Thursday, 22 November 2012
Opt-Out Gate: Dangerous Demagoguery
|The Winnipeg Sun: Home of all that's unfit|
Image Source: Google Streetview
image of the Winnipeg Sun Office
Shameless demagoguery over symbolic slights is fodder for conservative politicians. Many conservative politicians lose on real issues. Thus phoney populism over minor slights works better for them than real populism over major public policies.
The story, about an exemption in laws governing Remembrance ceremonies at public schools - that had existed for quite some time -, probably sprung up as reporters desperately sought out topical, ratings grabbing content for Remembrance Day. The Sun dailies, particularly the Winnipeg Sun, saw this as an emotions grabbing story in line with their basic MO of stirring up manufactroversies over perceived affronts to tradition. They realized that, if Alberta had such rarely used exceptions, other jurisdictions must have them as well. Manitoba, it turns out, is one such jurisdiction.
|Retired master corporal Dave Desjardins, paralyzed from the|
The retired corporal's criticisms of Ottawa's handling
of Veterans affairs, claiming they were abandoning
disabled veterans, was reported in The Province
on Nov. 11, 2012.
The Winnipeg Sun website was filled with talk of
Opt-Out Gate on Nov. 11. But retired master corporal
Desjardins complaints have received less attention.
Image Sources: Top photo from The Canadian Press.
Bottom a screenshot of a search query for corporal
The fact that this law has existed before, without resulting in empty school gyms come Remembrance ceremonies, was of little importance to the Sun.
The complex matter of when the government's public policies should supersede religious privileges (and I do think there are cases, particularly when it comes to children's medical care) was brushed off with the argument that Remembrance Day isn't an inherently religious event. Remembrance certainly isn't an explicitly religious comemmeration, but individual religions can still object to it for weird reasons (as some of the religious do to contraception or blood transfusions - neither of which most rational people would regard as inherently religious).
The Winnipeg Sun obtained many "people on the street" interviews by Nicole Dube for their (and Sun Network "New" 's) videos of the story. They did not, however, even attempt to get at what religious or political beliefs inspire people to opt out of Remembrance Day.
This Mennonite Brethren writer Norman H. Fehr has an explanation for (some) his colleagues' distaste of Remembrance Day.
"Do Mennonite Brethren not celebrate Remembrance Day?"
The question was probably prompted by the lack of red poppies.
No, the Mennonite Brethren denomination, as I know it, has never made a celebration of Remembrance Day. It may be mentioned during a Sunday service, but very few of us go to celebrations in the parks because the memories of stories told by our older folks of what they saw and experienced are still with us. Just the sight of decorated military men sends shivers through our veins. To remember the fear and uncertainty when I stood before a military court, to remember army officers bent on killing everyone that did not walk or think their way, to remember what thousands of others of our faith have experienced from merciless soldiers--these are enough to persuade us not to take part in a Remembrance Day celebration.
There is nothing worthy in war to celebrate. If anything, Remembrance Day should be a day of great mourning and repentance. There is no victory in war.
("Do Mennonite Brethren not celebrate Remembrance Day?".Norman H. Fehr (Oct. 23, 1998).M.B. Herald: Vol. 37, No. 20: Making Peace)
|Manitoba Premier Greg Slinger|
Criticized by Winnipeg
Sun reader & letter to the editor
feedback writer for supposedly
confusing remembrance and
Image Source: Ministerial Conference
of the Canadian Francophonie
But what do the Federal Conservatives think of this? They're making a whole "Office of Religious Freedom", after all. Many socially conservative Mennonites in Manitoba, a few of whom no doubt have similar views to Fehr, vote in CON MPs like "Minister of Family Values" Vic Toews.
Morning @kenneyjason! We're talking about schools allowing students to opt-out of #RemembranceDay. Ur thoughts on this? sunnewsnetwork.ca/sunnews/canada…
— Gina Phillips (@GinaPhillipsSNN) November 9, 2012
@ginaphillipssnn I think its offensive. They don't opt out of the freedoms secured by our war dead.
— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) November 9, 2012
Minister Jason Kenney.
Actually responds to Sun
attempts to stir up
Opt-Out Gate yet doesn't
seem to be publicly calling
for his gov't to treat
disabled veterans better.
The Winnipeg Sun's demagogic coverage of Opt-Out Gate, while shallow and distracting from serious issues facing veterans, also posses a danger to the rare children who do opt out. This is especially the case because the paper ran an editorial framing the issue as kids using lame excuses ( "Political beliefs, religious objections, bad hair days — you name the excuse, kids can use it to get out of attending the service, and school officials are pretty much powerless to do a thing about it.") to get out of Remembrance services.
A veteran and 40 year Legion member has a great post expressing dissatisfaction with the media's creation of "opt-out-gate" while touching on the risk it posses.
I’m starting to get a feeling of dread each year as Remembrance Day approaches. Not at the observance itself, but at what kind of twist the media will use to create to create some kind of type of news story related to it, the new angle to exploit, instead of simply reporting the after the fact on the events that take place.
I suspect that all the media coverage of what a small handful of students do in regards to school ceremonies will no doubt now be seized on by all manner of mal-adjusted youth as a means of in-your-face expressionism. Something that is done for no other reason than it can be.
("The usual suspect news". Nov. 10, 2012. WpgNewsReview)The writers at the Winnipeg Sun, Sun Network "News", and other Sun dailies really should think long and hard before stirring up manufactroversies. They should especially think long and hard if there's a risk of said manufactroversy leading to school bullying.
But, atlas, it seems that the RAG machine and rightwing politicians care less about real, living, flesh and blood human beings than they do for symbolic affronts.
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