07 April 2010

"White Canadians are racists": the dark art of the National Post headline

A few weeks ago, I got a phone call. I was going to receive the National Post for several weeks free gratis with no obligation on my part and this phone call was only to inform me of that fact kthxbai. Hang up. Well, that was sly. All that recycling, I thought. Dead trees. But free sudokus. Not that I do sudokus anymore but maybe next time I'm on a plane and too on-edge to read a book. And crossword puzzles. Another game I prefer to play on paper rather than on screen. 

For weeks, I ignored the newspaper, just piling it onto my recycling and I did feel guilty about not calling and cancelling but with life so encumbered with daily contingencies, it just wasn't going to happen. And then, one day, as I took that morning's instalment to the recycling, I saw a big headline about what Canada's "new face" would look like soon. Not white enough was the answer. Of course, the idea the white people weren't the first inhabitants of this land we stole wouldn't occur to people of the National Post. Such people have the less level of self-consciousness of some Quebec protesters back to the 1989 Mohawk standoff self-righteously chanting "le Québec aux Québecois". The French People. To the Mohawk people.

It's always disheartening when Canadians show they can be as moranic as American Tea Partiers and Sarah Palin fans. We're Canadians, we're supposed to be immune to facile, logic-free scapegoating that targets the poor and the meek. And then one sees Ann Coulter on the front page across the country with the National Post in tow to show she's has support here (the Post can only support her indirectly, because, ya know, they may be right-wing but this is Canada and even the Post fancies itself somewhat above the uncouthness of American right-wing politics). 

Between the "new face" of Canada and Coulter were headlines that showcase the National Post's deviousness brilliantly: "Immigrants want less immigration". I'll admit this is barely one notch above some kind of "Black people who hate blacks" Jerry Springer fare. But the problem is that even in our contemporary times, readers will allow themselves to fall for an Uncle Tom. No wait, it's much worse than that, but you catch my drift.

And yesterday, I came across a NP article in which the writer was sent to a "Whiteness" workshop. The level of maturity (and cynicism) in the editorial meeting that ok'ed this article is risible. The tone of the article shows that the writer, if not entirely disingenuous, is at least appallingly unschooled in modern day subject-positioning:

"Moreover, I was guilty of "democratic racism" -- by which we apply ostensibly race-neutral principles such as "due process," constantly demanding clear "evidence" of wrongdoing, rather than confronting prima facie instances of racism head-on. "It seems we're always looking for more proof," said the instructor, an energetic left-wing activist who's been teaching this course for several years. "When it comes to racism, you have to trust your gut."
I felt the urge to pipe up at this. Racism is either a serious charge or it's not. And if it is, as everyone in this room clearly believed, then it cannot be flung around casually without giving the accused a chance to explain his actions. But I said nothing, and nodded my head along with everyone else. I'd come to this class not to impose my democratic racism on people, but to observe."

Sexual harassment was designed with people like the writer in mind. People who impose a standard a high objectivity without ever acknowledging that the standard is highly biased against difference to begin with; people who cannot begin to fathom subject-positioning. 

The headline for the article is accompanied by a photo of where the workshop took place: Toronto Women's Bookstore. Surely an ominous sight for the average National Post reader. I mean, I sure am feeling a shudder at the thought of "women" and "books" in the same phrase. 

Even if one believes that workshop was as bad as the writer describes it to be (overall, he makes it seem rather dismal), the article is designed to egg the reader into ridiculing any attempt at sensitivity or self-reflection regarding our conduct with each other based on origin or race. The article presses the kinds of buttons that seeks to produce, and did produce, hundreds of comments which have nothing to do with the workshop but which provide an outlet for the tortuous existence of the Canadian of European origin. Yes, reading the comments you'd think Canadians of European descent are about to be rounded up to be transported upon those Chinese immigrant-built railroads and taken to suspicious work camps.

Needless to say, right-wing papers thrive on stoking up hatred. It keeps readers coming back. It keeps that crowd that tells single-mothers to get off welfare and take control of their lives from taking responsibility for their own misery and off load it onto the easiest targets.

So the result is I've reverted back to barely being able to glance at the National Post. I understand Mother Nature was fair to distribute moral deprivation, cowardice and stupidity equally throughout North America and the world but that doesn't stop me from being embarrassed. My big headline today is "The National Post makes me embarrassed to be Canadian". 

(and as I looked for links for the article, I found "It's not easy being white", a musing on the kermit song written by Barbara Kay. I didn't bother with more than a glance, and, yes, she's dead serious about it)

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