Monday, May 14, 2007

What's Wong, Wawwen?

Today, the self-styled Prince o' Darkness and lobbyist for multinational garbage dump owners and undertakers* cheers the Quebec Press Council for a decision on a complaint from the St. Jean Baptiste Society about Jan Wong.. Jan Wong is a Globe and Mail columnist. The controversial piece she wrote after the Dawson College shooting carried her picture and, for all intents and purposes, was an column/analysis piece. Certainly, that's what I thought it was when I read it. The point she made is not be the same conclusion that I would draw from the facts, but it's an arguable position in light of Quebec's language policy. As such, people have the right to argue back. And they did. The reaction was so fierce that I suspect there's a chill over discussion of the inclusiveness of Quebec society. That's too bad, because Quebec really is one of the very few places in theWestern world that regulates the language you speak at work, the language you use on signs in front of your place of business, and forces you to send your children to school in the local official language. It is probably the only place in the developed world that aCtively changes place names to erase the historic fact of the presence of a linguistic minority.
Unlike me, Kinsella, Jean Charest, and Stephen Harper, Wong grew up as a visible minority person in Montreal. I would not be too quick to discount what she has to say about the problems faced by young non-white or non-Francophone Quebecois or to stifle her voice. Usually, newspapers that publish opinion that riles public sensitivities respond by running opposing viewpoints, then everyone moves on. Not this time, though. She hit a nerve that runs through the Nationalist history of Quebec, into the crypto-fascist period of Duplessis, and farther back to the time of racist prelate Lionel Groulx.
More recently, we've had Landry's "money and ethnics" slur of 1995. The ADQ's recent platform smacks of racism and xenophobia and its candidates were often exposed as bigots. And anyone who wants to see elements of racism in Quebec's press need simply examine the coverage, and especially one editorial cartoon, in the Quebec media reaction to Wong's column.
If people wanted to refute her argument, they should have drawn on facts. And there are some. Montreal is a multicultural and multilingual city, despite the policies of the Quebec government, which pander to small-town Quebec, places like Herouxville. And Wong's argument falls down somewhat when you consider that two of the shootings happened at Anglophone schools (Dawson College and Concordia). If Gill and Fabrikant were driven nuts by Quebec's political interference in their right to self-expression, they presumably would have gone after Francophone insititutions. But, then again, these guys were nuts. This kind of thing happens, unfortunately, all over the place.) Still, she was entititled to make her case, and, to me, it looks like the Quebec Press Council caved to political pressure.
Anyone who thinks Stephen Harper and the House of Commons acted out of integrity when it censured Wong need only examine the recent case of Shane Doan to take a measure of the level of reckless irresponsibility and pandering among federal politicians. Wong's abuse by politicians should be a badge of honour. Journalists are supposed to piss people off. It's called Freedom of Speech, and sometimes it really, really bugs people.
Today, Warren Kinsella, whose name is a punchline in Canadian journalism, equates Wong, one of the country's best journalists, to Jayson Blair, a reporter (of colour, BTW) fired by the New York Times after being caught fabricating stories. That's a grotesque libel of Jan Wong, something that Kinsella's employers at the National Post (who employ Kinsella as "media columnist") should make note of. He may make the same comparison in the Post, and it could be quite expensive for CanWest.
As for NNAs' (the National Newspaper Awards), too bad the Post only won one this year and Kinsella's never been nominated. Sour grapes make the finest whine.
Now, you really want to know what Kinsella's on about? Read this. It's the column where Wong had Kinsella for lunch.

(*Kinsella is a registered lobbyist for Waste Management Inc and the Ontario Funderal Directors Ass.)


Anonymous said...

You put some leather on Kinsella with this one. He's freaking out on you today on his blog.

Ottawa Watch said...

Jan Wong is my friend. Kinsella's just trying to get revenge on someone who's a batter journalist and who is one of the few people brave enough to write the truth about him.