Take Two Fits, Call Me in the Morning

Dr. Norman Doidge, the National Post's resident shrink, wrote his column this week on hysteria. It was appropriate.

On Monday, the Post's front page had, "Paper leads cheers for protest violence. Toronto Star masquerades endorsement as news." Robert Fulford thrashed the Star's Tom Walkom for a piece on the motives of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), which "evicted" staff of Ontario's Finance Minister from an office.

It's a little rich for the Post to complain about masking views as news on the front page. Picture the archetypal Post headline: Canada Sucks: Study. You can't avoid "news" in the Post about its own campaign to unite the right, the brain-drain it alone discerns, or the national tax revolt you may not have noticed. For it to complain about blurring news and views is, as Noam Chomsky once said, like the stove calling the kettle black (or Black).

Robert Fulford also said the Walkom piece "gave every evidence of having been fuelled by impotent anger and a hope for violence," without giving any evidence. Quoting Tony Blair, he said "we" should not yield to the "anarchists' travelling circus" plaguing international economic meetings. "The we," he moaned, is "nothing less than civilization." Personally, I wouldn't want to be a member of any civilization Robert Fulford gets to define. Gandhi, who got defended against being "sullied" by the likes of Tom Walkom, put it better when asked about Western civilization. He said it would be a good idea.

Next came a Post editorial on the "detritus" who protested at an EU summit in Sweden, "the most recent playpen for thugs rioting in the name of the confused mishmash of protectionism and Luddism that passes for ideology. . . vandals . . . rabble . . ." Note the verbal excess, as if they can't quite expel the political pus. And more mind-reading à la Fulford: The protesters have "what they imagine to be principled objections to capitalism but many just want to throw rocks." I'll just note that abuse and violence can also be verbal, as many children, spouses and employees know. Even in law, an assault can be verbal, which is pretty much what the editorial was. It contained no attempt to reckon with distinctions between groups or the many manifestoes and analyses available, just an overriding need (calling Dr. Doidge) to express disdain for those who disagree with you.

Andrew Coyne, meanwhile, wrote on "militant unions" that have "taken up 'direct action' - wrecking things, in plain English." I always like it when Andrew Coyne tells you what you mean (I've had the pleasure) rather than asking you or quoting you. Mark Steyn referred to the "anti-American rabble" in Europe. The level of agitation among these pundits makes me wonder why we never see them in the streets, taking direct action, like OCAP, the Nova Scotia nurses, or the Blair travelling circus. It's a weird image but - why doesn't it happen? They're as pissed off as nurses and more venomous. Yet they're basically on-side with power, with the people in the towers. It would be like expecting big pharmaceutical companies to protest. When they want something, like more money, they go straight to governments and get it. Talk about direct action. Then governments tell the nurses the health-care "envelope" is overstretched - because of the rocketing cost of drugs! Power doesn't sully itself in the streets.

And there was Izzy Asper, owner of Global TV, all the Southam papers and half the Post, writing on Israel as "a lonely outpost of Western civilization in a sea" - that would be the Arab countries - "of terrorism, corruption, dictatorship and human enslavement." While Yasser Arafat "has the unwavering, original and continuing objective of annihilating the state entirely, by any means, however ruthless, savage, barbaric and inhumane, and regardless of how long it takes." He and his "colleagues are the voice, the arm and the fist of their terrorist-sponsoring state partners" in a "campaign to destroy Israel as well as inflict suffering on other democratic nations. . ." He was as relentlessly stereotypical as any anti-Semite writing about Jews ever was. Listen: "They are all cut from the same cloth, using the same pattern and belonging to the same school of gangster terrorists." They "have always sought and will continue to seek . . . only the destruction of the state of Israel." So what's the solution? Hmm, how about killing 'em all? You don't leave a lot of options, Izzy. It was more categorical and unreasoning than anything Conrad Black ever wrote. I think. Uh, has anyone seen those two in the same place, same time?

My point? Well, what's their point? I really don't get it. The kid who glued shut the bank machines in my neighbourhood last weekend in a direct action - or the OCAP group that "evicted" staff from the minister's office to protest against homelessness - may have been ineffective or inconsiderate. But they were comprehensible. It's the dehumanizers and demonizers I have trouble understanding. Paging Dr. Doidge?

Originally published by The Globe and Mail. Rick Salutin's column appears every Friday. Posted on rabble.ca with permission.

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