By Dr David Laing Dawson
Hungary is swinging to the right, on the verge of fascism. Far right parties are gaining in much of Europe. Trump is the next president of the USA. The pendulum has been prodded in the direction of tribalism by a wave of migrants and, I would venture to guess, the Internet.
I wondered how it would appear in Canada. And it seems to have arrived in the form of Kellie Leitch with her proposed test for “Canadian Values”, and now her wish to dismantle the CBC.
The CBC. What timing. We have suddenly arrived in an age some are calling “post-truth”. False news can be disseminated as quickly and widely as real news. The New York Times is competing with a kid in Moldavia on his I Mac. And his news is always more interesting, more sensational. To compete with this kid, the National Enquirer, Fox and Breitbart, CNN had to give prodigious air time to Donald Trump and his surrogates.
Today, more than ever we need a news service that is not beholden to advertising, corporate interests, or ratings. We need a news service not afraid to bore us with details and background. We need a news service willing to fact check our politicians. All of them. Rigorously and fearlessly. We need a media service that will tell us all our stories. We need this news and discussion service watched by a substantial number of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
We have just been taught a lesson. We need to pay attention to it. Without rigorous and fearless fact checking, a politician can, by repetition and exaggeration, convince a large chunk of the public to believe the most outrageous fictions. And in this digital world, with targeted and automated advertising, a splashy story about Hillary having a secret love-child with Bruce Willis will earn more money than a story about her work with the Children’s Defense Fund.
Our only defense against this is a News service that does not depend on advertising or ratings. A news service that does not need to sensationalize, that does not need to give equal time to outrageous opinion. A news service that can broadcast a documentary about evolution without feeling the need to give equal time to creationists, a news service that actually checks facts before airing them. The CBC does this. They check stats and they interview experts after reporting the words coming from a politician’s mouth. They jump on every stated, implied, or suggested bit of sexism, racism, inanity and stupidity. They provide in depth and civilized discussion of serious matters. They also go to great lengths to be inclusive.
CBC stands between us and a Donald Trump, a Marie LePen, a Mussolini, a Boris Johnson. It is a true Fourth Estate.
Now I must admit I tire at times of the CBC being so precious and politically correct. And I tire of them making me feel guilty at least once per week, reminding me of the head tax I put on Chinese Immigrants, the time I rounded up Japanese Canadians, the quota I imposed on Jewish Immigrants, my refusal to accept them when they were fleeing Germany, my breaking of treaties with first nations people, the shoddy housing I provide for them, the terrible idea of forced residential schools, how little I am doing to help addicts, and children living in poverty, how I’m contributing to global warming, running a nasty prison system, not fixing the plumbing in subsidized housing, eating too much, drinking too much, and exercising too little……
Little Mosque on the Prairie was too precious for my taste but certainly provided better life lessons than Criminal Minds or Breaking Bad.
I will suffer the guilt CBC imposes on me. In fact, it may be good for the soul. It is certainly good to be reminded of our history, and to have a healthy Fourth Estate beholden only to truth and the welfare of all.
This is absolutely the wrong time to consider privatizing the CBC.