Wednesday, January 17, 2007

patriotically correct (3)

Just to clear the decks. Last in a series, I swear.

Consider Rick Mercer and Christie Blatchford.

Every ad for the Rick Mercer Report [sic] goes something like this: "Hey! This week, I'm with the RCMP/ Coast Guard / Army / OPP / Navy, and I'll be driving a tank / jumping out of a plane / running an obstacle course / attacked by a police dog ." And each week, when there, he'll crack a joke or two about underfunding, appear silly in a uniform, get nervous and dirty, and shake his amused host's hand vigourously. It's what you would expect TV comedy to be like in the old Soviet Union.

But for real fawning, non-investigative journalism, you need to read Christie Blatchford's posts from Afghanistan; she, like Mercer, was there over the Christmas holidays. If she wasn't creating page 1 news by suggesting that 1 Canadian soldier may have acted cowardly -- and only 1, once -- a few months back ( "Did he abandon his troops?" ), she was critiquing Canadian children's letters to soldiers, noting that one that referred repeatedly to peace made her want to puke ( Dear Soldier: Letters to Afghanistan ). Her au revoir to the troops was called My Most Meaningful Christmas, because it was "the one which was centred on noble ideals, such as sacrifice and honour and duty, and the people who are trying to live them." She ends that report by talking about her "affection for well-placed tattoos and the occasional scar, preferably earned in a bar fight." Ick. Forget Edward R Murrow; Helen Gurley Brown is rolling over in her grave. Extra! Canucks Capture Kandahar Cougar!

Why do I get so exercised about patriotic correctness? Two reasons.
-It is so unhelpful. We don't learn anything about anything. The CBC and the Globe and Mail, perhaps the two most important media outlets in Canada, can put two of their top people in a war zone where Canadians are fighting and we learn ... nothing. And we don't really expect to. If we expected Blatchford or Mercer to actually report on the war, they wouldn't maintain the access the Forces gives them.
-It is so easy. There is no upside to being anything but patriotically correct. It's a message, it's a tone that gets you readers/listeners, gets you access, gets you props. (And to those who say, "Yeah, but at least they went" -- I'm sorry, lots of people would go. There are real journalists who would go. Heck, Jack Layton would probably go.)

....But [he pulls back] don't mind me, I'm still working through this. I'm still trying to figure out what I think about the way Canadians have treated their military and its history in recent decades. Why do we like our history military and our military history?

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