Oct. 25, 2016
By Barrie Zwicker
For 15 years I was paid to mainly find fault with the media, while on occasion celebrating well-crafted reporting, excellent think pieces, and the advent of independent journalism. A recent opinion piece that is worth celebrating is Prof. Graeme MacQueen’s op-ed in the Hamilton Spectator published on October 21st.
In the article (reproduced in its entirety below), MacQueen raises a series of questions rarely posed in the media concerning the Parliament Hill shootings in Ottawa in October 2014. What is truly impressive is not just the considerable depth of research that went into compiling the questions but also that these doubts about the official story of this event were printed in a mainstream newspaper at all.
But first, some context. I’m on board with other media critics, paid and unpaid, professional and amateur, who are frustrated in general with most media, both mainstream and so-called alternative. Fed up with how day in and day out they kowtow to the establishment. How they distract readers, listeners and viewers with superficial McNugget journalism. With how they repeat big lies, omit big truths, over and over again. How they fail to question, let alone engage in, investigative journalism on the life-and-death issues of war, the corporatization of the world, vast inequalities, environmental destruction. How in general— name your important topic area—they are part of problems rather than part of solutions.
There are honourable exceptions. One current example is mainstream media coverage of aboriginal grievances. Another is justice for thalidomide survivors. But, again, those exceptions were very late showing up.
Despite this and many other faults, there’s a reason that mainstream media should not be written off. For the honourable exceptions, yes, but even more because of a stubborn fact that still holds, despite the welcome rise of dissident Internet sites and “citizen journalism.” That fact is this: it’s from the mainstream media that most people still get most of their information on most subjects most of the time. We must respect the readers, listeners and viewers who are more important, finally, than media they may accept or even love but which are betraying them.
For that reason alone those of us who are aware, for instance, of the prevalence, perfidy and terrible outcomes of false flag operations (9/11 still the worst, so far) cannot give up on somehow trying to reach all those readers, listeners and viewers through whatever opportunities, within the MSM, still exist to do so.
There seem to me three basic opportunities. One is for writers, even amateur ones, to look for a magazine (or possibly a newspaper section) that still shows some independence and is willing to take a risk once in a while, then research and write a non-mainstream approach to one of those important topics that one knows about and feels passionate about. An example, and I grant that they’re all too rare, was a piece in Toronto Life magazine in November 2014 by Naheed Mustafa, entitled “The Jihadists of Suburbia.” The injustice of the conviction of the “terrorists” in the “VIA Rail plot” was spelled out with detailed gumshoe work and a sense of story.
Another opportunity is letters to editors. It’s been a constant since newspapers came into being that the letters page is the second most read after the front page. There are whole treatises on how to write an effective letter to the editor and get it published. But if you want to point out that the official story of 9/11 is a fiction you nevertheless have an uphill slog, even or especially around 9/11’s anniversaries. Same with writing a letter about false flag operations. Editors seem positively allergic even to the phrase. A few letters along these lines, however, sneak through. And letters pointing out the sham and shame of the so-called “war on terror” are actually seen far more frequently these days than earlier.
This brings us to the final opportunity: the opinion pages. Same barriers. Same types of editors. Same thing. It’s almost always Rejection City. This is why, when an op-ed is published pointing out that an official narrative should be questioned, it does show that once in a while the barrier can be breached, an editor can be reached.
Here’s how MacQueen did it. First he chose an anniversary, in this case the second anniversary, of his subject as timing for submitting his piece. He submitted it 20 or so days before the anniversary, so editors would not be rushed. This also gave him time to submit it elsewhere if The Spec rejected it.
Second he decided against trying the Toronto Star first and opted instead for his local paper. A local (and preferably substantial) person will have an edge over an out-of-towner. It’s a total no-no to submit simultaneously to two publications, even for a letter to the editor. One must choose. The Star might have run it. We’ll never know. But it’s wise to go with the odds.
The length, 553 words, is right. The title MacQueen wisely suggested was “We Need a Public Inquiry into the Ottawa Shootings of October 22, 2014.” Proven wise because that was the headline The Spec went with. Wise also because it was the action point of the piece and also its last line. Bookended and reinforced.
The tone was right. At the beginning he empathizes with the grieving family of Hamilton’s Nathan Cirillo. But MacQueen goes on immediately to question the Harper government for using Cirillo’s death to push Bill C-51 through Parliament.
MacQueeen then chooses to highlight a scandal, that Ontario’s Chief Coroner has never ordered an inquest into Cirillo’s death (nor that of Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau).
And then the questions—nine of them. And following them reference to (what he has already partly proven) “a troubling lack of transparency” and more. Finally, the last sentence, which repeats the headline. A++.
MacQueen’s approach and style deserve to be seen as a template which others who hope to surmount barriers the mainstream media maintain can augment with their own passions and voices.
We should not despair (although I admit to finding it hard to avoid, a good deal of the time). We should remember what author and activist June Callwood once said: “Nothing is lost in the universe.” Give it a whirl, as below. See what the universe says.
We need a public inquiry into the 2014 Ottawa shootings
On Oct. 22, 2014, Hamilton’s Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, was shot to death. The perpetrator, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, then entered the Centre Block of Parliament with his loaded rifle, creating the worst security breach on Parliament Hill in Canada’s history.
Cirillo lost his life, and his family and friends suffered grievously. The repercussions of the event, however, go beyond this. Stephen Harper’s government used this attack, as well as an assault on two soldiers on Oct. 20, 2014 in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, near Montreal, to push Bill C-51 through Parliament. This controversial bill, now law in Canada, gives intelligence agencies increased power and diminishes the civil rights of Canadians.
On Oct. 22, 2014, CBC news anchor Peter Mansbridge said that Canadian journalists, as well as members of Parliament, would relentlessly investigate the attack. This has not happened. Instead, the anniversary of Cirillo’s death has been used as an occasion for flag waving, even though key questions about the case have not been answered.
If the perpetrator had lived, there would have been a public trial and the central facts would have been disclosed. But when security forces killed Zehaf-Bibeau they ended the possibility of a trial.
We have not even had an inquest. Ontario’s chief coroner could have ordered an inquest into the death of Mr. Cirillo or the death of Zehaf-Bibeau but has not done so.
In 2015, several police reports related to this case were released, but these did not ever raise the most important questions, much less answer them.
How was this homeless man able to buy the car that was crucial to his crime? Since he was evidently a good planner, why did he take the risk of driving this car for three hours on the highway without licence plates? Since he had a police record that prohibited him from purchasing firearms, how did he get hold of a rifle? Where did he acquire his bullets and knife? Why did police initially confirm that there had been more than one perpetrator? Why did the RCMP commissioner say there had been “no advance warning” when the evidence suggests there were at least six warnings? Why was the B.C. legislature taking precautions because of these warnings while security forces in Ottawa were caught flat-footed? Why did security forces find it necessary to shoot Zehaf-Bibeau 31 times? Was he wearing body armour in Centre Block as some have claimed and, if so, where did he get it?
There is a troubling lack of transparency about the government’s treatment of these events. Canadians have a right know that their physical security and the security of members of their armed forces, such as Corporal Cirillo, are being honestly addressed. They also have a right to see the evidence in a case where inroads are being made on their civil rights. The fact that a police killing has prevented a trial from taking place is no excuse for withholding evidence from the public.
We need a public inquiry into the events of Oct. 22, 2014.
Graeme MacQueen is a retired McMaster University professor who in 2015 produced the report “The October 22, 2014, Ottawa Shootings: Why Canadians Need a Public Inquiry.”
I think it is worth mentioning that I sought and received approval from Professor MacQueen to reproduce his work here. Also, the report mentioned at the conclusion of the article just above can be read here.—Craig McKee