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Posted: November 6, 2012

Duplicitous cowardice and avarice

Kootenay Crust

There is something altogether symbolic about this story, on a day when the great pendulum once again swings. When it stops, we will learn if our American cousins are forging ahead as a nation determined to overcome its myriad of internal obstacles and show the rest of a nervous world that it isn’t a nation filled with tiny-minded a-holes who care not a whit for anyone but themselves. Or not.

But this is a story emanating from Manitoba’s Steel Town – Selkirk, a small city located just north of Winnipeg.

It involves one of Stephen Harper’s ‘best and brightest’ who is currently showing all that freedom of expression continues to be one of the great enemies of the corporate elite minority and the governments it controls.

Harper, if you aren’t aware of it, has made Jean Chretien appear positively wide open and gregarious toward Canada’s media. And before Harper came along, I thought Chretien was a complete prick.

This is a story about a reporter who was fired from her job because a flippity-flopping Conservative MP with teeny-tiny marbles for testis declared he shall henceforth halt his advertising support for her paper if it didn’t shave her from its payroll.

Why? It is best to let the story that snagged my attention tell it –  Michael Harris’ story in the Nov. 6 edition of ‘iPolitics,’ entitled ‘Conservative MP insists he didn’t want reporter fired.’

“Jill Winzoski is a name you probably don’t know. Time you met her; she is a canary in the mine of Canadian journalism.  Up until October 19, Jill was a reporter with the Selkirk Record in rural Manitoba. Now she is unemployed. No one ever tells you why these days. There is that sudden pain between the shoulder blades, and off your horse you go. But Jill knows how she lost her job. It was politics, in the person of her local MP, the Conservative member for Selkirk Interlake, James Bezan.”

Winzoski had on occasion pointed out aspects of Bezan’s work and the Tories that didn’t make them look good. She was tsk-tsked by her management after complaints came in and from then onward she refrained from sticking it to a government that doesn’t just need it being stuck to them, they need to be gut-punched and ball-kicked and reminded exactly who it is they work for.

But Jill still wanted to be a good, engaged Canadian citizen, damn her all to hell anyway.

Harris again: “Jill sent a petition. She had been signing and sending petitions to Ottawa for two years as a citizen without complaint or reprimand at work. And she didn’t just send her petition against the China/FIPPA treaty to her member. She sent a copy to Darth Vader Central, otherwise known as the PMO. Naively, she had placed her hand into a basket of asps.”

In a nutshell, Jill lost her job because Bezan sniveled like a petulant child and, as seems to be so often the case nowadays, the person who should be the focus of a critical story by a journalist because it is in the best interests of the constituents and the nation, whines to the corporate oingo boingos and, because they are obviously terrified slaves with tiny brains, they blindly do their master’s bidding.

Just think about it even for a nanosecond. A person was fired from a job (never mind that it was a journalist) because they CHEESED OFF THEIR MP. You want to talk about insane precedence being set?

What country do we live in? What did our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers sacrifice so much for in the First and Second World Wars? Who out there believes they died and suffered horribly so an elitist rat like Bezan can weasel his way around accountability as a politician? This crap is getting out of control and our society has got to bring it under control or – we can all sit back and enjoy Big Brother’s ream job, because that is where we are heading brothers and sisters.

I personally became inspired to be a journalist because the idea of working to ensure accountability among politicians and the minority of wealthy connivers who think they are untouchable was such an appealing prospect.

But such an attitude is dangerous to those who wish to continue to dupe society for their own personal gain, because they stand to lose money and, hey, they’re damned important because they create jobs and jobs create tax revenues that pays for education and health care for the 99% of unwashed peons who need to be led by their noses.

I don’t blame the journalists for the decline in proper journalism, though many of them are farcical fools (yes you, Fox News) or wannabes. The blame lies at the feet of those who control the entire thing – the reading/viewing/listening public. Demand more of your media. How about threatening to pull advertising when the media shits the bed because it is ignoring the important issues and treating those who slobber all over our tax dollars with freaking kid gloves? I’d love to see that happen!

For a small glimpse into the rotten core of this issue, consider an email from the Record’s editor Donna Maxwell, responding to a request by Winzoski for a copy of Bezan’s email to the paper that had been read to her during her dismissal by managing partner Brett Mitchell.

“Brett doesn’t want me to send the email that Bezan sent, so I can’t. Sorry. He [Bezan] copied your form letter and said that he doesn’t want to work with the Selkirk Record because of our reporter’s bias, in a nutshell…this is a tough time for you, and it is for me as well. I hope that we can work together again some time (sic) in the future and I know that nothing I can say now will help. I wish things were different…Sorry again.”

That doesn’t just speak volumes to me, it roars Godzilla-like, echoing painfully across a political and societal landscape that has been conquered by the self importance of a given few. At this point, I must also point out that it is not just the Conservatives who are to blame. The federal Liberals were equally hideous in their approach to controlling the message and, in B.C., one cannot just point a finger at the Liberal Government.

The one area of the civil service they didn’t gut in 2001 was ‘public relations’ (which should be called ‘public manipulations), a bloated pack of big salaried message controllers created by the previous NDP regimes.

In the early 1990s the B.C. NDP effectively muzzled the provincial bureaucracy, much to the silent appreciation of Gordon Campbell who added to that fat. So forget about the left/right/middle theories (once humans can stretch their minds beyond that damned line, real progress may actually be made).

That move and the ever-more transparent buddying-up between governments and industry (it’s always been this way but it is just far more blatant, in our faces and repulsive now because of the sweeping controls they’ve established over the media) has guided us to this point – where in Canada Stephen Harper has iron-fisted control and in America, they’re poised to either move ahead and face tough decisions together with the Democrats or hunker down and stick their heads in the same-ol-sand with the Republicans.

I fear that if the Republicans win, it will merely embolden Harper to be even more of a tyrannical asshole who’s strayed so far from his original guideposts (how’s the NEP looking now buddy boy?) that he is appearing positively Maoist.

James Bezan, for all his apparent sniveling and righteous indignity, is merely mimicking his boss, currently dinking about India in security vehicles brought from Canada.

Recognizing the major PR mess he’s on the brink of tumbling into, Bezan has tried to backpedal a bit.

Harris concluded in his piece that he “is awash in tears, arguably of the variety crocodiles shed. It was never his intention to get Jill sacked, just to get the government’s message out without the inconvenient intervention of journalism, free speech, or dissent. Poor man, he had never been forced to go so far before as to ask for a new journalist. And it goes without saying that Jill is free to express her concerns to her MP as she sees fit.”

More on how we arrived at this sad point

In the good old days newspaper reporters were hired to dig into their communities and share the important stories in a fair, professional manner that takes into account all sides, without fear of reprisal from the business/leadership elite in that community.

Around about 1995, there was a noticeable shift toward extreme corporatization in the ‘industry’, as the big fish gobbled up the little ones. As a result, political biases, which have forever been evident in the media and should be forever obvious, began to polarize and grow impervious shells.

Soon, thanks to the shrinking number of people ruling the media empires, and because such people tend to be backslapping two-facers with ‘powerful’ friends, media moguls were demanding from their middle management Igors that they lay off on picking on (insert a Prime Minister or Premier’s, or MLA/MPs name here).

I know this because it happened to me more times than I care to remember, especially when it came to giving the print finger to Gordon Campbell and some of his MLAs, their necks horribly ringed by leash lacerations and their nerves shredded by fears of political oblivion.

Some business leaders and advertisers demanded that I ‘give it a rest’ when it came to bashing Campbell. Some asked me politely, stating they were giving me advice from one friend to another and in one case, I took it to heart because a friend was genuinely concerned about me losing my job. Others were just suck-ups and of the sordid ilk that refuses to respect differences of opinion because it is simply ‘bad for business.’

Why did I bash Campbell? Because he was just another ass-sniffer working on behalf of a few select powerbrokers who don’t just talk out of both sides of their mouths, they fart wet ones and declare them to be the fresh rose whiffs of free enterprise wisdom. That has become the oh-so-wearying approach and refrain taken by dinosaur right wingers as they linger under the cat-pissy-spray of trickle-down-economics. Meanwhile, 2008 happened.

Why did 2008 happen? Because the power elite minority had finally wrapped up the plump underbelly of the free world, manipulated it to spend like drunken oil field workers and duped it into reality television stupors. Governments were owned by corporations and corporations were bailed out by governments and the fat cats made out bandits while the already too-thinned middle class took it on the chin again.

News programs were slashed; journalists were stymied and non-conforming slobs such as yours truly, despite proven track records of industry success, were cut adrift and replaced by greenhorns who didn’t know better – about the world or the new communities they had just landed in.

The truth is now being edited by people who, like Jill Winzoski and Donna Maxwell, are being ordered by their masters (who pay them complete crap wages) to ignore ‘certain stuff’ because it is bad for business.

Rather than cover the ongoing foibles of a fumbling and bumbling MP or MLA, or report on their successes, journalists were ordered to write stories about ‘new’ advertisers and papers, especially in the late 1990s. Solid news sources that prided themselves on accurately capturing history’s passage became filled with supplement crap, because that was ‘good’ for business, even though supplements are nothing more than a newspaper whispering sweet nothings into the ears of already good customers with the hopes of squeezing even more advertising revenue from them. It made shareholders happy for a decade or so but caused extensive damage to individual papers as irked advertisers steered away into the Internet for more targeted advertising opportunities.

Shlock and back-of-the-throat-cleared glark and dollar-shiny shite has become the norm in once highly respected media outlets.

The people favoured to guide many of these products get to ‘the top’ because they show they don’t have the wherewithal to stand up to middle or upper management droids over corporate edicts that harm a given papers journalistic reputation. And those with strong ties to the history and purpose of real journalism were beaten down or punted away. Good newspapers with strong voices became feeble shells of themselves and their silence is deafening.

When Jill Winzoski behaved like a good, engaged Canadian citizen, after being muzzled as a journalist, she surely never dreamed that she’d become, as Michael Harris noted, “a canary in the mine of Canadian journalism.”

So with all that said, where do you stand? What do you believe? Do you believe a muzzled media is a good thing for Canada? Or do you believe the media should regain its respect, shattered these last 15 or so years by corporate minions acting on behalf of boards of directors that care not a glimmering poop about any given constituency or this nation?

It’s time to stand up to Harper and to Ottawa, just as it is time for the American people to stand up to Washington and its morass of lobby ruination. In the past, the fastest and most effective way to do that was through a truly free media that was governed by professional editors who understood the grey areas between what’s good for business, their bailiwicks and more importantly, the freedoms won for us by a generation we call ‘the greatest’ but pay no mind to at all in terms of how they governed themselves and their nations.

Corporate message manipulation (modern media) faces one hell of a challenge from the Internet and social media and the growing power of them give me optimism. They brought me this story:

The Internet and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, for all its frivolity and seemingly endless noise, is cultivating new forms of world citizens, who don’t rely on the traditional media for their updates – because they see through the sellouts and smell the crap.

With each passing day the balance of the old way and new changes.

Today’s vote in the USA will be a clear signal if we are, as a global village, coming closer to accepting the new paradigms of life in the 21st Century or merely spinning our collective tires at the expense of people of good conscience and deeds, like Jill Winzoski.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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