Who does the Toronto Star consider to be the "fringe"?
As I've written before, watching the mainstream media criticize Quebecor's proposed SUN TV news channel is like a Rorschach Test: given that the proposed channel hasn't broadcast a single minute yet, the criticisms are more a window into the minds of the critics than they are a comment on SUN TV.
Take James Travers' latest in the Toronto Star. I won't go through it all, but let me show you a few sentences:
To be as provocative as Kory Teneycke promises, opinion shows on the 24-hour news channel must pander to extremes. Politically toxic opinions that Teneycke helped the Prime Minister defuse as his chief spokesman will be lint to TV Velcro.
Fringe elements will delight in having a nightly forum for rants about, say, abortion, bilingualism, the supposed climate change hoax and getting Ottawa out of their lives.
Regardless of your own views on the subjects of abortion, bilingualism, climate change and inobtrusive government, to call one side of those debates (and Travers means the conservative side) a "fringe element" or "extremist" is ridiculous. Let's take them one at a time.
- While abortion may be politically sacrosanct to the Star (and unlikely to change in Parliament any time soon) it is hardly a matter that has been resolved in the minds of mere citizens. Canada's abortion laws -- abortion on demand, for any reason or no reason, from conception until the moment of birth, paid for by taxpayers -- is the most liberal in the world, and was the result of a legislative failure (a tie vote in the Senate), not any political compromise. This fairly well-footnoted compendium shows that while public opinion in Canada does not favour criminalizing or banning abortions, a very significant minority, and sometimes even a plurality of Canadians, could be characterized as pro-life to varying degrees.
- On bilingualism, we see the same thing: this footnoted compendium of polls shows that while Canadians support the abstract notion of bilingualism (who could be against that?) a large number, and indeed often a majority, of Canadians oppose government policies of forced bilingualism (Anglo support fell as low as 32% in the mid-1990s).
- Without spending more than a moment looking, the first poll I found about Canadian attitudes towards global warming shows that 58% of Canadians believe it's a fact. That's higher than I thought it would be (the U.S. number is 41% and only 38% of people in the UK believe in it) but it's still barely half.
- I'm not even going to search for polls about "getting Ottawa out of your life", but I think any normal Canadian -- even NDP voters, and certainly Bloc voters -- would say "damn right" if asked about it. Even most supporters of the abstraction of big government know that a distant and partisan government is less effective and accountable than a close-by and responsive government. I'd bet that if such a slanted wording were ever poll-tested, close to 90% of Canadians would say they'd want less Ottawa in their lives.
This is what I mean by a Rorshach Test: James Travers has told us nothing about the world and certainly nothing about SUN TV. But he has told us a hell of a lot about himself and his paper the Star. He thinks that the conservative view of these issues is extremist; fringe; tiny; politically toxic; and most importantly, inappropriate for any media to pay attention to.
In a media monopoly, disparaging readers (read: potential customers) like that has no downside. Where is the "fringe" going to go?
The Sun chain of newspapers and the National Post has provided an answer on the newspaper side, and the Internet has provided countless other sources of news and opinion for those who are shut out by the likes of Travers.
But the advent of SUN TV is so troubling to Travers precisely because it promises to be so mainstream; it's not a U.S.-based website like the Drudge Report; it's not a small, underfunded conservative magazine like the old Western Standard that I used to publish was. It will be on TV, just like CBC and CTV. Now the "fringe" has a place to go.
I think Travers is actually scared of SUN TV. One thing's for sure: he sure can't stop talking about it.