Musings —04.15.2011 06:52 AM—
- …and the scandal, naturally, is in the “yes” of the beholder: Last night, CBC News broke this story about former Conservative cabinet minister Helena Guergis. Said the CBC: “CBC News has learned that the “serious allegations” Prime Minister Stephen Harper referred to last year in connection with former Conservative MP Helena Guergis included unsubstantiated claims of fraud, extortion and involvement with prostitutes. But a letter written by a Harper aide and obtained by CBC News states that the Prime Minister’s Office learned the allegations had been made by a Toronto private investigator. The letter also reveals the allegations were not based on any hard evidence.”
- Get that? Neat trick: The story details – in as much salacious detail as possible – the stuff that someone, somewhere, was saying about Guergis. The story tells you all about it! And then it notes, almost as an afterthought, that the allegations – which the CBC has succeeded in Krazy-Gluing to your brain – weren’t based on any “hard evidence.” But, dammit, we’re going to give you all the dirt anyway, even if it is total bullshit!
- I used to be an investigative reporter. At the Ottawa Citizen and the Calgary Herald. There is virtually nothing I have done in my life that was as rewarding. I probed the suspicious deaths at the Hospital for Sick Kids (and concluded there were no murders), and kickbacks at the Ottawa Courthouse (and succeeded in getting the most senior official there removed from his job). In my experience, you can’t just run with a single document as big page one scoop. You need more than that – you need context. And you need to closely examine the motives of the person who ultimately gave you the document, very carefully. Ask yourself – and the answer in anonymous source stories, the answer is almost always “yes” – this: “Am I being used?”
- The context here is crucial. It’s the middle of an election campaign, for the love of God: do you think – just for a minute – that a story like this landing in the middle of said election campaign is, well, a bit suspicious? Does it mean, perhaps, that Guergis’ independent challenge of the Conservative Party’s candidate might be getting traction? That running with this story, as CBC did, assists the Conservative government which, not coincidentally, is ultimately responsible for the CBC’s fiscal health?
- Here are some questions that could have been asked: Why was Guergis fired, and her reputation destroyed, for unproven gossip about prostitutes – when Bruce Carson, in proven fact, waltzed into Stephen Harper’s 24 Sussex with a hooker, and later introduced another hooker to half of cabinet? Why was he given a big patronage appointment, for which he apparently lobbied without registering? Why was he given the big PMO office – him, a convicted fraudster who served time? And why was Guergis ground into meat, and then thrown to the dogs? If I get a private detective to pass along a few rumours to the RCMP and/or a CPC lawyer about the after-hours lives of John Baird, John Kenney and Rob Anders, will that mean their careers will be over, too? Not on your life. She’s a girl. They’re all boys.
- More is found: Here and here and here. It’s going to be “the story of the day” on the campaign trail – says, naturally, the CBC. I carry no brief for Helena Guergis. I hope the Liberal candidate wins (and perhaps he was on the way to doing so, before this). But this “story” truly is a scandal – not for what Guergis did (because it’s now clear she was fired without cause). It’s a scandal for what was done to her. And for what is still being done to her. By the CPC, by the CBC, by others.