Huffpost Canada ca
J.J. McCullough Headshot

Media Bites: We'll Bunk With Those Brits, But Wente Must Go

Posted: Updated:

I feel it's only appropriate that we begin with the story that's on everyone's mind, namely our country's forcible re-conquest by the British Empire.

To say that Sunday's binational announcement that Canadians and Britons would soon be acting as roomies in various diplomatic missions abroad was treated as a huge honkin' deal by the Canadian press would be something of a stiff-lipped understatement.

I don't know if it was just excitement about a piece of British-themed news that didn't involve royal nudity or what, but the embassy story somehow made the front page of all the major papers earlier this week, as reporters breathlessly chronicled Canada's apparent mid-life return to mom's basement with a delirious mix of chauvinistic alarm and patriotic insecurity.

This bizarre exercise in retrograde neo-colonialism has prompted "concern that a hybrid diplomatic channel could weaken Canada's global standing," said the Globe. It may "may spark questions from critics in this country about whether the ability of Canadian diplomats to act fully independently in certain foreign countries," agreed Postmedia.  Some say the "Harper government is turning back the clock on the country's relationship with its former colonial master," added the Canadian Press," others that "it highlights Canada's flagging diplomatic ambitions around the world" quipped the Toronto Star.

Bloody 'ell, what an abomination! So how should the people of Canada respond to this appalling slight against our sacred national sovereignty? Outrage? Indignance? Dressing up as Indians and throwing a bunch of Orange Pekoe in Lake Erie?

Well, the correct answer, says the press, is actually nothing, since this is a completely meaningless non-story no one should care about at all. Whoever gave you that idea?

Completely "humdrum" scoffs the Globe and Mail editorial board. Bunking embassies with the Brits is an "entirely reasonable measure" by the federal government to squeeze some pennies and pool resources -- nothing more nothing less.  "To share certain costs is not to revert to membership in the British Empire" you dopes, they scold. Anyone who believes otherwise has clearly been reading one too many sensationalistic gossip rags. Like that rakish Globe and Mail.

Oh my yes, agrees the Calgary Herald, "this is not an arrangement Canadians or anyone else, for that matter, should get alarmed about." Really, it's "curious that this announcement is causing such a stir," in the first place. I blame "robotic" Harper-bashing, says Postmedia's Michael DenTandt. I blame the insecurity of the "Canadian foreign affairs elite" says the Post's Matt Gurney. Either way, all this imperial fear-mongering is pure "poppycock" concludes the Winnipeg Free Press.

When you take Communications 101 in college, one of the first things they teach you (between finger-painting and naptime)  is an appreciation for the difference between the sort of stoic, upstanding, more-neutral-than-Switzerland-on-Sunday stuff that gets printed in a newspaper's actual "news" section, and the nakedly partisan, openly biased tripe you get from that same paper's editorial page.

Less discussed, however, is the increasingly obvious reality that the two supposedly arms'-length factions can actually feed into each other in a creepily self-perpetuating cycle -- the former by whipping up fears over some phony crisis that the latter can then cockily smack down (particularly once the politicians start to play along).

There's really no other way to explain it. I mean, re-colonization by the British? Have you ever heard something so -- wait a second... tabloid journalism... insecure foreign policy establishment... poppycock?

Oh God, it's too late!

***

'Course, there are times when the Canuck press is perfectly willing to tun the guns inward. For example, whenever Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente gets embroiled in some kinda plagiarism scandal.

Do you read Wente? You might notice that she doesn't appear much in this space, mostly because I find she's one of those boring columnists more interested sitting off in the corner pondering her own esoteric brainwaves (it's revealing that the Wente piece at the centre of this scandal was about "enviro-romanticism") than contributing to some more meaningful political discussion. But for whatever reason, a lot of her press buddies really seem to hate her, and my word, are they happy to see her fall! You'd almost think there was some sort of embassy restructuring involved, so heady and thorough has the coverage been.

Need to catch up? Well, there's certainly no shortage of places to look. The Toronto Star has a cute little Wentegate timeline, while the National Post's Chris Selley has written long retrospectives, as has Macleans' Colby Cosh, and the Tyee'Shannon Rupp. The CBC's turfed her, and Twitter's aflame.

Everyone agrees the woman is one of the worst monsters of modern journalism --"pathologically unable" to stop plagiarizing says Colby. If this were America " she would certainly be out on her keester" by now agrees Chris. It's sad, really.

But why her? A rare voice of dissent in the press pile-on, the Post's Dan Delmar argues that the real story of Wentegate is simply a bunch of "self-righteous journalism geeks" crucifying a provocative iconoclast for a couple "exceedingly common" copy-editing missteps out of some cruel snob "disdain for the body of her work."
Personally, I'm not so sure. We Canadians are a very forgiving people, and if our most popular newspapers are any indication, you can't be a Canadian journalism geek without a pretty high tolerance for dumb columnists.
But c'mon, Margaret, at least be smart at being dumb.