Thursday, 23 October 2014



The National News, Oh Boy


There was an extraordinarily awkward press conference staged in Ottawa yesterday. Four men, representing the Ottawa Police Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Armed Forces and the City of Ottawa, were crammed together behind a table meant for two. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was there to cover it. The speakers had no information to impart to the nation. When they switched to Canada’s other official language to say nothing, CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge intoned something like, They’re speaking in French now.


Thanks for that insight.


Hours earlier a Canadian soldier on ceremonial guard duty at the National War Memorial had been shot to death in cold blood. Shortly thereafter the murderer was swiftly ventilated inside the halls of Parliament.


Canadian iconography is generally associated with the great outdoors: fishing boats against a crazy mosaic of garishly painted maritime homes, endless wheat fields, kids playing pond shinny, glaciers in Rocky Mountain ranges. Considering what we have built or erected throughout nearly 150 years of Confederation, nothing is as close to our hearts as the cenotaph and the Peace Tower. The murderous attacks in the capital hit home, hit everybody where it hurts.


And so with downtown Ottawa in lockdown, foreign embassies secured and our capital's famous and familiar streets swarming with armed and masked police, somebody had to tell us everything was under control. We were left instead with a split screen of endless, repetitive video loops described and re-described by sputtering commentary; has Mansbridge taken elocution lessons from Jian Ghomeshi?


Initial reports cited two other possible instances of gunfire along the Rideau Canal: one at the swank Fairmont Chateau Laurier hotel and the other in the always crowded Rideau Centre, a core shopping mall. These two rumours were duly reported. Why? To fill airtime? Viewers were agape; were we witnessing some sort of orchestrated commando assault? News is about facts. It’s okay to keep a lid on unsubstantiated events that may require an hour or two to either confirm or shoot down: better for all – better for the heart rates of the transfixed audience and better for the journalistic reputation of the news provider. Yesterday’s events suggest a realistic role for traditional media in this digital age: don’t just regurgitate the torrent of social media cacophony, filter it, be its gatekeeper. Take on the role of Canada’s Upper House, give us sober second thought.


In an instance of inane irony our only assurance of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s health and well-being was a picture Tweeted by the Prime Minister’s Office. Ten hours of silence from the top combined with inept reporting from the Mother Corporation made for a mildly uncomfortable afternoon and evening in this time zone. Is our government still functioning? Members of the Canadian Armed Forces were advised not to go out in public wearing their fatigues. One suspects that this order was not welcomed; pride in uniform is paramount and now more than ever is the time to display the colours, the camouflage, the epaulettes and the shoulder patch flashes. Cowering is not an option, walk tall.


This Ottawa affront, this national crime, this breakdown between the Prime Minister and the people who elected him, this inarticulate bilingual mumbling from the authorities to the people they are sworn to protect, this laughably inept news reportage by an organization dedicated to the people and funded by the people, was wrought by a single disenfranchised loser with a rifle. Another fellow in an Internet line who may have joined the Moonies or drunk the grape Kool-Aid with Jim Jones had he been born sooner. This is the type of little fucker who stalled the country for an entire day.

Yesterday was a day of chaos and confusion. The Harper Government and the CBC tangoed at the botching ball. Canadians will fight, bring it anytime; but we need proper information even as we drop our gloves and taunt, Is that the best you’ve got?

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