Thursday, February 28, 2013

When Demagoguery Backfires, We Call It Karma

If you, as I, follow #CdnPoli, you may have noticed something missing recently: it seems that Tobold Rollo (aka Blinky McFlopsweat, aka Troll-bold, aka @SettlerColonial) has folded his social media tent. At least for now.

The #CdnPoli Twitterverse, as well as the #IdleNoMore and #INM Twitterverses, have been wrought with messages lamenting the departure of Blinky from Twitter. Apparently, it's all a great shame.

Unless, of course, you consider why he's apparently chosen to make this decision:

"Last night my observations about land defence were ridiculed or countered with accusations of unchecked privileged [sic], arrogance, and malicious intent. This suggests to me that social media itself is insulating a serious problem. If calling for protection of the land is now cause for derision and accusation, I’m skeptical about the the possibility of affecting lasting change through social media. That said, I apologize if anyone was offended by these observations."

Judging from how Troll-bold chose to conduct himself on Twitter in particular, who could have ever imagined that anyone could accuse him of arrogance or malicious intent? Particularly after he pathetically stooped to the level of digging up a seven-year-old unflattering photograph of myself for the purpose of malicious ridicule, the latter complaint particularly inspired me to chuckle at his butt-hurt.

But then there's the grand irony of it all. See, Troll-bold is an adherent of post-colonial theory. Post-colonial theory is a critical theory, deeply rooted in the Marxist Frankfurt school. As one of its defensive tactics, post-colonial theory appropriated the notion of "white privilege theory." (White privilege theory was developed as a racial conspiracy theory by communists, and was later effectively disproven by communists.) Post-colonial theorists now use the notion of "privilege" to discredit those with whom they disagree on the basis of race, class, and even gender.

This has been one of Troll-bold's favourite tactics. And whereas once he gleefully used the accusation of privilege against opponents of #IdleNoMore, he is now apparently entirely stunned when it was, in turn, used against him. Apparently so stunned that it's prompted him to entirely abandon social media as his favoured medium of trolliing -- er, I mean "satire."

The remarkable thing about it is that it's nothing more and nothing less than his own tactics being used against him, apparently by the very same people he meant to use it in support of. He set the standard, apparently never bothering to stop and consider that he, as a white male PhD student -- who has apparently been able to afford a permanent career as a full-time student while raising a young family -- precisely fits the bill of someone he himself would describe as "privileged."

He was setting himself up for it the entire time. Then, someone perfectly positioned for it -- someone who did not fit the bill of someone Troll-bold would consider "privileged" -- saw fit to come along and knock him down.

Couldn't have happened to a more suitable candidate.

Now, in the wake of this, Troll-bold is off somewhere licking his wounds. And you may wonder: will he take it upon himself to reconsider the toxic ideas he's promoted, realizing just how easily they can be used against him as against those who disagree with him?

Well, Troll-bold's not as nearly bright as billed (mostly by himself). So I fully suspect that the answer to this question will be "no." Nor is this the end of him. Someone with an ego as large and unjustifiable as Troll-bold can never bring themselves to deprive themselves of attention for very long. He'll be back, and it'll be just as big a trainwreck as it was before.

And it couldn't happen to a more suitable candidate.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Settling the Score With Madeline Smith

Sometimes life throws you remarkable little curve balls. Things that show you that you're either more or less important than you thought you were.

The one thrown my way yesterday by one Madeline Smith, Managing Editor of the University of Alberta Gateway -- the publication with which I plied by journalistic trade for four years -- was certainly one of the former.

In the midst of a pitiful meltdown by Tolbold Rollo (aka Blinky McFlopsweat, aka Troll-bold, aka @SettlerColonial), Ms Smith made the decision to interject herself. Unfortunately, she couldn't resist the urge to say something that was trumped-up at most, and made-up at least. Via her Twitter account:

What Smith says is entirely false. I can't pretend to have never had any disagreements with a Gateway opinion editor, but I can describe the most significant of them -- the ones which, to my eye, Smith seems to be referring -- as such:

In one case an editor informed me that my work wouldn't be printed unless I burned a day of my summer work schedule to travel all the way from Lloydminster, SK to Edmonton, AB to have a new headshot taken by Gateway photographers. When my offer to have a new headshot taken by a local photographer -- saving me the time and expense, including in foregone wages, of traveling to Edmonton -- was rebuffed, I told him to go pound sand.

I've never considered this to have been a legitimate issue, merely an excuse for that particular editor -- who will go unnamed -- to push out a writer that he didn't like. In light of my rebuked efforts to compromise with him, I feel this conclusion to be entirely justified.

In the latter case an editor -- who had described "perogies, not prorogue" signs as comic genius and wanted to print more articles about, of all things, bacon -- informed me that debate would not be tolerated in Gateway opinion meetings, as the younglings didn't appreciate their opinions being challenged. This was something of a new policy at Gateway opinion, and as I consider the combination of a bully pulpit with a shrinking violet to be specifically toxic, I also told her to go pound sand.

Banned twice? That's certainly not an even-handed description of the events in question. But I suppose that must be the fun thing about having a dispute with someone when you hold all the power -- afterward, you can tell it however you want it, regardless of however it really was.

In my subjective opinion, this kind of behaviour is the hallmark of a shitty person. I doubt that very many people would disagree. But Smith isn't just a shitty person. It turns out that she is, in my opinion, also a shitty journalist.

I'm not usually in the business of dredging up the past work of people who I don't know or have never even heard of. But as Smith decided to blindside me by blatantly making things up about my history, I felt it entirely fair to take a look at some of her past work. See what ostensibly got her elevated to the lofty office of the Gateway's Managing Editor.

 The results were not particularly impressive. To whit, consider this opinion article from the November 2, 2009 issue of the Gateway in which she recounts an incidence of what she considers to be "pub racism" but really just makes it clear that she has a hate-on for pub bouncers:

"Recently, I made a trip downtown to a certain retro dance club with a few friends for a night of drinking and good old-fashioned debauchery. Like any university students after a long midterm week of sleepless nights, we were all ready to order a round (or three) of tequila shots and altogether forget about the pressures of the world of academia as we retire to a place you can stand for one night only.

Unfortunately for us, we were about to encounter one of the most notoriously loathed demons of city nightlife: the dance club bouncer. These lecherous beasts aren’t found at every bar, but meeting one usually leaves you feeling violated in one way or another. In this case, a member of our group was held up and harassed by one of these creatures, who refused to let her into the bar because he claimed her ID wasn’t legitimate. Despite the fact that she held perfectly valid Alberta government identification (bearing her photo, signature, and proof that she was indeed over the age of 18), he continued to insist that she couldn’t be allowed into the club. The problem? My friend’s ID is an Aboriginal status card.

The bouncer informed us that status cards weren’t accepted based on some mysterious bar policy, having experienced 'problems' with them in the past. He claimed the government office that issues the cards is full of corruption, and as a result, the IDs are usually counterfeit. Having provided this ID at various bars, restaurants, and liquor stores numerous times without any mention of this so-called policy before, she was at a bit of a loss, and frankly, so were we. What was this guy talking about?"

Indeed. What was this guy talking about? It turns out that a little something called "research" could have told her all about it.

As it turns out, the concern over counterfeit Aboriginal status cards was far from anything simply invented by the bouncer in question. At the time that Smith was producing this tripe, the federal government was already undertaking a pilot program to create new, more secure, Aboriginal status cards because the old ones were prone to being faked. Had Smith bothered to do any research whatsoever, she would have learned that this had been considered an issue all the way back in 2000.

Certainly, nine years had passed between 2000 and 2009. The problem could have been solved in the interim, right? Hold your horses. It turns out that as recent to Smith's tirade as March 2009 Metis ID cards were also being eyeballed as easy to counterfeit.

Certainly, this could be an easy mistake to make -- if the opinion article you're writing is completely unresearched. As this one clearly was. No matter what anyone may choose to say about my work with the Gateway, "unresearched" is not one of them. (Although I did once have that accusation lobbed at me, by an individual ironically complaining about an article researched via the very same source that obnoxious individual recommended. Hilarity frequently abounds.)

And that pilot project the federal government was undertaking? It's about to roll out newer, more secure aboriginal ID cards. As per the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website:

To be exceedingly fair to Smith -- far more fair than she chose to be to me -- this particular website page was published on February 7, 2013. That being said, it's a mere reiteration of information that was already available when she wrote that article. Here's a little more reiteration of that publicly-available information:

So the bouncer was right -- and Smith was wrong. A little bit of the requisite research necessary to be a journalist would have told her as much. Of course, the information derived from doing that research might have denied her that golden opportunity to get her butthurt on, so perhaps it's entirely unsurprising that she seemingly chose not to do any.

Will Smith find it in herself to go track down that bouncer and apologize to him? I severely doubt it. See, Smith still hasn't apologized to me. Gateway editor-in-chief Ryan Bromsgrove -- whose work I hold in high esteem -- was put in the unenviable position of having to do it for her. Smith herself, apparently after a discussion with the Gateway board of directors, did see fit to delete the slanderous tweets that precipitated this investigation of her clearly-lacking journalistic rigour.

That being said. I've heard nothing about any disciplinary action being taken against Smith. Unquestionably there should be some, and in any organization worthy of describing itself as "professional" -- as the Gateway Student Journalism Society does -- there certainly would be. Knowing the steady decline of the Gateway organization as I do, I fully expect that none was taken. Which is why I've had to take on the task of disciplining Madeline Smith myself.

I sincerely hope that the Gateway does take this as an opportunity to educate their paid staff on standards of professionalism. Then again, considering that this is a publication that was forced to pare back its publishing schedule from twice-a-week to once-a-week, seeming without so much as a moment of introspection into how the publication's declining quality has impacted its declining popularity, I'm not exactly holding my breath.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Oh, Thomas Mulcair. What Would Tommy Douglas Think?

Consider this a tale of two Tommys.

One Tommy was a government Minister in Quebec. The other Tommy was the Premier of Saskatchewan. One Tommy is the current leader of the federal NDP. The other Tommy is a former leader of the federal NDP. In fact, he was the first NDP leader. One Tommy seems to have a mad-on for evangelical Christians. The other was an evangelical Christian. In fact, he was a baptist minister.

Of course we're talking about Thomas Mulcair and Tommy Douglas.

Tommy Douglas passed away in 1986. Thomas Mulcair stepped in it in 2013.

See, Mulcair is upset that Christian Crossroads Communications -- the same company that produces 100 Huntley Street -- recently received a CIDA grant of approximately $500,000 to drill and repair water wells in Uganda. He's very angry about it because CCC considers homosexuality to be sinful -- an opinion that, for the record, I disagree with -- and on those grounds he thinks that CCC should not receive the grant.

Mulcair declared that evangelical Christians "go against" Canadian values.

So what does that say about Douglas, the man who NDP campaigning propelled to the summit of the CBC's "greatest Canadian" poll?

Mulcair might not like the answer. First off, Douglas was not only a Baptist -- which is an evangelical denomination of Christianity -- but he was in fact a Baptist minister. And Baptists are hardly known for their tolerance of homosexuality.

Then, of course, there's Douglas himself. Now, he didn't believe that homosexuality is sinful, as the folks at CCC do. Rather, he believed homosexuality is a mental illness.

So now, nearly two years after Mark Bonokoski first asked the question, we must ask it again: is Tommy Douglas still the Greatest Canadian? Or, perhaps we must ask this question differently: does Thomas Mulcair, of all people, still think that Tommy Douglas is still the Greatest Canadian?

Keep in mind that Douglas' position -- that homosexuals should be treated with sympathy -- isn't all that different from CCC's. They condemn anyone who uses violence against homosexuals.

Which, sadly, isn't as Mulcair has it. "We don't understand how the Conservatives can ... subsidize a group in Uganda whose views are identical to those of the Ugandan government," he declared. But considering that  the government of Uganda is -- and should remain -- under fire for their infamous "kill the gays" bill, and CCC opposes the use of violence against homosexuals, we can already see that isn't the case.

Unfortunately for Thomas Mulcair, this is more egg on the face of an opposition leader whose face is already looking very eggy indeed.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Idle No More: No Peace, No Justice

Around the world, the rallying cry of radicals -- genuinely righteous and merely self-righteous alike -- has often been thus: "no justice, no peace." Meaning that until they right an injustice -- actual, perceived, or even invented -- they will not stop fighting.

But what happens when their fighting disrupts efforts to right ongoing injustices, and solve ongoing problems? Then we clearly have the opposite: without peace, we cannot attain justice. It has come to pass that this is what it has come to with Idle No More.

Yesterday, Idle No More protesters attempted to barge into a meeting in Saskatoon between the federal government and local First Nations Chiefs. The bizarre insistence of the protesters was that the Chiefs weren't actually being consulted on  The bill includes a plan to create regional aboriginal school boards, and gathering individual band schools into those boards. The bill would give First Nations bands the same control over their schools as non-aboriginal communities already have. The bill has already proven controversial, but the government and First Nations are working on it. Or at least they're attempting to.

Apparently Idle No More won't allow that to happen.

This isn't the first time Idle No More has set out to disrupt meetings between First Nations Chiefs and the federal government. When AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo met with the Prime Minister, Idle No More darling and fake hunger striker Chief Theresa Spence -- under whom the proverbial home ice was already thinning at the time -- texted a demoralizing message to his Blackberry. The punchline was that Chief Spence herself had demanded such a meeting as a condition of ending her fake hunger strike. She did not end her hunger strike, which was fair enough I suppose as she never really began a hunger strike in the first place. Of course she didn't stop telling people she was hunger-striking when she really wasn't, so perhaps it wasn't fair enough after all.

Moving on.

It's at times like this that it's worth remembering that Idle No More is as much a conflict between aboriginal radicals and the federal government as it is a conflict between aboriginal protesters and their elected leaders. Remember that even in the wake of a crushing defeat at the hands of Atleo, Idle No More "braintrust" Pam Palmater declared that her movement -- a movement that has very much harnessed Idle No More as a means of advancing their agenda -- wouldn't rest until it has had its way.

It's become increasingly clear that Idle No More is now doing Palmater's heavy lifting, working very, very hard to undermine the elected leaders of First Nations bands in Canada. Working very, very hard to ensure there can be no peace between First Nations and the federal government. And without that peace, the problems that must be solved for there to be lasting justice cannot be solved.

Which, it seems, is precisely how Idle No More prefers it.