Run for your lives!

I really hope that I or my family never cross the law in this country, becuase if I did, the things that I write here in this blog space would surely come back to haunt me. That is the fate of the wives of some of those arrested last month in the terrorist raids in Toronto.

In an article in today’s Chronicly Horrid, comments from a number of chat rooms over the past few years from the wife of one of the accused have been dredged in an obvious attempt to demonize her.

The opening paragraph of the article sets the tone nicely:

The Nova Scotia-born wife of an accused terrorist has a long history of being utspoken on the Internet and has called for Muslims to take up arms against their oppressors while questioning why certain criminals aren’t executed in Canada.

Here we have it all – the “Nova Scotia-born”, which by now means “from here but not one of us” as well as calls for taking up arms and discussion of executions. Nasty stuff, this.

People calling for defending one’s religions brethren makes my skin crawl, however if you prowl the blogosphere you see this crap absolutely everywhere – most of it from Christians whinging about Terri Schiavo, gays, or abortion. However that doesn’t make the reader cringe enough to buy newspapers, and besides many of our readers would sympathize. No, for increased sales and proper drama we need a bogeyman! And the “execution” bit? She was apparently upset that a serial sex offender had been released and would likely, or just had, re-offend. Gee, you’ll never, ever see anything like that posted or mentioned anywhere on the internet.

The average reader of the paper copy of this article might not be aware of the tone of the chat rooms and blogosphere; and it is these people that this article intends to rally and/or frighten. My recomendation for anyone reading the print version of the article would be to spend a few days on the Blogging Tories, Little Green Footballs, or some of the other right-wing blogs, where they’ll find tonal compatriots to this style of discussion and worse.

That some of these statements were made in a chat room mostly used by high school students either means she was a complete loser or she was up to something. In the event of the latter, perhaps an investigation is warranted, but only if the authorities are prepared to charge her with hate speech. But my vote is that she’s just a loser.

Otherwise, this is just context-less fear-mongering and slander.


17 thoughts on “Run for your lives!

  1. I dunno, Kev, I’ve never said anything on this blog that I wasn’t willing to defend, and I’ve always been aware that anything I say on the Internet is open to public scrutiny, because that’s the way the Internet was designed, and I happen to think that’s a good thing. I’m not sure that I’d ever care to justify any action of mine by pointing fingers and saying ‘oh yeah, well they do it too!’ – that seems kind of childish to me. Mind you, I’ll agree with you on that there’s plenty of hate-filled rhetoric on both sides, and I’ll also agree that being a loser is the most likely explanation for this, but as far as I can tell, she’s not being charged with anything for this – it’s not helping her husband’s case any, mind you, but if she didn’t want these statements to be made public, she shouldn’t have made them on a public forum, even one that was supposed to be an internal school one.


  2. As a further, looking at the article, it does state that in many cases, she was goaded into making some of her more inflammatory comments by other posters, so there is an attempt to at least give some of her side, not enough, I’ll agree though. As for slander, sorry, Kev but I think that would only apply if it turns out she didn’t make the statements that were attributed to her.


  3. Not to be too picky, but slander is spoken – libel is written.
    Okay, too picky.
    Strange how the phrase “Nova-Scotia-Born” conveys a sense of alienness coupled with the overall tone of the article – that even ‘normal’ people from our neck of the woods can be seduced by the Dark Side.


  4. There is a couple of passive attempts by the writer to explain the context of the statements, but the impression the reader will be more about how deranged and dangerous this person is. And, since we seem to be in the business of pigeon-holing and stereotyping these days, it will make it that much easier to go from “her” to “they”.

    The thing that bothers me about this is not that she’s being charged with anything – she’s not to my knowledge, it’s that it just plays up the atmosphere. It will make it harder for people to make rational decisions because it is not a long path to “you’re fer us ‘er agin us”.

    It’s like Meursault in L’Etranger getting tried as much for the fact that he didn’t appear to love his mother as much as he ought.


  5. But what’s your solution, Kev – should the paper not have reported these statements on the grounds that it ‘might make Muslims look bad”? I’ve made plenty of posts on this blog whenever some Christianist’s made a particularly stupid statement – why are you arguing for a double standard?


  6. I’m not sure what the solution is, and I’m not sure that comments made here are a valid comparison to print articles, at least not yet. The reader that wanders into this site is likely already trolling the blogosphere and is aware of the nature of the media; particularly that it is utterly unedited in most cases, and hugely subjective in nearly all. I think that articles posted here would look out of place in print. When someone reads a newspaper, they assume that there is editorial control and fact-checking and therefore what they read is, if not “true”, at least “truth-y”. This difference is important.

    Right now there is a difference in context between conversations in chat rooms, comments and articles on blogs, and what goes into a commercial newspaper, and I think that the context is hugely important. (I say “right now” because I don’t know where the news media is going to go, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see blogs and blog-like things become more mainstream.) I have a fear that when one medium overlaps another, and the rules of the media are not understood to the reader/viewer, the context is completely lost.

    I am almost convincing myself that these comments should not have been published, but I think that if there was more effort to explain the context it could be done fairly.


  7. I’m not really sure I’m crazy about that kind of censorship, Kev – the Mount Cashel Scandal in Newfoundland, along with the recent allegations of mispending by Newfoundland MHA’s shows the dangers of what can happen when newspapers choose to sit on information instead of making it public. Plus, I just took another look at the story, and am rethinking my position on her being a loser – I think, if I was a parent of a teenager, I’d want to know if a 43 year old was posting this sort of stuff to my kids…


  8. That’s the part that concerns me, Dan, really the only part of the comments. I’ve seen so many more inflammatory comments trolling the right-wing blogs that the quotes in the article are not threatening in the least. At least to me. That at least some of them came from a high-school populated chat room is a concern perhaps worthy of investigation.

    For what it’s worth, I’m not advocating censorship – I just think that it’s the responsibility of the journalist to get the context across, or it ain’t journalism. If that can’t be done in the space of an article, then it isn’t censorship to not print it, it’s editing.


  9. I dunno, Kev, if it was a 44 year old male hanging out in a highschool chat room trying to seduce young girls, it would certainly be cause for concern, I happen to think a 44 year old female trying to seduce high schoolers to her way of thinking should be held to the same standard. I think it’s also a matter of what we as individuals are reading into the story – you’re reading the statement ‘Nova Scotian born’ as an attempt to isolate her as an alien, I’m reading it as the fact that she was born in Nova Scotia. Having worked, even periphally with working a news desk at a college radio station, what you’re asking for is not journalism, it’s writing columns. News reporters are not supposed to be ‘putting it in context’, they’re supposed to be reporting the facts, which this article does – she was born in Nova Scotia, and she did make these statements. The greater context is something the reader is supposed to investigate – you’re making a supposition as to what the reporter is trying to say that I can’t see.


  10. If this was someone doing something potentially illegal, then they should be investigate by the police. I said that in the original post.

    Regarding “NS-born”: A month ago I would have not mentioned this, Dan, but with all of the “Canadian-born” crap prefaced to the name of these people in the media it’s hard to not remark on it now. It might not be how this journalist meant it, but that’s how I read it.

    Sorry to disagree with you, but there has to be context in all journalism. If it isn’t supplied by the writer, it will be by the reader.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I do not defend her comments – many of them I find troubling. However, I don’t think that because she spouted them in a chat room necessarily means it’s something she’d act on. Perhaps she would, but I’d like to let a jury judge that, if it ever became evidence. I don’t think it can, now, though.


  11. I’d also point out that contrary to your statement, it’s not just the right wing blogs that come up with this sort of stuff, I’ve seen some cringe-worthy stuff on Democratic Underground or Daily Kos – I’d agree that the right wing tends to have more of it, but that’s still not justification for giving them a free pass?


  12. Well you really can’t give people hell for using the rights you just got through telling them they have, even if you did not expect them to be so rude as to use them first chance they got.
    I do not believe for one second that the woman mentioned would have expressed the same ideas so openly if she were in France, let alone one of the dictatorships or quasi theocracies where Moslem opinion tends to be formed.
    No, that woman is a woman of the west as of the present moment and she sounds just as outraged and arrogant as many a feminist venting a lot of bile against men. She is nothing new. And yes it is pure scandal mongering for the paper to be doing this (how did they get the emails?)

    If there were any substance to her rant, this would be a way for the CSIS types to follow up, record, and gain information. So Either the newspaper is helping out the enemies of Canada, or the authorities (you know, those guys who love to say they have the names) could not care less and have discounted any value in the woman’s ranting. Do I really think the newspaper guys have behaved with a clear motive to bully and
    intimidate? Absolutely.


  13. Dan,
    You’re right about there being some bile on this side of the blogosphere, but in my experience it is far more common on the right. On many of those sites posting anything but the Party line will get you immediate, rude, and rarely clever retribution. Here you can usually be good for some debate, particularly if the hosts disagree with you.


  14. Garhane, did you bother to actually read the article? They weren’t emails – they were posted to a chatroom and you have zero right to expect any statements you make in a chatroom to be private. Even emails aren’t private – most of the ENRON case was based on company emails – you really should try reading a newspaper sometime.

    I’m not giving this woman hell for making these statements – I’m giving hell to people who seem to think that while she has the right to make these statements, she doesn’t have the responsibility to stand by them – but, are perfectly willing to comdemn right-wingers for the statement they make. Idiocy is idiocy, whether it’s made by left or right – and to condone one and condemn the other,simply based on my preconceptions, is a double standard and hypocrisy.


  15. On this blog, Kev – you’re right, a lot of the left wing sites won’t heap insults on you for disagreeing with you – they’ll just simply ban you, so they won’t have to listen to you anymore. Studied indifference really doesn’t rank any better than bile and invective in my book, sorry.


  16. Dan,
    I expect garhane made an error, no need to jump all over him/her. The point is valid whether the comments came from an email or chat room – they were made in public and she knew that when she made them. In fact, the point is more valid that she made them in a public forum.

    I agree that people have to stand by their statements, but people in these forums say all kinds irresponsible things and to hold up this person at this time to this responsibility is inconsistent, to say the least. As you say, to hold her to a standard that we don’t hold everyone else to is hypocrisy.

    And it is hypocrisy and unfair to pull them out without making available the entire conversation that they came from.


  17. That’s ridiculus, Kev – you might as well say it’s wrong to post something based on a politician’s selected quote, something you and I have done plenty of times – this very post uses selective paragraph quoting – granted, you provide a link to the story in question, but that’s not something that’s feasible in a print story and if a reader doesn’t follow the link, they’re going to come away with your intepretation of what the story says. And I have never said that right wingers aren’t supposed to be held to account for their statements, what I’ve said is that it has to work across the board – I have never said anything on this blog or any other fora that I’m ashamed to own up to, and I see no reason to expect otherwise of any other person. For the record, I don’t think I ‘jumped all over’ garhane – at least not any more than he/she jumped all over the newspaper by insinuating some sort of nefarious spying on their part – I merely suggested they get their facts straight. As I’ve said, you have your interpretation on what the news article was trying to say, I have mine – which would indicate that it’s less the newspaper’s fault for what’s being read into the message and more the readers. If you disagree with the Chronicle-Herald’s approach, well, that’s what letters to the editors are for.


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