The New York Times is failing Canada – Canada's National Observer

During the four long years of Donald Trump’s presidency, many Canadians looked to the New York Times as an important beacon of reason and decency. Now that Canada is having its own Trump-esque moment, one that’s been amplified by the Trumpist instruments of Fox News and Facebook, the Times appears to have abandoned its post. Instead of serving as a crucial bulwark against the spread of misinformation and populist fear-mongering, it’s now unintentionally aiding and abetting it.
On two separate occasions, the Times made fundamental errors of fact that skewed the way millions of people saw what was unfolding in Ottawa. First, they claimed in a tweet that the invocation of the Emergencies Act was a de facto suspension of civil liberties, one that it eventually walked back after nearly every constitutional expert in Canada pointed out its mistake.
Then on Saturday, as police were clearing out the remaining protesters, it ran a headline suggesting “police arrested demonstrators at gunpoint” despite that happening only once when police suspected explosives were inside a vehicle. The Times eventually softened the headline, but the damage was already done, and the story itself remained conspicuously biased towards the perspective of the protesters.
But the recent episode on the events in Ottawa of its widely followed The Daily podcast might have been the biggest problem of all. To add insult to injury, it was a Canadian — Catherine Porter, the New York Times’ Canadian bureau chief — at the heart of it.
This is not the first time Porter has painted a picture of Canada for her American audience that many people found at odds with reality. On Oct. 17, 2018, when cannabis became legal across the country, she wrote: “Canadians are calling it C-Day.” That was, as the kids say, not a thing, and much Twitter mockery ensued.
But her depiction of the Ottawa encampment is no laughing matter. The podcast is marbled with language that seems conspicuously complimentary towards the people who assembled illegally near Parliament Hill holding the city hostage for weeks. She described the trucks that were gumming up the city’s traffic as “brilliant protest machines” and suggested the protests had the feel of a “huge tailgate party” or “festival.”
Porter paid brief lip service to the existence of a “menacing element” that was “telling Trudeau where to go” (she declined to tell listeners they were telling him to go fuck himself), but she didn’t spend much time on it. Instead, she talked to a 24-year-old beekeeper who said he was there to “spread love and peace,” a truck driver from northern Ontario, and a former yoga studio owner who she apparently heard yelling on the street and decided to interview. “There was some real healing going on there,” Porter said.
Portraying the protest as an act of collective grieving rather than a bacchanal of vandalism and constitutional hooliganism was a choice. So too was the willingness to employ the same framing some of the convoy organizers were presenting, that the more radical elements associated with the protests had “latched on” to the plight of the truckers. As Justin Ling tweeted, “This is just wrong. It’s entirely backwards.”
She wasn’t the only Times journalist to present an incomplete version of what was happening in Ottawa. In their coverage of the police crackdown on the remaining occupiers, reporters Natalie Kitroeff and Sarah Maslin Nir described Pat King as a “prominent online champion of the protests,” which is a bit like referring to Steve Bannon as a “free speech enthusiast.” In reality, King is a known white supremacist who made racist comments about NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh just last week.
All of this calls into question the newspaper’s basic competence in accurately reporting information about the U.S.’s closest neighbour and ally. If they can’t get it right about Canada, a country with which they share a language and the world’s longest undefended border, why should anyone trust the Times’ reporting from anywhere else in the world?
Canadians certainly don’t seem inclined to trust the Times as much as they did before it botched its coverage of the occupation of Ottawa. Many of them, including plenty of high-profile ones, publicly cancelled their subscriptions last week. The hashtag “#NYTunsubscribe” was even trending in Canada on Saturday.
But all the cancelled subscriptions in the world won’t repair the damage the New York Times did with its coverage of Canada last week. It validated a narrative of the protest that its organizers desperately wanted to telegraph, one in which they were fighting for freedom and resisting government oppression rather than agitating for the removal of a democratically elected government and the imprisonment — or worse — of the prime minister.
At a time when misinformation is poisoning our democratic discourse and being weaponized by those who want to undermine it, the self-anointed “newspaper of record” has to do better than this.
I knew a retired diplomat who had been present on six occasions historic enough to get into Time magazine. In each case, she had had to check the place and date to tell if the story was about the same event.
I feel the CBC News did not help; they devoted most of their broadcasts to it, treating it like another Olympic event. Most of the people shown and interviewed were part of the truck anti-vax protest. There were very few interviews with the Ottawa citizens so badly affected by the insurrection, nor with the broader general public across Canada who were vaccinated and, according to surveys, did not support the protestors.
Incisive article. It highlights how the role of the media, particularly the major ones like the NYT, requires a basic sea change that eschews the usual one of entertainment in all contexts all the time. I’ve heard discussion of how to address the whole “fake news” conundrum, one being a “truth sandwich” where they approach misinformation by inserting it BETWEEN the truth so that it has a chance of being corrective. Objectivity has been the hallmark of journalism, but in the current climate it mainly comes off as the basic inaccuracy of “bothsidesism,” the essence of which ignores that ONE side is the aggressor in employing misinformation as a deliberate strategy, i.e. by “flooding that zone with bullshit,” which is what Steve Bannon has advocated. We have to sympathize with journalists and publications who are also struggling to survive financially in the face of Trumpism, but you’d like to see more of them step up as defenders of the all-important truth at this time. NPR finally stopped “covering” Trump for example, despite the pressure on media to automatically follow their “leaders.” It’s all upside down now for everyone thanks to the right wing.
I guess we have to assume that either Catherine Porter doesn’t get that, like so many in her position or doesn’t care, and is enjoying looking down with amusement at those in the hinterland of Canada now that she’s “made it big,” (Samantha Bee condescends like that as well) or increasingly inexplicably identifies herself as right wing?! Not impressive.
Actually John Oliver covered it better than anyone. He even had footage of Tamara Lich singing and Pat King revealing himself as a bona fide white supremacist.
I just cancelled my subscription to the New York Times!
I canceled my subscription awhile back when I realized they too had been bought out by the parade of spreaders of ‘misinformation and populist fear-mongering’. Unfortunately when most media today are owned by corporate or government entities in the U.S., it remains difficult to find impartial voices. The New York Times seems to have to walk back on more and more untruths these days than ever before.
I haven’t trusted the New York Times at least since they relentlessly boosted the notion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was probably complicit in 9/11.
“Canadian — Catherine Porter, the New York Times’ Canadian bureau chief — at the heart of it.”
==========
Canadians are calling her the ‘C-girl’.
In his inspiringly positive book ‘Humankind’ Rutger Bregman dismantles some narratives about widespread negative human traits and narratives. One of them was the story about a woman who was attacked with a knife in a New York neighbourhood and screamed for help in a courtyard surrounded by apartments with over 80 people who must have heard the screams. The big lie was that no one came to her assistance and all denied hearing her pleas.
The truth was that several people did come to her assistance, and one woman in particular pulled her into a staircase and tried to render medical help. Several residents called 9-1-1 and the paramedics didn’t take all that long to arrive. But it was too late because her injuries were too severe.
A reporter interviewed the person who helped and several of the residents who phoned emergency. The woman described in detail over a fair length of time how she tried to stop the bleeding, calm her down, tell her she wasn’t alone, etc. The reporter walked away with a notebook full of corroborating information. That reporter was from the NYT.
The next day, the NYT bent the story all out of shape to say that no one helped and everyone claimed to not hear the cry for help. The woman who did help repeatedly called the Times editors about the false narrative, but they didn’t listen to her or correct the story. Ditto other newspapers she talked to in an attempt to correct the narrative, all of which didn’t want to touch the story.
Bregman went on the describe newsmaking methodology that sold more papers and made more money for the owners when an acutely negative tack or slant is taken. Sensationalism sells. Good Samaritanism is warm and fuzzy, but sales aren’t as good as when violence and rage are portrayed. Sound familiar?
To this day the infamous NYT strategy to foster the dying-in-the-street-while-everyone-watches narrative still sells news stories, but is actually counter to what Bregman observed is the true human trait: people DO want to help in most cases, and the research proves it.
As a long time American ex-pat now citizen of Canada. I come from a family that limited itself to the Sunday Times. We were not terribly political people – except most of the family loathed FDR and staunchly voted GOP as their father had for decades following the Civil war. They seemed not to keep up with the changes in the GOP and continued to read the Sunday Times. I never associated the Times with progressive elements, it was safely conservative and tried to be the “paper of record”. The other NY city “rags” were helter skelter sensationalists , unreliably populist.
As I grew older I realized the Times was caught in a time warp – still aiming to be the paper of record but failing, generally to take account of the realities of corruption, financial skullduggery, and demographics of marginalized people who kept NYC running.. Its unrelenting pursuit of the elites certainly became both wearisome and hilarious – especially its weekend pages devoted to the engagements and weddings of the uppercrust coyly identified as domiciled in NYC and The Hamptons, or the Bahamas.
IN the ’50’s through the ’80’s Canada was Terra Incognita. only Mulroney’s Free Trade agreement seemed to merit mention.
Porter is evidently infected with the snobbery of the Times. NO doubt wishing she could be promoted to a real Times beat in the great city. She has no apparent interest in any kind of indepth reporting on Canada – knowing the Times readers will have only the most cursory interest in the novelty of Canada behaving like the US. The reporting was played for amusement, not for any actual analysis of The protestors (largely play actors, driven by US dark money) or the irritated disgust of the Canadians who generally disavowed any agreement with the Freedom Convoy. Whatever attention seeking “protesters” claimed to be seeking was so transparently modeled on GOP style provocations it led to snorts of disbelief at the stupidity.
Actions speak for Canada. Much higher rates of vaccination, far more active wearing of masks, genuine grief and outrage at the death rates in the mostly US hedge fund owned long term care facilities in Canada…. We are just as fed up with the pandemic. Its dismal hanging around we rightly attribute to the fringe anti-vaxxers. Their stubborn narcissism is why we are still wearing masks. Why our economy has not bounced back and why the marginalized have suffered so woefully . As in the US, government funded “relief” too often ended up in the wrong hands, and provincial governments took the money but did not deploy it as intended leaving too many people struggling for survival. I trust those untrustworthy governments will get their comeuppance at the next elections.
When I seen this story from another source last I thought “how could people be in such denial to think there was no guns pointed at people during arrests?” Yet here is a whole group that seriously believe and are upset that there is accusations of guns being pointed at people while being arrested in Canada. The article went on to show at least a dozen pictures of RCMP guns being pointed at people. Although a couple of the pictures were showing the butt of a rifle being used on somebodys head, so maybe that doesn’t count. There is definitley misinformation news out there and the main source is the CBC followed by the “copy paste” creative writers like Max here. This article even states there was guns pointed for an “apparent” explosives threat.
Have none of you noticed the lack serious charges? Inciting mischief? Have not heard of any weapons charges. Pretty sure CBC would have been all over the finding of an empty 22 casing. Nothing.
What a joke. “The great Canadian bouncy castle uprising” Will be even funnier when in the very near future even the Government will not be supporting vaccine mandates. Then what will all the provaccine mandate people base their stance on?
So many decisions and actions based on very short term thinking but setting the precedent to having serious long term consequences to our freedoms. You might find yourself on the receiving side of an emergency act one one day if all it takes is to illegally park and make some noise to invoke one as the precedent has been set.
Look at the Ukraine. JT hid from the convoy, imagine the mess he would make in his pants if somebody actually was shooting. His cowardice and childish name calling of millions of Canadians is the problem. Stop trying to blame the NYT.
“if all it takes is to illegally park and make some noise?” You think that’s ALL that happened there? Come ON. And Trudeau HID from the convoy? You think we’re back in the days of a shootout at the OK Corral? “His cowardice and childish name calling of millions of Canadians is the problem?” Conservatives always insist that they’re the commonsense majority in this country when statistics show progressives to be the majority. But that’s just another pesky fact….
Actually, what’s happened is that conservatives have just reached the point thanks to Trump, social media and their naturally narrow, small minds where they can just turn their backs COMPLETELY on facts of ANY kind now that don’t suit the story in their heads. So conservatism has now transitioned into its own religion since a disproportionate number of them already BELIEVE in gods and heavens and probably Santa Claus too if you got right down to it. So with “magical” thinking on overdrive, YOU’RE actually the childish, crazy people among us.
I remember when Stephen Harper’s bunch won a majority that time and he bellowed, “Finally, a strong, stable, conservative majority!” And then proceeded to act like the opposition as usual because that’s the essence of conservatives. They OPPOSE. CONSTANTLY. That’s all they know how to do is be that “party of NO.” Trudeau summed them up when he said “the trouble with cons is they have no vision.”
Conservatives have a vision. They just look kind of like they don’t because it’s not a vision they can really tell their supporters about. It involves very rich people getting everybody else’s money and prosperity, forever.
And the typical Liberal response. Name calling and thinking their support of extensive government overreach and control is right and ANY opposition or questioning is evil. Exactly the dictatorship agenda the whole protest was about. Thanks for once again confirming the entire purpose.
“… extensive overreach and control … ANY opposition or questioning is evil … dictatorship agenda …”
These are. — at the most fundamental level — the very attributes of the convoy blockade of a city, a seat of government and portals of the Canadian economy. Thousands of residents, employees and business owners were held hostage for 22 days. The organizers even produced a ludicrous document calling for the Senate and the GG to cancel the government and shift themselves into power over the national government through a committee. The whole schmozzle even came with the seizure of weapons, a long history of separatism and a huge online collection of offensive, bellicose commentary on racial issues and whacko “proof” of vaccination conspiracies directly from the QAnon School of Medicine.
Here’s a mainstream media documentary on the protestors and their leaders. You may not like the CBC, but what is unique about this piece is that they let the organizers and protestors speak for themselves (give them enough rope …) and actually deliver unassailable proof from their own mouths that the vast majority of Canadians are right to have wanted them removed and arrested by the police for being a danger to society.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2OlAXDW7W0

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