Margaret Atwood, censor
Canadian author Margaret Atwood is a free-speech activist. She is the vice-president of International PEN, the advocacy group for imprisoned writers.
As a civil libertarian, Atwood defends freedom, even for odious people. Like Al Jazeera, the satellite network owned by an Arab sheik. Al Jazeera helps publicize terrorists like al-Qaida, who send snuff videos to the channel, knowing they will be obediently aired as propaganda.
Al Jazeera doesn’t just broadcast terrorism. Sometimes the channel goes further. Two years ago Israel released Samir Kuntar, a convicted terrorist serving time for mass murder. One of Kuntar’s murder victims was a four-year-old Jewish girl he smashed with a rock. When Kuntar was released to Lebanon, Al Jazeera televised the welcome-home party. Then Al Jazeera threw him a party themselves. Al Jazeera’s Beirut chief, Ghassan bin Jeddo, praised the child-killer as a “pan-Arab hero.”
Atwood loves free speech so much, she doesn’t just support Al Jazeera from arm’s-length. She appears on the network to promote her books.
Like Al Jazeera, Atwood vigorously opposed the war in Iraq. But lest you think she is anti-Israel, this spring she visited Tel Aviv to accept a book prize. Arab students demanded that she refuse the award, but she was true to her principles: “We don’t do cultural boycotts,” she announced.
The fact that the prize came with a $500,000 cheque never even entered her mind.
There is no journalist too odious for her to defend, and no controversy that would cause her to boycott a cultural event. As she told a gala in her honour this April, “once the censoring begins, who shall be in control of it, and where will it stop?”
So imagine how bad the Sun must be — I’m talking about this newspaper, dear reader! — for Atwood to sign a petition demanding that a TV news channel proposed by Sun Media be stopped by the Canadian government.
Al Jazeera is fine by her. But Atwood demands that Sun TV News be banned.
She even signed a petition to that effect, to be delivered to the CRTC, the regulatory agency for Canadian television.
And then she boasted about what she’d done on her Twitter website, telling her 82,000 followers to “Join me!”
What is that, if not a cultural boycott and a celebration of censorship?
Atwood is not alone. Jim Travers of the Toronto Star declared that if Sun TV can’t prove it will be critical of the government, “it certainly shouldn’t have that licence.” His colleague Susan Delacourt wrote that the Sun must answer for its “blend of politics and journalism ... before it gets a licence.” Don Newman, the former CBC anchor, wrote Sun TV is “the absolute last thing this country needs.”
What’s going on here? Why are journalists calling for the censorship of other journalists?
The licence Sun TV is asking for would have cable companies offer the channel to Canadians, but not force anyone to pay for it. By comparison, everyone must pay for CBC and CTV news channels whether they want them or not.
So why do Atwood, Travers, Delacourt and Newman hate the Sun so passionately?
Is it fear of business competition? Not likely. Atwood is a millionaire author, Newman is retired, and Travers and Delacourt are on salaries — Sun TV won’t hurt their pocketbooks. So what is it?
It’s intellectual competition.
For decades, the only political opinion allowed on TV news has been liberal: Anti-American, anti-Christian, soft-on-crime, soft-on-terrorists, radical environmentalism, big government mush.
Sun TV will be like the Sun newspapers: Independent, conservative, populist, patriotic — and fun.
Sun TV will break the left-wing mainstream media consensus. That’s why the most left-wing journalists in the country despise it.
And that’s why Peg Atwood violated everything she stands for, by asking the government to censor it.