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, April 20, 2006

Mayor or Moose?

With its vendetta against Mayor Sam Katz flagging badly, the Winnipeg Free Press rolled out another hired gun on Wednesday.

Only this time the result was to turn the already bad show into farce.

The Free Press knew they had to plug a gaping hole in their stories. They had tried to turn an innocuous comment by Katz into a scandal. He said that he felt like Hugh Hefner when surrounded by Winnipeg's top five female Olympic athletes.

The Free Press tried to stoke outrage, and only managed to turn the paper into the laughing stock of the city. Maybe they hoped that nobody would notice that not one of the Olympians was quoted anywhere in any of the stories the Free Press was pumping out.

Do you think the women shared the joke without taking offence? It appears a lot of readers thought that. The newspaper knew they had a big problem.

So on Wednesday they turned for help to Shannon Sampert, "a former journalist who teaches politics at the University of Winnipeg". (Note that she's the fourth Free Press columnist to try and stoke the scandal fire. It seems the people complaining about Katz the most, are those collecting a pay cheque from the newspaper.)

"Double Standard" cried the headline over her op-ed column. There's a reason the Olympic women haven't gone public with their feelings, she wrote.

They're scared.

They're scared of "being labelled humourless." They're scared of being labelled "feminist." And they're scared of "losing funding" unless they smile and play the role of dumb chick.

See? That's why the Free Press has had to shoulder the load, to carry the battle to the Mayor, to demand an apology on behalf of the frightened women who dare not speak for themselves.

Uh huh. We guess the Free Press thought that identifying Sampert as "a former journalist' would lend credibility to her opinion. It sure beats "humourless knee-jerk feminist".

Sampert revealed her true colours while a student at the University of Calgary. She had been a journalist for 20 years before going back to school. She was taking political studies when she discovered Space Moose.

Sam Katz or Space Moose?
You see, it's all the same to Shannon Sampert.

In her world, both are simply boorish males who insult and frighten poor females trying to make their way in this hard world dominated by insensitive men.

Who's Space Moose, you ask.

The main character in a satirical cartoon strip in the Gateway, the University's student newspaper, that's who. Or...that's what.
Space Moose, in the vein of South Park, irreverently insulted every sacred cow he could find.

He was so popular that in March 1997, Space Moose finished third in the race for student council president, only 11 votes out of second. But in October 1997 when he went after the Take Back the Night march in a strip titled "Clobbering Time", feminists like then-student Shannon Sampert took offense.

They wrote letters, they protested. They had the cartoonist charged with discrimination for "failing to treat women with dignity and respect", an offence against the University's Code of Student Behavior. They forced Space Moose off the university's website.

"It's not a censorship issue," Sampert told reporters. She said the University administration should be doing a better job of ensuring the University is a safe place for women. The cartoon had made them afraid.

Is this sounding familiar?

She got her MA, then began working on a PHd at the University of Alberta. Her thesis supervisor was Linda Trimble, a professor in the political science department where she designed courses like Poli 550.

POLI 5503- Women, Equality and Representation
Course Author: This course will be taught by Dr. Jane Arscott; however, it was written by Linda Trimble. Linda is a Professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Alberta, where she has held a position since 1989.

IntroductionPolitical Science 550: Women, Equality, Representation is designed to introduce you to key concepts in feminist thought and central currents in feminist history and examine representation of women in mass media and electoral politics.

The course begins with a discussion of key concepts in feminist thought and central currents in feminist theory, with the first section introducing the concept of gender and offering feminist explanations for women's historic and on-going inequality.

The second part of the course features feminist theorizing about gender, women's diversity, political equality and representation. This theoretical material serves as the framework for the third part of the course, which examines representation of women in mass media and electoral politics and covers the following themes/topics...

Sampert wrote that her experience in television contributed to her view of a male-dominated society. She says she was denied a spot on a late-night news show because the news director didn't think her attractive enough.

We sure would like to know which station she worked for, since her University of Winnipeg bio says she's an "award winning televison producer, news reporter and communications consultant."

But it was her credentials as a political science professor that got her the prime spot of Katz critic. As usual, we did some snooping and discovered her political leanings which may have coloured her column as much as her feminist opinions.

Last year, Sampert contributed a chapter to a new book edited by Trevor Harrison, The Return of the Trojan Horse, and published by the left-wing Parkland Institute. A news release describes the book this way:

A right-wing populist, in an oil-rich province, Ralph Klein has been a one-man wrecking crew dismantling Alberta's public sector and remaking the province into a freewheeling, capitalist paradise. This book re-examines Klein's Alberta after a decade of deficit-slashing, tax-cutting conservatism.

And could our Shannon Sampert be the same Shannon Sampert quoted extensively by the NDP in Alberta as a "Liberal organizer"?

The things you don't learn from reading the Winnipeg Free Press. Sigh.

(Oh, and just in case anyone asks about what happened to the mean old moose, the cartoonist was fined $200 -- but had the whole thing overturned on appeal after a long legal battle.)

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