Plantation ethos

Our National Spot

The National Post is, to say the least, a peculiar newspaper. While newspapers in general cherish crime and disaster, the Post seems to combine a love of misery with a hatred of Canada. Its mission appears to be to promote doubt and despair about the nation that the National Post calls home. Has any other newspaper spent so much space telling its readers what a rotten country they live in?

When Canada fares badly, or might appear to, the Post is quick to report on the news, with glee. You can hear the sound of hands rubbing in a headline such as “UN demotes Canada’s rank – twice” (front page, 10 July 2001). Or “Canada should join U.S., business leaders say,” or “Medicare a costly failure.”

Of course there’s an agenda at work here. It rests on the implicit assumption (never stated, never examined) that Canada is in a state of mediocrity and decline, and that this condition is the result of a chain of causation:
1) Canadians are gullible and stupid;
2) they vote for the Liberals;
3) the Liberals then do what they can to make Canada a worse place to live.

The Post assumes that it is smarter to capitalize on the assumed gullibility and stupidity of Canadians than it is to decry it explicitly, which would irritate even some of its less intelligent readers.

The Post tries to cure us of our stupid voting habits by commissioning so-called “polls” (“If your life depended on it, would you use private health care?”), and reporting the predictable results (“Canadians demand private health care”) accompanied by some suitably horrified commentary, and remarks from “experts” who stand to benefit from any change.

The gist of the Post’s leanings (philosophy would be too kind a term) is that public service is bad and free enterprise, fertilized with tax breaks, is good.

The Post would go one step further and tell us exactly how to vote, but its previous support of the Conservative Reform Alliance Party (CRAP) looks so silly now that it must wait until readers have forgotten about this before it supports another gang of free market fundamentalists.

The Post has been the creature of its founder and (until recently) its half-owner, Mr. Conrad Black. Mr. Black has long had an interest in newspapers, both as profit generators and as organs of influence.

A perennial theme for Mr. Black has been that the newspapers he does not own are lousy. In 1986 he said that it “is easier to manufacture news than to report it.” In 1993 Mr. Black said that “the so-called profession of journalism is heavily cluttered with abrasive youngsters who substitute what they call commitment for insight . . .” One had presumed that these comments were an indictment of other people’s newspapers, not encouragement for his own journalists. One had presumed incorrectly.

There’s something to the notion that if we hate enough, we come to resemble the person or people we profess to hate. Increasingly, I’m struck by the similarity of Conrad Black’s ideology to the ideology of old fashioned Marxist-Leninist communists.

Both Mr. Black (manifest in the Post) and hardline communists affect to “feeling affection for the common people” (Lenin). Mr. Black and hardline communists alike purport to a faith in the “little people” and a distrust of the “elite” who ride on the little people’s backs.

Lenin thought liberalism, with its tendency to “minor improvements,” to be the greatest obstacle to achieving revolutionary goals. So too with Conrad Black. Minor tax cuts of, say, 20%, still leave us over-taxed and under-free.

In 1918 Lenin commented that “as long as capitalism and socialism exist side by side we cannot live in peace. In the end, one of them will conquer. A funeral hymn will be sung either over the Soviet Union or over world capitalism.” One imagines Black equally certain, equally distraught – annoyed that even as socialism ails, it does not die.

Lenin’s 1917 pronouncement “Let them shoot on the spot every tenth man guilty of idleness” accurately reflects the Post’s hatred of welfare bums, though on particularly grumpy days, I believe that some Post writers (e.g., Terrence Corcoran) might leave out the word “tenth.” What’s worse for the wheels of industry than an idle man?

“Every ruling class develops a mythology, justifying its abuse of power and its exploitation of the subjects.” Who said this? Conrad Black on union bosses, or Karl Marx on the monied class? As it happens, it was Karl Marx.

Conrad Black and hard communists alike are driven by utopian yearnings: Black by the glories of an unfettered market, communists by the heavenly promise of egalitarian distribution.

                                                                Blood brothers?

Like Marx, Conrad Black is interested in history and humanity, and like Marx, his interest leads him to some universal, though possibly simplistic, prescriptions. Like Marx (born Moses Levy Mordecai, or possibly Mordecai Levi), Conrad Black appears to believe that a name change will ensure one’s place in history . . . though in Mr. Black’s case, he may be wrong. It seems to me that with a name like Lord Marleybone-Jauncy of Bullchuttle, Mr. Black’s views might be less eagerly sought, less widely circulated.

Enough about Conrad Black. To conclude, we will point a bright beam of anagrammatic light at his cherished former organ. As Comrade Lenin would have said, “Anagrams point to hidden truths.”

Interesting it is, therefore, that The National Post can be anagrammed quite nicely into:
- annotate his plot
- plantation ethos
- satan point hotel
- hesitant platoon
- has one pint total
- one lost that pain
- that ain’t solo pen
and of course,
- neonatal shit pot

- Jamie MacKinnon (2002)