It is a illusion that Canada has journalism.
But before we get into the how and the why, let’s talk about Jimmy Savile.
He was an icon.
He was the host of multiple BBC shows in the UK. There were accolades, awards, honours, a knighthood, and he was renowned for his charity work.
Yet there were always whispers.
But what are the words of abused no-name children and teenagers with imperfect reputations worth?
He took advantage of his good name, and the dodgy or unestablished reputations of his victims.
He was elevated. His victims’ claims were haughtily dismissed.
Then things turned around, and Britain was rocked with a far more accurate picture of reality: a talentless boors was elevated to celebrity when he should have been thrown into a jail and kept away from vulnerable children.
Had the been in the US within the last six months, Savile would have been outed, and his victims believed. There is no doubt. American women have reached a new level in their civil evolution: mothers had to endure abuse, paving the way for their daughters to move higher without the torment, but when their girls went through the same abuses, and were being kept back, that simmering rage exploded when the female presidential candidate — the one who endured all those humiliations in the name of progressed — got easily pummelled by a man caught on tape boasting all sorts of unsavoury things.
Women kept quiet thinking that sacrifice and silence was a strategy to improving a future for their daughters.
But it explains why American women have moved decades ahead, while Canada has fallen drastically behind: there has been no watershed trauma to serve a wake-up call. We still have a smug press who see nothing infuriating about a so-called “feminist” prime minister who is white, male, comes from privilege, has a wife who has no heft or impressive independent career, and had a father who was prime minister. They behave as if everything is just fine for women here.
Then #MeToo blew over in Canada, and the entire Canadian news industry threw a temper tantrum as if messed with their narrative of how refined and sophisticated they were.
It also hinted that the Canadian media were the keepers of very dark secrets, but were deliberately refusing to inform the public about them.
That is not the worst of it, however.
The press here will defend anyone in power accused of harassment. They will never question any investigation that exonerates the accused — but should the predator be found guilty, they will do everything that they can to imply he got framed.
It is lapdog journalism: be incompetent at your job, but if you kiss up to the right people and cheer them on in the press, then perhaps no one will notice that you are an incapable reporter.
But victim-blaming is a popular pastime, and not just by reporters.
This case stuck with me because I was friends with a woman whose own two grown sons were friends with the murderer. I liked this woman a lot. She was a dear family friend, and came to our house weekly as we also did lunches and had fun.
But there was something that struck me: she defended that killer because he was friends were her own sons.
To her, it was the dead wife’s fault. The woman was a nurse who sacrificed her career for his career in sales. When his career sent in over to the US away from her family, she went with him. When she was fighting breast-cancer, we was having an affair.
She had enough when they came back to Canada, and she filed for divorce.
He became increasingly erratic and hostile; she wished to distance her and their children away from him.
And then he went to her house and stabbed her to death.
It is as open and shut as it gets: you don’t murder someone just because you are not getting your own way. You fool around when she has cancer, then yeah, she is going to be angry…but she didn’t kill you.
Divorce isn’t fun, but it involves having to negotiate. Nobody wants to lose, but you have children in the equation, and you are going to have to swallow an awfully lot to put their needs ahead of yours.
Lots of people get divorced, and they do it without bloodshed.
When news of the murder became public, the friend in question had no sympathy for the victim.
Just the killer because he was friends with her sons.
And that meant he could do no wrong. She drove him to kill her, according to her because she was pushing for less visitation from him.
The fact that he may have been threatening her and behaving badly was no reason for her to get scared.
The fact that she had cancer and he was cavorting and took pictures of his philandering also wasn’t his fault.
He was seen as being sensitive because he took the three kids to his parents.
He had to be on the side of right, she said, because he was charming, and always was the centre of attention when he entered a crowd room.
It just wasn’t his fault and why did his wife want to restrict his visitations, she’d ask me.
I suggested the fact that he took a knife and repeatedly gutted her proved that her fear of him was warranted, and that people usually don’t just kill someone — it is usually an escalation from physical abuse to murder.
That couldn’t be because he was friends with her sons, and he was too charming for it to be his fault. She even took umbrage that one newspaper article that discussed her murder from her family’s perspective used their term of endearment for her.
“That wasn’t her name,” she said as if there was something wrong with a family identifying their murdered daughter the way they did for her entire short life.
When it came to that killer, she wore blinders. The act of stabbing is more violent and personal than shooting.
She was upset that my sympathies were strictly with the victim, and that I suspected the killer was a high-functioning psychopath. Whenever she’d give a reason why he was such a nice guy, the episode would just confirm my suspicions. Somehow, for a nice guy, he’d always get things his own way, be the centre of attention, and no one else in the yarn would ever seem to matter.
I have heard many stories of nice people — personally — and professionally as a journalist, in most of those cases the “nice” person in question did something for other people. They saved rescue animals scheduled to be put down. They took in a neighbour’s kid who was thrown out of the house, and then went to lengths to be a legal guardian, even paying for university. They volunteered at homeless shelters. They looked after a dying relative. They gave away their clothes and books to someone else whose need was greater than their own. They even drove their grandparent’s dotty friends without fuss.
There was never anything remotely close to these forms of nice. I’d always ask why his brand of nice never involved doing anything nice for other people, but apparently, just allowing others to be graced by his charming presence was supposed to be enough.
I’d never bring up the case, but it somehow always managed to come up. She thought I was blinded by the fact that he killed a woman and made three children orphans to see his obvious good-nature.
Oddly, she wasn’t in the habit of defending other killers — those people were selfish and cruel, but this one, it was somehow all a huge misunderstanding.
But I am certain if he had done the same to one of her children, that spell would have been broken.
The Canadian media is under the same kind of spell: they can accept that there are bad Americans who hold power, but not bad Canadians. Especially as those men seems so nice and charming — and men such as Harvey Weinstein look boorish and gross.
Britain has had their Savile trauma where the harmless and cranky kook was anything but harmless. He got a free ride, despite the lack of charm and fashion sense, and he took full advantage of a credulous press, many who may or may not have had their own dark secrets, and saw nothing wrong with any of it.
But Savile’s thirst for harming others was seemed insatiable: the number of victims and where he’d find them was jaw-dropping. Leave a predator free to roam without supervision, and he will take down as many prey as he feels entitled to taking.
A few years later, the United States saw what complicity did: it didn’t bring equality. The rigs were still firmly in place. Giving praise to the Great Men did not make them kinder, more civilized, or reasonable: it made things worse. Applauding their mediocre efforts and feints didn’t tame the beasts around those beauties — it emboldened them.
Women wanted a female president — it didn’t matter which one, and they had hoped that merely making their wishes known would be enough for enough people to grant the wish. No way was someone like Donald Trump supposed to beat the female candidate with the right pedigree and paper-based experience. Mediocre men got to rise to the top…
And the woman lost to the man who represented everything they had to endure in their own climb to success.
Two nations with a chastened public saw much of that smugness vanish: the surefire little tricks and rules were not going to bring peace, let alone victory to anyone save those who preyed on the vulnerable — or the ones just wanted a nice job and make a success of their lives.
Both countries had their watershed moment, but Canada lives in a bubble: it takes no lessons from either the UK nor the US, particularly the press here, who seem indignant that their own could be accused of being predators. They seem themselves as nice guys, even if they don’t actually do nice thing for others.
They don’t use their medium to scrutinize people in power; they do not even consider the possibility that their masters are tyrants.
They curry favour with them; not expose them. As broken as the US media is, you still have journalists asking earnestly why the staff of Newsweek was let go for exposing their owner’s corporate mangling.
It is a different mindset over here with no watershed trauma. It is easy to believe there isn’t one; but when no one looks, it’s easy not to find it. There is sycophantic complacency, and an assumption that mom and dad have the pull to make things better should any truth come out.
But the media here has collapsed, and their clout is nonexistent: once upon a time, being blacklisted could stymie a reporter’s career.
These days, there are other avenues to take where there is no damage to one’s professional trajectory.
It’s a global village these days. The little enclaves that once served as barriers or no longer present.
But in its weakened state, a single shock can literally shut-down the rest of the press here in Canada. A single scandal alone, and it doesn’t have to be a big one.
Just one where the press was in the know, and kept to themselves.
No government bailing out will stop an angry mood.
It is the reason an alternative to journalism that goes beyond borders is crucial: one nation can be complacent to its detriment; but if the tides and change are felt around the world, there is no time or place for that kind of slumber.