The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Gord Sinclair ushers out the Peter Kent Challenge

The Liberals have abandoned all restraint as election polls suggest the reins of power may slip from their hands next week.

In the process they've revealed their true face. Canadians are seeing the Liberal Party with its mask torn off, revealing the unadulerated hatred of citizens who don't share their way of thinking, the blatant contempt for the West and its "Alberta values", the casual arrogance that leads them to promise anything to anyone to win at all costs.

We thought they couldn't go lower than the attack ads launched in the last week, which twisted quotes and facts to imply Stephen Harper was going to turn Canada over to George Bush, then post soldiers in cities to suppress dissent.Wednesday, nouveau-Liberal Buzz Hargrove topped that by advising Quebec voters to vote for the separatists to stop Harper from winning the election. To vote for people whose only goal is to break up the country. Apres nous, le deluge, Buzz?

But if the Liberals were bombastic, the New Democrats were pathetic, what with leader Jack Layton begging voters to "park their votes" with the NDP just this once. This has to go down in the books as the saddest campaign inducement ever.

We don't know if its pathetic or bathetic, but the Winnipeg Free Press printed a columnist attack ad of its own this week, and so Gordon Sinclair and the online editor of the Winnipeg Free Press become the final entries to The Black Rod's Peter Kent Challenge.

Why bother, you ask? The headlines are blaring about a possible Tory victory. What tiny transgression is worth noting at this late date? Our answer is that, like Jack Layton's forlorn siren's call, it's sheer audacious desperation deserves to be recorded for posterity.

Sinclair's Tuesday column was the typically weary narrative he's turned out for the past ten or 15 years. A woman was complaining about being cut off in line for gas at a service station. That's about it. She was tired. The kids were cranky. The people in the van ahead didn't say sorry.

But Sinclair saw it as a parable about the evil nature of Conservatives, who he describes as "a pack of Reform wolves in Conservative sheep's clothing... poised to take over with a right-wing agenda that, philosophically, favours those who already have lots over those who don't have much."

Got it, yet. Van cuts off car. Kids cry. Woman has to wait. It's a microcosm of the world the evil Conservatives will bring, where the downtrodden are tortured for the amusement of the rich and powerful.Throughout the election campaign we have not used columns for the Peter Kent Challenge, because they are, by definition, opinion pieces. So despite Sinclair's revealing his true face to his readers, some of whom might have been conservatives, he gets a pass for his personal attack ad.

Except for the headlines that accompanied his story. Note we said headlines, plural.

Because, you see, there were two.

"Respect was all she wanted," read the headline in the newspaper version of the story.

The online version, though, carried the more inflammatory title:

Her elders were acting like Tories."

Some Winnipeg Free Press editor was revealing his own Liberal bias by endorsing Sinclair's definition of Conservatives. It's cheap shots like this that Peter Kent was trying to alert Canadians to, slight twists of fact, a small slant to a story here, a big omission there, all geared to add up to the intended storyline--Liberals good, Tories bad.

It's the sort of subtle partiality that can't be undone, not even if the Winnipeg Free Press editorial board endorses the Conservatives on the final day of the election. But with education, readers will recognize the biases in the headlines and which reporters can't be trusted to present the facts fairly. The introduction of blogs such as ours are helping to hasten that education, even as we bring The Peter Kent Challenge to a close.

We're honoured that at least one Manitoba reporter finds us such an inspiration that he's written on his own blog that he intends conducting a similar exercise, which he's calling the Eric Alterman Challenge.

Now, some people say the Brandon Sun's Curtis Brown is just being facetious. But we're taking him at his word because we know who Eric Alterman is. He wrote the book "What Liberal Media" in 2003 to prove there is no liberal bias in the press. Instead, he says, the news media is overwhelmingly conservative.

Alterman has even revealed his own true face of hatred for conservatives. In a 2003 Esquire magazine interview he said he was sorry surgery to restore talk radio host Rush Limbaugh's hearing was successful.

"I hate to say it, but I wish the guy would have gone deaf. I shouldn't say that, but on behalf of the country, it would be better without Rush Limbaugh and his 20 million listeners." Such compassion.

Alterman has since passed the ultimate litmus test for membership in the ranks of liberal journalists. Dan Rather's use of forged documents on CBS's Sixty Minutes Wednesday to try and sway the electorate in the 2004 U.S. presidential election is not, in Alterman's eyes, a case of liberal bias. In the April 11, 2005, issue of The Nation, he defends Rather, saying the CBS story was "based on documents, by the way, that still have not been proved to be forgeries--"

That's the new liberal pardigm. Fake but true. Reporters don't have to verify the authenticity of their material anymore. If anyone objects, the onus is on them to prove the documents are false. And it doesn't even matter if documents are false, if the story is so obviously true that only conservatives don't believe it.

(And for the record, CBS admitted the Rather team had no idea where the alleged memos came from, their experts proved they were "not authentic", and the producer and three other employees were fired.)

Newsweek reported on an alleged incident of a Koran being thrown into a toilet at Guantanamo, then had to admit the information was wrong. It wasn't our fault, the magazine said, the White House didn't deny it. And anyway, there were other incidents where Korans were damaged. Fake but true.

After a website proved that one of Oprah Winfrey's book-club authors made up parts of his book to make it a better read, she declared that the "underlying message" of a memoir was more important than its truth. Fake but true. Though not a journalist, Winfrey demonstrated that the liberal journalist credo is getting around.

With that, we wish Curtis Brown well on his Eric Alterman Challenge and we can hardly wait for the first installment.

Maybe it will be on all the endorsements that Anita Neville is getting. Her election brochure lists rave reviews from all and sundry, including one Bobbi Ethier, a member of the Winnipeg Humane Society. We're sure the Humane Society is pleased to be seen endorsing a Liberal candidate.

Otherwise B.Ethier would be forced to use her other designation---president of the Manitoba wing of the federal Liberal Party. You don't think she was trying to fool anyone into believeing she was just a normal, puppy-loving voter, do you?

But then, that's not something Curtis calls news. When a Brandon Liberal candidate and his campaign manager tried the exact same thing and pretended to be jus' ord'nary folk endorsing a Liberal candidate in another riding, Curtis said "nobody cares."

What would Eric Alterman say?

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