Two seemingly unrelated propaganda pieces: one from Canada. One from the US. Both about multiple deaths.
And both so badly mangled that they are truly propagandistic in nature.
I have always maintained that narrative has no place in journalism. None. I have had grand old fights with editors over the years over it. I dug and found facts that were not just important — but almost impossible to find, and believe me, it took more than just finesse and doggedness to find them. Those facts told the story more than my spinning ever could, and that was the reason I didn’t spin.
Then I had editors want that spin instead, saying what I was presenting was “mere reportage.”
They wanted colour. They wanted filler. Never mind I had found something that others missed that was extremely important to the public discourse. In every case, I pulled my story because if it was a case of getting published with junk, or not getting published at all, I would rather hold back then tell a fairytale that didn’t exist.
It was a pathology I noticed time and again. I had pitched to one Toronto editor a story about that city’s increasing gang problem, and how it was inevitable that civilians would be gunned down in the streets. I was accused of being some sort of hysterical female…and then came one Boxing Day where civilians were getting gunned down in the streets, with a teenaged corpse in the aftermath.
I had facts and troubling ones. The graffiti on the walls, for instance, hinted that things were coming to a head. That alone should have gotten attention — you had someone fluent in it, and could decipher it, but editors did not want to hear it because it clashed with their sycophantic narrative that Toronto was a “world-class city” filled with well-to-do sophisticates who held dinner parties and had their Botoxed mugs plastered in the society pages of government-funded magazines.
That narrative may have flattered the denizens of Hogtown, but it wasn’t the truth.
A few years later, some of those same gang members were revealed to hang around Toronto mayor Rob Ford — showing a link between a politician and a street gang — everyone was so obsessed with a mayor doing crack that the fact that you had politicians familiar with these urban soldiers seemed to slip everyone’s notice. Journalists were so bent on destroying the mayor that they failed to ask how many other politicians could have also had ties to violent elements and groups.
Gangs are unsanctioned armies fighting a war in peacetime (and often, during times of war, those same gang members become war lords). They don’t just attack without a financial reason. Graffiti is their coded communication…
And yet, the Toronto media refuses to open their eyes to it.
Because it spoils the narrative that Toronto is the centre of the universe.
Which means narrative drives the news. Facts do not play into the product.
The propaganda model is a simple one: Us Versus Them. Them may be Devils, but Us are the Angels, and possibly even Gods. You do not question Us on any account.
The trouble is Us Versus Them rarely actually exists. Not all of Them are evil, and not all of Us can be trusted.
The National Post is using such a ruse in their article about Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur.
In this piece, it is a real Us Versus Him narrative with McArthur being falsely portrayed as some evil genius who covered all of his tracks…
Which implies the default Good Guys — the police — were stymied, and of course, they couldn’t have known…
The big kissy to the police is interesting as they have been criticized for not acting on finding a serial killer sooner — so now the Post has spun a pleasing narrative to authority by making the case that the Evil Genius took all sorts of precautions to avoid detection.
Except he was not all that good at it. He had a criminal record and was questioned by police multiple times over the years. That means the narrative itself is a fraud. You are imposing a story to drown out what the facts truly mean.
It’s propaganda because the narrative does not align with reality.
But when you rely on narratives, you are faced with a problem: you designate a hero and a villain — and it is not enough that the hero has some good qualities, and the villain some bad — somehow, in each retelling, the hero has no faults, while the villain has no redeeming qualities. It becomes a farce.
For example, I have talked at length about #MeToo — and while I have said it was necessary and has done good in many cases, I still have issues with it. Nothing is perfect. No one is perfect…
But sometimes you see problems and you outline them not to dismiss, but to correct — or at least be mindful of it when you are planning your next steps.
#MeToo does have its faults, and one of the biggest ones is that it is not exactly an inclusive issue. It’s not about all women. It is about upper middle class to wealthy white women, and there have been numerous commentators who have pointed this out — quite rightly — as in, I will not defend or justify the omission.
Journalism only knows Big Issues as being suburban white. It is Eurocentric, and pathologically so — even if there is a token Person of Colour, it is insincere, and the representation will not reflect that subset of the demographic as a whole.
When a serial killer or wife killer target Caucasian females, it is plastered all over the news as being America’s problem. If the race is anything other than white, it gets buried and ignored.
#MeToo has not faced the same scrutiny and disdain as, say Black Lives Matter.
It is not just a US problem — in Canada, we have had a subtle genocide of First Nations women in this country — but it is never personalized. Have a bunch of white women vanish into the abyss, and the reaction would be completely different.
Because that is an attack on Us.
I am not comfortable with the racism of omission from #MeToo for many reasons, and one of those reasons is that I do not want to be discriminated against just because I am female — but I am not so self-absorbed that I don’t think everyone else in the same boat should be included. Of course they should.
It is not supposed to be getting attention for people, but a systemic problem.
At first, it didn’t matter how inclusive #MeToo was for one reason: one group reached the spotlight first and that was fine, but it should become more inclusive immediately after that as other groups reached the same spot and had a light to see where to come to expose their realities. It never quite happened that way.
Journalism was in a bind as a disportioncate number of men on the Hitlist came from their own profession. There was a lot of naysaying about it, but the consensus was that this issue was about women in general…when it really wasn’t.
It was about some women. The problem was the first who reached the spotlight set the terms of the narrative right off the bat, and made no effort to go beyond the scope that was being rewarded with attention and the firings of men who made the dubious list.
In many ways, #MeToo coverage become propaganda itself. Not the cause per se, but how it was treated in the news media.
But not as bad propaganda as #NeverAgain.
Time magazine’s story is probably one of the most deceptive propaganda pieces I have seen in a long time.
Gun Control is one of those empty causes that cannot solve the problem. Countries such as China, have strict gun control laws, and yet, it is those smuggled weapons that end up in many a murderer’s hands globally. Canada, for all its smugness, has a serious violence problem, despite having very strict gun control.
In the UK, you have had numerous terrorist attacks and vitriol-throwing. There is gun control there, and yet there is plenty of violence. Most of Europe does as well, from France to Germany. Let’s not pretend.
And now you have a group of teenagers waste their time voguing (yes, voguing) on a cover of a magazine demanding gun control…
It is a sycophantic narrative deception. We have decided the teenagers are Us, and…the guns are the Them.
Which says a lot about the emotional disconnection a new generation has to humanity — they have chosen an inanimate object for an enemy, and it is not a step up from having people as one instead.
It was a fellow teenager who slaughtered students, just as you had a young adult male in Texas set off bombs. It is not Us Versus Them. It is Us versus Us. The end.
The United States has a very serious violence problem, and it isn’t triggered by holding a gun.
But the narrative does not offend parents who may be raising a future homicidal maniac and do not have the courage to face that reality, nor the teenagers who are the ones snapping and slaughtering fellow students with chilling ease.
It is the reason why the narrative is propaganda.
Because it does not align with reality.
A more helpful and accurate approach is to find facts.
For instance, we know very little about most of these killers. They are not personalized, and they have to be personalized. Not to excuse them or make people feel sorry for them, but to see the ugly truth that these are not monsters — these are normal-looking teenagers who look no different than the teens they are murdering.
When the Austin bomber’s picture was released, an anchor on Newstalk 1010 in Toronto kept mentioning how the killer looked average and normal — as if killers all looked like the devil complete with horns, a disfigured face, and a maniacal laugh.
That is narrative.
The true horror of school shootings isn’t the guns because if you leave the gun alone, no one gets killed.
If you leave the killer alone, he may very well murder you anyway.
What makes school shootings terrifying is you are in a building filled with teenagers.
And some of them will be murdered.
And at least one will be their murderer.
Now walk in and guess who will fall in one camp and who will end up in the other.
The terrifying thing is you cannot tell on first glance, but journalism is nothing but about first glances and ruses.
Kiss up to one side of an issue, and then demonize the side who cannot fight back. People will hold on to that narrative structure and will not let go because arrogance prevents people from ever admitting that they were wrong.
Except for social media, where divergent voices can interject, as I am interjecting right now.
Gun control is a waste of time and resources.
Violence control will save lives.
So why do we pick the one that will not produce results?
Is it because we are that stupid and unteachable as a species?
Or perhaps we don’t really want to solve the problem?
It is precisely because people do not actually want to solve the problem: they may be required to alter something major in their routine, be held partially accountable, or lose a job that hinges on a problem continuing to plague their world.
I find it funny that the latest whitebread social issue’s hashtag is #NeverAgain.
And then another school shooting happened right after that unkeepable promise was made.
So the name is a lie right from the start.
If we had real journalism, we wouldn’t be making decrees or deciding who we should cheer like empty heads.
We would be finding facts. We would be finding facts without narrative. We wouldn’t be having teens posing like they are from a Gap ad on Time — but the dead bodies of those teens killed in Florida.
But journalism was always insincere about who they were, what they did, how they did it, and why they were doing it.
They want an easy narrative instead of facts…and that is why we are still groping in the dark in 2018 the same way our earliest ancestors did before they discovered fire…