Sunday, May 12, 2013



I write a blog under my own name. I judge my words by the same standards in libel and fair comment that I used when I wrote or edited for 50 years in paid journalism.
I do not hide behind pseudonyms which aren't even pseudoclever. I don't pass along "gossip" unless I feel I could say it on television and radio. And I have thousands of commentaries to my credit on the CBC, CTV, Global and CFRB.
I do not pass along emails unless I believe them interesting, reasonably accurate and not racist.
So I have never sent anyone an e-mail comparing Obama to a monkeye, poking fun at the unfortunate with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, or suggesting most Muslims want to blow us out of our beds.
The other day, a friend sent me an email filled with hateful misinformation praising the American medical system, whatever that is, against Canadian medicare.  That is laughable. OHIP is one reason I live in Toronto rather than in the South Seas.
 So I asked why he would send me erroneous garbage-ridden propaganda on behalf of Republicans and the insurance industry. His reply was that he was just forwarding it. I replied that under Canadian law, whenever you write or forward or say information that can be read or heard by a third person, you are responsible for it. Don't send or forward emails to a group and think you are not under the fist of the law.
And while I'm at it, don't forward every damn thing under the sun. When I come back from the cottage, I prune without reading, and never open an  attachment. It helps protect me because we are living in a Misinformation Age. And don't bother me with the nonsensical argument that bloggers are not part of the Unsocial Media, which has become a new religion.
I was Associate Managing Editor of the old Telegram and Associate Editor and Editor of the Toronto Sun.  As a result of those positions for several decades, I was named in dozens of lawsuits, none of them successful. I have written 6,000 columns and 3,000 editorials and have been sued, but never successfully. I often represented the Sun at the Ontario Press Council and  never lost. As a result of court appearances, examinations-for-discovery and countless legal conferences, I know this subject, and most amateur bloggers and Unsocial Media trumpeters prove daily that they don't.
That is why when bloggers are sued by former Leaf exec Brian Burke for alleging (a word that gives no protection in law) that he had an extramarital affair, and one of them says he's shocked because Burke now had given him far more publicity than he ever got for the blog, there is a sick naivitee that turns my stomach.
You are responsible, ethically and legally, for what you tell others, and these idiots who want to foam at the mouth like mad typists because they are shocked that the maligned target and authorities would take them seriously should be locked up for being legally stupid and morally bankrupt.
The other day, I was forwarded grotesque pictures of the dead and maimed at the Boston Marathon under the bizarre heading of what you didn't see in the media. As if the sender was striking a blow for free expression.
The reason you don't see exactly what happens with bones sticking out of shredded legs is because the media are too compassionate and sensible in 99% of the cases to blight the minds of readers and viewers by showing them exactly what awful things happen in the real world. As an editor, I routinely ditched such photographs because, believe me, a newspaper photog shoots everything around him and we censor later.
Since my oldest son was coming to the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and his wife was blown down by the blast, and my grandson was about to move 20 feet into the victims to get a better angle of his mother and father at the finish line, I have a personal interest in saying that any person who emails those bloody pictures needs  counselling from a psychiatrist who normally deals with really sick people.
You know the Alzheimer joke about always meeting new people. I banned such material from comment in the Sun with the support of an associate editor who had lost the three dearest members of his family to Alzheimer's.
You know the Parkinson's joke about the old man who wants to sit on the bench with a woman with Parkinson's.
I hate the fact that almost all readers will know those jokes because they are so common on the Internet. I don't think they're funny because I know people with Alzheimer's and severe senility. I have and had friends with Parkinson's, like Doug Creighton, the founding publisher of the Sun chain. Doug and Peter Worthington, who just died after a wonderful, wacky life, were the souls of the paper, and we at the Sun didn't just believe in tilting at windmills, we blew them up. We marshalled adjectives and adverbs and sent them into war.
The last time Mary and I were with Doug and Marilyn Creighton, we played bridge and I had to shuffle the cards for him and we agreed not to look when he kept dropping them. But the competitive spirit still burned and when I made seven no trump, the highest bid in bridge, he beamed and his cares for a moment were on the shelf.
 It's sick to ridicule  such people. Why would we torment the families of these people with these asinine attempts at humour? Do we, deep down, want to wound everyone?
I was taught on my very first day in Ryerson journalism by a gifted teacher named Ted Schrader that pro athletes and politicians and all those in the public spotlight or domain can be attacked and criticized for their PUBLIC actions more than ordinary Joes.. They are vulnerable to reasonable criticism.
But too many bloggers want to be verbal flamethrowers, insulting rather than illuminating. For example, I happen to think that Rob Ford is a disaster as mayor and too often is more clown than diplomat but he often reflects the majority view of the pro-car anti-tax suburban conservatives and any comment that ignores that just doesn't know reality. Of course with the daily anti-Ford malarkey in the largest paper in the country, bloggers do have an excuse.
I have received crude emails about Obama and Muslims and Conservatives and Ford and Israel that are so vicious and obscene that I wonder who let the senders out of their cage of bigotry.
Some of the bloggers and rabid forwarders of  emails have political aspirations, want to influence public policy or already have major appointments. I have had emails bounced to me by a man who has an important provincial post. If two or three of those were sent to the minister or premier, that person would be fired within minutes.
The next time someone is considered for a political post, they should be required along with the routine recommendations and CV to make available non-personal material that they have e-mailed or forwarded for a week or so. This material would be more revealing than what university they pretended to finish.
What I think I will do with the curdled cream of what I find when I turned on my Mac each day is to return them, ask the sender to print them out, and then tell them to stick the paper where the sun doesn't shine. (See, such is the decline in communication,, you thought I was saying they should stick it up their ass. No, I meant gag themselves.)

No comments: