We have seen the enemy ...
Earlier this year, media and media fans packed Toronto's tony Roy Thompson Hall to hear Media as Opposition--Covering Trump in a Post Truth Era. An entirely predictable event for the sponsoring Canadian Journalism Foundation, which claims to have promoted responsible journalism in Canada since its inception in 1990, the event is now available at CJF. com, on CPAC and YouTube.
The shock was in the journalists on the stage. CJF, as establishmentarian and elite as any organization can get, was offering as leaders a panel of dissidents the CJF's largely corporate members and sponsors probably wouldn't hire: Democracy Now's Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez and The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald. Lesser-known Metro columnist Vicky Mochama was added as a nod to diversity after Naomi Klein withdrew from the panel for lack of same.
Goodman, Gonzalez, Scahill and Greenwald were the show-stoppers: independents normally considered by mainstream brethren to lack objectivity, to be anti-social, definitely socialists, possibly communists. Yet here they were, embraced by CJF as "unrelenting truth-seekers in their first ever live joint appearance."
The CJF's event illustrated one of media's most common and least challenged strategies. When you are monumentally wrong on a story--if you have championed racism, sexism, weapons of mass destruction, whatever--do not own your error, do not apologize: simply and abruptly change directions.
The CJF website would claim later that the panel discussed "the pressing need to apply constant pressure on a president who threatens the very fabric of democracy, journalism, civil society and truth."
Whether camouflage or just a lazy error, that public summary failed to report what really happened. Invited into the spotlight of the lion's den, the CJF's unlikely guests ate them up. The threat that concerned the panelists was instead the betrayal of the public by massively fraudulent media.
When panel chair Hannah Sung, video producer for the co-sponsoring Globe and Mail, asked whether-the collapse of trust in media is "the new normal," the panelists pointed out that said collapse is the old normal, the product of repeated media compliance with government and corporate lies. Perhaps the media hadn't noticed.
Seen through the panel's independent eyes, the noisy tensions between Trump and the media are a sideshow in which both government and media have applied the word "liar" for the first time. Attacked for mendacity, the media has hammered away at the president's generally degrading presence, especially the narrative that Trump was Vladimir Putin's sleeper candidate in the election of 2016. According to Goodman, even this could change. If Trump softens his tone toward them, she reluctantly predicted the media will wrap themselves around him, as they have done most bellicose presidents.
Intercept's Scahill pointed out that the Trump vs Media sideshow has zapped far bigger, darker stories, notably the advance of "the deep state," which comprises the intelligence communities, especially the FBI, NSA and the CIA. These agencies now portray themselves in various disputes as victims of Trump's imperial style and as benevolent protectors of the public. The next president will be confronted by a bolder, more unaccountable deep-state alliance than ever. Their beneficiaries will be the military and defence contractors, at the expense of health and education.
On that story, as on the recycling of obsolete weapons of old wars to equip police, the media has stuck to "the old normal." Silence. Rather like the media silence around Canada's foolish self-image as an innocent, peace-loving country with no international blood on its hands.
Global contempt for Trump and his followers is a moment of opportunity for a renaissance in critical journalism.
However clumsily, the CJF has started that conversation in Canada.