Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Last week the government owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) pulled the column "A Mighty Wind Blows Through the Republican Convention" by writer Heather Mallick. Written on September 5, the article in question goes after Sarah Palin and crosses a line that does way beyond political analysis and refers to Palin's supporters as "white trash".

Some of Mallick's more incendiary comments include:

“It’s possible that Republican men, sexual inadequates that they are, really believe that women will vote for a woman just because she’s a woman.”

“Palin has a toned-down version of the porn actress look favoured by this decade’s woman, the overtreated hair, puffy lips and permanently alarmed expression. Bristol has what is known in Britain as the look of the teen mum, the “pramface.” Husband Todd looks like a roughneck; Track, heading off to Iraq, appears terrified. They claim to be family obsessed while being studiously terrible at parenting. What normal father would want Levi “I'm a fuckin’ redneck” Johnson prodding his daughter?"

“I know that I have an attachment to children that verges on the irrational, but why don't the Palins? I’m not the one preaching homespun values but I’d destroy that ratboy before I’d let him get within scenting range of my daughter again, and so would you. Palin’s e-mails about the brother-in-law she tried to get fired as a state trooper are fizzing with rage and revenge. Turn your guns on Levi, ma’am.”

On September 28, CBC publisher John Cruickshank issued an apology stating "we erred in our judgment".

More than 300 people have taken the trouble this month to complain to the CBC ombudsman about a column we ran on CBCNews.ca about Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Sept. 5.

The column, by award-winning freelance writer Heather Mallick, was also pilloried by The National Post in Canada and by Fox News in the U.S. Despite its age — it is three weeks old, several lifetimes in web years — this posting remains a subject of fascination in the blogosphere.

Vince Carlin, the CBC ombudsman, has now issued his assessment of the Mallick column. He doesn't fault her for riling readers by either the caustic nature of her tone or the polarizing nature of her opinion.

But he objects that many of her most savage assertions lack a basis in fact. And he is certainly correct.

Mallick's column is a classic piece of political invective. It is viciously personal, grossly hyperbolic and intensely partisan.

And because it is all those things, this column should not have appeared on the CBCNews.ca site.

After Mallick's column began to garner attention both online and on Fox News, Greta Van Susteren, the host of “On the Record,” condemned the column as “beyond vicious” and during the segment repeatedly referred to Mallick as “a pig."

I guess hate begets hate... On a brighter note, CBC included a journalistic pledge in its report that is promising.

We failed you in this case. And as a result we have put new editing procedures in place to insure that in the future, work that is not appropriate for our platforms, will not appear. We are open to contentious reasoned argument but not to partisan attack. It's a fine line. Ombudsman Carlin makes another significant observation in his response to complainants: when it does choose to print opinion, CBCNews.ca displays a very narrow range on its pages.

In this, Carlin is also correct. This, too, is being immediately addressed. CBCNews.ca will soon expand the diversity of voices and opinions and be home to a diverse group of writers with many perspectives. In this, we will better reflect the depth and texture of this country. We erred in our editorial judgment. You told us in no uncertain terms. And we have learned from it.

No wonder I have been spending less time online.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that Mallick's piece is online at her blog HERE.

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