In the wake of the CBC's mea culpa regarding Heather Mallick's "Mighty Wind" op/ed column, a distinct odour is spreading through some of the darkest corners of Canada's left-wing blogosphere.
It's the familiar stink of outrage.
The CBC is merely being gutless, and caving into right-wing interests, the consensus seems to be.
Yet the consensus among media professionals -- people who actually confront issues such as those surrounding the infamous Mallick article -- is that the CBC was precisely right in its judgment. As the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente points out, one need not even be a Palin supporter to figure this out:
"It's fun to bash Sarah Palin. I should know. I've been doing it for weeks. But nobody has bashed her quite as viciously as a semi-obscure columnist named Heather Mallick.This may be hard for lunatics like Lindsay Stewart to come to grips with, but plenty of people -- not merely right-wingers or denizens of the Free Republic website -- find Mallick's column objectionable, and unworthy of publishing.
"Palin has a toned-down version of the porn actress look ... the overtreated hair, puffy lips and permanently alarmed expression," she wrote in a column that was posted Sept. 5 on the CBC's online news site. And she didn't stop there. She went on to refer to Republican men as "sexual inadequates," small-town Americans as "hicks" and "hillbillies," Bristol's boyfriend, Levi, as a "ratboy," and the Palins as terrible parents. "What normal father would want Levi 'I'm a fuckin' redneck' Johnson prodding his daughter?" she wondered.
Vitriolic drivel is all the rage these days. The blogosphere is full of it. But this drivel was bought and paid for by the CBC. And soon the organic waste material hit the fan. The National Post went ballistic. So did Fox News, which loves nothing better than denouncing the left-wing loonies who live up here in Canada.
"Is this what actually passes for commentary at a publicly funded broadcasting company in Canada?" seethed a Fox News babe. Even Fox's Greta Van Susteren got into the act. She called Ms. Mallick a "pig." Ms. Mallick was deluged with hate mail, and the CBC with hundreds of complaints. Ms. Van Susteren said it was all in fun and invited Ms. Mallick on the air, but she declined.
Ms. Mallick has professed shock at the hate mail she's received (tell me about it), while revelling in her new-found notoriety. But Sunday, the CBC finally ate crow and yanked the column from its website. "We erred in our judgment," said news publisher John Cruickshank, who called the column a "viciously personal, grossly hyperbolic and intensely partisan" piece of political invective that should never have been published. The ombudsman had looked into the matter, and found many of her "most savage assertions lack a basis in fact." I'll say. For one thing, she obviously knows nothing about the sex lives of Republicans.
The Mallick affair is bad news for the CBC, because it reinforces the widespread belief the place is a hotbed of left-wing bias. That's not good news when a Tory government controls the purse strings. Nor is it entirely fair. The CBC's online commentary arm is not exactly the flagship of the network. It is a backwater that has served as a sort of semi-retirement home for aging lefties (think Judy Rebick) who could no longer find an outlet in the mainstream media and, one suspects, supplied copy cheap. They had little oversight and less influence - until now.
The truth about the CBC is more complicated. Its problem isn't an overt left-wing bias. Its problem is an earnest, mushy-liberal mindset that can scarcely entertain a contrarian idea. Its editors, producers and directors strive to be fair-minded. It's just hardly any of them would ever vote Tory. Oh, they try. Once they even had right-wing commentator David Frum guest-host The Current. But people were so shocked they never did it again.
Ironically, no one is more bothered by this groupthink than the top CBC managers themselves. More than one have told me that it drives them crazy. And it's no accident that left-wing faces such as Avi Lewis have recently decamped for the greener fields of English-language Al Jazeera. Although I haven't talked to Mr. Cruickshank (a former colleague), my guess is that part of his mandate is to vigorously encourage a wider range of world views. Too bad Ms. Mallick popped up to prove the critics right.
Meantime, I'm not feeling too sorry for Ms. Mallick. She is a sour, narrow-minded writer - the kind of who makes Michael Moore look like a world-class wit. Her reflexive anti-Americanism is heavy-handed and stale, to say nothing of casually racist. There are many, many ways of dissing Sarah Palin. But Ms. Mallick's naughty, coarse puerility is not among them."
But, hey, don't ask them -- they're merely professionals. What do they know?