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Clean Up the CAJ or Put It Out of Its Misery

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Readers of unusually good memory may remember my comments in the National Post in June of last year about the Canadian Association of Journalists. It had sent round to its membership, on what is called the CAJ Lists, the assertion by one David Pinto, a cranky ex-employee, decades ago, of the Montreal Gazette, that I had pillaged his accumulated pension of $166,000 to pay an account of mine with the United States Internal Revenue Service, and that I had performed the same service for 2,300 other pensioners.

I replied to the CAJ that the scooping of Mr. Pinto's pension had occurred seven years after I departed any position or standing with the corporate group of which he was the victim, that I myself was the chief pensioner-victim, and that the money was indeed stolen, but by the same people who falsely accused me, ransacked the companies my associates and I worked 35 years to build, drove them into bankruptcy, and that we were all victims together. I commiserated with Mr. Pinto but pointed out who his real oppressors were.

I was sanctimoniously advised by the anonymous officious overseer of the CAJ-Lists that he would refer to the moderator of the Lists the issue of whether my reply would be circulated to those who had received Mr. Pinto's false and defamatory attack on me, and whether I would be allowed to set the record straight as Mr. Pinto's principal fellow victim of the bloodsuckers and charlatans responsible for the entire failed prosecution of those who created and built the corporate group that was destroyed, vaporizing with it two billion dollars of shareholders' equity, as well as many millions of dollars of accrued pension, and thousands of jobs. Of course, I heard nothing more, my reply to Mr. Pinto's unfounded comments was not circulated, and after referring to the matter in the National Post, I heard nothing more of it until last week.

Despite the perfervid attempts of the CAJ, which holds itself out as a guarantor of the highest journalistic ethics, to restrict the Lists to true believers in their evangelical journalistic mission of disinformation and self-indulgence, to ensure that their bulletin does not reach anyone who might be minded to refute it, my sources apprised me of my return to their conscientious attention. I was moderately pleased to learn that David Pinto continues to fester and suppurates, somewhere. Hugo Rodrigues, apparently a Lists-eminence, wrapped up what I'm sure he accurately described as "a fascinating discussion" by reminding "you of Conrad Black's lengthy, error-filled, and angry rant against the CAJ and this list published in the National Post for something that was... posted to this list. (To which, of course, we replied...) Lord Black was not, at the time, a member of this list. Yet it reached him and his lawyer."

Mr. Rodrigues thus upheld the CAJ canon of 100 per cent fabrication: my column was rather good-natured, there was not one inaccuracy in it, and I received no reply, which I assumed (correctly) to mean that my response was not circulated to the List-subscribers, which is why I circulated it to the more than two thousand-times larger number of those who generally read my column in the National Post. It did not get to my lawyer, (any of them).The focus of the "fascinating discussion" was on the regrettable inability to restrict the List to the true believers, which as current events regularly remind us, is one of the hazards of the Internet; and on the difficulty of preventing those who have been defamed by the mendacious ravings of the membership of the Canadian Association of Journalists from learning what monstrous libels are being uttered about them by these wielders of the inexorable probe of truth and pillars of the public's right to receive the raw fabricated bile of the CAJ uncontaminated by factual inconvenience.

This is the tradition of the high priestess of the CAJ, Stevie Cameron, O.C., author of the solemn investigative nugget that Brian Mulroney had taken a multi-million dollar bribe in Air Canada's acquisition of a fleet of Airbuses, compounded, inter alia, by the former prime minister's unspeakable larceny in accepting a box of Oreo Cookies from his close friend of decades who was the head of the company that makes and markets Oreos. It has been my privilege to employ many thousands of journalists over more than four decades in a number of countries, and most of them are, like most people, reasonably principled and affable and most have some standards, and we are all sinners who make mistakes sometimes. And most of us repent, or at least regret, them. It is a mystery to me, though not one to which I have attached much curiosity, why the Canadian Association of Journalists appears to be a catchment for the most maladjusted and malignant, the most hackneyed and morally palsied detritus of that very uneven, self-obsessed, and self-policing craft.

Journalists are often interesting, not infrequently quite talented, and usually have some professional pride, or at least common decency. Those who rightly call themselves journalists in this country might wonder why this admittedly (and reassuringly) declining occupational association is the carrier and propagator of the pernicious virus of malicious invention. It doesn't represent journalistic standards and if it did, no one would know any facts at all about any subject of public interest, other than to the extent any individual was directly aware of what was being reported.

I am not habitually a defender of the media, but having received the sum of five million dollars from those who libeled me and generated a false indictment of me and stole Mr. Pinto's and my pensions, alibel settlement unprecedented and unapproached in the history of this country, I urge the press to clean up the CAJ or put it out of its misery. Its death-throes may be "fascinating" to those passing to the Stygian shore with it, but it dihonours the occupation it purports to serve.

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