Is media’s ‘selective reporting, selective silence’ crashing
careers, suppressing solutions and trashing the truth?
NEWS ANALYSIS By Awakening Staff
Canada’s mainstream media outlets evidently are all peddling the same message regarding widespread allegations of sexual misconduct among male public officials.
That message is simple: The accused officials are guilty.
And with all the damage done, it may not matter much if some, or all, of the allegations turn out to be false.
These allegations, take note, often come from anonymous sources. Yet, whether the accusers are named or not, the allegations being made at this juncture are unproven, and possibly unprovable.
Objectively speaking, unless video footage or other reliable evidence comes to light, these latest sexual harassment claims, like most other sexual harassment claims, are one person’s word versus another’s—boiling down to “he said, she said.”
This does not mean that genuine harassment cases (as distinguished from innocent flirting) should be trivialized or ignored; indeed, such cases should be fairly and impartially probed. But the media, rather than questioning its sources, simply reports virtually anything that flashes across Twitter and Facebook or shows up in an email inbox.
“In [Twitter] tweets, Facebook posts and quiet conversations, more stories are already being told,” the National Post breathlessly reported. “Journalists’ inboxes soon started to fill with new rumours and accusations following the resignations.” [emphasis added].
That’s a reference to the early-Jan. 25 resignation of MPP Patrick Brown, under party pressure, from the Progressive-Conservative Party leadership post, followed within 24 hours by Federal Minister of Sport and Disabilities Kent Hehr stepping down from his Cabinet position. Both are accused of sexual harassment based on allegations that go back several years, long before they assumed their current government positions.
As this stuff unfolds, some crucial questions are coming into focus:
- Are the basic rules of journalism, like closely checking sources, looking for ulterior motives, and avoiding the unwarranted destruction of people’s reputations, no longer valid or in practice?
- Are Canada’s media outlets, which portray themselves as passive observers, short-circuiting the democratic process by jumping to conclusions? Who appointed the media judge and jury?
ANSWERS NEEDED SOON
Such questions need to be addressed, because public officials at the provincial and national levels are vacating key positions at a seemingly alarming rate, without due-process.
According to a National Post online article, there is “palpable tension in Ottawa that a flood of accusations against other politicians could follow” in the aftermath of Brown and Hehr both falling from grace.
Brown, for the record, will remain in place as Simcoe North’s MPP. He only stepped down as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. But the morning after the media published the allegations, most of his senior staffers quit.
In Orillia, Terry and Kathy Kirk were parked outside Brown’s constituency office when questioned by the Post. “As a retired police officer, I want to see both sides,” Terry Kirk replied. “We should wait for the evidence before we convict the man.”
“We should wait for the evidence before we convict the man.” – Orillia resident Terry Kirk
HEHR QUADRIPLEGIC SINCE 1991
As for Mr. Hehr, he’s wheelchair-bound and has been ever since he’s became quadriplegic in October of 1991 when, at the age of 21, he was shot in a drive-by shooting. But major media have mentioned little, if anything, about that important factor. It’s not as if Hehr could pose a physical threat to any woman, or to anyone else. And what happened to the rights of the disabled in this age of political correctness?
Moreover, the allegations against Hehr potentially go back 10 years, during when he served in Alberta’s provincial assembly (from 2008 to 2015). (Editor’s note: Attorney Christine Thomlinson is investigating his case, while Science Minister Kirsty Duncan has assumed Hehr’s ministerial duties).
Notably, the Post mentioned that the allegation against Hehr came to light “in the midst of the uproar over the allegations against Brown, when one woman took to Twitter.”
How’s that for journalistic standards? A single Twitter note, or “tweet,” was seen as a credible “testimony” on which to base wall-to-wall news coverage adversely affecting a public official and the democratic process, long before any facts are known.
Thus, the Post placed its faith in the tweet of one Kristin Raworth, “a public servant in Alberta [who] seemed to be motivated by what she saw as the start of the ‘Canadian political #metoo movement.’ She wrote about inappropriate comments made by Hehr, who was an Alberta member of the legislative assembly . . .”
“My first day working at the Alberta legislature I was told to avoid being in an elevator with Kent Hehr,” Raworth wrote. “He would make comments. He would make you feel unsafe.”
Sounding like a sleazy tabloid, the Post added: “She also alleged that Hehr once told her ‘you’re yummy’ when she was alone with him in an elevator, and that other women had experienced similar behaviour.”
LURID CLAIMS ABOUT BROWN
For the record, regarding the anonymous allegations against Brown, the Post’s Richard Warnica wrote, “Brown was first elected to Barrie City Council in 2000, when he was only 22 years old. In 2006, he became the federal Member of Parliament for Barrie and the surrounding region.”
Then, Warnica drops this bombshell: “CTV news reported the accounts Wednesday [Jan. 24] of two women who allege Brown, who doesn’t drink, plied them with alcohol when they were teens and then aggressively sexually propositioned or assaulted them. One woman told the network she was still in high school when Brown led her into his bedroom, exposed his [privates] and asked her to perform oral sex.”
Notice Warnica’s slippery wording, “propositioned or assaulted,” two concepts with far different definitions. A proposition is generally verbal, while an assault is not just physical, but physical in the forceful sense, against the consent of the alleged victim.
Adding even more juicy content in the absence of evidence, Warnica added: “The other woman, who says she met Brown when she was 18 and he was an MP, said Brown kissed her without her consent then lay on top of her on his bed.”
While Brown and Hehr both have denied the allegations, some voters will feel that their resignations are a tacit admission of guilt.
WHILE ALL THE SILENCE — UNTIL NOW?
Yet, it’s fair to ask why the women making these claims did not speak out a lot sooner. If Brown was already an MP when he allegedly assaulted an 18-year-old, why the silence then? Why all the silence until now?
Same goes for Mr. Hehr. He supposedly said the wrong things to one or more women several years ago in Alberta. Why are we only hearing about the claims now?
To be sure, some will argue that those periods of silence mean the victims may be telling the truth but were scared to speak out at first. Perhaps someday that will turn out to be true. We don’t know yet.
However, Canadian media clearly are engaging in direct or indirect character assassination, by design or default. This short-circuits the prerogative of voters to decide or influence who gets into public office and how long they remain in office. Therefore, it’s beyond dispute that we already have solid evidence of this media malpractice right in front of us, while the sexual allegations causing this defamation are clouded in uncertainty.
And this is especially ironic considering that award-winning reporter Paul Bliss of CTV news (Bell Media), who also covered the Brown story, was himself suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct against a former CTV employee.
A Jan. 26 article posted at www.thestar.com about the accuser in this case, Bridget Brown, provided a link to her infamous blog posting, in which she announced to the world that she had been the victim of this supposed sexual-misconduct incident way back in 2006, yet she did not actually name Bliss as the accused perpetrator.
Instead, she wrote: “In my first week there, I reached out to an award-winning CTV reporter and anchor, who is still on the air today. Literally today, talking about Patrick Brown.” The irony of Bliss reporting about Brown, she claims, is what motivated her to break her silence.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said in the wake of Patrick Brown’s party downfall that everybody should shine a light on any sexual misconduct they come across, although Awakening readers should take note that none of the alleged victims ever went to the police, and no one has been charged with rape or any other official charge.
At any rate, it’s rather easy for Wynne to moralize, since she can rest a lot easier now that MPP Brown no longer leads his party. He was effective, having reportedly worked hard to erase the party’s debts while boosting membership by 200,000.
Regardless of what one may think of Brown’s policy decisions, he represented a credible threat to Wynne. It was fairly well understood that Brown left his former MP post in order to legislate at the provincial level—evidently using his provincial riding as a weigh station until he had a clear shot at Wynne’s seat as premier.
But with Nipissing MPP Vic Fideli having been temporarily named as the interim Progressive Conservative Caucus leader, Brown’s catapult into the PM post appears to be “toast.” As it turns out, Wynne and her party are the chief beneficiaries of Brown’s downfall within his party’s ranks.
As of Jan. 28, the question became who would be named as the official Progressive-Conservative Caucus leader going into the June elections, amid speculation that no one will be named and the leadership post will remain vacant.
That’s an odd option for a party that is trying to find traction so it can make inroads against Liberal control. One excuse given so far for the indecision is fear of a “right-wing” party takeover, a claim for which no substantiation is given. [Stay tuned soon for our analysis of the current claims of a party “coup.” Might this help explain what happened to MPP Brown and why?]
Candidates to lead the caucus beyond Fideli’s interim service, as of Jan. 28, include a media figure, Rod Phillips, formerly of Post Media, along with former Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford Jr., brother of late Toronto Mayor Rob Ford; and attorney Carolyn Mulroney, daughter of former Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney.
TRUDEAU: ALL HARASSMENT ‘UNACCEPTABLE’
Meanwhile, speaking in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 25 at the annual World Economic Forum, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau restated his unwavering support for women who step forward with these allegations. In a separate statement, Trudeau said, “Harassment of any kind is unacceptable and Canadians have a right to live and work in environments free from harassment [emphasis added].
However, as The Awakening News has been pointing out, if addressing the abuses of Canadians in the workplace (men and women, including those from indigenous backgrounds) is important—whether the abuse is of a sexual nature or not—the Canadian government at all levels has overlooked various kinds of abuses happening in the nation’s casinos, for example.
Since casinos generate billions in revenue and hire a lot of people across Canada in a labor-intensive environment, they’re a logical venue to consider in terms of workplace safety and harassment issues.
Yet, the Awakening’s repeated calls and letters over several years to Canadian officials have been met with silence in the process of petitioning the government to consider investigating reports of sexual abuse of female casino employees by disorderly male casino customers. Of course, a proper probe would separate fact from fiction. But there is a lot of unexplored territory here and has been for decades.
Furthermore, many casino workers, whose work conditions are often stressful to begin with, are afraid to blow the whistle not only on sexual misconduct matters but also about other workplace problems. The roving eye of management is a major obstacle since preventing abused employees from coming forward, in itself, might be seen as a kind of abuse because the problems continue festering for years without resolution.
Our inside sources (that justifiably must be kept confidential at this time) say that casino employees are simply afraid to speak up lest they lose their jobs, even when it comes to things such as employees being exposed to workplace hazards that have caused injuries (sharp-edged signs causing head trauma at Casino Rama in Ontario, for example), let alone reporting more serious matters such as sexual misconduct.
For more details, see related story posted on this website, via this link.
That link connects you to the Awakening’s story on how the CBC’s investigative news program, The Fifth Estate, did a respectable job focusing on how gambling addicts who spend big bucks on the slots are a big part of the Canadian government’s revenue stream, even as government programs to prevent addicts from further ruining themselves are not working.
But while the government totally ignores casinos as a major venue where Canadian workers are reportedly being exploited or abused, the Fifth Estate has only examined one slice of the larger problem, exhibiting a selective style of reporting that’s becoming all too common among Canada’s media.
Media malpractice became all-the-more evident when the same media that has seriously harmed or sunk the careers of Brown and Hehr previously reported that Senator Lynne Beyak had supposedly posted remarks somehow ridiculing indigenous peoples.
However, none of the news sources that The Awakening News has reviewed, so far, quoted Beyak’s remarks directly. So, it’s not altogether clear what she said that was found to be so offensive. She, too, has been demoted, having been kicked off a key committee.
But some evidence exists that the Canadian government, despite all its high-minded rhetoric about wanting to prevent workplace abuses, especially those of a sexual nature, may be actively obstructing solutions to this broad problem.
Three years ago, Ontario MPP Jim Wilson, a former interim leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, wrote to Ontario Premier Wynne about abuses of workers at Casino Rama, based on documentation that an Awakening News editor provided to him. But while Wynne did not respond and Wilson took no further action, whistleblowing efforts at Casino Rama were reportedly squelched by management, with the Ontario Provincial Police doing nothing to resolve the matter.
For Wilson’s letter to sit in Wynne’s office for that long, with no reply, raises questions about Premier Wynne. Now that conservative leader Patrick Brown has been replaced, it’s interesting that the conservatives have done nothing to look into whether liberal Wynne has become an enabler by ignoring the letter she received from Wilson.
SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING?
The Canadian government promotes the motto, “If you see something, say something.” But if whistleblowers who “see something” are cowed into silence and feel they cannot “say something”; if the government claims to be fighting abuses while actually covering them up; and if the media gives credence to largely unsubstantiated claims while ignoring more tangible examples of sexual and non-sexual abuses of women and men throughout society (not just in government and media), then the “Canadian inertia” often referred to by citizens seems stronger than ever.
It has another descriptor: Going nowhere fast.
And with the CBC now getting $1.1 billion annually from the taxpayers—thanks to a recent funding boost from Trudeau—and with Canada’s casino industry (OLG) spending multi-millions in advertising dollars that help ensure the bottom lines of virtually all Canadian media outlets, perhaps the reason for what the Awakening calls “selective reporting, selective silence” among the mainstream media is not too hard to understand.