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September 15, 2010

The National Post vs. the Canadian Charger

Scott Stockdale

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It appears that the Canadian Charger and the National Post are on opposite sides of some sort of ideological divide, and thus they vehemently disagree on many, or perhaps most, issues.

Nonetheless, I was still surprised to see an unflattering article about the Canadian Charger appear on the top of the front page of the August 17, 2010 National Post, entitled “From Islam's defence to rejoicing in cancer,” implying that there is some relationship between the two. If there is a relationship, I have no idea what it is.

In the article, National Post reporter Joseph Brean wastes no time in getting down to business, whatever that business may be. In his second paragraph he says of the Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, member of the Charger’s Editorial Board:

“But the most unusual legacy for the retired head of the Canadian Islamic Congress is on the Internet, where his Canadian Charger website has, after a year of operation, found its place as a weekly clearinghouse for everything from poetry, cartoons and reflections on Islamic cultural history, to wildly paranoid conspiracy theories about Americans and Jews.”

This is an example of the ideological divide between the two publications.

I think it's a personal value judgment by Mr. Brean or others at the newspaper to say it's an unusual legacy for a retired professor, who's been an activist for social justice and world peace through justice for over 40 years of his professional life, to start an online magazine.

I think this magazine has something to do with freedom of speech and freedom of expression, especially for marginalized groups who could not get their views to the public in such publications as the National Post.

“Wildly paranoid conspiracy theories,” is yet another value judgment.

Many people who don't agree with some of the university professors who've written well-researched articles, that are highly critical of people in positions of power, instinctively dismiss their positions as conspiracy theories, implying that there is no such thing as a valid conspiracy theory about anything. 

As for paranoid, that is another value judgment, probably depending, in large degree, on which side of the ideological divide one stands.

I know the dictionary definition of paranoid, but I also know that it's a psychological concept, which I don't have the expertise to comment on. Perhaps Mr. Brean does, or at least he can explain exactly what these “wildly paranoid conspiracy theories” are, and what his reasons are for coming to this conclusion.

Mr. Brean goes on to mention articles in the Charger such as “The Holocaust Old and New," comparing Israelis to Nazis; "Israel in Ottawa," which documents the influence of Canada's Jewish lobby groups; and "Americans, the Murderers."

Previously, in its March 24, 2010 edition, the Charger has copy of a speech that Susan Weis, a holocaust survivor herself and a member of Not in Our Name: Jewish Voices Against Zionism, delivered on March 2, 2010, to a meeting of students at the University of Waterloo, as part of the Israeli Apartheid Week. In her speech, Ms. Weiss said:

“Like the Nazis, the Israel government enforces collective punishment. It aims to kill enough Palestinians, to punish them sufficiently, drive them out of their homeland, so they will disappear as a people. Israel seeks to remove Palestine from the world's family of nations. That too is a form of genocide.”

Does this mean Ms. Weis should have the definitive say in this matter? No, but most people would agree that it doesn't make her an anti-Semite either or a self hating Jew.

As for the “Israel in Ottawa,” article, I quote Canadian Jewish Congress Chief Executive Bernie Farber: “Bernie Farber says the Canadian Jewish Congress  has more clout in the halls of power than most minority groups even though it represents only 360,000 people across the country.”

While Mr. Brean's assertion that an editorial in support of Israeli Apartheid Week was illustrated with a picture of a dead baby in a diaper with a bullet hole in its chest is, in fact, true; but one has to wonder why.

This baby is an innocent victim of a conflict that has no end in sight, and publishing pictures like this is certainly damaging to the cause of the perpetrators of such conflicts.

Journalist and activist Amy Goodman said if pictures of injured and dying civilians and soldiers appeared regularly in the mainstream press, there would be an end to wars.

Meanwhile, in his Book American Raj: liberation or domination, Eric Margolis clearly addresses the issue of the pro-Israeli lobby.

For example, he points out that Israel’s American supporters had learned the lesson of 1956 when Washington ordered the Jewish State out of Sinai, and how in the ensuing five decades they had come to dominate and guide American Middle East policy and exercise a veto over it.

He adds that no one in Washington cared or dared to stand up to the Israel lobby.

Mr. Brean mentions the Charger's recent article on Christopher Hitchens, by University of Lethbridge Masters student Joshua Blankeney, in which Mr. Blankeney said: “As I was contemplating this revelation, I couldn't help feeling that the neoconservative armchair warrior was getting his just desserts.”

While this is a gratuitous comment about Mr. Hitchen's personal life, it's only a small part of an article which offers a political analysis pertaining to a wide range of issues; and it's by no means indicative of the kind of articles that appear in the Charger, which focuses on people's actions and positions on issues, rather than their personal lives. 

In his National Post article, Mr. Brean said: “Prof. Elmasry, who teaches microchip design at the University of Waterloo, said the Charger 'had in mind to be a voice for all those Canadians who could not express their views in the profit-driven Canadian media.'

He gathered respected academics and writers to lend their names and submissions.”

I'm not sure what “lending their names” means; but it's true that respected academics and writers are regular contributors to the Charger, which gives it the credibility that Mr. Brean's article seems to be suggesting it doesn't deserve because “it raises questions about whether such alternative online media, with their famously low costs and wide reach, are capable of holding itself to common standards of decency.”

Perhaps if the Charger would spend more time fawning over well-heeled felons like Conrad Black, it could meet these standards of decency the National Post feels it adheres to. Mr. Brean does however have a point about the Charger having a far reach, as it reached 2.5 million readers in its first year of operation.

Perhaps this is what really concerns the National Post.

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