Saturday, September 04, 2010

Moving On... (Pun Intended)

Upon further reflection, my problem (see previous entry) isn't so much what Avaaz is doing, rather the way in which they are doing it.

Of course agencies based in other countries have a right to comment on Canadian issues, as Canadians have a right to speak to events outside Canada.

This is something else; I do not believe that Avaaz portrayed their petition initiative for what it really is. I believe they have their own agenda and are trying to manipulate Canadians to achieve it.

This is what the petition would read like if portrayed honestly:

 Greetings, Canadian voters,

We are a global advocacy group based in New York City, born from the roots of Moveon.org (itself generously funded by George Soros) and Res Publica.  We feel that you should be upset with your Prime Minister because our prime objective is to defeat him in the next election.

To that end, we attempted to meddle in your last election two years ago. Yes, we stayed within the letter, if not the spirit, of your election law  but our basic message clearly came from outside the country. We ran an initiative to urge Canadians to "vote strategically" by voting for the candidate most likely to defeat the Conservative Party candidate in their riding (voting area), rather than the candidate of the voter's choice.

Our agenda may be benign: fighting all sorts of evil such as poverty and climate change and Neo-Conservatism but our methods leave something to be desired.

For instance, we hear that a new Cable News Channel is in the works for Canada. The former top aide to PM Harper has quit that job to become VP of Development for Quebecor Media and so could have his hand (and by implication, the PM's hand) in their programming.

We feel that this is the wrong message for Canadians to receive and so we are trying to frighten you into protesting this channel by calling it "Fox News North" and by providing links to all the idiocy going on in the US with Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and the Tea Party.

And since we can't actually TELL you to try to block the channel (that would infringe upon free speech) we further frighten you with unproven allegations of influence peddling on the part of the Prime Minister. Protest that, protest the channel itself, we don't care. Just protest.

For those who object claiming that we are "foreign", we insist that our co-founder is Canadian-born (although he has lived out of the country for years.. sound familiar?), we have hundreds of thousands of Canadian members, an office in Ottawa, and a web address with a .ca extension.

Of course, if you actually try to go to avaaz.ca, you get redirected to this address http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_cbc (note, no more .ca) which urges Canadians to sign a petition... TO SAVE THE CBC.

It claims the big bad government "refused loans" to the CBC which will cause it to cut jobs and programming.

So: we want your tax dollars to go to the liberal-leaning network in the form of  loans to cover their "shortfall" but not the conservative-leaning one, even if that would only be for three years and might just provide a little balance, unlike its American counterpart, because we just don't know yet what its programming would be like and since you would be footing part of the bill (for three years, not in perpetuity as with the CBC) you could then muster up a protest movement if we (I mean you) don't like it. Not that it would do any good, because of that pesky "free speech" thing.
The point is: just because I happen to agree with most of their politics, does not make what they are doing ethical.

If a Canadian organization had done the same thing I'd be protesting just as loudly but to think that moveon.org and George Soros are behind this is beyond scary because they have resources far beyond that of any home grown organization, and motives that may or may not be in Canada's best interests.

Will they even get Sun News Network in New York City? The certainly don't "get" the nuances of Canadian politics. Like how people don't trust Michael Ignatieff (Liberal Party Leader) because of his days of defending the Iraq war and his opinion on torture. Like how Canada will probably dwell in minority parliament limbo for some time to come, until a dynamic Liberal leader comes along. Maybe Bob Rae, more likely Justin Trudeau.

One more thing, as for our elections law, Avaaz isn't alone in running afoul of Provision 331. Michael Moore did so twice, in 2004 and 2008.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Free Speech?

I don't like being played with.

I especially don't like being manipulated by fear mongering and hyperbole complete with bold font and exclamation points.

And I especially especially don't like it when the manipulator has no business sticking their nose into my business!

What this is about is something that fell into my email inbox this morning:
Subject: Canada: stop "Fox News North"


Prime Minister Harper is pressuring the Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to approve plans for a 'Fox News North'. If successful, this would bring American-style hate media to Canadian airwaves, and be funded by our license fees!


I've just signed a petition to the CRTC urging them to stand strong and resist the PM's calls for a conservative propaganda news network. Please join me in signing:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_fox_news_canada/98.php?cl_taf_sign=sNJEyP8v

I already know that this refers to Sun TV News, a proposed channel to be run by Kory Teneycke, a former aide to Prime Minister Harper, which would present a more conservative viewpoint than that presented by the CBC, our public network.

But "American style hate media"? "Conservative propaganda news network"?
This kind of overkill makes me nervous, so I follow the link, whereupon I find:
Prime Minister Harper is trying to push American-style hate media onto our airwaves, and make us all pay for it. His plan is to create a "Fox News North" to mimic the kind of hate-filled propaganda with which Fox News has poisoned U.S. politics. The channel will be run by Harper’s former top aide and will be funded with money from our cable TV fees!

I already have a few problems with this, and the hysterical tone is just the beginning.

Doesn't this make it sound as if the actual channel will be actually run by the actual US Fox News?

It won't.. it's owned by Sun Media, the Newspaper arm of Quebecor, a company that trades publicly on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Fox News has poisoned US politics?

I think that gives them way too much credit. US politics is poisoned all right but hardly by one channel that is only accessible by cable. I think talk radio had a bigger hand in influencing the public; also town meetings, word of mouth, emails, newspapers and anything else you can think of. Yes some of the hosts of the most vile talk radio shows also have a home on Fox News but everything that station does is under microscopic scrutiny from the left and is rebutted to death as it should be.

Hate media?

How do they know what the station will be like? If indeed it does broadcast "hate media" then there is a legal process to follow. Shutting it down before it begins sounds more like censorship to me.

Funded by taxpayer money?

Not so far as I can tell. Certainly not in the same way as the CBC is funded by taxpayer money. Many taxpayers don't agree with the orientation of the CBC but nobody is trying to save their delicate sensibilities.

Finally, Harper is trying to push it?

Perhaps he'd like to but it's out of his hands. If he is exerting inappropriate influence over the CRTC then that's what laws and reporters are for. Does anyone think the media will give this a pass when they've been all over prorogation, the G20 protests, the census debacle and most recently the long gun registry debate?

It continues,
One man stands in the way of this nightmare -- the Chairman of Canada's Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Konrad von Finckenstein. And now, Harper is trying to get him out of his job. Sign the petition below to send a wave of support to von Finckenstein and forward this campaign to everyone -- we'll publish full page ads in Canadian papers when we reach 100,000:


To CRTC Chair von Finckenstein and PM Harper:
As concerned Canadians who deeply oppose American-style hate media on our airwaves, we applaud the CRTC's refusal to allow a new "Fox News North" channel to be funded from our cable fees. We urge Mr. von Finckenstein to stay in his job and continue to stand up for Canada's democratic traditions, and call on Prime Minister Harper to immediately stop all pressure on the CRTC on this matter.
So what exactly am I supposed to be signing?

A petition to stop the Sun TV News Channel from ever existing?
That would infringe upon freedom of speech.

A petition to allow it to exist but not be funded by taxpayers? I'm not convinced that it would be, and where does that leave the CBC, anyway?

A petition to protest perceived inappropriate influence by the Prime Minister? Even Ricken Patel, the Executive Director of the group behind this petition, had to admit to Evan Solomon on CBC TV that there was no proof of this.

The petition's wording is very unclear. What is clear is that I'm supposed to be very afraid. Words like "hate", "propaganda" and of course the ! tell me that.

All of which makes me wonder who the heck is behind this. 
Avaaz.org claims to be
...a new global online advocacy community that brings people-powered politics to global decision-making...


Avaaz—meaning "voice" in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—was launched in January 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens everywhere to help close the gap between the world we have and the world most people want...


Avaaz.org was co-founded by Res Publica, a global civic advocacy group, and Moveon.org, an online community that has pioneered internet advocacy in the United States.
Their website claims activism in the following arenas, among others:
  • save the oceans
  • protection for elephants
  • save the Brazilian rainforests
  • Haitian earthquake relief
  • Lots of stuff on climate change
  • Human rights in Uganda, Zimbabwe, and the US (torture, y'know).
  • And of course Middle East peace. 
In this context, how does the prospect of an alternative Canadian news channel even fall under their radar?
And yes I say "they" because this group is not Canadian. It may have a Canadian-born cofounder and Canadian members but its mailing address is in New York and its funding comes from sources outside of Canada.

So a non-Canadian organization whose name means "voice" wants to save our fragile Canadian ears from hearing the voices of those with opinions this organization doesn't like?

For some reason they want to scare Canadians into wanting to censor an alternative viewpoint. A viewpoint that I personally don't agree with but that is the magic of free speech.

And a little more context here: recently Canadian cable channels began carrying the English version of Al Jazeera. I do not remember seeing any petitions protesting this assault on what we are supposed to think. If Canadians are to be protected from speech that might be offensive to some, then we need to be protected from all speech. 

Nobody will be forced to watch "Fox News North". Nobody will be forced to behave like Tea Party Activists in the US. The biggest danger to democracy is not "propaganda", but censorship. Stick that in your Res Publica, Ricken Patel.