10/22/2012 12:25 EDT | Updated 12/22/2012 05:12 EST

Media Bites: The Amanda Todd Op-Eds That Go Too Far


It's now been two weeks since the tragic, allegedly bullying-induced suicide of B.C. teenager Amanda Todd first made headlines around the world, but if the steady output of Canadian editorial pages is any indication, there's still much to say. 

Whatever else one thinks of this story, and the various debates surrounding it, it's hard to deny the sheer poetic justice in the volume of sympathy and thoughtfulness born from the aftermath of an episode of such overbearing nihilism and cruelty.

Not that some haven't gone too far, of course. Licia Corbella's recent piece in the Calgary Herald, for instance, which compares Amanda's death to the attempted murder of that activist girl in Pakistan, is perhaps a bit much. Amanda was a sexually-active girl harassed and hounded by abusive misogynists, Licia writes, and "the only difference with the Taliban is they bury such girls and women up to their necks and stone them to death in the street." But that's a pretty big "only."

In the Vancouver Province, meanwhile, husband-and-wife team Peter Schroeder and Dagmar Schroeder-Hildebrand go the full Godwin and liken deaths like Amanda's to the Holocaust itself. Because really, what was the murder of six million Jews if not an "extreme case of bullying"?

But even if some of the press rhetoric surrounding the Todd tragedy has been a tad overblown, their solutions have been decidedly grounded. This, of course, is in marked contrast to the political set, who have been in their usual hurry to suggest the end of bullycide is merely one fashionable law away.

The aforementioned happy couple, for their part, describe bullying as a "fact of life" that's best fought not through legislation (we "outlawed bank robberies and other things but they still happen," they quip) but rather a sort of zero-tolerance attitude at the lowest level.

It's absolutely crucial we understand that society's savage hike up the "Pyramid of Hate and Intolerance" begins "with disparaging remarks, with 'dirty' jokes and also with exclusion" and ends with Nazis. If this sounds like a pitch for some gimmicky new teacher's aide, it's because it is. Only $9.95! Order now!

Bah, says ex-principal Carol Hunter guest writing in the Ottawa Citizen, "You don't stop bullying by zero-tolerance policies" you stop it by creating "safe and caring school cultures." Somewhere along the way, she writes, our classrooms stopped being incubators of "shared beliefs and values," so we should probably ratchet up the extracurriculars to compensate. It's a stirring call to unpaid overtime that I'm sure will be enthusiastically embraced by teacher's unions across the land.

In any case, let's try not to get too melodramatic here, cautions Mark Bonokoski in the various Sun papers. Though you wouldn't know this from reading the headlines "teen suicides have not suddenly become epidemic" and are actually "down slightly since the 1980s. There's not much evidence, in short, to suggest that "cyberworld" harassment is sending more kids to an early grave than "the old-fashioned way" ever did. In terms of solutions, Mark is not much different than the rest; we need to ensure that we're "teaching our children well" in our schools and homes -- and not just during sensationalistic periods of national tragedy, either.

With so much well-meaning anti-bullying advice flowing from so many learned minds, it's a pity they can't all be right. But then again, considering the broad consensus in favor of bottom-up cultural reform rather than top-down social engineering, maybe they can.


Amanda Todd Memorial


So you know what the western world really sucks at these days? Democracy!

Such was the conclusion reached this weekend by some our nation's brightest pundits, who collectively churned out a bunch of columns documenting the various ways in which everyone's favorite countries are making a real dog's breakfast of the delicate art of self-rule.

Take England for instance, writes Elizabeth Renzetti in the Globe and Mail. Did you know that the government of this supposedly "constitutional" monarchy is engaged in an active conspiracy to hide the degree to which the heir to the throne actively lobbies to influence national policy? It's true! Though the Cameron administration has done its best to conceal the details, recent revelations have made it clear that ol' Chuckles has been a regular Jack Abramoff on everything from "architecture and education to health and safety regulations and human-rights law."

Then there's the American electoral college, writes fellow Glober  Jeffrey Simpson, the "weird and wacky" system currently being used to pick the next leader of the free world. It's based on the premise that "a candidate can win more votes but still lose" -- which is of course exactly the sort of rock-solid legitimacy you'd want from a country that spends so much time telling the rest of the planet how to do democracy better.

'Course, when it comes to an unironic embrace of autocracy it's still hard to beat good ol' Canada, land of perennially prorogued legislatures and obscene omnibus bills, writes Andrew Coyne in the Post. Our premiers and PMs have become so brazen with this sorta stuff, he notes, that our parliaments have become "largely ceremonial" do-nothing country clubs profoundly failing an apathetic public "educated by precedent not to care."

Unlike Britain and America, however, at least Canada has a fresh new leader promising change on the horizon. Granted, he's the hereditary successor to a particularly authoritarian ruler selected via uncontested inter-party election.

But beggars can't be choosers.