Golly, tons of reaction — on all sides — to cyber-libertarian Jeff Shallit’s nomination of South Shore District School Superintendent Pynch-Worthylake as “Authoritarian High School Superintendent of the Month.” (Apologies for the delayed posting; it’s been a busy week.)
Chris McCormick writes:
I figure someone’s right to express their opinion is balanced by my right to ignore them; the principal’s reaction just valorizes the ‘victim society’ where we want to whitewash all differences and offending symbols…remember Lenny Bruce [language NSFW]? “It’s the suppression of the word which gives it the power, the violence…”
I have been aware of Superintendent Pynch-Worthylake’s work for about 10 years. From everything I’ve heard, I understand her to be an intelligent, brave, and discerning professional and leader. When I read your blog this morning, I thought there must be more to this story than first presented. The editorial in the Cape Breton Post made the story more complete for me. My conclusion is the her decision was not only reasonable, but brave.
The young people in our schools are arriving with all sorts of things written on their shirts, much of which promotes disrespect. What was written on Swinimer’s shirt was not benign. The phrasing is significant. “Life is wasted without Jesus” is a judgment of what you should be and do, not an expression of what I choose for me. This is no small point. Tolerance and free speech can only be protected, if we have the intelligence to sort out the difference. The principal and Nancy Pynch-Worthylake tried to do that. I applaud them both.
A reader whose family includes a retired Anglican minister, passed along antidote apparel depicted at right:
A reader who is not from the Annapolis Valley or Bridgewater writes:
It’s obvious Jeffrey Shallit does not live in the Annapolis Valley or Bridgewater, because if he did, he’d know that no matter how strongly you felt it, you’d never say anything like this: “Swinimer’s t-shirt expresses a moronic and wrong sentiment, and he sounds like the typical evangelical jerk who can’t keep quiet about his own ‘good news.’” Because the fall-out from evangelicals, of which there are many who attend Baptist, Pentecostal, and break-away Protestant churches in the Bible Belt of Nova Scotia, would not be worth it. Shallit, safe from the wrath of God in Waterloo.
Reader Dana Doiron thinks the The Cape Breton Post got it right:
Proselytizing at school and suggesting that the international students at his school were damned (I spoke to students and parents) were the issue. The t-shirt was just the most recent manifestation to which the complaining students could point. Parents, teachers and religious leaders (and, politicians) should help students learn tolerance and empathy not just the assertion of individual rights. The student’s dad may have taken the best step toward resolving this issue by removing his son from school today to go home and change shirts.
What Shallit was reacting to, given the information available at the time, was Swinimer’s suspension for the sin of wearing a T-shirt expressing minority religious views. If Swinimer was browbeating fellow students, or proselytizing disruptively on school time, that’s another matter. Wearing a slogan the superintendent doesn’t like is not grounds for dismissal in a democracy.
On January 1, a new law in Ireland bans publication or uttering of material grossly abusive or insulting to matters held sacred by any religion and thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion. The law carries a 25,000 Euro fine and permits some defenses. The website blasphemy.ie declares it “both silly and dangerous.”
It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas. And it is dangerous because it incentives religious outrage, and because Islamic States led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level.
Athiest Ireland marked the law’s coming into force by publishing 25 blasphemous quotations by such notables as Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Mark Twain, Tom Lehrer, Randy Newman, James Kirkup, Monty Python, Rev Ian Paisley, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Frank Zappa, Salman Rushdie, Bjork, Amanda Donohoe, George Carlin, Paul Woodfull, Jerry Springer the Opera, Tim Minchin, Richard Dawkins, Pope Benedict XVI, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Myers, Ian O’Doherty, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Dermot Ahern. A sample:
Mark Twain: “[Y]ou notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy — he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered. He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty… What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.”
Jesus Christ, speaking of Jews: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.”
Richard Dawkins: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Salman Rushdie aptly expressed the philosophical danger such laws pose:
The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas – uncertainty, progress, change – into crimes.
The practical danger is that it will fuel fanaticism like the attempted New Year’s Day murder of Danish artist Kurt Westergaard, one of the 12 cartoonists whose 2005 satirical depiction of the Prophet Mohammed sparked riots a year later in which dozens of people died.
Contrarian reader SL shares our ink-stained correspondent‘s distaste for the Saint John Telegraph-Journal’s malodorous apology to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. She wonders why departing Harper Communications Director Kory Teneycke included the precise timing of his decision to resign so prominently in his resignation talking points. The second paragraph of the CBC story reads:
Teneycke said he told Harper just after Canada Day and before the G8 meeting in Italy earlier this month that he was going to step down.
That would be, uh, just before the Prime Minister did or did not consume the sacramental Host at Romeo LeBlanc’s funeral. (The timing of Teneckye’s decision appeared in the sixth paragraph of the Toronto Star story.)
If the Irving-owned Telegraph-Journal’s groveling apology was brokered as part of a deal that included Irving-owned Halifax Shipyard’s efforts to woo federal shipbuilding contracts, maybe Teneycke, Harper’s third director of communications in 3-1/2 years, decided the backroom machinations could do permanent damage to his career. Or maybe not.
Another piece of speculation, promoted by CTV and the always impartial National Post, holds that the whole wafergate scandal was a Liberal set-up. As CTV’s Bob Fife put it (at 10:30 into the aforementioned video):
I’m told the Liberals passed the story on to young Jamie Irving, who is the publisher of the paper. He passed it on to the editor who put it into the paper without checking it out, and today the editor has been fired and Jamie’s father has suspended his son for 30 days, and I’m told the Prime Minister is pretty thrilled with that decision.
So T-J editor Shawna Richer is indeed out of a job, but somehow publisher Jamie Irving (that last name has a nice ring) escaped with a 30-day suspension—facts the paper neglected to include when making a clean breast of the matter. (An Irving spokesperson now acknowledges that the pair have been relieved of their duties, but still will not reveal their employment status.)
National Post columnist Seve Janke points the finger at former NB Liberal MP and current Ignatieff staffer Paul Zed based on, well, zero evidence (“I’m not saying Paul Zed had anything to do with this”), except that Zed “is related by marriage to the Irving family, having been married to Judith Irving, the granddaughter of K.C. Irving.”
The operative words there are “having been.” The couple is divorced, so perhaps Paul is no longer whispering sweet nothings into Judy’s ear, or Cousin Jamie’s for that matter. Nevertheless, Janke wants Ignatieff “to direct Paul Zed to uncover the identities of those did the deed and who had knowledge of it.”
Oh my, my, my. Does the Post actually pay for this crap?
For what it’s worth, Maclean’s Magazine’s Kady O’Malley reports that Doug Finlay, the Conservative Party’s National Director of Political Operations, is flogging the same line:
Can Michael Ignatieff assure Canadians that no Liberal staffer, executive or advisor contacted Jamie Irving or Shawna Richer regarding the Prime Minister’s acceptance of communion at Romeo LeBlanc’s funeral?
So O’Malley put the question to Ignatieff’s office. Response:
This is nonsense. We didn’t record the videotape–CPAC did. And as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Canadians need only look at the video on You Tube to see what happened.
Meanwhile, LifeSiteNews.com, a Toronto-based Campaign Life website, suspects Liberal blogger-strategist (and Chretien acolyte) Warren Kinsella‘s hand at work, noting that Kinsella has apparently changed the time-stamp on his blog to make it appear that he posted a refernce to the original T-J story somewhat later in the morning (9:53 am) of July 8 than was actually the case (6:53 am), the implication being that Kinsella is trying to obscure the fact he had advance knowledge of the story. (Pretty bad when you have to turn away from our august papers of record to an anti-abortion website for actual reporting.)
No question, Kinsella has aggressively promoted the alleged scandal, drawing “the faint outlines of a link between the shipbuilding announcement and, hours later, mincing, shit-eating apology,” which he describes as “fundamentally false.”
Meanwhile, what the hell is this?
A copyright claim by Radio-Canada? CBC spokesperson Angus MacKinnon confims to Maclean’s:
Radio-Canada requested that the footage be removed from YouTube due to copyright infringement (something it does on a regular basis). It was deemed that no ‘fair dealing’ exception was applicable in this case… [O]ur policy on fair dealing with regard to YouTube-d material [is] judged on a case-by-case basis.
Excuse me? Since when is it part of a news-gathering organization’s role to block public access to primary research sources, especially when those sources were created with taxpayers’ money? Since Harper became PM, perhaps? How much faith can we now place in Radio-Canada’s coverage of the current copyright debate, where Crown copyright is a key issue? Suckholing to the government of the day has long been endemic within the CBC, but rarely has a Mother Corp flack acknowledged it so brazenly.
Happily, Canadians can still see video evidence of Harper’s nontransubstantiation here, here, and here. The videos show pretty conclusively that, whatever Harper may have done with the Saviour’s virtual Body, he didn’t consume It promptly.
Here’s a novel idea: Could someone in our nation’s Parliamentary Press Gallery separate their puckered lips from Harper’s posterior long enough to do some actual reporting? Or does endlessly opining on the terminal inadequacy of any possible pretender to Harper’s throne keep you too busy for honest work?
The apology exonerates the reporters whose bylines appeared on the story on grounds that the inaccurate material was added in the editing process without their knowledge. But the story, which appeared five days after the funeral, was all about the wafer issue.
This is a daily newspaper, so they’d covered the funeral story already. So clearly the original, untainted story the two reporters wrote was more than just “there was a state funeral a week ago.” That’s not a story. The story they wrote had to centre around Harper accepting communion, was that right or not, and when did he consume it? Then some things were inserted to beef that up that were apparently troublesome.
So which part of the story is true, and which fabricated? That’s the central problem with the Irvings’ highly selective account of the events: we can’t tell. As Jedras puts it:
[T]he Telegraph Journal’s apology doesn’t really change the original story, whether you think it’s a dumb or newsworthy story or not: Harper accepted communion when he shouldn’t have, and took his sweet time consuming it, when he should have consumed it right away. All they’re retracting is “senior priest wants answers” and “he pocketed it.”
Blogger Stephen Taylor, who bills himself as a scientist and political analyst, and who organized rallies to protest last December’s aborted coalition government, also weighs in. Taylor notes the massive character of the edits that would have been required to sustain the apology’s odd claim that, although the central facts of the story were wrong, the reporters who wrote it bore no responsibility for the erroneous material. Then he adds an intriguing twist:
I’ve learned from a source close to one of the journalists that at least one of them may have gone so far as to seek advice and consider a lawsuit against the newspaper if the paper did not retract the story and absolve (no pun intended) the journalists of fabricating a significant portion the article.
That would be consistent with the highly unusual lengths the apology went to in exonerating the reporters.
Curiouser and curiouser. Too bad that journalism is the only public institution journals and journalists deem off limits.
Contrarian reader Justin Ling wonders:
One wonders why ‘investigating’ this non-issue (a) counts as journalism or (b) matters to anyone but the media. If he pocketed it, he did so because he did not want to offend Catholics by refusing the wafer. Shouldn’t we be focusing on the other host of issues out there surrounding Mr. Harper?
Well, of course the original story wasn’t important. It was amusing and ironic, and treated as such by the media. But then the Prime Minister blew a gasket, and the CBC invoked copyright to bar public access to the video evidence, and the Telegraph-Journal issued this astonishing and hard-to-credit apology (just as its owners queued up for lucrative shipbuilding contracts), and the PM’s director of communications resigned a year into the job. And finally, there’s the Ottawa press corps’s disinclination to look into the inconsistencies.
Contrarian reader WT observes:
Whatever else there is to be said about the TJ wafergate apology, it must rank as one of the great pooh-eaters of all time.
Mervin Hollingsworth of Saskatoon thinks we’re off our trolley:
Do you know how silly your report reads? Who cares what Harper did with the Host. It is between him and his God. Try to move on to something that all Canadians care about. This is pure speculation and garbage and a waste of everybody’s time. It truly must be a slow summer.
To be clear, which I thought I had been, I don’t give a flying fig what SH did with the Host. I care about the fallout, which reeks of dishonesty.
On the rare occasions when circumstances force contrarian to participate in religious rites, our unfamiliarity with the rules often begets panic. Thus contrarian sympathizes with Prime Minister Harper’s apparent befuddlement when Monsignor André Richard, Bishop of the Diocese of Moncton, offered him the communion wafer during Romeo LeBlanc’s funeral.
What’s a Protestant pol to do? As a non-Catholic, Harper is ineligible to receive communion. But having taken the wafer, which, upon consecration for the Eucharist, becomes the body and blood of Christ, he can’t just ditch it. A YouTube video appears to show Harper slipping the host into his suit jacket pocket.
This has Monsignor Brian Henneberry, vicar general and chancellor in the Diocese of Saint John, in holy dudgeon.
If Harper accepted the host but did not consume it, “it’s worse than a faux pas, it’s a scandal from the Catholic point of view,” he told the Saint John Telegraph-Journal.
A thread on the Religious Forum website is headed, “The PM has kidnapped Jesus!!!!”
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