Me and Fight Club

About forty years ago, I stood on a stage in a community hall in Calgary, and looked down at a swirling, tilting mosh pit of punks, slamming into each other, leaping, fighting.

It was chaos.  It was anarchy.  It was a giant washing machine on its side, grinding away, filled up with sweat and blood and fists.  The place was going to detonate at any moment, shooting pieces of building and punk rockers all over Seventeenth Avenue.

My band, the Hot Nasties, played on.  I was the lead singer, straddled centre stage, and I looked down at the punks.  There were hundreds of them at our sold-out show.  We had put up a few posters, but that’s it.  In 1978-79, we could draw a thousand punks by word of mouth alone.

I felt this warm wave wash over me, and I realized I was smiling.  Later on, I figured out what it was: it was joy.  Pure joy.

I had never really been into the anarchy ethos of the punk movement.  I was a punk, sure, but I still lived in suburban Calgary with my parents.  Extolling anarchy seemed a bit hypocritical, to me.

But at that moment, at that show – as everything was descending into pure, unadulterated chaos – it felt like the world was about to atomize, and fall between the cracks of the floor at the community hall.  And I felt exultant.  I felt jubilant.

Yes, yes, I know: I’m a lawyer now.  I worked for a Prime Minister.  I have a house in the County. I’m in my late fifties. I’ve navigated the establishment, and I’ve done okay.  I have kids. Yes.

But, as I get older, I find myself orbiting inexorably closer to that teenaged punk that I was.  Back to when I had no ideology, no party membership, no governing philosophy.  Just a desire to rip everything apart.  Rip it to pieces.

Throughout this election campaign, I’ve been asked often why I hate Justin Trudeau.  I always say the same thing: “I don’t hate him.  If I really hated him, he wouldn’t be still standing.  He’s just a liar, and I don’t like liars.  All of them, all of the partisans are mostly liars, too.”

Justin Trudeau is Ikea.

So, I have about 42,000 Twitter followers.  There’s just one of them, a guy I don’t even know, who gets me.  Every time I point my flamethrower at something, he always says the same sort of thing: “The punk.”  And I say to him: I don’t even know who the fuck you are, and you know the inside of my grimy, calloused, safety-pinned soul.

Tear it all down, start over again.  That – along with anger, and DIY, and anti-racism – is what the punk movement was all about.  And punk remains my only ideology, pretty much.

I’d apologize for the long-winded intro, but it’s probably more appropriate to say fuck you if you don’t like it.  You didn’t pay to get in here, did you?

What I wanted to say – what I wanted to explain – is my profound love of Fight Club, the movie.  It’s twenty years old, as Barry Hertz writes in this column in the Globe. It affected him, I think, like it affected me and a million other misfits and losers and punks.

Fight Club – like Clockwork Orange, Repo Man, The Rock Horror Picture Show and a precious few other movies – was like this documentary about the inside of every punk’s brain.  There was some misogyny in there, and some adolescent stupidity, and some other stuff that should’ve been taken out.  But, mostly, it was this perfect movie that no one went to see when it came out, twenty years ago.  Except us.  

Slouching in the dark of a movie theatre somewhere, watching everything whirl and twirl and then self-destruct.  Gloriously, dramatically, perfectly.

Make no mistake, Conservatives edging ever-closer to power: I’m going to eventually come after you, too, just like I did the Trudeau Cult.

It’s not that I hate you, it’s just that I’m 17, still, and I can’t help myself.

 

 


CBC vs. CPC: when bias isn’t just perceived anymore

A reasonable apprehension of bias — that’s what we learned to call it in law school.

It’s the legal standard, in Canadian law, for disqualifying a judge or decision-maker in an administrative tribunal.

Bias is prejudice, mostly. It’s an unreasonably hostile feeling or opinion about a person or group. In law, we learned, it can be “real” or “perceived.” That is, it doesn’t have to actually happen right out in the open — the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled it can even happen when a decision-maker “might have” acted unfairly.

That’s when a judge or a decision-maker can be disqualified, and kicked off a case. But is a reporter a decision-maker, in the legal sense?

It’s not a question reserved for legal scholars, hidden away behind stacks of musty old volumes in a law library somewhere. On Friday, it became a question for the rest of us, too.

On Friday, the CBC — along with their newsreader Rosemary Barton, and Parliamentary Bureau reporter Jean-Paul Tasker — sued the Conservative Party of Canada. For real.

Their complaint: on the Internet, the Tories used 17 seconds of CBC video. About the Tories.

As the Conservative Party wrote in a release: “The 17 seconds of CBC clips in the video included (Postmedia columnist) Andrew Coyne highlighting how Justin Trudeau broke the law, Justin Trudeau telling a Canadian war veteran that he is ‘asking for more than we can give right now,’ and one CBC reporter questioning why the Liberals provided Loblaws with $12 million in tax dollars to install new refrigerators.”

When this writer heard about the lawsuit, it sounded like a joke, or an Internet meme. It was farcical.

Now, Conservatives have had a long (and sometimes also unreasonable) dislike for the CBC. Voters who identify themselves as conservative are acutely focused on media bias, particularly as it exists at progressive media organizations like CBC.

A number of Rasmussen polls conducted in the U.S. during the 2012 and 2016 presidential races found that two out of three conservative voters — and sometimes as many as three out of four — felt the media give progressive politicians a much easier time. They believe media bias is real.

So, when Justin Trudeau confidante Gerald Butts was recently photographed alone at an intimate dinner with Huffington Post Ottawa bureau chief Althia Raj — an English leaders’ debate moderator — Conservatives were apoplectic. It showed an inappropriate bias, they said.

Maybe so. Butts, for his part, was doing what politicos always do — he was trying to influence the media. Fine.

Raj, however, was doing something undeniably foolish. She was meeting privately with the most powerful unelected Liberal just before a critical debate, and thereby creating a perception that she would treat the Liberal leader differently.

Because Raj’s commentary has always been characterized by a pro-Trudeau tilt, a perception of bias was not unreasonable. At all.

In the case of the CBC lawsuit against the Conservative Party, however, the bias is not merely perceived. It is real. And it inarguably disqualifies Barton, Tasker and the CBC — all important decision-makers about the information millions of Canadians receive during this election — from broadcasting anything about the Conservative Party.

Truly: how can Andrew Scheer, or any of his candidates, now believe that the CBC will treat them fairly in news coverage? More importantly, how can the CBC’s viewers and listeners now believe that what they are seeing and hearing is free of bias?

After all, how the CBC handles a news story — how it writes it, how it edits it, how it headlines and promotes it — can destroy a political career in short order.

The CBC has said it was the “driver” behind the lawsuit, not the journalists. And it plans to remove the journalists from the lawsuit.

Whether they intended it or not, the CBC and Barton and Tasker have provided clear evidence of an appalling bias. They have shown they are utterly disinterested in being fair.

That lawsuit wasn’t a legal action. Given that the Tories now may win the election, it was a political suicide note.


Just go, Judy Sgro

Blatchford slices and dices her, and appropriately so, here.

As a woman of colour, the former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, said on Twitter, “The problem is, Judy, that you did not treat the #blackface issue with seriousness or sensitivity.

“You got your ass handed to you and then decided to put out a statement.”

Amen.

The ever-more-loved Trudeau, as of writing this Wednesday, has made no comment on either Sgro’s goofy statement or her apology. He can hardly condemn her for her benevolent read on what he did, and what he so easily forgave in himself.

Sgro is in the right party, at least. She and Trudeau seem immune from shame, when they should be suffused with it.