If there's any hint of dark comedy in the monstrous saga of Luka Magnotta, it's probably the Canadian press' bumblingly half-hearted efforts to shield our dainty eyes from the full scope of his horror show.
Early last week, when the story was still breaking, the Ottawa Citizen referred cryptically to a "controversial Edmonton-based website" where Magnotta allegedly posted a video of himself committing his infamous atrocities. "The Citizen is not naming the site," the paper reported stoically.
No more successful was Lyn Crosbie in the Globe and Mail, who would only summarize the Magnotta video as something "unwatchably sickening" that "must not be described." Sickening sure, but it's actually very watchable and describable, responded the ever-unflappable Christie Blatchford at the National Post, whose long, lurid summary last Thursday left very little to the imagination.
(In retrospect, if any media matrons were genuinely interested in protecting the gentle public from the corrupting forces of our own curiosity, it would have been much smarter to suppress the title of Luka's gory home movie. Because 1 lunatic 1 ice pick may be the single most memorable catch-phrase of this whole grisly tale, yet no one seems to have bothered censoring those five words from publication.)
The casual ease of corrupting the national naiveté in the digital age is particularly ironic considering that this very crime (which remains anachronistically present in the Canadian criminal Code) will soon be thrown against the Best Gore guy. And surprise surprise, says Brent Bambury on CBC.ca, that will probably be a huge waste of time. Journalists put gross stuff in their papers constantly, notes Bambury's lawyer pal, so what makes sicko websites any different? "Everybody has the right of freedom of expression," he says, "not just the conventional media."
Inalienable privilege or not, it's still interesting to note that even Blatchford's otherwise gore-friendly editors at the Post don't believe their freedom to document Magnotta's crimes includes a right to show anything beyond the most patronizingly over-pixelated photographs.
Speaking of undesirable photos, you may have noticed over the last week that the papers have printed every single one ever taken of the alleged killer, including such classics as Luka in a fedora, Luka at the Moulin Rouge, and Luka swimming with dolphins. And of course, lots and lots of Luka with no shirt. Doubtless you may have assumed that this was simply the press pandering to the public's insatiable appetite for pyschosexual titillation, but nothing could be further from the truth!
We only published "multiple photos of Mr. Magnotta with his glam shots and different guises to demonstrate the extreme narcissism that seems a key factor in his behaviour," says Globe public editor Sylvia Stead. If anything, she adds, all these photos probably helped assist in his capture.
Ah, so that explains why he was turned in by dolphins.
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In non corpse-dismembering news, the Conservative government continues to push ahead with its big scary omnibus budget bill, and the press continues to push ahead with its weirdly tireless campaign to raise the profile of Elizabeth May. Virtually every story about the opposition parties' united front against the legislation makes pointed mention of the fact that the leader of the Greens is upset too.
"The NDP, Liberals and Green party leader Elizabeth May are informally teaming up to delay passage of Bill C-38" writes Postmedia's Jason Fekete, while the Canadian Press warns Harper of "ploys promised by the NDP, Liberals and lone Green MP Elizabeth May." In his FAQ-style breakdown of the bill, Maclean's Aaron Wherry presumes interest in May is high enough to justify devoting a whole section to discovering "what's she up to?" (Poor Daniel Paille. No one ever wonders what he's up to).
Even though Lizzie's unrecognized, one-woman party comprises 0.6 per cent of the entire parliamentary opposition, her personal distaste for C-38 is supposedly newsworthy due to her unique ability to propose amendments to the bill even after it clears the committee stage -- a usually meaningless power she holds entirely as a sop to her irrelevance. Thanks to her backing by the other parties, however, these amendments will actually get to be heard on the House floor for once, with endless delays being the goal.
It's unclear to what extent this particular flavour of filibustering is strategically necessary; the Libs and NDP possess more than enough members to mount literally hundreds of stall tactics on their own (as they did during last year's postal strike ) meaning May's high-profile participation may really be more of a decorative courtesy than anything else.
Notwithstanding her preferred identity as Canada's most hapless victim, one of the more interesting phenomena of recent years has been the construction of a vast cult of personality around Elizabeth May by powerful forces within the political-media establishment. Despite any obvious base of strength or influence (this is a woman who had to run three times in three different provinces before winning a parliamentary seat, and whose party support stagnantes in low single digits) she has been interviewed, profiled, praised, painted, and feted with a cloying regularity that seems unapologetically at odds with her actual relevance to the Canadian political scene.
In such a context, it's easy to see May's Bill C-38 theatrics as but the latest PR effort to raise her self-styled statesmanship to ever-more dizzying heights of national prominence, enabled by a progressive political establishment eager to prove its "big tent" bona fides, and a press that never fails to display a magpie-like affinity for anything novel or shiny.
Considering May's fondness for rallying against the well-connected and powerful, one hopes she does not lose track of the side on which her own organic toast is buttered.