The SUN article, the Great Pumpkin, and the Purple Cross-eyed Zozzle Curse

What a week it has been! After signing a petition, which you can find at avaaz.ca — the actual “petition” is the part in the box — and then being singled out and attacked for doing it, and after the Twitterscuffle described below — connected with it, though not caused by it — two extraordinary things happened. First, the person heading up the “Fox News North” SUN TV News effort suddenly resigned, as the result of a chain of events described below:

www.montrealgazette.com/entertainment

Second, George Soros sued the SUN, as a result of allegations made about him in one of the articles– here is an account of that:

http://apicazo.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/ezra-levant-vs-reality-a-prelude-to-fox-news-north/

… and the SUN published a retraction and apology, which you can see here (though I am not sure that matter has been fully resolved):

http://www.ottawasun.com/comment/2010/09/17/15390151.html

Meanwhile, although I had grounds for a lawsuit or two of my own, I decided not to go down that road at present — who can afford the time? — and instead invoked the Great Pumpkin. Not saying that it and the Purple Cross-eyed Zozzle Curse it controls had anything to do with the defenestration and squashing effects seen above, but let’s just say that although Le Gros Pompion is very open-minded and likes to smile and shine light all round, it is a powerful entity. It does not like the publication of damaging whoppers, and understands very well the difference between those and “opinions.” It also does not think that hanging up on obscene phone calls or their equivalent is “censorship.”

After consulting with the GP, I decided to give the poor SUN a chance – after all, it would be mean of me and a seasonal vegetable to crush such a weak media conglomerate, with a mere 10.5 million (what are they? subscribers?) and a bazillion dollars. They offered me 600 words. I took them. (That’s why the piece below is rather terse.) I tried to cover some of the high (or low) points of the many allegations about me made in their various articles, though doubtless I didn’t get them all. Their lawyers went over every word to make sure it was all factually accurate.

I still don’t understand why they bothered — after all, as one of their supporters told me genially through Twitter, nobody gives a rat’s ass what I think. So what did they intend to accomplish? And what will happen the next time I wander out into traffic or stroll unwittingly into the Mug-A-Little-Old-Lady Woods? Did I lure the poor things in by looking so witless and all, and giving a good imitation of free candy — so much fun to scrawl swearwords on “icons,” and I was an inveterate drawer of arms on the Venus de Milo, when juvenile? Did I then do dastardly things to them in my naughty gingerbread cottage? Perish the thought. Honest. The Great Pumpkin is my witness.

Here’s the link to the SUN: http://bit.ly/cjMzyR

Here’s the piece, in my text (minus odd SUN headline):

Dear SUN Readers: Last week I signed a Twitterpetition and got into a Twitterscrum — silly me, slap wrist, shut mouth — and SUN and friends published several defamatory pieces accusing me of everything but kitten-roasting and causing bubonic plague. Here are some of the spins, smears, and whoppers:

Avaaz: SUN: George Soros “funds” Avaaz, a U.S. organization. By signing its petition, I have “sold out” to both Soros and the U.S. Fact: Avaaz is international, funded 100% by members. Once, George Soros gave 5%.

False names: SUN: The Avaaz petition was stuffed with signatures from people who didn’t sign it. Fact: Someone in Ottawa stuffed; Ex-Quebecor v-p Kory Teneycke has admitted he knew, almost as soon as it happened. The RCMP has been asked to investigate. Maybe it’s fraud. Would you want your name on something you didn’t sign?

Al-Jazeera: SUN: “Al-Jazeera lover.” Fact: I was once interviewed by Riz Khan about my writing. Many folks associated with the SUN appear on CBC TV shows. Does that make them “CBC lovers”?

Travel and drinking habits: SUN: champagne-swilling jet-setter. Truth: I prefer Scotch, and use public transport. Planes, trains, and buses for work-related and charity events. I offset with Zerofootprint and Offsetters.

Political leanings: SUN: Leftie pinko Green. Fact: Swing Voter. We look for values, not labels. I’d vote for a turnip if it was accountable, transparent, a parliamentary democrat, and listened to people. “Green” is not the same as “Left:” many people like the outdoors and don’t want their kids killed by chemicals.

Did I speak at a pro-separatist rally? Nope — I spoke at a pro-unity rally. (People mess with my Wikipedia.)

The actual petition: “As concerned Canadians who deeply oppose American-style hate media on our airwaves, we applaud the CRTC’s refusal to allow a new “Fox News North” channel to be funded from our cable fees. We urge Mr. von Finckenstein to stay in his job and continue to stand up for Canada’s democratic traditions, and call on Prime Minister Harper to immediately stop all pressure on the CRTC on this matter.” The verbs are “applaud,” “urge,” and “call on;” not “ban,” “suppress,” and “censor.”

The “Fox News” comparison is from the SUN’s own CRTC Application # 1. Is it “American-style hate media?” You judge. The CRTC refused Sun TV’s request for a special licence that forces all cable and satellite distributors to offer the station, thus gaining automatic income. Application #2 — almost the same deal as #1, but for three years — will be considered. The Sun says it needs this special deal for its “business plan.” Should it get one? Should anyone? Can I have one too?

Am I a proponent of “censorship”? Nope. Read the petition again. Now Mr. von Finckenstein has said he isn’t under pressure (unlike his fired CRTC deputy), and will judge Application # 2 on its merits. Good! Real censorship includes: book burning, murdering, jailing and exiling writers, and shutting down newspapers, publishers, and TV stations. If you are against this, support PEN International and Index on Censorship. Calling the Avaaz petition “censorship” is beyond cheap. Is it “censorship” to block trolls on Twitter? No, and it’s not “censorship” to send back hate mail unopened and refuse material for your own blog, either. Anyone can vent on their own Twitter or blog. And anyone can sign a petition to express their views.

Last word: Folks to left and to right have been attacking me for 40 years. But smearing me is hardly an argument in support of SUN TV’s special licence. Maybe that’s what SUN TV News has in mind: smear early and smear often? Would you want that to happen to you? Could you afford to sue them? Neither can I.

33 Comments

Filed under 1, YOTF Tour Blog

33 responses to “The SUN article, the Great Pumpkin, and the Purple Cross-eyed Zozzle Curse

  1. Love the Star post. One question: As a ‘swing voter’, using the definition you provided, do you ever actually get to vote? Accountable, transparent, democratic and a great listener seem like extremely high aspirations in this day and age…

  2. Once again, Margaret…to the point and succinct; revealing and educational; accurate, meaningful and just acerbic enough. Plus – and this is the best part – saved me the price of a “Sun”.

  3. Dear Ms Atwood, congratulations on your blog. However, I must say that the white on black background is very hard to read for anyone over 50, and you are several years older than I am. Please be kind to ageing eyes!

    • Drew Lethbridge

      I must concur with lagatta a montreal. As a longtime reader of your blog, I was going to attempt to make the same point. Please add me to the list of people urging you to rethink the design of your web presence. I earned a BA of Design from Emily Carr University where we were often told to be very careful with ‘reverse type’ as it can become tiresome quickly thereby losing viewers.

      Please, Ms Atwood speak with your designer about this matter.

  4. Tony

    Love this! Didn’t know you had a blog before, so will have to subscribe. Thanks for making my day.

  5. Diane Ferguson

    Excellent article. The Globe and Mail also published that AVAAZ was funded by George Soros. I often sign AVAAZ petitions, so googled around to find out more about George Soros as I had no idea who he was. I couldn’t find any direct connection. It would be nice if these newspapers would fact check! Thanks for clearing that up .

  6. some of us older activist types are very concerned about one of our (fellow-travellers).

    Her name is Betty Krawczyk.

    She has been arrested more than once as she protested – peacefully I might add – to try to save precious parts of the Canadian wilderness, specifically in B.C.

    She first went to prison at age 65…and i believe her las arrest and imprisonment was at age 78.

    I hope you don’t mind me posting this link on your site Ms. Atwood…but here’s where people can learn more about Betty –

    http://thegallopingbeaver.blogspot.com/2010/09/life-sentence-for-betty-k.html

  7. My reason for posting that is that she is about to go to jail again…

  8. Greg Truman

    Opponents of Sun TV point to the station’s desire to have a “mandatory carry” TV license which would force everyone to pay for Sun TV carriage whether they wanted it or not. However in Sun’s article attacking Atwood for signing the petition, it stated: “Sun TV News is not, nor has it ever, asked for “mandatory carriage” by cable or satellite companies. As the critics correctly point out, this would be tantamount to a tax on everyone with cable or satellite service. It is what CBC News Network has, but not what we are asking for. We are simply asking for the channel to be “offered” by the distributors.”

    Given that Margaret Atwood’s original stated reason for signing the petition was that they were asking for mandatory carriage rather than just making it available to subscribers (at whatever fee or bundle the carrier wishes to charge), this all now seems like a mountain made out of some misunderstanding molehill.

    Which all seems to me to benefit Sun TV at the expense of Atwood, but who knows in the wacky world of media exposure.

    Incidentally, signing a petition that characterizes the by far largest cable news channel in the US as “hate media” is, well, ignorant.

  9. SK Werner

    FOX *spews* hatred, fear, and well, ignorance. Yay for Ms. Atwood!

    Glen Beck has Nazi Tourettes
    ~Lewis Black

  10. Greg Truman

    If you were to look at news stations objectively, you would find that they all use fear to make their stories more interesting. Global warming is going to kill us all! Our drinking water isn’t safe! (In the US) your health insurance company will drop you if you get cancer! And on and on. The only real difference between Fox and CNN, MSNBC is their bias. In general, CNN and MSNBC are deferential towards Democratic politicians and hostile towards Republicans, similarly for left-wing causes (environment, economic fairness) versus right-ring causes (govt control/spending, security), while Fox is the opposite. I don’t see how having opposing views on the TV is a bad thing. Obviously if you have left wing views, you’re not going to like Fox, and in this context, Sun News, but surely you don’t think their voices should be silenced, do you?

    • marg09

      SUN already has a TV station. The point at issue was a new one they want a license for, whether that license should be a special one of a kind that no one else has, and whether there was undue government influence or a crony connection.

      What we all want in a news source is: a) that the facts they publish should be true (unlike the stories that just resulted in a lawsuit for the SUN re: awful untrue things they printed about George Soros, and the departure of a VP there over untrue things they said about avaaz) and b) that it is not secretly a puppet show for an entity we don’t know about.

      Before this recent period, the SUN was a cheeky rascal. See the “Sun family blog” to get the views of the Golden Oldie Sunfolk. They are not sad that the recent period is now hopefully over.

      • Greg Truman

        Thanks for the reply. I believe what kind of license Sun News is looking for is in dispute. Sun themselves say they are not looking for a “mandatory carry” license, they just want a regular license that everyone else (save CBC) has. At least that’s what they say now. Maybe they were originally looking for the special license, and they’ve changed their mind after hearing from the CRTC. Regardless, this isn’t a relevant point anymore as the CRTC is not going to give them a special license, and they are asking for a regular license right now.

        As to your point about what kind of news service Sun News will be. Yes, journalists can make mistakes – but do it too often and lawsuits will pile up and listeners will disappear, so I don’t think that is a likely scenario for a for-profit company. Notice that the guy who made those mistakes no longer works for Sun News. What is more dangerous and insidious is a media that ignores stories all together. If there a protest against the long gun registry and no one covers it, this a problem. Voices are not heard. Sun News will likely expand the types of stories that are reported upon and I don’t see how that is a bad thing.

      • marg09

        The dreaded license: My piece in the SUN — reprinted on this blog — has a paragraph on the petition itself, and on the kind of license now being sought. That paragraph was gone over extensively by the SUN’s own lawyers, because both the SUN and I wanted to make sure that what was said was factually accurate. (That had not been done, I assume, with some of the pieces that got them in trouble, such as the Teneycke piece and the Levant piece.) Yes, the second license being sought is somewhat different from the first, but it is still a special deal they are looking for — a kind of hybrid.

        Of course there should be a multiplicity of points of view. There are. Note that the SUN already has many newspapers and a TV station. It is hardly being muzzled. And to do it justice, what we might call the ur-SUN — the nugget of SUN-ness still remaining, composed of professional though cheeky journalists — would never have messed around in this way and got its bits caught in the wringer, nor would it have let itself be seen as the crony mouthpiece for just one political party or one government leader. And it would not have put into its very own application the example of “Fox News.” It would have said “In the straight-talk tradition of the Calgary Eye-Opener.” (Then we all would have loved it, because who can hate – or possibly even remember — the Calgary Eye-Opener?) I think the old SUN-ers — whose views may be seen in the Sun Family Blog, postings of Sept. 19 and 21 –must have been biting their own toenails off at the ineptitude and sheer unprofessionalism of those who were mucking up their beloved paper by telling flat-out lies and –urk! — getting caught! (Note that I credit the old guard with lithesome flexibility. It takes that to bite off your own toenails.)

        Perhaps the SUN has just been saved –thanks to the Great Pumpkin — from a group of people who thought they could run it as if it were a smear and jeer political muppet. Let us hope that the new VP brought in realizes that the SUN observes its primary duty to its readers – to tell actual facts, whatever construction it or its columnists may then put on those facts. “Napoleon won the Battle of Waterloo (the factual part) because he had an excellent horse” (the opinion part) kinda falls apart if Napoleon did not win the Battle of Waterloo.

      • Greg Truman

        I agree that SUN News, along with Ezra, went off the deep end in response to your petition signing. In the end, I don’t think they did themselves any favours.

        The license: Here is the CRTC’s current notice of hearing (for Nov. 19 if anyone’s interested): http://bit.ly/dzhIO8

        SUN has been consistent in describing what they are asking for – they are asking that the cable TV and satellite companies be required to offer, at whatever fee they choose to charge, SUN News. They are not asking that cable TV subscribers be required to purchase it, or that it will be bundled into basic or premium packages. You are quite correct, though, in that this is still a special request. Normally stations are granted a license and then it is up to them to convince the cable companies that their subscribers want them.

        It does betray a lack of confidence that SUN News is basically saying that it doesn’t think the cable companies will think the station important enough to even offer it. Al Jazeera has managed to get on Rogers Cable, Videotron and Bell TV without a special license and they are a foreign news network. SUN News should have an easier time considering they will deliver Canadian news.

        Thank you for engaging me in this discussion. You’ve convinced me to at least be agnostic in SUN News’ desire to have a special license.

        Hopefully, though, when SUN News does come on the air, people will judge it based on its content and not on smears promulgated by people in political opposition to it.

  11. SK Werner

    A “news” station that compares the US president to Hitler (including art work depicting same), a “news” station that calls the US president racist, a “news” station that breeds fear of a government—and of elected officials to the point of putting their lives at risk—rather than HONEST news of global warming and other issues, fearful though they may be, is hate mongering. I don’t mind republication-bent stations as long as they tell the truth. FOX has edited film completely changing context, FOX has encouraged crazy people to be crazier, and FOX has contradicted its own reporting almost continuously—choosing whichever “news” that makes the US president look the worst.

    • Greg Truman

      Sigh. And MSNBC is better? Bush wasn’t absolutely lambasted and trashed when he was President? Bushitler ring a bell?

      Also, your derogatory points about Fox’s programming all occurred (as far as I can tell) during their opinion programming. As with most news stations, they have both hard news and opinion, much like a newspaper with its news and editorials. Fox’s news programming is as solid as anyone else’s, but of course, with a different slant and emphasis.

      I don’t know if this is the right forum, but I think I know some of the specific incidents you are referring to (Hitler, racist, film editing) and I’d be happy to explain what actually happened in those cases which is probably in opposition to a view distorted by left-wing media.

      I take it by your tone that you’d like to actually censor Fox? Take it off the air? Or restrict what they can and can’t say?

      • SK Werner

        Don’t want to censor any organization, I never said that. Don’t want to argue or listen to explanations, either. You’re right, this isn’t the forum. And we’ll never change each other’s beliefs.
        Namaste,
        Sandy

  12. Well done.
    Also, very delighted to have discovered this blog!

  13. Bert

    So, Margaret, you do realize, do you not, that you have lost all credibility now that you said that you don’t believe in the moon landing ?.

    • marg09

      But I didn’t say that.

      We got a query from the National Post about some jokey conversation I had with some students on the radio. They asked for my comments. I replied:

      “I think it’s about me being a wing nut, from the sound of it.

      Comment: It’s a running joke and also a running conspiracy theory that the moon shot took place in Sudbury. There’s another running joke that the Russian space stuff was filmed under the Moscow central subway station. (See the novel ‘Ammon Ra.’) If he’s asking whether I believe either of these, on the whole, no, because too many people were involved – surely you couldn’t keep ALL of them from leaking! But the questions about the computer technology needed to do something this complex remain with us– what were they using, in those days before microchips? How heavy was it? ”

      Then the National Post published their piece anyway, without the comment they had asked for and received.

      —— Forwarded Message
      From: “O.W. Toad”
      Date: Thu, 23 Sep 2010 11:32:31 -0400
      To: Margaret Atwood
      Subject: FW: National Post Enquiry

      Please see below. I appreciate him taking the time to fact check…. Can you
      confirm that you made these comments and do you have a comment? I believe
      they are working on a piece for tomorrow. Don’t know what about.

  14. Holly Stick

    Your new friend Rob Breakenridge wrote a blog post about your twitter conversation, though he left some tweets out, including the one about the speculative fiction context. Maybe not intentionally, it’s hard to follow a long twittergiversation (meaning no. 1. at http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday/archive/2004/01/13.html )

    Here’s his post; he seems to be a literalist. Maybe he doesn’t read fiction?

    http://www.am770chqr.com/Blogs/RobBreakenridge/BlogEntry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10143524

    • marg09

      Thanks. As I have offended a certain segment of the Right –who have not registered that the old SUN guys actually like it that Kory T. is gone – no canal will be left undragged, and many an old boot will presented as a dead body. Time to re-read some heretic and witch trials, and for me to figure out what else I may have said or done in the misty past that will now reappear, sans context and twisted into a pretzel, as evidence of my heinous guilt about something or other. Fun conversations about weird possibilities seem verboten to these folk. (ATWOOD ONCE WORE GARTER BELT! True. But it was before panty hose. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) Maybe I’d better watch that Great Pumpkin and Purple Cross-eyed Zozzle Curse talk, eh? That might get me burned at the stake for sure! (ATWOOD BELIEVES IN MAGIC AND TALKING VEGETABLES!)

  15. Holly Stick

    I’m a little worried that your Turnip could run up against the Onion Ring, producing the headline “Atwood prefers raw veggies to cooked!”

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Can-this-Onion-Ring-get-more-fans-than-Stephen-Harper/282298836447

  16. Pingback: Margaret Atwood Should Resign From PEN International « NoFrakkingConsensus

  17. cable tvs these days are rapidly being converted into a digital service which offers more value added services .~-

  18. Dear Margaret Atwood
    We have developed a paper cup that has an integrated lid- lid that folds down to enclose cup/container so that the cup is 100% paper with no need for a plastic lid. This cup should be cost competitive with any conventional cup on the market. Unfortunately we are being stonewalled by the major suppliers to the market. A real testament to our product is found on the treehugger blog which is ANTI-Disposables. Please take a look at http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/01/clever-cup-design.php. We are seeking help to commercialize our product so that the restaurant chains will have an environmentally-friendly alternative. Our website is http://www.shamrockcups.com
    Best regards,
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    (cell) 314-378-0516

  19. This really is the information I wanted. Thanks for writing this publish.

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