One of my ‘bots brought back this link. Thanks to Anesa for noticing me!
We live in strange times where media, identity and work are colliding, sometimes unprettily. As an outspoken author, journalist and blogger with an unrelated full-time job, this has particular relevance for me. That is why I was concerned to hear of this story, in which the Canadian Minister of the Environment, Rona Ambrose, has put a gag order on Ministry employee Mark Tushingham from discussing his own fiction novel.
There are those among you who will argue that Tushingham is trying to capitalize on his status as an Environment Canada scientist, and thus the Minister is within her rights to control his actions in this regard. Maybe. But so long as he makes clear that he is discussing his personal opinions, I would always argue for society to err on the side of personal freedom, and to let Tushingham deal with whatever repercussions flow from his expressions.
But I think there’s another issue at play here, specifically that Canada’s new Conservative government, while eager to project an image of laid back confidence and passionate defence of individual freedoms, is nonetheless Bush-like in its controlling reflex. Under this regime, I believe, gag orders will become the norm, especially when the issue is one the Conservatives have an irrational obsession with attacking, like global warming. It’s right out of the Republican playbook: make sure everyone is on message, from the politicos down to the lowest peons of the bureaucracy. I find it all terribly un-Canadian and more than a little Orwellian.
This seems like a good place to store some links which will prove increasingly valuable as this collision between media, identity and rights continues:
Meanwhile, I am pleased to report a victory for the forces opposed to racial profiling. An American economics professor of Iranian origin was arrested as a “terrorist” simply because she had certain genetic physical features. Due to the wonderfully litigious nature of American society, she successfully sued for over $27 million! Hmmm, maybe I should re-grow my beard, and scowl menacingly on planes from now on…
And I’m sorry to provide yet another daily perv link. These reports get sadder and more depressing by the day, so I think I will now desist from collecting and posting them. (Also because these links are getting the, um, wrong kind of attention.) Besides, I think there’s enough data now for us to begin to think about my thesis question: are these media reports reflective of an increase in people pursuing these specific bestial behaviours, or are they instead reflective of “detection bias”, i.e. are they simply being reported more frequently? I now strongly suspect the former.
I will end today with an anecdote. I was on an airplane this morning (sans beard and scowl), pressed between two aged military intelligence men who were travelling to Ottawa on business. They were speaking rather candidly about Canada’s military commitments around the world. It was their ardent belief that Afghanistan is a bigger military quagmire than Iraq and that the resistance there is only now getting organized. They also mentioned something about the proper GWOT (Global War On Terrorism) response necessitating the simultaneous targetting of “all Muslim enclaves from Algeria to Indonesia”, and that the present GWOT will fail because it is not comprehensive enough.
This is, of course, terrifyingly naive thinking. I guess I shouldn’t surprised, since these supposed bigshots were stuck in the flimsy economy seats in the back of the plane with me, and not on the private military learjets with those who perhaps actually know what they’re talking about –or who at least can look like they do.