Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Canada’s national broadcaster is careful not to prejudge French priest’s attacker, but denounces Halloween display as racist.
Exhibit #1 is a headline published on the website of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). It reads: Orthodox priest shot at church in France, motive unknown.
Please notice those final two words. This is the CBC going out of its way not to infer a political motive to a crime that may well be political. This is the CBC choosing not to tar a gunman prematurely with the Islamic extremism brush.
France has recently experienced two gruesome events. On October 16th, a high school teacher was beheaded on a public street. An Islamic fanatic tweeted a photo of his victim’s severed head, telling French President Emmanuel Macron: “I executed one of your hellhounds who dared to belittle Muhammad.”
Two weeks later, on October 29, another Islamic fanatic entered a Catholic church in Nice at 8:30 in the morning. Armed with a knife, he tried to behead one parishioner, who died from a slit throat. He fatally stabbed two other people – a church employee, and a nurse assistant who had stopped by to pray on her way to work. According to Le Monde, the perpetrator “repeatedly shouted ‘Allahu akbar’ as he left the building.”
In the context of these attacks, it’s entirely reasonable to wonder whether the priest shot in Lyon two days later was also the victim of Islamic extremism. The CBC news story advises:
“No theory is favoured, no theory is ruled out,” Lyon Mayor Gregory Doucet told reporters at the scene. “We don’t know at this stage the motive for this attack.”
Fair enough. Being careful and deliberate is a good strategy. For mayors. And for journalists.
But now let us turn to Exhibit #2: Twenty-four hours after the Lyon attack, the front page of the CBC website featured 42 news items. The Lyon story wasn’t amongst them. Apparently, it’s no big deal. What did the CBC choose to highlight, instead? Its fourth headline was this: Neighbours accuse Halloween display creators of racism, insensitivity.
That story is a libelous outrage. Racism, racist, racist declares the headline, subtitle, and first sentence. Canada’s national broadcaster is tarring a private individual, indeed his entire family, with the racism brush. Not because he has behaved in a racist manner, but because busybodies object to his Halloween display.
The news story begins this way:
Some residents of Maple Ridge, [British Columbia] say one family’s front lawn Halloween display is insensitive, inappropriate and racist, and it’s time for it to come down.
“It’s Halloween, this is medieval. That’s basically all there is to our display,” [name removed by me] said on Saturday.
But some of [name removed]’s neighbours say the display – which features electronics that make the human figurines appear to be writhing in pain – evokes the idea of lynching, or suicide.
Susan Einarsson, whose grandchildren reportedly live nearby, says we have a “societal duty to protect children from horrific violence.” (It’s unclear if Einarsson herself lives in the neighbourhood or is just a regular visitor.) The life-sized dummies dangling from nooses, the dummy being guillotined, and the dummy being sawed in half are not, she says “what little children are supposed to be seeing.” She further objects on the basis that one of her relatives committed suicide.
Einarsson has apparently spoken to the family that erected the display, as well as to city council. Having been unsuccessful so far in censoring this private expression of Halloween enthusiasm, she’s now talking to the media.
In fact, Einarsson is the only person directly quoted by the CBC who actually objects. Someone else, definitely a neighbour, says: “I think it’s great that they go to all this work every single year to put it up, it’s so good.”
A city councillor intends to look into the matter, and the mayor of Maple Ridge has commented on Facebook that while not criminal, the display is “offensive to many” and “doesn’t pass the test of acceptable in my mind.”
Please note: no quote containing the words racism or racist actually appears in the text of this article (except for when the smeared individual tries to defend himself). So where did that ugly, politically-charged accusation come from? It seems the version of the news story appearing on mobile devices includes additional material – screenshots of four Tweets by four individuals. One tweet is by Tamara Taggart, a former television news presenter who ran unsuccessfully in Canada’s 2019 federal election. It reads:
This disgusting scene is on display every Halloween in #MapleRidge The owners laugh at anyone who complains + the local paper lists it as a ‘house to visit’. My friend + her Black sons live nearby + see this lynching everyday. The bodies wiggle in the noose. This is not funny.
Taggart lives in Vancouver – an hour’s drive from Maple Ridge. This is important. It means there’s no evidence that anyone who resides near this Halloween display has directly told CBC they think it’s racist. The source of this malevolent accusation is third party hearsay: Taggart’s mention of an anonymous friend on Twitter.
In Exhibit #1, the CBC goes out of its way not to infer a political motive. It’s careful to protect someone who has actually shot a priest (at this writing, doctors appear to have saved the priest’s life) from speculation that might turn out to be false.
In Exhibit #2, CBC does the opposite. On wholly unsubstantiated grounds it defames an entire family. People who haven’t shot anyone. Who’ve merely exercised their right to free speech and creative expression. On their own front lawn.
Taggart and I agree on one thing: Something disgusting is going on here. This is a media lynching.