Friday, March 11, 2011

Why I dislike CBC News

I have to preface this by saying the CBC has been a major part of my life since before I was born. My dad, as I've said before, was a TV producer. My mom wrote and acted in countless radio dramas and did the odd TV gig. I cut my teeth as an actor on CBC Radio and did two Beachcombers episodes; the first time I got paid to write was for CBC TV (Rene Simard Show in the 70s). When I was out of work, the Mothercorp came to my rescue with three solid weeks of work until my previous station let me back in.

But over the past few years, there's been a shift in the perspective of much of the programming, particularly news and public affairs. Maybe I've shifted, and just hadn't seen how slanted the point of view is. Let's just say that, if "Canada Lives Here [at CBC]", as the "positioner" states, where the heck do I live?

In the course of less than two hours last night, I found a stream of reasons why I feel this way. CBC's local afternoon show, then The World At Six, followed by As It Happens, ran a series of stories on politically-charged events, and every one of them lacked an important ingredient.

The other side.

The items were:
  1. protests over Wisconsin's new labor laws: an interview with an organizer from the BC Government and Service Employees Union who had gone to Madison, WI, to join the protests; she used language like "attack on organized labor", "destroying the middle class" and other such rhetoric.
  2. more on the protests on The World At Six
  3. The World At Six had a spot-news item on the opening of hearings into an alleged conspiracy by Muslims in the US to promote terror: the "radicalization" of American Islamists
  4. on As It Happens, an interview with the communications person for a "moderate" Muslim organization, decrying the right-wing reactionary approach to the above hearings, playing (for a second time) an emotional statement by a Congressman about a Muslim firefighter killed in 9/11 and who had been, apparently, accused of being "in league" with the terrorists; the public affairs person described how Muslims had been working with the FBI to expose the efforts to radicalize young Americans
  5. On The World At Six, an interview with international AIDS envoy Stephen Lewis about the bill to allow Canadian generic drug companies to export drugs overseas -- particularly drugs to combat the effects of AIDS.
  6. Also on The World At Six, an interview with the person who developed an educational curriculum for Omar Khadr, the Muslim-Canadian imprisoned at Guantanamo for killing US soldiers.
Now, if you have left-wing tendencies, you probably wouldn't have noticed the slant. Rhetoric like the CBC reporter who referred to the chairman of the committee investigating the Muslim issue as "leaving out facts" let you know not just where he -- the reporter -- was coming from but also implied that if you were in any way sympathetic to the right-wing point of view, then you, too, were bigoted, ignorant, knuckle-dragging scum.

See, here's what I wanted to hear -- and would actually expect to hear it on the taxpayer-funded public broadcast outlet that's supposed to represent all Canadians:
  1. some of the reasons why the Wisconsin government brought in this labor legislation in the first place. Do we simply assume that the Governor and all Republicans in the state have conspired to come up with a carefully-crafted, union-busting piece of legislation, stripping away people's rights? Or is there a specific problem they're trying to address and this is the only way they can do it? Have they tried other means and felt stonewalled by organized labor? Maybe it's the former ... maybe it's the latter ... maybe it's something else ... but I want to be able to make up my own mind.
  2. similarly, I wanted to hear more about why this Congressional committee was trying to dig up dirt on Muslims in the US. How many Americans have been radicalized? How? What are the suspicions? The CBC was quick to invoke the term "McCarthyism", which was certainly a dark point in history, but people tend to forget -- or ignore -- the fact that there were Communists active in US Government positions and in areas of influence, like the movie industry. Whether this constituted a real danger was something that should have been looked into, but from as objective a point of view as possible - not in the atmosphere of fear that McCarthy and his ilk created. Same thing here: there's an opportunity to dig into an issue, but without airing out the suspicions and the evidence for holding those suspicions, how can we make up our own minds?
  3. the interview with Stephen Lewis made it clear that exporting drugs that combat the effects of AIDS was a good thing -- and couched in the terms that it would help children infected with the virus, of course it is. But Mr Lewis and his organization have been on record as scoffing at idea of promoting abstinence -- indeed, practically any time someone has the temerity to raise the issue of abstience at an international AIDS conference (the ones that invariably call for another billion dollars to be spent on the futile search for a cure or a vaccine), they're shouted down and accused of being manipulated by those wicked American Evangelicals. Since there is no cure and no vaccine and people continue to contract AIDS despite the active promotion of condom use, it's evident that these drugs will do little more than delay the inevitable. For the children, I'm all for it: it's not their fault. But how many million more will become sick and die while this high-priced charade continues? Needless to say, that was not part of the discussion.
  4. I had stopped listening by the time the Omar Khadr piece came on.
I want to hear all sides and make up my own mind -- not have it made up for me by observers and commentators, and especially not delivered in a way that I find sneers at anyone who doesn't hold that point of view. Is that too much to ask of the taxpayer-funded broadcaster? The network's "positioner" states, "Canada Lives Here", but that vision of Canada is very narrow and is founded in the sense that we're sure glad we're Not American -- the classic Canadian inferiority complex.

In World War II, Lorne Greene was anchoring the nightly news on CBC Radio. The Allies had been taking a beating in Europe, but word came of a significant victory. Greene -- who had been known as "The Voice of Doom" -- prefaced the story with the ad-lib, "Tonight, we are pleased to bring you some good news from the front."

Calls and letters came in, excoriating Greene for showing any kind of bias -- even where our own forces were concerned. How things have changed.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Where is your faith?

Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find atheists in insurance companies, if only because storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc. are referred to as "acts of God". Some might bristle at the idea of blaming God for the things that go wrong, but in His Word, He's usually the first to take credit.

But the Lord sent a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. (Jonah 1:4 KJV)

This week, we were on the lookout for one monster of a storm in Metro Vancouver. One meteorologist could see it coming on Sunday -- just as we were recovering from a snowfall that caused the usual traffic snarls and grumbling among Wuss Coasters -- and described it as a "wicked-looking system" coming in from the North Pacific. As of Tuesday night, it was predicted to hit Vancouver just before noon Wednesday, with winds peaking around 100 km/h (65 mph), gusting to 140 (90). Certainly, the memories of the great wind that blew down 1,000 trees in Stanley Park in late 2007 were still fresh, so people got a little bit freaked out. So what do we do?

I have prayed against "acts of God" in the past, with interesting results. In spring 2007, the projections indicated that the Fraser River was about to head for a flood even worse than in 1948, which is still legendary. A group of friends prayed together and rebuked it: the river reached just high enough to test our own faith, and then gradually receded. The inspiration comes, in large part, from the account of Jesus, being wakened out of sleep in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, because the boat He was in was being swamped by water. He went up on deck, rebuked the storm and then, when things had calmed down, said to the disciples, "Where is your faith?"

The following winter came that horrific windstorm, which changed Stanley Park's landscape overnight. Flush with my "batting average" in standing against the elements, I had been praying against that, too, and the next morning, was bewildered as to why my prayer didn't "work".

I prayed about it, and the Lord's answer was surprising: who said it didn't? No one got killed, and the storm hit late at night with very few people out on the roads. (There were fears it would hit just as at least 100,000 people would have been heading home from a Seahawks game in Seattle. But it held off.)

The storm had to hit, He said, because it was His Will. But people were praying and so the damage was limited.

As I've contemplated that since then, He's shown me that it's actually futile (not to mention dangerous) to try to stand against His Will -- especially when there's a part of one that wants to say (O, prideful person!) "look what I can do! I can rebuke storms!". That said, we can, like Abraham pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah, advocate for the people that are threatened. After all, it's all about His glory and how much we're willing to seek Him no matter what.

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, it wasn't to show that He could do it: it was to show God's glory. God knows the time and date when He will call us home, and to try to stand against that puts us in an extremely dangerous position.

For the disciples in the boat, "Where is your faith?" was the reminder that, so long as they had Jesus in the boat with them, they were going to be OK. That's the same as with Paul, when his ship ran into the storms off Melita: an angel reminded him that he was supposed to get to Rome, so he and all those with him were going to be safe -- so long as they didn't fear.

But what happened in all those circumstances -- Jonah on the freighter; Mary and Martha when their brother died; the disciples in the boat; Paul en route to Rome -- was that they all turned to the Lord rather than collapse in fear or cry out that the devil had them under attack.

The other thing to realize is that others, regardless of their faith level or whether or not they Know God, are affected by our faith level. When we seek Him, they benefit too and see His glory. Note that Matthew records that there were other ships caught in the storm that night on Galilee and they, too, were saved when the winds calmed down.

Wednesday morning, I went out onto the patio as the rain was getting heavier, and He started showing me what to pray. If this resonates with you, please join me.

Lord, You created all including good times and bad times. You cause it to rain on the just and the unjust. You are the One sending this storm and I praise You for it and give You the glory because You know the beginning from the end and all things are, ultimately, right.

In Jesus’ Name, I pray protection against fear and physical harm against all people: those who know You and those who don’t; those who have rejected You, ignored You, had a skewed vision of You and even those who have no vision of You at all. I was one of those people and You protected me from worse. Protect them now as You did then.

Show us Your glory in this and show us – together and individually – what we need to do, think, say, pray about, to bring our lives into line with You.

In Jesus’ Name ... Amen.

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand;
but it shall not come nigh thee.

Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

-- Psalm 93:7-8