Canadian media and the barring of George Galloway

The CanWest media empire, as all Canadians know, forces a pro-Israel editorial policy on all of its newspapers. This order, straight from the Asper family, also dictates editorial responses to any person who criticizes Israeli aggression or expresses sympathy for Palestinians suffering under Israel’s 41-year old occupation. The merits of such an argument do not matter; the paper is expected to smear the individual, lie about his or her motives and generally commit character assassination in the name of the greater Israeli good. Such was the empire’s reaction to the Harper government’s decision to ban British MP George Galloway from entering Canada to speak about Israeli war on occupied Gaza last December and the suffering of native Palestinians under the Israeli occupation. Here’s a sampling:

The Calgary Herald, March 24: "Barring Galloway from Canada right thing to do [because it] "should be seen as an issue of security law, not a dispute over free speech. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was acting strictly within the letter of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act-and not trampling on freedom of expression-when he ordered that Galloway be barred from Canada."

The National Post on March 31 framed the story as an issue of free speech, yet blasted Galloway’s views by saying: "[He] cavorts with dictators and apologizes for terrorists." The editorial ends with: "[Galloway is] "a toxic clown who serves as a mouthpiece for some of the most dangerous people on Earth."

The Edmonton Journal on April 1 did criticize the government, albeit very mildly, by saying that it goofed; nevertheless, it smeared Galloway without naming him: "Unpleasant people with a public agenda travel to free societies like ours all the time. They breed misery, transmit lies or half-truths and seek money for dubious causes, playing on fear and ignorance while summoning toxic baggage that should have remained in other lands."

Readers, of course, are expected to agree with the Journal‘s framing of the story — our government must deny entry to all those who "breed misery, transmit lies or half-truths and seek money for dubious causes, playing on fear and ignorance while summoning toxic baggage."

CanWest owns more than 60% of the English-language media in Canada, which means journalists at its papers cannot afford to be objective about Israel. They will be fired if they even try. Other Canadian journalists (the other 40%) also self-censor because they might one day have to apply for a job at CanWest.

One brave soul, though, is Canadian columnist and author Linda McQuaig. In the Toronto Star on April 7 she wrote: "Anyone who has ever seen George Galloway in action knows why he had to be stopped at the border. He definitely poses a threat-although not the security one alleged by the Harper government. Rather, Galloway, a five-times elected member of the British Parliament, poses a threat to Stephen Harper’s ability to sell Canadians on our involvement in the Afghan war and on Ottawa’s support for Israel in its battle against the Palestinians…

"Media commentators have missed the point by treating the ban as purely a free-speech issue, and suggesting Galloway should be heard, despite his odious views.

"Galloway’s views aren’t odious. In fact, they’re in sync with millions of Canadians. In a recent Angus Reid poll, 48 per cent of Canadians wanted our troops brought home from Afghanistan before the scheduled 2011 withdrawal. A BBC poll showed Canadians have more negative than positive views of Israel – even before the Gaza bombing, which UN human rights investigator Richard Falk said last month ‘would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude.’"

But back in the 1990s, when she was a reporter at The Globe and Mail, I recall McQuaig saying that she was called into the managing editor’s office because of something she wrote about the government’s deficit and national debt. She was instructed not to make it sounds as if there were a class struggle going on.

Welcome to Canada’s "free" media!