Misinformation, disinformation, gaslighting, all serve to polarize people, to distract and confuse. Now that we are a breath away from the writ dropping, the storm clouds are gathering.
On Friday Sept. 6, The Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province published an opinion piece on their websites titled: "Mark Hecht: Ethnic diversity harms a country's social trust, economic well-being, argues professor."
But Mark Hecht is an instructor, not a professor; a commentator, not an expert. And that’s the least of the problems with his piece. He’s a geography instructor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University. (The newspapers corrected the headline when they published the article in the weekend print edition.)
Hecht was arguing against Canada’s inclusivity: that diversity weakens democracy. To support this claim, he linked to a study from the Gatestone Institute. If that name sounds familiar, you may remember them for the six Islamophobic videos they paid for that were then published in Canada between May and October 2016. The videos asked questions like whether Europe is "doomed by migrants.”
Hecht’s editorial stated that “many western nations assumed that increasing ethnic and cultural diversity through immigration would be beneficial. The dogma of diversity, tolerance and inclusion assumed that all members of the society wanted to be included as equal citizens. Yet, instead of diversity being a blessing, many found that they’ve ended up with a lot of arrogant people living in their countries with no intention of letting go of their previous cultures, animosities, preferences, and pretensions.”
“So, is excluding certain people from one’s society a requirement? The short answer is absolutely,” Hecht writes.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations explains that the Gatestone Institute is far from the “non-partisan, not-for-profit international policy council and think tank, dedicated to educating the public about what the mainstream media fails to report in promoting human rights, institutions of democracy and the rule of law, etc.” it claims to be. The Council adds that Gatestone’s founder, Nina Rosenwald, “is the heiress to the Sears Roebuck fortune, and has used it to further Islamophobia through the William Rosenwald Family Fund.” In fact, a report titled Fear Inc. by the Center for American Progress found that the fund is one of the “top seven contributors to promoting Islamophobia in our (the U.S.) country” and has put forth $2.8 million to “organizations that fan the flames of Islamophobia” since 2000. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, a hawkish Trump administration appointee, presided over the Institute from 2013 to 2018.
After appearing on the newspaper company’s online portal, the story was announced as taken offline. But readers archived it. Many Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province staff expressed outrage about it, and the outrage gained momentum among readers on social media. Harold Munro, the newspapers’ editor-in-chief, in an apology Saturday evening, promised to find out how it had happened and to review the newspaper’s publication policies.
By then, the article was in the weekend print edition.
In a country with free speech, Mark Hecht certainly has a right to his opinion. But to see this published in a country that prides itself on diversity was still jarring. Canada is an overwhelming rebuttal to the idea that diversity weakens us.
While it was reassuring to see the swift disavowals coming from the newspapers’ staff, the fact that a piece like this could see the light of day begs the question, is this part of a new strategy? Canadaland published a substantial piece last month by Sean Craig detailing a shift in strategy by Postmedia that includes consolidating political coverage. By placing the former editor of the National Post’s op-ed page in charge of political reporting across the newspapers, Postmedia’s senior vice president of content, Lucinda Chodan, said the publication was “fostering Postmedia’s clear and distinctive voice in the Canadian political landscape.”
That editor, Kevin Libin, said he had nothing to do with the op-ed — and I take him at face value when he says this.
I take Harold Munro at face value, too. He has apologized and I believe him that he’s sorry about it. But someone at Postmedia was responsible — apparently someone senior enough to green-light it for publication. Who was it? And why?
The public is owed an explanation.
Postmedia has a duty of care if they are to be viewed as a responsible news organization.
Editor's note: The story was edited on Sept. 9, 2019 at 12.25 p.m. ET to accurately identify the author of the Canadaland story on Postmedia. It was written by Sean Craig, not Jonathan Goldsbie. It was updated again on Sept. 10, 2019 at 8:24 p.m. ET to correct that the apology was issued late Saturday ET, not Sunday and to clarify that the piece was announced as taken offline early Saturday ET.