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Free speech is dying a slow death in Canada.
Even after a pair of media outlets pushed back in Federal Court on Monday and won the right to cover the federal Leaders’ Debate, the mainstream media largely ignored them.
The pall political correctness has cast on our media and public discourse showed at Monday night’s media consortium Leaders’ Debate. At best it was a low-level conversation interrupted by too many moderators and too many bromides.
In many ways, the concept was so Canadian in its mediocrity that two branches of government and nine MSM outlets were required to produce it.
On the matter of free speech, it was only at the 11th hour that People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier was allowed to participate. Once on the debate stage, Bernier was assailed by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh for even being there.
The debate was held inside the Museum of Canadian History’s Grand Hall – if you haven’t been, highly recommended just for the totem poles – but accredited media were herded into a separate research building to view the live action via closed-circuit tv.
And so my foray into “live-tweeting” began, by watching the event on television like everyone else in the country.
As mediocre a platform for soundbites as it was, the debate remained the only opportunity for Canadian voters to witness all federal party leaders discuss the issues and defend their policies in English, before the general election on October 21.
If you haven’t already heard what happened in the debate, my Twitter thread via @TPostMillennial is a good entree.
Live tweet: You can follow the thread from the beginning by clicking here.
Back in Montreal, The Post Millennial team sorted clips, quote checked and then turned in some great coverage too, including this writeup on the bald-faced lie Justin Trudeau told about SNC-Lavalin, again.
But at the same time, I urge readers to check out other media coverage too.
That is the point of a vibrant and free press. More perspectives, not fewer is the only way to bolster our free market of ideas.
The other part of the equation is free choice; consumers should decide which information is of use to them, not faceless bureaucrats. Beyond policing criminal speech as defined in Canada’s Criminal Code, the government really has no business impeding expression it doesn’t like.
Which brings us to the story of the night.
The Leaders’ Debates Commission, who concocted the consortium that produced this turgid affair, had been dragged through federal court just hours earlier, for denying media accreditation to a pair of Rebel Media reporters, as well as True North’s Andrew Lawton.
As a backdrop to the Federal Court case, Lawton had been prevented from attending several Liberal Party events as a reporter and even escorted out of a Trudeau campaign rally in Thunder Bay, where he pre-registered as a guest.
Even when Lawton pressed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the post-debate scrum, on his exclusion from covering the Liberal campaign, Trudeau was non-committal.
According to True North founder Candice Malcolm, Lawton was refused entry to a Liberal campaign event in Markham Ontario, Wednesday morning.
And so this tenuous status quo among establishment media and politicos pretending they be the gatekeepers for who is worthy of accreditation and who is not, continues.
Bernier probably described our country’s current free expression woes best when he chided Singh for being all in favour of “diversity”, except when it came to the diversity of opinion.
Rebel Media reporter David Menzies was also part of the trio of reporters the Federal Court ordered accredited for the Leaders’ Debates on Monday.
While accounts differ on why Menzies was physically ejected from a Conservative event last week, then arrested by Andrew Scheer’s RCMP detail (he was later released without charges), the fact remains Menzies was manhandled from the venue by another major party engaged this game of deciding who is a journalist and who isn’t.
So with all that strange and dangerous anti-free speech water under the bridge while mainstream media largely goes la-di-frickin-da, TPM was the only news organization apart from Canadian Press who even attended federal court Monday afternoon.
The verdict: the debates commission lost, and free speech won. Meanwhile, Canadian Press’s story – picked up by some MSM outlets – caged the contest as a loss for the gatekeepers trying to prevent “right-wing outlets” engaged “advocacy” from acting as journalists; a delusion in itself to believe that MSM’s varied tentacles have never, ever engaged in advocacy.
With their legal costs awarded and media accreditation ordered by the Federal Court of Canada, Lawton, as well as Keane Bexte and Menzies were issued press badges and allowed into the event.
Keep in mind, of the journalists already accredited some 90 were there on behalf of CBC/Radio-Canada, as well as reporters for state-funded Al-Jazeera based in Qatar and some Vietnamese state mouthpiece.
Inside the media holding tank before the debate began, Menzies interviewed Lawton, Bexte sat quietly at a table working and two very important things did not happen.
First, and perhaps most troubling: MSM did not give the slightest care.
They don’t like the cut of Rebel’s or True North’s jib, mostly because these outlets represent serious competition and delve into matters MSM is either too ginned up on PC KoolAid to notice, or too timid to dare.
And number two; MSM bore witness that the fabric of the universe did not come undone as some of Rebel’s and Lawton’s shrillest detractors in MSM and politics would have had everyone believe, were they accredited.
A day later, that universal fabric may have come slightly unhinged for Gerald Butts, who spent much of Tuesday maligning anyone on Twitter who reposted Keane Bexte’s post-debate scrum question about #TrudeauBlackface on the world stage and whether the PM apologized to African and Middle Eastern leaders.
Based on Butts’ previous digital gibberish, it’s difficult to know if he understands the associated irony of his social media fit – retweeting anyone who posted the segment and calling them names – only further proliferated the offending clip.
And while some reporters are between horrified and annoyed that guys like Menzies, Bexte and Lawton are even allowed in the same press confines, they’d do well to remember that journalism is not this vaunted profession many like to pretend it is.
No special training is required to produce journalism.
It is a job that involves asking people questions and writing down the answers, observing your surroundings and adding particular context where required.
Reporters are observers and communicators of events and ideas. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Inside the marketplace of ideas, some may appreciate the questions, answers and particular subjects and story-telling technique a journalist employs, others might not.
The beauty of freedom of choice and freedom of the press is the ability for the consumer to decide which reporting is relevant, not a bureaucrat or another cadre of other journalists, which is the ditch Canada is stuck in at the moment.
Any arbitrary measures to exclude people who present as journalists, have a body of work and earn a living from it is the very last thing that will help any of us who practice journalism, or the vibrancy of our free press and our democracy.