Column: when the Internet becomes a mob

In the social media era – in our mad rush to judgment – people get ground up and spat out. Happens all the time.

Happens too often.

Ask ‎Aziz Ansari, the Muslim comedian and author whose career now lies in rubble, because some nameless, feckless young woman decided to punish him for what, in a saner world, would be properly characterized as a bad date.

Ask ‎the young mother whose newborn was found “abandoned” at a mall near Toronto’s Keele and Lawrence neighbourhood – and we all know who lives there, don’t we? – and who immediately was depicted by some police and some media as a heartless monster. Except the child hadn’t been abandoned, at all. And both were simply in need of medical care.

Ask the Muslims who are now being targeted with hate and invective – simply because they are co-religionists with the eleven-year-old girl who falsely claimed to have been attacked by a scissors-wielding man. A Toronto school board and the police and several politicians promoted the girl’s made-up story, sure – but it is Canadian Muslims who are now being excoriated. Because they are Muslims, too. Naturally.

And ask the young indigenous mother who was attacked and vilified, simply because she dressed the way she chose to dress. As a proud, beautiful indigenous woman.

That last tale is less known than the others. So it should be told.

It starts with a boy. The boy is just a boy, twelve years of age, with a handsome face and a smile as big as a Summer day. His name is Neebin. In October 2015, the Ottawa Citizen did a story about Neebin and his friends.

The story told how the kids, from Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary in Gatineau, put together a video to promote tolerance. In it, they played instruments and sang, in English and French and Cree and Algonquin. They called their song Important To Us.

‎Neebin spoke to the Citizen reporter. He said he had been bullied in another school because of his long braid. But he said it was easier in his new school.

A couple years and a bit later, and just two days before Christmas, Neebin took his own life. “He left us for the Spirit world, much too soon,” someone wrote on the page set up to help his family with funeral costs. The funds would go to that, and “towards a children’s suicide prevention program.”

For most people, for most parents, there can be no greater pain than losing a child. But there was more pain to come.

A few days ago, someone noticed that the federal government had been running an ad. The ad, authorized and paid for the department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, urged indigenous people to apply for their new status card.

The accompanying photo showed a smiling child, and a happy old man, all holding status cards. And, between them, a beautiful indigenous woman, also smiling. Holding a card, wearing traditional dress.

‎The Internet and the media – the CBC, in particular – promptly attacked. One woman said the image was “horrific” because it recalled the Disney film Pocahontas, which promoted a “racist stereotype of an outdated portrayal of an indigenous woman.” Others chimed in, like the historian of indigenous issues, who said the ad presented “static images of indigenous peoples that don’t reflect our lives anymore.”

Carolyn Bennett’s department swiftly deleted the ad from its web site, and pulled it off of the walls at government offices. The ad, which had been around for years, “will not be used in the future,” one of her departmental underlings promised.

Happens a lot, in the new era. Happens all the time. ‎A story gets told, people instantly react, someone gets vilified. Sometimes they get destroyed.

Except, this time‎, the mob went after a mother who didn’t deserve it.

Neebin’s mother.

She came out of mourning her little boy to respond to the hate sent her way. This is part of what she posted on Facebook. She gave my wife – who knows her, and worked briefly with her on an indigenous file – permission to use it.

“I was the model in this photo. The wardrobe and the clothing were completely of my own choice,” she wrote, adding that no one told her to dress that way. “I dressed this way because I was very proud of the way I looked. I believe I did a good job of representing our people.”

‎She went on: “Real and true journalism seeks facts, and all sides of the story, and this [CBC] story was unfortunately not balanced. Stop blaming [others]…we are all responsible for ourselves, our families, our communities. That is how we will achieve real change.”

‎Would it have inconvenienced the CBC to contact Neebin’s mother, before unleashing on her? Would it have been all that difficult to ask her if she had chosen her outfit – when, you know, she had? Would it have been wrong for someone in Bennett’s department to ascertain the true facts, before giving in to the Internet mob?

And would it have been so very hard to ask Neebin’s mother how she was doing? Would that have been a problem?

Some days, I hate Ottawa and the media and the Internet age.

This is one of those days.

The book I will write one day

I fantasize about writing a novel in which the main character knocks cell phones out of the hands of distracted people who are walking towards her.

She would be regarded as more of a terrorist than Osama bin Laden.

Postscript: This post was written entirely on a call phone.

Where we were a year ago

Right now, Lisa and me are in the US, trying to get back to Canada. Trump said he’d run the government like one of his businesses, and he sure did – the government is shut down.

A year ago, however, Lisa and our daughter Emma were in Washington, marching with hundreds of other Canadian women. I was in Toronto, meanwhile, marching with thousands of men, women and children. (Some of the photos we took that weekend are alongside this post.)

It was a glorious, perfect response to President Shithole. And, a year later, the struggle continues.


Maximum Rock’n’Roll: new SFH album is “solid punk rock”!

Holy crap! Maximum Rock’n’Roll is the bible of punk and hardcore – and they like the new SFH record, Kinda Suck!

…straightforward punk rock…melodic and catchy, just like the Canadians like it…if you’re a fan of the band or just a fan of solid punk rock, you’ll enjoy this one.

Woot! You can get the record right here.

Download it now! MRR says you won’t regret it!

Laura Miller wins!

We’re way down here in Florida, but we have friends in courtroom 125 in frosty Toronto. And the result is in: Judge Timothy Lipson has ruled that Laura is not guilty on both counts.

Thank God. And here’s what I wrote about why a couple years ago.

Remember that old Sixties line? You know, the one from the hippie subculture that became a movie, and even a lyric in a Monkees tune? To wit: “suppose they had a war, and nobody came?” It was a nice thought, then and now.

Well, with some minor tweaking, it’s a line that can be applied to a “scandal” now raging, er, in one-block radius in downtown Toronto. Here goes:

“Suppose they had a scandal, and it really wasn’t one?”

Now, admittedly, at Queen’s Park, some media and some Opposition politicians are in a spit-flecked fury about the alleged deletion of government emails about the decision to move some gas plants in the 2011 Ontario election. You may have read about it in the papers, even in far-flung places like Whitehorse or Witless Bay. (I doubt it, but you never know.)

So, before we get started, three things. One, we use so-called flying quotes around the word “scandal,” up above, to notify you that the “scandal” really isn’t one. At all. Two, we use the word “alleged” about deletion of emails because, well, emails weren’t actually deleted. At all. Three, full disclosure, I proudly helped out former Premier Dalton McGuinty, and I remain friends with all of his former senior staff. And I hope that disclosure gives McGuinty-haters heart arrhythmia.

Scandals, real or imagined, have a way of taking on a life of their own. Even though the voting public aren’t nearly as preoccupied with scandal as the media and politicians are – Exhibit A, the Clinton/Lewinsky “scandal” – selfsame media and politicians are undeterred. They love scandal-mongering more than, you know, talking about boring stuff like “policy.” (There’s those flying quotes again!)

As no less than the most-famous-ever Canadian, Rob Ford, will tell you: voters hear about scandals too much. They’re skeptical. And, until they see a perp being frog-marched to the Longbar Hotel in an orange pantsuit and handcuffs, they don’t care much, either.

But that’s psychology. The reality of this “deleted email scandal” (Flying quotes! Drink!) is this: none were. Don’t believe me? Take your smartphone, and pop it right now in the toilet, where you already keep your old Blackberry. Now, flush.

There! According to the Ontario Provincial Police, you’ve now deleted emails and, er, committed a serious offence, Your Honour!

Well, not quite. As we all know, if you lose your smartphone – or if your PC or Mac blow up, or if (as in the Queen’s Park case) someone wipes a few hard drives to make way for a new employee – your emails aren’t gone, at all. They all still exist on a server in Cupertino, Calif., or Guelph, or somewhere else. They haven’t been deleted. At all, at all.

That’s why the whole Mother of All Scandals now gripping, um, a few dozen folks at Queen’s Park is so bloody ridiculous. The thing the Keystone Kops (a.k.a., the OPP) are investigating isn’t a crime, or even a violation of a ticketing offence. They’re investigating missing emails which aren’t, you know, missing.

Check your toilet, if you don’t believe me. Your device may be long gone, and so too your Miley Cyrus MP3s and some cherished pix of your kitten. But your emails aren’t.

Now, I know that this stunning revelation – to wit, emails exist on servers, not individual computers – is a shock for the geniuses in the OPP and at Queen’s Park. But for the rest of us living in the new millennium, it’s kind of not-news.

So too this “deleted email scandal.” It isn’t news, either. In fact, it is the biggest pile of crap to plop on the Canadian political stage since “Justice” (Drink!) John Gomery turned the sponsorship inquiry into a taxpayer-funded ego circus. And that’s saying something.

Thus, our new song: Suppose they had a “scandal,” and it really wasn’t one?



Sorbara out

This had been a long time coming, I’d been told.

There were several campaign managers but no single campaign strategy. There were other problems, too.

Credit where credit is due: Pat was the one who knew how to take advantage of the PC’s self-immolating 100,000 job cuts promise in 2014. She knew a gift when she saw one.

Anyway: Chad Walsh. Know that name. If the Grits win again, he’ll be a big part of the reason why.

Neo-Nazi hate rag: Canadian Jewish News has the latest

A quick summary, also provided to Paul at CJN:

  • the Criminal Code charges for promoting hatred against women and Jews are going ahead with a hearing in February
  • the criminal charge for uttering death threats – initiated by Lisa and I – is also going to another court hearing in February
  • the panel reviewing the ministerial order to stop Canada Post from delivering Your Ward News is still holding hearings, but has essentially become moot following the laying of criminal charges
  • Lisa and I have separate civil defamation actions going against the publisher and editor of this pro-Nazi rag – out of which we hope to learn who is giving them financial support

There is a lot of other stuff going on, but that should give you an overview. The fight goes on.

Now, here’s the CJN report:

Warren and Lisa Kinsella have been among the loudest critics of Your Ward News, and they, like Farber, have often been featured in its pages.

They allege that the paper published death threats against them, and they filed separate civil actions against the paper and the people behind it.

For his part, Sears is contesting all the legal steps taken against the paper and rejecting the allegations that have been made by his critics. He told CBC News that, “Being criticized by mentally deranged Marxists has never caused us to consider shutting down our truth tract.”

The Winter 2018 edition notes that it is responding to six legal attacks and that, “We are fighting to overturn the Canada Post ban.” Meanwhile, Sears claims that 305,000 copies of the publication are being distributed by private companies and a “volunteer army.”

Warren Kinsella said that seeing a new edition of Your Ward News after its two principals were charged criminally was somewhat unexpected.

“I wish I could say I was surprised, but common sense doesn’t seem to be a characteristic of these individuals,” he said.

Kinsella speculated that they ignored the advice of lawyers not to publish, or “they have a bottomless” amount of money.

There are rumours, he continued, that the publication is receiving financial support from extremists in Germany and South Africa.

“Based on the evidence, they must be getting support from somewhere. We think it’s offshore,” he said.

According to Kinsella, who wrote a book on the racist fringe in Canada, Your Ward News is being distributed as far as Kingston and Niagara Falls, Ont.

He noted that it appears as though Sears has become something of a hero among extremists around the world who share his admiration for the Nazi cause. Photos on the Your Ward News website show German Holocaust “revisionist” Alfred Schaefer, who is awaiting trial on charges of Holocaust denial, with a copy of the paper, as well as French writer Robert Faurisson, who testified on behalf of neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel, also holding a copy of Your Ward News that was presented to him by “Canadian nationalist” Paul Fromm.