Dear Sun News Network folks

I was on Twitter, past midnight, reading some of the things people were saying about the network’s demise. There was a lot of gloating and awful stuff being said.

I slept for four hours, then got up to watch the network disappear. They showed a promo for Pat Bolland’s show, and then that was it. The screen in my bedroom went black at exactly 5 a.m. I stared at it for a while, and tried to formulate what I wanted to say.

It’s not you who I want to say it to, former Sun News Network folks. It’s to those people on Twitter, last night and this morning, the ones who were gleefully celebrating the end of Sun News.

They’re celebrating, I guess, because they disagreed with the opinions that were found on Sun News. They didn’t like conservative opinions being broadcast, so they think it’s funny that 200 people have lost their jobs. I find that completely insane, for two reasons.

Firstly, folks, I disagreed with those conservatives, too. Plenty. On sex ed, on CBC, on abortion, on niqabs, on social programs, on climate change, on Islam, on gay marriage, on Liberals and liberals, on just about anything you can imagine: I would regularly appear on Sun News Network to argue with those conservatives, face-to-face, on-camera. I would argue, aggressively, against the conservative point of view.

And, over almost four years, a funny thing happened: they kept inviting me back. They asked me to come on much more than my day job would permit, in fact. And they were professional and courteous and fair to me. Only once did they try and shut me down – here – but multiple Sun folks called me afterwards to apologize, and to say that it would never happen again. It didn’t.

That’s the first thing: if you disagree with someone’s opinion, debate them. Present evidence. Argue with facts. Be passionate. Because that’s what Sun News Network gave me an opportunity to do, over and over, for four years.

Here’s the second thing: in case you haven’t noticed, our traditional news media are dying.

There are all kinds of reasons for that: the Internet, Google and Facebook and Craigslist, bad business decisions, whatever. We can debate the causes ad nauseum. But the fact is that the media, as we knew it, is disappearing.

Bloggers and social media mavens will celebrate the mainstream media’s demise, too. But they shouldn’t. Because bloggers and tweeters don’t generate actual news – they just comment on it. They offer opinions on someone else’s work. Someone else’s journalism.

When that journalism disappears, mark my words: our democracy will be diminished, and possibly even in peril. I’m not exaggerating. There is nothing that keeps the powerful in check – not Question Period, not a public opinion poll, not even the police – as effectively as journalists do. I’ve worked on both sides, and I know, I’ve seen it: every time a newspaper dies – every time a TV network dies – the powerful grow more so. You may think that’s okay, but I sure don’t. They are not always benign in the way they exercise power.

Anyway. Those are the two things I wanted to say, this bitterly-cold Friday the Thirteenth: if you disagree with someone, debate them. Don’t let out a cheer when they lose their job, and their ability to pay the rent and feed their kids. Because one day, in this economy, you’re probably going to lose your job, too. And it would be pretty shitty for someone to find that funny, on that day, wouldn’t it?

Remember this, too: every news reporter – every news editor, every news producer, every news technician – is a crucial part of a flourishing democracy. And when we lose them, our democracy loses. The Sun News Network ones, too.

And I guess there’s a third thing I wanted to say: Kory – and Matt and Dennis and others – put together an actual national news network, and they had some good folks there. I may have vociferously disagreed with the opinions they expressed – and you may have, too – but I am so, so sorry that they have lost their jobs, at 5 a.m. this morning. I will miss many of them.

So, don’t celebrate them losing their jobs. Don’t be indifferent to the effect it will have on our democracy. Because if you do, you’re just being an asshole.

Anyway. Back to work. I’m lucky to still have a job – and if you’ve got one, you should be, too.

Sincerely,

Warren


In Friday’s Sun: the five stages of political denial

Political people are all the same.

Whenever they get into big trouble – whatever their party, whatever their ideology – they go through Five Stages of Political Denial, sort of like Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief.

First, they pretend there isn’t a problem. Thus, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau announced Monday that former Conservative MP Eve Adams was becoming a member of the Liberal caucus. While members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery laughed at them – just like they used to laugh at Stockwell Day – Trudeau and Adams smiled for the cameras, and acted like they couldn’t hear the giggles.

Next, they get a bit angry and defiant, and they lash out at their detractors. So, Trudeau’s chief advisor, Gerald Butts, took to Twitter to attack media folks who had been critical of Adams’ floor-crossing. He tweeted that columnist Andrew Coyne had turned into CBC’s Rex Murphy, called critics “sleazy,” and suggested the chorus of condemnation was somehow sexist. Another Trudeau advisor, Suzanne Cowan, huffed that critics (like Liberal me, or my Liberal partner Lisa Kirbie), were “RIP.” As in, apparently, dead. Oh, and nothing to see here, move along, etc.

When that doesn’t work – and in the Adams floor-crossing melodrama, it assuredly didn’t – partisans will scramble to change the channel. Accordingly, Trudeau, Butts et al. commenced furiously talking about everything but Eve: the new Foreign Affairs Minister being unilingual, a rally in Thunder Bay, climate change. Blah blah blah. Talk about something else, in the hope that attention will shift elsewhere. Didn’t work.

When those tactics flop, partisans will reluctantly attempt to explain away their mistake. So, in Adams’ case, they will say that she isn’t actually an official Liberal candidate, yet, and that Adams will have to compete with other Liberals for a nomination. As such, Trudeau confidante Navdeep Bains declared that Adams “will be subject to [the] same rules as anyone else.” But this claim – like all of the others – doesn’t add up. On his Twitter feed, Butts talked about the need to “put up lawn signs on @mpeveadams campaign.” As in, she is already “green lit,” and the chosen one in the riding in which she runs.

Finally – when all else fails – politicos reach the fifth and final phase: hunkering down in a bunker somewhere, and waiting for the whole thing to just blow over. This stage was reached when former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister Mike Colle opined that Adams would win the Liberal nomination in Eglinton-Lawrence “over my dead body” – and Trudeau’s one-time Commons seat mate, former Grit MP Michelle Simson, tweeted that “it’s quite disgusting to me we’ve embraced turncoat Eve Adams into our Liberal family.”

At that point, when a mutiny is underway, there’s nothing else to do: go hide somewhere. Say a few prayers, burn some incense, and wait it out.

This much is true, however: the Eve Adams contretemps will indeed blow over. The press horde will move on. Until her first question in the House, or her nomination meeting, or her first appearance at a Liberal rally, that is. Then it will start all over again.

To avoid going through the Five Stages of Political Denial, Justin Trudeau needed only to heed the advice of Lisa Kirbie and others, and say this: “I welcome Eve Adams to the Liberal Party, like I welcome anyone else who believes what we do. She will sit as an independent until she wins re-election as a Liberal. And, if and when she competes for a Liberal nomination, she will get no special treatment. Next question.”

But Justin Trudeau didn’t say any of that. And so, once again, his judgment is being called into question. And, across the Liberal Party, members are asking this question, over and over:

Was Eve Adams really worth all this trouble?


Sun sets

It’s true.

There are some good people there, and I feel very bad for them. They worked hard.

They were good to me, too, over the past four years. My views were almost always at odds with theirs, but they kept asking me back anyway.

Not sure what is happening with the Sun column, but I don’t think it’ll be happening much longer. We shall see.

But, to all those crowing about this tonight, I say: you’re jerks. It’s never good when we lose yet another media voice – even one you disagree with.

So long, Sun. It was fun while it lasted.


Ratf**king: a lengthy exposition, five questions, and a TV appearance

That’s what they called it, in the Watergate days: ratf**king.  No less an authority than Wikipedia defines it as “an American slang term for political sabotage or dirty tricks.”  Donald Segretti, forged letters, false accusations, nasty leaks, that sort of thing: ratf**king.

Which brings us, in a circuitous fashion, to Eve Adams. Justin Trudeau’s inner circle initially sought to justify the floor-crossing of one of the most dutiful members of Stephen Harper’s Talking Points Chorus as this: after a lifetime of unswerving Conservative fealty, she finally figured out that Harper’s guys are “mean-spirited” meanies, and she suddenly wanted to work with people who are nice.  When that didn’t work, they said her “values simply didn’t align” with the Conservative anymore, particularly in respect of income-splitting – a policy she had been enthusiastically touting in the House of Commons a few days earlier.  They tried other rationalizations, too.

None of them worked.  Rank-and file Liberals are livid; the media are gleefully considering comparisons of Justin Trudeau to Stockwell Day.  The long-serving Liberal MPP in her desired riding has said she’d be the Liberal candidate there “over my dead body.”  The long-serving federal Liberal incumbent has said he won’t endorse her.  And so on.  It’s an unadulterated mess.  It’s a fiasco.

Having pumped several rounds of lead into all of their extremities, Trudeau’s inner circle have been reduced to a single, solitary argument to justify Adams-gate: that her fiancé, Dimitri Soudas, is going to give the Liberals all manner of dirt about Stephen Harper and his Conservatives.  He “knows where the bodies are buried,” to use the cliché du jour.

Uh-huh.

There are several problems with the notion that the Adams fiasco is somehow worth it, because her fiancé “knows where the bodies are buried.” Here they are, expressed in questions.

  1. Justin Trudeau has promised, repeatedly, that he would do politics differently, that he would not use negative ads, that his Liberals will stick to the high road, blah blah blah.  How, then, does he justify diving into the muck, and doing what he promised he would never ever do? Is it because he is worried that Harper is getting more popular, and Trudeau less so?
  2. Having run out of options, it was clearly in Eve and Dimitri’s interests to intimate that they possess all manner of State secrets, hoo boy, watch out, etc.  They had nowhere else to go – of course they’d be attempting to sweeten the pot, whilst holding a pair of twos. But what if what they possess is dated, or irrelevant, or wrong, or unusable? What then?
  3. Knowing Pseudas a little bit, as I do, I can attest to the fact he is not suicidal, whatever else he is. He knows very well the sad outcome of myriad notable floor-crossing tales over the years: Jack Horner, David Emerson, Colin Thatcher, Jean Lapierre, Gordon Wilson/Judi Tyabji, Jag Bhaduria, John Nunziata, Anna-Marie Castrilli, Jim Pankiw, Joe Peschisolido, Pat O’Brien, Tim Peterson, Wajid Khan, Danielle Smith, and on and on and on.  Have the Grits considered the advisability of relying on information from a fellow who has nothing left to lose – when they, assuredly, still do?
  4. Having run a war room or two over the years, I verily swear the following: this Segretti-style stuff is MAD – mutually-assured destruction.  You may have something on them, but they always (always) have something on you. If the Grits are so desperate as to use Dimitri’s Dirt™, are they not worried that the Conservatives possess, say, unhelpful sworn affidavits about them? Are they not concerned that, having hit below the belt first, they invite a response that is twice as bad, and in the same general area? Believe me: they should be.
  5. Scandal stuff doesn’t work.  It just doesn’t.  Voters have heard the media and the political parties scream “scandal” too many times, since Watergate. Until they see someone hauled away in handcuffs and orange overalls, they don’t believe the histrionics – cf. the by-election outcome in Sudbury, Clinton’s stratospheric post-Lewinsky numbers, Harper getting more popular after the Duffy/Wallin/Brazeau scandals, Wynne’s massive win in the midst of various (bogus) OPP investigations.  Scandal stuff doesn’t work.  Why does anyone think Dimitri possesses anything that somehow will?

Anyway.  Apologies for the length of this, but I sometimes feel compelled, like a trained medical professional, to tend to the ravings and madness of political folks who litter the battlefield.  I feel sorry for them.

The Eve Adams thing was a huge mistake, folks.  Don’t make it worse with ratf**king.

Now, here, a video for your viewing pleasure.


In defence of Eve, and all women: new rule

Look, I’m no fan of what Justin Trudeau did this week.  Most real Liberals aren’t, either.

As I will opine in a column on Friday, he should have:

  1. Welcomed Eve Adams to the party;
  2. Said she was going to sit as an independent;
  3. Said she would be welcome to run for a nomination;
  4. Said she was going to get no special treatment, none; and
  5. Said she could join the Liberal caucus when and if she’d done the above, and won.

I’ve met her, and I actually think Eve is pretty intelligent.  She’s certainly figured out a way to get an eleventh-hour lifeline thrown in her direction, which takes some strategic smarts.

You may agree with that, or not.  On one thing about which we all need to agree, however: some of the criticism of her is taking on a distinctly sexist tone.  Just this morning, someone commented on my Facebook page that “there’s no whore like an old whore.”  Similar stuff is showing up elsewhere.

Ten years ago this Spring, we saw similar epithets flung at floor-crosser Belinda Stronach. She was called, variously, a dog, a whore, a bitch and a prostitute.  Those are quotes.

We can all disapprove of what Eve Adams did, but her gender isn’t in any way relevant.  Any commenter on this website who doesn’t understand that, and abide by that, will be banned.

Period.

 


I am (still) a confused teenager

I don’t know what’s worse: accomplishing nothing that is notable in your life – or accomplishing something when you are young, and never again repeating it.

Such were my reflections, yesterday, when I got word through my agent that a big U.S. TV series wants to buy the rights to two songs Pierre and I wrote: I Am A Confused Teenager and Invasion of the Tribbles.  Songs we wrote when we were sixteen years old.

The latter you may be familiar with: British superstars Palma Violets play Tribbles at the end of every show (like here at Glasto), and released a special edition E.P. on which they covered it.  The Summer before last, I joined them onstage in L.A. to play it.

Confused Teenager isn’t as well-known, but – as I saw to my surprise, when I went looking on the Internet this morning for a link to share with you – it has been played on just one link nearly 26,000 times.  26,000 times! When we were sixteen years old, we could have never imagined such a thing happening.

Anyway, it was nice that someone wants to possibly use the songs on their TV show.  It isn’t the first time such a thing has happened – one SFH song (by Royal Niblet) is on the soundtrack for this movie, and another SFH song (by me) is on the soundtrack for this one.

What’s weird – what’s bittersweet – is that these songs I helped write, when we were kids growing up in Calgary, have become more noteworthy than anything I have done since.  Like I say, I don’t know what’s worse: doing nothing, or doing something once and never getting a chance to do it again.

In that regard, I think I’m going put some stuff aside and reach out to Bob, finally. All this melancholy musical remembrance has me thinking life is, indeed, too short.


All about Eve: the reviews are in

…and the reviews aren’t so good.  Mine, for what it’s worth, is appended at the end. Feel free to add yours in comments.

  • Andrew Coyne, Post: “Justin Trudeau delivers a crawlingly demeaning performance while welcoming Eve Adams…feigned high-mindedness…gut-emptying shame…particularly painful…jaw-dropping self-abasement..For [Conservative secrets], Mr. Trudeau would endure any indignity.”
  • Chantal Hebert, Star: “Liberal embrace of Eve Adams doesn’t add up…a counterintuitive choice…it is unclear whether the timing of Trudeau’s announcement on Monday was meant to praise the addition of Adams to his ranks or to bury it.”
  • Lawrence Martin, Globe: “[The cabinet shuffle] doused the news of Tory lightweight Eve Adams’s floor-crossing to the Liberals. The Liberals should have figured the shuffle was coming and held off on their little coup if they wanted more attention for it.”
  • Robyn Urback, Post: “Justin Trudeau entered the morning presser accompanied by Mississauga-Brampton South MP Eve Adams…There were audible gasps from the gallery — and giggles. No, no you’re not supposed to laugh! Stop it.”
  • Murray Mandryk, StarPhoenix: “It’s this kind of cynical manoeuvre that feeds the public’s appetite to stay as far away from politics – and polling booths – as possible…[it] only serves to cement the negative image most voters already have of the way politics is done in Canada.”
  • Paul Wells, Maclean’s: “Harper is the major-party leader most respondents would trust to run a large company, counsel an investor, or negotiate a contract. Respondents imagined Trudeau would be the best leader to sing a song, babysit a pet or survive in the wilderness. [On the day of Adams’ floor-crossing and the cabinet shuffle], both leaders seemed hard at work deepening their differences.”
  • Les MacPherson, StarPhoenix: “[Trudeau] looked about as comfortable with Adams by his side as Jimmy Kimmel with a large snake delivered into his arms.”
  • Warren Kinsella, Nobody In Particular: “Adams got what she wanted.  Trudeau didn’t. He should have said ‘no’ to the idiots who came up with this stunt. He didn’t.”