September 14, 2007

Rex Murphy: ugly, but harmless

While I'm on the CBC, I also forced myself to sit through Rex Murphy's end of show comment last night. Murphy, who is becoming more and more like Andy Rooney every day, did his schtick on the question of whether Muslim women should be allowed to vote veiled. Short version: "I don't know what this is all about. What's going on? Why is this an issue? I have a photo ID, as do you. Do you know what this is all about? I'm confused."

I could get more insightful commentary from a lemming.

Look, it's a very simple issue to understand. All the Canadian political parties are opposed to veiled voting because they've currently all got something to lose in three tight Quebec by-elections this week, and they all can't afford to alienate the Francophone nativist vote at the moment. Saying that this issue is a complete waste of political capital would be the equivalent of saying to those voters, "you're all a bunch of bigoted bumpkins." So the charade goes on.

The only person who comes out of this looking good is Canadian Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand. He may or may not be the most principled Canadian civil servant in a decade, but that's the role he's playing on TV. Basically saying we can fire him before he'll let a parliamentary subcommittee unilaterally change the verbatim meaning of a federal law, he's providing more effective opposition to government power overreach than we've seen from any single protester or politician in either North American jurisdiction in decades.

If this were about veils on driver's licenses, or refusing to confirm one's identity before flying, it would be political stance reasonable people could support. But this is about infringing everyone's longstanding right to vote if they don't have a photo ID, for whatever reason (providing an equivalent standard of proof of identity can be met) and Mayrand's stance is the principled one, whether certain sectors of rural Quebec think so or not.

Posted by BruceR at 11:52 AM

Nahlah Ayed: cute, but a problem

I've now sat, for no obvious reason, through two Nahlah Ayed reports from Iraq on the CBC national news. The girl has drunk the Petraeus Kool-Aid, I'm afraid. Her constant message through the last two nights has been that the U.S. is successfully fighting Al Qaeda with Sunni help in Anbar. Not "Al Qaeda in Iraq," or "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia," or a "possibly mythical terrorist spin-off group". Al Qaeda, unmodified, which she uses repeatedly (last night three times in the same sentence). According to CBC and Ayed, the U.S. is fighting Bin Laden himself. It's a real low point for the CBC's coverage of this conflict.

I'm reminded of one of the better Internet putdowns of the last couple months, from Robert Chung dismantling David Kane on Deltoid:

"...the best professors do whatever they can to dispel ignorance and promote knowledge. Yes, in many cases that does mean answering questions; however, in your particular case, the situation is far more complex. You actually destroy knowledge, and your paper creates ignorance. In this situation, the way to be true to my professional responsibilities is to not be your enabler and to assure you that I ain't your monkey."

This week, the CBC has been destroying knowledge in Iraq.

Look, journalists, it's not that hard. People really don't mind acronyms sometimes (PLO comes to mind). If saying "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia" is too long, or confusing to read, just start calling these guys the "AQM terrorist organization" (or AQI, or whatever you agree on). When you say "Al Qaeda," unqualified, you are repeating a propaganda point unfiltered, and inaccurately. Until an operational link of some kind can be demonstrated between these shadowy Sunni insurgents and the Al Qaeda mothership, you are destroying knowledge about them. People would understand from the first two letters that AQM draws ideological inspiration from Bin Laden's group, without perpetuating the lie that, more than any other save the one on WMDs, has sucked the West into this self-perpetuating conflict in Iraq.

Posted by BruceR at 11:39 AM