What's Black and White and Read All Over?

Published: 1996-01-04

The controversial syndicated columnist Joseph Sobran once suggested The New York Times ought to be renamed or subtitled "The Holocaust Update" because of its Holocaustocentric tendencies. I wonder if that label mightn't be more fittingly applied to The Globe and Mail, which bills itself as "Canada's National Newspaper." Take the Friday, March 15 [1996] issue by way of example.

On page 2, a headline reads:"Nazi project seeks vacationers." This small item concerns a vacation resort which was started during the Hitler era and completed by the East German communist authorities. The gratuitous inclusion of the term "Nazi" in the title was clearly intended to steal a bit of thunder from the hoary, grisly resonance of the word. But it started the ball rolling, as it were.

On page 6, a headline banners: "Harassment of Jews rising: Propaganda on Internet blamed for incidents in Canada." The blurb accompanying the text reads: "We are witnessing an exponential growth in cyberhate." However, the article itself shows, via a set of unimpressive statistics, how an infinitesimal amount of anti-Semitic episodes in Canada has risen only by a tiny increment to a point where it can still be regarded as merely microscopic. A microscopic increase, as I say, for which the Internet is apportioned the lion's share of the blame as doled out by Canada's ever-alarmist Jewish community leaders; in the process, casting the Net in the role of a technological cybervillain. No direct mention is made of the Holocaust in this article; but it's there, under all that Jewish anxiety, whether real or artificial.

On page 9, there's a long article titled "Auschwitz mini-mall sparks tension." To put it uncharitably--to be consonant with these uncharitable downsizing times--it seems that the wrong people appeared to be cashing in on the "Shoah business," hence the Jewish uproar over a planned shopping mall to be built across the street from the old Auschwitz site. No need to be a psychic to foresee that this was going to be an ongoing story. The last I heard a group of Polish skinheads, simmering with nationalist fervor, staged an Easter weekend rally to denounce the Jewish protest that caused building activities at the Auschwitz mini-mall to be shelved. Look for further installments to be reported; and see who is cast as the villain of the piece, and who emerges as the hero.

On page 11, in The Arts section, a headline states: "Anne's diary comes to life." It concerns a very polished, beautifully crafted documentary about the Anne Frank diary. Not surprisingly, the film was later awarded a gold statuette for "best documentary" on Oscar nite at the Academy Awards on March 25th, where, between Whoopi Goldberg jokes about flatulence and other attempts at ribaldry, the documentary film-maker upon receiving his Oscar tried his level best to inject a solemn note into the usually maudlin, sometimes irreverent, proceedings by introducing the person who allegedly found the famous diary to the glamourous audience, whom it applauded as a hero.

Of course, if Hollywood has its heroes, it also has its villains. The Arts section of that day's edition of the Globe and Mail also included a review of the Hollywood movie "Executive Decision", with a blurb that blithely refers to "Arab terrorists." This in a country where so-called Human Rights Commissions at the federal level and in 10 provinces annually pour out millions to combat racial stereotypes; nevertheless, anti-stereotype fighters will be relieved to hear that, unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger (who tends to be touchy about references to his father's Nazi connections) and his 1995 movie "True Lies," where Arab terrorists were portrayed as being abysmally stupid, in addition to ruthless and evil, producer Joel Silver has given viewers a smarter bunch of oily Arab terrorists to fear and loathe this time around.

On the op-ed page [21], Harper's Magazine publisher, John R. MacArthur tears a strip off Pat Buchanan ["The ride of Patrick J. Buchanan"], whose reputation for weeks after his win in the New Hampshire primary continued being routinely savaged by media pundits of all political stripes. MacArthur's essay contained this observation:

"With a tight lid on so explosive a problem [the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of skilled white- and blue-collar workers across America due to corporate greed and downsizing], it doesn't take a Freud to understand the appeal of Mr. Buchanan. Along with his intolerance of our more marginal citizens, and his simultaneous tolerance [sic] of Nazis, comes a refreshing candour about corporate greed that is rarely heard in the stiflingly polite arena of mainstream public discussion."

See: poor Pat just doesn't cut it as a working class hero that can be sold to the blue-collar masses; after all, there's his alleged "intolerance" for those "marginal citizens" coupled with an alleged "tolerance of Nazis" to be lived down. A near-impossible task, to be sure.

To round out the picture, let me add The Globe that same Friday published a spate of articles underscoring in no uncertain terms precisely who the planetary villains are right now. The lead editorial "Ending state support for terrorism" took aim at several Arab and Islamic nations and organizations; an op-ed piece from The Economist demanded: "If Iran is the problem, what's the solution?" This item, interestingly enough, ran alongside a Michael Valpy column, the Socialist conscience of the generally centre-right newspaper, describing the bankruptcy--both financial and moral--of Ontario's beleaguered justice system--the same system that was just then seriously contemplating--but later relented--prosecuting Toronto publisher Ernst Zundel on hate promotion charges brought by his old nemesis Sabina Citron. (Perhaps the Ontario judicial system genuinely wanted to try Zundel but simply couldn't afford s trial--who knows?) Other articles to appear bannered the following telltale headlines: "Reign of fear in Allah's name [p. 8], "U.S. pledges $100-million to fight terrorism: Clinton tells Israel help will be provided in tracking down Islamic militants" [p. 8], "Democracy still a foreign word in Turkey" [p. 9], "Arming Bosnian Muslims opposed" [p. 10], and so on.

It is said that wary Soviet citizens inundated with propaganda lies on a daily basis learned to read their newspapers with a critical eye, reading between the lines to unearth snippets of truth, like so many truffles. The result was an informed but at the same time deeply cynical population. A mindset that led to the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. I wonder if the same thing isn't happening in North America nowadays, if others aren't also doing what I just did in my own clumsy way? Asking what makes black black and white white in the light of media scrutiny, and all the while cynically doubting just how moral and authoritative our said moral authorities really and truly are.

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): The TransCyberian Express
Title: What's Black and White and Read All Over?
Published: 1996-01-04
First posted on CODOH: April 29, 1996, 7 p.m.
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