So, I walked into The Office of O.W. Toad Ltd., where the usually smiling staff (two in number) who attempt to run my life with whips of steel were giving me the frowny treatment.
“You’ve been signing petitions again,” they said. “Naughty Margaret! Don’t you remember that you promised not to do that?”
I knew it would be pretty feeble of me to protest that signing petitions was something anyone in a democracy should feel free to do. That would be saying that I was the same as anyone, whereas – it appears – I am not. Scampering off to sign petitions would be – in the eyes of The Office – like Marie Antoinette playing milkmaids. So yes, I had promised – more or less – because I know how much trouble it causes, and what kind of trouble.
For instance: some years ago, before the invasion of Iraq, I signed a mild, gutless petition that said wouldn’t it be better to negotiate and investigate before just invading Iraq. (Remember Hans Blix, who said there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction that he could find? Remember how he was dumped on? Remember the No Weapons of Mass D. that were eventually found? Remember how much money and world prestige this war has cost America? Remember what Jean Chrétien said when he declined Canada’s participation: “What we need is da proof, and dat will be de proof.” Succinct. Now, for 50 extra points: Would it have been a) good for Canada or b) bad for Canada to have gone into that war?
No sooner had I signed the Iraq petition than the organizers of it were on to me to come and speak at a meeting. “No,” said I. “All I did was sign the petition. I do not want to be the poster person for it.” And I went off to get my hair cut. Contrary to popular belief, I do that sometimes, when I’m not taking the nail scissors to it.
Next thing, I find myself being denounced in newspapers as someone egging on Saddam Hussein in his baby-killing activities. I also find myself being quoted – notably by Margaret Wente in the Globe– as having said, at that meeting, that the biggest threat to world press was George Bush and his gang of thugs.
Three letters were sent to the Globe, pointing out that I couldn’t have said anything at a meeting, because I wasn’t there; which also meant that those doing the quoting weren’t there either – they were getting the news from Martians, or through the fillings in their teeth.
As the three letters were not published, I called my lawyer, who dropped a Notice of Libel onto the Globe. I kind of looked forward to the trial – the haircutter would have to testify that indeed the snarly white bit at the back was attached to my head and nobody else’s – but the Globe swiftly published a teeny-weeny retraction, which was read by several ants and mice. Was this “censorship” on my part? Does “free speech” mean that anyone can make up stuff you said, even if you were getting your hair cut at the time? I think not.
(There followed a hurt phone call from the Globe—why had I done such a mean thing to them? The guy who edited the Letters to the Editor was away on vacation, etc. etc.)
So that’s the kind of trouble signing those pesky petitions can cause.
Nevertheless, I occasionally sneak out and sign one, just for old times’ sake. And now – since there is Twitter – I sometimes pass them along. Ones about stuff like sending aid to Pakistan or Haitian flood or earthquake victims don’t cause much of a stir, it seems. But this one did.
Now, you will note from the Report on Business article below –
that what Sun Media wants is not a licence to broadcast – it will have that anyway – but a very special kind of licence, “a rare must-carry licence. It would have guaranteed distribution by all cable and satellite firms – and the subscriber fees that come along with that distribution.” In other words, it wants special treatment. It is the special treatment – the must-carry licence and the subscriber fees – that the petition seems to me to be addressing, along with possible undue pressure being put on a public regulator by the Prime Minister. Is this a “censorship” or “free speech” matter? I think not. Sun Media has lots of “free speech,” and lots of money to create more for itself. Nobody can stop it saying what it wants, within the laws limiting public speech (and Canada does have such laws: anti-hate speech laws, laws against child pornography, and libel laws being among them).
I immediately found myself jumped on by some of the Sun Boys and accused by them and others of “censorship,” lack of patriotism, supporting terrorists (???), and all kinds of other crimes and misdemeanors – leading to the conclusion that I was a Really Bad Person. I fully expect accusations of witchcraft and incense – sorry, incest – to follow, as with Marie Antoinette and Ann Boleyn. Next I’ll be told I was at a meeting I wasn’t at, saying things I didn’t say.
Which is a fun way of deflecting public attention from the issues that ought to be being discussed. These seem to me to include a discussion of: a) whether or not Lawrence Martin, Linda McQuaig et al (see below) are lying about PM Harper’s mysterious off-the-record media-mogul special lunch – is that any of the taxpayer’s business, or did they discuss family matters, and did we pay for the lunch?
b) whether special influence should be brought to bear on the granting of special must-carry licences,
c) if such a licence is granted under such influence, won’t Sun Media owe the PM a big favour, and if so what price the watchdog function of the media, and
d) whether there should be special arm’s length regulators like the CRTC in charge of granting special licences that supply a guaranteed income to special large media corporations, for special channels headed by the PM’s former special advisor.
e) Whether Canada is drifting rapidly away from parliamentary democracy towards a special form of one-man micromanagement is a not unrelated issue.
Those issues are pretty specially special, and legitimate topics for debate. Whether I am a Really Bad Person would seem to come under a separate heading. According to The Office, I am a Really Naughty Person, as I have caused them much extra work, what with the phone ringing and people wanting me to be on their radio shows and so forth.
Sorry, Office. I’ll try not to do it again. But those little “click-here” buttons are sooo tempting. Can’t I push just one…. ?
Here’s the petition:
Here are the specific sources:
Globe and Mail: “Is Harper set to move against the CRTC?”:
CBC: “The absolute last thing this country needs”:
Globe and Mail: CRTC refuses Sun TV’s bid for preferred status on dial:
The Star: “Harper’s foxy luncheon”: