Did you know that Sunera Thobani is “an idiot,” “loathsome,” “nutty” and “sick”? Maybe you didn’t know this a week ago, but I bet you know it now.
How about this? Did you know that to be opposed to U.S. foreign policy in general — or to not throw yourself body-and-soul behind the United States government — is tantamount to showing your approval for the terrorist attacks on September 11? Did you know this means that you are attempting to justify the bombings? Did you know that this means you are a monster?
I bet you know it now — and, thanks to Sunera Thobani, I bet you’ll think twice about articulating such heresy in the future.
I am not going to state the obvious and say that the terrorist attacks were a horrific tragedy. Not just because I shouldn’t have to, but because, if I do, and then go on to make any kind of criticism of the prevailing spirit of war and retribution dominating popular opinion, then I am — if you believe the editorial staff of our national newspapers — essentially applauding the actions of terrorists.
It is a damn good thing that people like me have the pundits to keep us in line. They let us know that, to even complete the statement, “The terrorist attacks were horrible and wrong, but …” is “despicable.” I take this specific directive straight from the editorial desk of that bastion of free speech, The Globe and Mail.
Recently, on CBC radio’s This Morning, Michael Enright hosted New York Times cultural critic Edward Rothstein. The latter delivered precisely the same message to Canadian listeners — that it is immoral to even contemplate finishing the above sentence. That “but” is the gateway to infamy, and Canadians are best advised to stay far, far away from it in thought and deed. Enright, admirably fighting off the journalistic impulse, certainly didn’t deign question or examine this formula for good citizenry.
The Globe’s Margaret Wente has big-heartedly suggested we should thank Sunera Thobani for, through the tenure of her speech, demonstrating how stupid and morally bankrupt feminists really are. The argument, parroted across the board by Wente’s fellow pundits, goes something like this:
Sunera Thobani says women are oppressed. However, Thobani was “permitted” (oh delicious irony: through the very democratic rights upheld by the nation she was criticizing!) to get up and speak her mind at a conference. Therefore, women are not oppressed. Therefore, Thobani is not oppressed and, if she hates North America so much (this is the Vancouver Sun’s Pete McMartin weighing in), why is she here, in the West she so apparently loathes?
Oh, but McMartin hastens to add, “This isn’t a rhetorical ‘Love It or Leave It’ chest thump,” but merely “an honest-to-goodness question.” (Just like, say, “Why don’t you go back where you came from?”)
In one unified flourish, representatives of the Canadian media have leapt on the opportunity to discredit feminism, academic intellectuals and academia in general. How many times has it been disdainfully pointed out this past week that the government gave $80,000 to the university conference where Thobani voiced her criticisms? That’s $80,000, in case you didn’t get it the first time, $80,000 of hard-earned taxpayers’ money.
Most frightening however, is the way in which Thobani’s speech has been used to reinforce the appalling chill that has fallen over free speech in this country and the U.S. Over the past month, journalists and public figures who haven’t fallen into line with the Wentes and McMartins of the world have been censored, reprimanded and, in some cases, fired for offering anything other than wholehearted support of the United States government and whatever course of action George W. Bush deems fit to follow.
And yet, in their blithe, gleefully uninformed manner, pundits like Christie Blatchford claim that the opinions expressed by Sunera Thobani reflect the thinking of “those who actually run the country” — the “ruling elite.”
Could it be that by “ruling elite” Blatchford is referring to the occasional letter-writer to the Globe or the National Post or the Vancouver Sun? Otherwise, from what I can see, the “ruling elite” is very much united against thoughtful criticism, socio-political context and thoroughgoing debate with regard to “America’s New War.”
In the past week, I have seen not one word of approval, or even sympathy, for Sunera Thobani in the editorial pages of our national media. I have heard not one word of support from any single politician — even those supposedly on the left.
Meanwhile, Thobani has found it necessary to post a security guard outside her office door — thanks, largely to the fact that the local media has stopped just short of calling for her head. If there’s a ruling elite that supports the opinions of Sunera Thobani, I can only assume they’re in hiding.
And these days, you can’t really blame them, now, can you?
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