Feature Editorials

Thursday, 28 January 2010 18:00 Dan Freeman-Maloy

An unidentified Haitian walks amoung one of the many tent-cities that have been poped up accross Haiti.Moving from crimes-as-charity to actual support for Haiti - Over the course of the past decade, Canada's leading officials and most prestigious commentators have learned how to approach Haiti in the spirit of cynical power politics and racist condescension (or worse) while maintaining a posture of national self-flattery.

With attention again riveted on Haiti following the horrific tragedy inflicted by Tuesday's earthquake, this ugly mixture is once again on display. The need for emergency aid is, without question, urgent. But established patterns of “help” for Haiti need to be overcome if the destructive impact of this catastrophe is to be somehow limited.

Scattered self-congratulations can already be heard in Canada's mainstream press (a willing partner, for the most part, in recent Canadian government crimes against Haiti). On Thursday, papers across the country ran editorials on Canadian policy and the relief effort. Under the title “Helping Haiti,” the Calgary Herald editorialized that “Canada's response is not only appropriate, but one to be proud of. … Once again, Canada's humanitarianism and compassion shines brightly.”

The Montreal Gazette concurred: “Canadians have, to their credit, been involved in helping Haiti help itself for years.” For its part, the Globe and Mail yet again cast Haiti as the “basket case of the Western hemisphere,” the editorial headline promising that “Today's rescue is just the beginning.”


Saturday, 16 January 2010 18:00 Peter Hallward

People walk down a street in Haiti right after the earthquake struck.Any large city in the world would have suffered extensive damage from an earthquake on the scale of the one that ravaged Haiti's capital city on Tuesday afternoon, but it's no accident that so much of Port-au-Prince now looks like a war zone.

Much of the devastation wreaked by this latest and most calamitous disaster to befall Haiti is best understood as another thoroughly manmade outcome of a long and ugly historical sequence.

The country has faced more than its fair share of catastrophes. Hundreds died in Port-au-Prince in an earthquake back in June 1770, and the huge earthquake of 7 May 1842 may have killed 10,000 in the northern city of Cap ­Haitien alone. Hurricanes batter the island on a regular basis, most recently in 2004 and again in 2008; the storms of September 2008 flooded the town of Gonaïves and swept away much of its flimsy infrastructure, killing more than a thousand people and destroying many thousands of homes.

The full scale of the destruction resulting from this earthquake may not become clear for several weeks. Even minimal repairs will take years to complete, and the long-term impact is incalculable.


Monday, 28 December 2009 18:00 Tyler Shipley

Tegucigalpa, indeed all of the country, is covered in political graffiti. It doesn't take long to recognize that the state is in a moment of intense political struggle and repression, despite the international media's insistence that 'everything is fine.' “When the media goes quiet, the walls speak.” - graffiti in Tegucigalpa. - What strikes a visitor to the Honduran capital most immediately in this moment is the degree to which the social and political conflict that has erupted since the golpe de estado (coup d’etat) on June 28th is actually written on the walls, the fences, the rockfaces, bridges, errant bits of siding, abandoned buildings, and even the concrete upon which one walks.

Though the discourse in the international press is muddled and misinformed, the situation in Honduras is very obvious to those who are here – as a quick taxi ride around Tegucigalpa demonstrates.

Honduras has been long dominated by a handful of some ten to fifteen wealthy families. Everyone here knows their names – Facusse, Ferrari, Micheletti – and now they are scrawled on walls everywhere, next to accusations of golpista (coup-supporter) and asesino (assassin).

These oligarchs used to be satisfied by controlling the economy and buying off the politicians, but they now increasingly insist upon exercising direct political control themselves, and their names show up more and more in congress, in the supreme court and now even in the executive branch.

Sunday, 29 November 2009 18:00 Sophie Richardson

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, walks out with Chinese President Hu Jintao, following their joint statement to the media at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009.Speaking in Tokyo's Suntory Hall on Saturday on the first leg of his visit to Asia, President Barack Obama stressed the importance of promoting human rights in the region. "Supporting human rights," he said, "provides lasting security that cannot be purchased in any other way."

"There are certain aspirations that human beings hold in common: The freedom to speak your mind, and choose your leaders; the ability to access information, and worship how you please; confidence in rule of law, and the equal administration of justice. These are not impediments to stability, they are its cornerstones."

Human rights have deteriorated markedly in China since President Obama took office, particularly for the country's vibrant but beleaguered civil society-journalists, lawyers, health, human rights and religious advocates.

To help reverse this trend, President Obama should take up with President Hu Jintao each of the five human-rights areas he spotlighted in Suntory Hall.


Friday, 13 November 2009 19:00 Joanne Naiman

A man holds up an Israeli flag as he protests anti-Semitism outside the UN's local office in Caracas, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009. An armed group vandalized Caracas' oldest synagogue on Saturday, shattering religious objects and spray-painting walls amid Venezuela's diplomatic spat with Israel over its military offensive last month in the Gaza Strip.Submission to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism - I am writing this submission as a sociologist, a Jew, and a long-time opponent of all forms of oppression.

As a person of Jewish descent, I obviously have a personal interest in seeing anti-Semitism addressed wherever it appears. However, as a social scientist I feel the term is currently being used without much precision.

You describe your mission as an attempt to “confront and combat the global resurgence of  Antisemitism” and note that “Antisemitism is widely regarded as at its worst level since the end of the Second World War.”

These are certainly strong statements, and, if true, require serious action. However, other than noting that students on certain campuses in Canada are “ridiculed and intimidated,” you provide no other concrete examples. (I will deal with the issue of criticism of Israel at a later point.)


Saturday, 31 October 2009 19:00 Tanner Mirrlees

Media Capitalism, the State and 21st Century Media Democracy Struggles - An interview with Robert McChesney - In The German Ideology, Marx said the following about the media: “The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.

The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.”

Since Marx’s time, “the means of mental production” in society have expanded into a globalizing capitalist media and cultural industry that encompasses both print and electronic mediums, news and entertainment.

The media is a contradictory institution; it is once a means of production and a terrain of struggle. “The class that is the ruling material force of society” continues to rule the media and therefore is a very powerful “ruling intellectual force” in society. Yet, control of the media by the ruling class is being opposed by media democracy struggles.


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