Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The captaincy: there was no right or wrong choice

   The Canadiens couldn't win when they named their new captain.  They also couldn't lose.
   While I share the opinion of widely-read columnists and bloggers on both sides of the language divide that PK Subban was best candidate for the "C", there's no credibility in attempting to diminish the elevation of Max Pacioretty to the most coveted and respected leadership position in professional hockey - if not in all of pro sports.  
   Unlike the boisterous and engaging Subban, Pacioretty is a quiet, leadership-by-example type whose near-miraculous recovery powers in the wake of a string of serious injuries have imbued him with an aura of indestructibility.  Most tellingly, he was awarded the captaincy after a vote among the players.  As much as it's a stretch and a trivialization of professional soldiering to say that athletes "go to war" together, there is a sort of military mentality in team sports, where - as in combat - the biggest responsibility is to the guys next to you, and the greatest fear is letting them down.  In those circumstances, leadership is paramount, and there are no better judges of leadership qualities than those being led.  If the guys who live check by jowl in circumstances of shared challenges and adversity decided collectively that Pacioretty was the best choice for a leader, that should be good enough for anyone.
   It's also not as if Subban lost the lottery here.   He's still in a leadership position as an alternate captain and the heir apparent whenever Pacioretty has to miss a week or two with a femoral shaft fracture or collapsed lung.  He's the unquestioned face of the franchise, which is saying something when one of his teammates won the lion's share of the hardware at the NHL Awards.  Along with being the Canadiens best player who's not Carey Price, Subban's stock in the community soared last week with his unprecedented generosity to the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation.  For cynics who think it was public relations posturing for the captaincy, there are much cheaper ways of grandstanding that making a 10 million dollar commitment to charity.  Haterz gonna hate, as the kids today are wont to say. 
   Subban would have made a great captain.  He still might someday.  In the meantime, he'll be a dependable lieutenant to a guy who's every bit as qualified for the captaincy, in different ways.  Whatever else the Canadiens shortcomings might be entering the 2015-2016 season, quality leadership is not one of them.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

RIP responsible journalism

   It would be one thing if the mainstream Canadian news media merely ignored partisan attempts to cast Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a Frankenstein hybrid of Charles Manson, Al Capone and (your favorite 20th century criminal dictator here).  The fact that the self-proclaimed media "elite" actually promote that nonsense is a bleak commentary on the disturbing state of what now passes for professional journalism in Canada.
   Some background on the relationship between Harper and the media is useful in explaining what is accurately described as "Harper Derangement Syndrome".  His refusal to kowtow to the Ottawa press gallery's every whim has put the PM squarely in the media establishment's crosshairs.  While pissing and moaning like spoiled children about a perceived lack of accountability technically falls under the professional journalistic mandate, deliberately manipulating the news to cast their tormentor in the worst possible light is flat-out propagandist.  The very journalists who tacitly endorse comparisons of Harper to Hitler are themselves practicing their "craft" in the finest traditions of Dr. Goebbels.
   The most telling example of anti-Harper media bias was this week's debacle involving the drowning death of three year old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, whose photographed corpse on a Turkish beach became a worldwide sensation.  Canada's national news media dutifully tucked into a plateful of bullshit served up by New Democratic Party MP Fin Donnelly, who falsely claimed that he hand-delivered a refugee claim from the boy's family to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and that the claim was rejected.  The narrative immediately became that Alexander and Harper had blood on their hands and were responsible for the boy's death.  Even if Donnelly's claims were true, that narrative would have been a stretch, but when they were shown to be factually incorrect, the opposition and their hack journalist allies doubled down.  There were no apologies for getting the story wrong, and rather than seek out Donnelly for an explanation, the overwhelming majority of journalists continued to attempt to discredit Alexander and Harper while ignoring the actual facts of the case.  In the most ghoulish display of partisanship, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's chief adviser, Gerald Butts, actually used the dead child as a prop for fundraising and wasn't called out by media, which tells you everything you need to know about bias in Canadian journalism.

   As distasteful and unprofessional as the Kurdi affair is, none of it comes as a surprise to anyone who has followed the evolution of Canadian journalism.  A generation ago, the trade was still about reporting the facts, and the idea of compromising one's professional integrity by pushing an agenda was anathema. Today, journalism schools are overrun by naive idealists who learn at the knee of loopy leftists like Heather Mallick, Tony Burman and Terry Glavin that twisting the facts to fit a pre-conceived narrative is more important than getting the story right.  That's all well and good if you're writing fiction, but the news isn't fiction,
   At least, it didn't used to be.