January 19, 2013

Racist comments in Canadian newspapers

Some Canadian editorials have expressed racism against Indians--see Morris Mirror: Natives = "Terrorists" and Racism Against Idle No More. But the real vituperation is in the comments section. A posting about that:

Idle No More Protesters Accuse Calgary Sun Newspaper of RacismThe Calgary Sun found itself in the difficult position of being the newsmaker when Idle No More protesters staged a demonstration to accuse the publication of racism.

The protest, themed the Death of Racism, saw approximately 100 people march in a funeral-like procession outside the newspaper's northeast offices on Sunday, complete with a Grim Reaper costume and a headstone that read 'R.I.P. RACISM Jan 13, 2013'.

The demonstrators gathered to protest the comments and polls being published by the paper, which they say stir "the hate pot," the event's organizer, Gemini Award-winning actress Michelle Thrush, told 660 News.

"I just got really tired of seeing the comments that are being given permission by certain media outlets, and the polls that are taking place that are encouraging racism and that are giving brand new permission to stir up the hate pot,” she said.

In an editorial Monday morning, the paper fired back, saying that just because columnists on its pages may see some of the issues differently, it does not make the publication racist, and it went on to defend the discussions that go on its comments boards as a way of allowing "readers to engage in lively real-time debates.

"Yes, there is a tiny minority among the thousands of people who post comments on our website who can best be described in words not suitable for a family newspaper. Because comments can be posted directly, without vetting or moderation, they occasionally contain offensive, hateful and yes, racist material.

"It’s a problem every media outlet in the city faces."
It's a problem every media outlet faces...and most have done something about it. They've instituted vetting or moderation precisely to prevent racists and other trolls from drowning out people with their hate speech.

So the Calgary Sun's lack of action shouldn't impress anyone. It's dodging its moral responsibility.

Answering the ignorant commenters

An op-ed piece addresses some typical comments:

Idle No More commenters could use some lessons in critical thinking

By Matt Hendersonthe recent dialogue generated by Idle No More has made two things very clear: Firstly, indigenous people in this country had their land stolen and they want it back. Secondly, Idle No More has identified an undercurrent of racism in this country that few are willing to admit.

Take, for example, the reader comments in the Winnipeg Free Press and other news outlets. Now, I realize that these platforms are often the lairs for trolls who wish to issue slurs anonymously because they are so ill informed on issues and are angry people. But I think in this case, they speak volumes about the relationship between colonized and colonizer. The comments, many of which have had to be deleted from the Free Press website, are so offensive that one wonders where this hatred comes from. The comments attack indigenous people in this country because of who they are and what they look like and are fundamentally based on fear.

From a teacher's perspective, it has been interesting to examine these comments with my students as examples that lack logic and critical thinking. One of the common comments on the Winnipeg Free Press website relates to Chief Theresa Spence's figure. Several comments have attacked her physicality, and through some bizarre logic, have related this to her message.

Other breaches of logic sound very similar to Donnie B's comment on Jan. 12: "So working for a living and not idleing (sic) for handouts will be a hot topic?" Here we can identify a few problems related to critical thinking, logic and spelling.

Donnie is suggesting the Idle No More movement and the peaceful democratic protest thus far is not justified because indigenous people in this country do not work and are seeking handouts. I am not sure if Donnie works for Statistics Canada, but he can be assured that our labour force is comprised of many indigenous people. On reserve, this is another matter, but what Donnie must realize is that reserves are a colonial design and an act of apartheid.

The following comment suggests something even larger--a lack of historical understanding. "HIDHo" states on Jan. 12, "I think it is about time these people moved out of the past and into the 21st century. I would hope that the meeting is with an eye to ending all treaties, not signing new ones."

HIDHo fails to explain who "these people" are and that somehow the last 150 years of Canadian history are a mere detail. By his logic, HIDHo may wish that we stop teaching history in schools and universities. What's the point? That stuff was just in the past.
For more on Idle No More, see Young People Lead Idle No More and Idle No More's "Day of Action."

Below:  "Why are Portage and Main demonstrators vilified while activists such as Gandhi are widely admired?" (John Woods/Winnipeg Free Press Archives)

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