. Fortunately their online editors had the decency to change the headline for the web.

The Star has also found a creative way to defend their bias. Years ago, after a few short months as a reader, I canceled my subscription due to their anti-conservative and anti-Israel bias. I told them as much. That got me a letter, supposedly from their publisher, stating that they have no bias as they regularly host a citizen advisory board. The fact that they had such a form letter available was a testament to the fact that more than one person had canceled their subscription for the same reason. But I found the cover/excuse to be an interesting one. To be sure, no one who cancelled their patronage of the paper was invited to take part in the advisory panel. The panel was filled with good likeminded leftists, brainwashed academics (another misnomer) and activists for groups that have little regard for the safety of the Western world. What the publisher was essentially saying was that a room full of leftists and radical activists is the Star’s idea of a diverse group. He didn’t need to send that letter. That much was already apparent from their op-eds (and unfortunately from their “news reporting” as well).

All of the above are pitiful examples of propaganda disguised as journalism. But the magnitude of the Star’s manipulations is most grotesquely displayed in the columns of featured writer Linda McQuaig.

McQuaig writes exclusively about leftist causes. That itself would be fine. But in her defense of logically indefensible positions, she reinvents the rules of math (and just about whatever else she can grasp at). Her end goal is for insane propositions to be taken as fact by readers who don’t care to follow her convoluted reasoning and simply accept her conclusions.

A prime example of this is her past assertion that Canada has, in essence, a flat tax. Despite all studies showing that Canadians pay an average of 50% of their revenues in some form of government taxation (income, sales, capital gains, etc.) and despite the even clearer fact that lower income earners pay less and those who earn more pay more, McQuaig single handedly reinvented the laws of arithmetic to argue that all Canadians really pay between 30-35% in taxes. If Canada does indeed have a flat rate, she argued (the point of her reinventing math in the first place), then any tax cuts would amount to the poor paying the greatest percentage. Of course, both a cursory glance and a substantive look at actual tax rates shows otherwise and even the EU has largely adopted tax cuts as a way to stimulate jobs and investment. But why write the truth when rubbish is a good substitute? After all, the Star won’t report the truth.

Similarly, in various columns, McQuaig has blamed former Ontario Premier Mike Harris for that province’s young offenders, written that Harper will cut social spending so drastically that, from the way she describes it, he’ll send Canada back to the middle ages (I guess the Prime Minister’s Office never got the note) and otherwise fills her columns with tales of vast and abundant conspiracies. Again, if it were a conservative making such claims of the opposite side, the outcry from the left would be audible 100 miles away. Either that or they’d be wholly ignored. No paper would print their unsubstantiated ramblings. No such luck with the Toronto Star.

McQuaig also has another trait. Like so many of the radical left, her sympathies lie with terrorists who she sides with, always, against Israel. There are simply no radical leftist fads or causes celebres that escape her narrow minded world view. Unlike many on her side, she tries to support these fancifully misbegotten notions with logic. As with math, when the logic or facts don’t fit, she invents them or quotes others who do it for her.

No where is there a better example of this than in her latest column, one in which she decries Canada’s support for Israel. (It should be of note that Canada’s support for Taiwan, India or any other allies fighting a dictatorial enemy may also not meet with McQuaig’s approval. But I assume she’ll have to confer with her “professors” before she issues a pronouncement on same one way or another.) Again, she does not find it sufficient to merely state her opinion and move on. In this case too, she must manipulate reality in a way that combines the talents of a communist propaganda minister with those of an acrobatic contortionist.

McQuaig does not once make mention of the 80 rockets that Hamas lobbed into populated areas of Israel. The fact that Israel and Hamas signed a six month truce, which Hamas refused to resign is also ignored. In fact, McQuaig quotes Richard Falk, a man she refers to as a “Jewish-American professor,” as saying that the situation was Israel’s fault for having entered into Gaza a month ago on a military incursion.

The truth is that intermittent attacks coming from Gaza were commonplace even after the ceasefire was signed. Hamas continually broke the terms and conditions throughout its six month duration. Last month, the Israeli Army found that Hamas supporters were digging a tunnel toward Israel that presented a clear security risk. Israel destroyed the tunnel and left.

As her column progresses, her other claims continue to decry incredulity. She blames Israel for sectioning off Gaza. The problem is that Gaza also has an equally long border with Egypt, so Israel could not unilaterally section it off. McQuaig knows this, so she again relies on Falk as the source of her seemingly (as well as actually) incredulous claim. To be sure, Israel did block off Gaza after rocket attacks persisted. But if Gaza was at all reasonable, why would both Israel and Egypt see the need to block it off? Israel still allowed food and vital supplies in, McQuaig’s reference to food shortages (for which she again quotes Falk, as only he and Hamas have made this claim) is unsubstantiated and probably countered by the mere fact that all Hamas fighters have clearly had ample strength and resources to continue fighting over the past few days.

What’s also missing from the picture is that Israel gave the Palestinian Authority in Gaza its autonomy in the hopes that a lasting peace could be cemented. Had they not done so, the Israelis would still be there and there’d be no argument over border crossings. So the argument that Israel has some kind of desire to reenter Gaza is scurrilous. They could have kept it in the first place.

But who is this Richard Falk who McQuaig so relies on, and whose singular claims are taken by McQuaig as fact? Well, a simple google search immediately exposes who Falk is and shows him to be little more than a Hamas mouthpiece, albeit one with other very interesting ties as well.

Falk is a professor emeritus. He is also a Special Rapporteur for the UN. But as Pajama Media’s Ron Radosh succinctly puts it: “Falk’s appointment was made, not surprisingly, by the chairman of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel D’escoto Brockman of Nicaragua, the Sandinista liberation theologian who was himself appointed by Daniel Ortega. Throughout D’escoto’s entire career, he has been a left-wing ideologue, whose anti-Americanism is legendary.”

Yes, Nicaragua is on the UN Human Rights Commission, as is Saudi Arabia. They do not designate all appointees, but one prominent Ortega ally found Falk to be just the man for a Special Rapporteur position. Perhaps Father D’escoto is a McQuaig fan too. But aside from being a pal to Ortega’s pals, Falk also has some opinions about Hamas that would shock even their Palestinian counterpart Fatah (which has also engaged in terror and has yet to renounce the “Jerusalem Martyrs Brigade” of suicide bombers with allegiance to Fatah).

Among Falk’s pronouncements is that Hamas should not be branded a terrorist organization (what a man who thinks that an unrenounced past history of targeting infants doesn’t qualify a group as terrorist is doing working for the UN Human Rights Commission is a question best left to them) and that Hamas’ legitimacy is recognized by other Palestinian groups. He also views the suicide bombings and the targeting of civilians as the “right of resistance.” By contrast, he compares the Israelis, (who have taken precaution after precaution not to target civilians, and seek to minimize casualties even when Hamas terrorists barricade themselves in civilian areas – Israel is, again, also the only side ever to have given real concessions) to Nazis.

Yes, Richard Falk may be Jewish, but he’s probably one of the only Jews aside from Meir Lansky to be denied entry into Israel. The reason he was turned back at Ben Gurion airport was due to the fact that even before he started his investigation, he was making the above listed pronouncements and blaming Israel once again for the current crisis. In the words of the Israeli foreign ministry, Falk’s mission was “profoundly distorted and conceived as an anti-Israeli initiative.”

Falk has no first hand knowledge of the situation. In short, not only is a he a Hamas mouthpiece (who, again, makes statements that would even be countered by Abbas), he’s also a fraud. There’s no way he could have known what was happening on the ground. His ridiculous assertions and public statements were made before he arrived, and because of them, he was turned back. Israel has let in scores of international observers, just not elderly professors emeriti who call them Nazis and glorify Hamas terrorists as “resistance fighters.” Even then, they’d have let him in if not for his statements of “fact” before he arrived.

Is that all? Unfortunately not. Falk is also a 9/11 conspiracy theorist who is sad that the issue did not receive prominence during the presidential election. According to Falk, not only did the US government quite possibly arrange 9/11, Barack Obama should have made it a campaign issue as well!

In other words, McQuaig and the Star (that prints her trash) may as well have used a guy who claims to get his information from a large bunny named Harvey who sits at his left side as their source.

As Falk, with no first hand knowledge of the situation, must have been getting his “information” from Hamas (unless he made it up himself – I’m discounting Harvey from the picture), McQuaig was more than likely quoting Hamas when quoting Falk. And of course, the fact checkers at the Star couldn’t be bothered to notice this. They were probably too busy rereading George Orwell’s 1984, or as the Star might call it “the Employee Training Manual.”

McQuaig ends off her column by sanctimoniously opining that Israel does have a right to defend itself. The only problem for McQuaig, seemingly, is that when it does, it should be mindful of the accusations of an indirectly Ortega appointed Hamas sympathizer. If he suspects impropriety then all defensive measures must stop.

It’s one thing to be a crazy leftist who fumbles with the truth on taxes and spending policy and who views math as her own personal lump of molding clay, ready to twist and contort at her leisure. It’s another thing entirely to print falsehoods in defense of avowed terror organizations that recruit young children to their causes and target infants for slaughter, while smearing those who were attacked and blaming them for it. Yet all those traits fit neatly into the package that is Linda McQuaig.

As for the Star’s consistent pounding of these same views, it’s finally time to call a spade a spade. The anti-Semitism that it and columnists like McQuaig engage in is covert. As in the most recent example: Find one lone radical professor who makes a false claim which decries incredulity and report it as the “statement of a Jewish-American professor,” instead of that of a Marxist and terrorist sympathizer whose views represent the same lunatic fringe that has turned Mideast Studies programs in universities such as Columbia into hotbeds of anti-Semitism.

Promotion of radically leftist myths at the expense of logic is the central mission of the Toronto Star. We get it. But if that’s the case then be upfront about it. There are many liberal and conservative publications that market themselves accordingly. They do not pretend to be unbiased conveyors of news. Their purpose is to share thoughts and opinions. That would be a hard task for an outfit like the Star that is short on facts and long on insults, diatribes and unsubstantiated pronouncements. But that’s no excuse for it to dress itself up as a news organization.

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