Canadian media lacks nuance, depth on racial issues

Part of the Policy Options elections series. I have flagged to Anita Li, some of the weaknesses in her arguments:

  • Voter turnout: StatsCan analysis comparing Canadian-born versus long-term and recent immigrants in the 2015 and 2011 elections shows that the gap has shrunk (2007 data not relevant).
  • 2011:  77.4 percent Canadian-born, 70.7 percent established immigrants, 55.7 percent recent immigrants
  • 2015: 76 percent Canadian-born, 75.9 percent established immigrants, 70.1 percent recent immigrants
  • There is considerable variation based upon country of origin.

My sense is that the issue lies more with the financial and business model of media, and consequent reduced local and other news, which applies to all Canadians, whether visible minority or not.

My work with diversityvotes.ca which allows me to analyze ethnic media election coverage indicates that ethnic media is less ghettoized than Li suggests, largely mirroring mainstream coverage (spoiler alert for future article).

As to the diversity of journalists, given the number of visible minorities in j-schools and the buy-outs of senior journalists, expect that diversity will improve but not as quickly given the financial struggles of the industry:

Newsrooms in Canada are disproportionately white. This inequity means Canadian news coverage is less inclusive and therefore not truly representative of our country’s racial diversity. We’ve known all this for years, and still — despite the approach of the next federal election — establishment journalism organizations have not taken steps to address this worrying gap in a meaningful and systemic way. One consequence is lower voter turnout among people of colour.

The media is a pillar of democracy. Numerous studies reveal how an erosion in local news weakens civic engagement. Research suggests people who consume local news regularly are more likely to vote and participate in civic activities. But the spate of local publication closures in nearly 200 Canadian communities over the past decade has left a vacuum for misinformation to fill, compromised journalists’ ability to hold government accountable and resulted in more polarized communities where neighbours don’t trust each other.

These studies focus on geographic communities. But there’s scant research into how news poverty impacts racialized communities or geographic communities that are majority-minority, such as Scarborough, a suburb of more than 600,000 in the Greater Toronto Area where people of colour make up 73 percent of the total population. That’s concerning.

Why? According to a 2018 report from the UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media, news deserts tend to be around areas whose residents are poorer, less well-educated and older than people in other communities. News poverty impacts inner-city neighbourhoods and suburbs as well as sparsely populated rural and interior regions, the report says.

It’s not a stretch to extrapolate findings from geographically focused research on news deserts and apply them to underserved racialized communities. If you don’t see yourself reflected in the news, and you don’t see the connection between your community and policy issues, how motivated would you be to vote? How convinced would you be that you could effect change in your country — especially if the media rarely bothers to portray your perspective?

Of course, as many detractors of diversity and inclusion efforts have commonly but pointlessly argued, ethnic groups are not monolithic and have a diversity of thought, and race is just one pillar of a person’s identity. But few markers of identity are visible beyond race, and systemic racism is pervasive in Canada. Members of particular ethnic groups, especially visible-minority groups, will have shared experiences by virtue of their skin colour.

Ethnic media doesn’t even reflect citizens like me, a second-generation Canadian-born Chinese whose native language is English. To me, ethnic media is for my immigrant parents’ generation, not my friends and peers who grew up here.

There are ethnic media outlets in Canada, but they’re ghettoized in a two-tier system, where establishment media is seen as more legitimate and also seemingly absolved of covering issues that matter to immigrant Canadians in an in-depth way. Beyond that, ethnic media doesn’t even reflect citizens like me, a second-generation Canadian-born Chinese whose native language is English. To me, ethnic media is for my immigrant parents’ generation, not my friends and peers who grew up here. Unfortunately, these two audiences have been traditionally conflated, so there’s a gaping hole where news coverage should be for young, diverse Canadians.

Keeping this lack of relevant media presence and Canada’s long history of excluding people of colour from voting in mind, it’s no wonder eligible voters from some non-European communities have voted at lower rates than members of European communities, according to a 2007 Elections Canada study. Citing data from the Ethnic Diversity Survey of Statistics Canada, Elections Canada also reports that rates of voter participation are higher among foreign-born than Canadian-born people of colour.

Low voter turnout among people of colour will become a bigger problem for Canada if we don’t address it soon. StatsCan reports that among the country’s working-age population (ages 15 to 64), 20 percent identified themselves as “visible minority” in 2011 — a number that could double to nearly 40 percent by 2036.

When it comes to authentic pluralism, there’s a significant disconnect between how Canada perceives and portrays itself and what’s actually happening in this country.

Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy, in 1971, and it’s globally recognized as an arbiter of pluralism, so we tend to rest on our laurels regarding issues of race. It’s why, for so long, neither government nor the media seriously grappled with the country’s evolving cultural identity. Because there’s a sense that we’ve “achieved” multiculturalism in theory, Canadian political and media institutions are complacent and don’t frequently entertain conversations about our evolving cultural identity — much less move them forward. When it comes to authentic pluralism, there’s a significant disconnect between how Canada perceives and portrays itself and what’s actually happening in this country.

The 1971 Canadian Multiculturalism Policy and subsequent 1988 Canadian Multiculturalism Act, which came about after Canada became the first country in the world to pass a national multiculturalism law, were significant milestones. But they’ve had the sanitizing effect of falsely casting us as a perfect multicultural haven and as a foil to our unstable neighbour, America, with its unmanageable race problems.

In fact, contrary to popular belief, we’re far behind the United States in our discussions of race in the public sphere. Despite the extreme polarization in America, there’s an institutional and public willingness to talk about these issues that opens up dialogue and breaks down barriers. In Canada, we ignore the problem, so silos persist. In addition, this false sense that Canada is post-racial often has the effect of gaslighting people from racialized communities who continue to face discrimination today.

Given our British colonial past, Canada has a long history of defining its identity in terms of how un-American we are, so we resist embracing our neighbour’s practices for fear of surrendering to American cultural hegemony. But what is Canadian culture? Before the Second World War, it was synonymous with British and French culture, but that perception failed to take into account the tens of thousands of years of Indigenous cultures that predated Canada’s colonization. In fact, we didn’t have a clear, unified national identity of our own until after the war — and even now, it’s not one that all Canadians have embraced.

When it comes to filling in gaps in coverage for racialized communities in Canada, outlets here would be wise to follow in American media’s footsteps. Resistance to including these other narratives will only push Canadians into the arms of US publications — which have much more robust coverage of people of colour — and, ironically, put Canada on a path toward greater American cultural influence. We must evolve.

With Canada facing a rising populist tide and the incendiary language that tends to come with it, October’s election is an opportunity for all Canadian media to call things as they are. For example, journalists shouldn’t use “racially charged” or similar euphemisms when “racist” is more appropriate. The values underpinning multiculturalism are enshrined in our Constitution under section 27, so rather than seeking “balance,” the media must hold our leaders to account by challenging views and policies that are unconstitutional. The world, including Canada, is experiencing a historic moment that necessitates adversarial watchdog journalism.

The media should also move beyond reactive coverage of race that stokes outrage for outrage’s sake. Instead of a “he said, she said” style of reporting, journalists should provide context that breaks down Canada’s history of systemic racism and analyze how party policies will affect specific racialized communities (for example, they should examine why Indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable to climate change).

Outside of the election, the media should strive to capture the lived experiences of Canadians of colour (which, it’s important to note, are quite different from the experiences of Americans of colour). They should also keep up their recent increase in coverage of reconciliation and Canada’s Black Lives Matter movement. But I don’t want to see only stories of outrage — they paint a limited, black-and-white picture of racialized communities. I also want to see the nuanced spaces in between, where most people of colour live their lives: an intersectional take on climate change in Canada through a racial justice lens; a look at the historical contributions of Canadians of colour and how they impact us today; a deep dive into how second-generation Canadians are preserving their ancestors’ dying languages.

The media here must stop talking about Canada as if it’s an Anglo monoculture and start reflecting the multiculturalism that we proudly lay claim to but seldom live up to.

Source: Canadian media lacks nuance, depth on racial issues

Domise: Who gets to be a ‘teen’ and a ‘good kid’?

Worth reflecting on:

For a very long time, I’ve been of the mind that corporal punishment is detrimental for black children, and should be discouraged. Many in the Caribbean community would likely disagree; spare the rod, spoil the child is an axiom I learned from elders long before I first read its source quote in the Book of Proverbs. But it never sat well with me that black children, faced with a world that would capriciously limit their opportunities, fling them into the maw of the criminal justice system, and justify their murder at the hands of police and vigilantes, should come home—their only refuge against a world that fears and misunderstands them—only to be faced with more harsh discipline.

In her recent book Spare the Kids, journalist, anti-spanking advocate and Morgan State University professor Dr. Stacey Patton draws a solid line between corporal punishment and the violence of western colonialism, slavery, and genocide. The harsh treatment of white children endemic in Europe, Patton argues, gave way to a widespread belief in the innocence of children that stigmatized use of “cat-o’-nine-tails, shovels, canes, iron rods and sticks” in the 19th century.

In place of such punishment, which often resulted in infanticide, and wasn’t prosecuted for a long time, came the manual discipline we refer to today as spanking. “In other words,” writes Patton, “white people began to recognize the vulnerability of their own children and had to rescue them, if only partially, from this unthinkable close proximity to blackness and the brutality of childhood.”

For the African-descended and Indigenous people of the Americas, regarded as the most savage and therefore childlike members of the human race, the concept of childhood carries a much different import. All punishments allotted to them—floggings, rape, torture and murder—were not considered wanton violence, but instead the loving attempt of the white patriarch to drive savagery out of their bodies and instill the values of civilization. This belief, that black and Indigenous peoples must be refined through the disciplining of their bodies and minds, has lingered in the white psyche long after the emancipation of black people, and the recognition of Indigenous sovereignty.

It is a belief that white people, as humanity’s patriarchs, have a responsibility to discipline humanity’s children.

This belief is why the words “boy” and “girl” can become slurs when they slide off the white tongue, directed at grown adults. Meanwhile, our children are stamped from birth with the stigma of maturity; plenty of studies exist to show that our children are viewed as older and less innocent by teachers, police and other authority figures who are, by the oaths they take and the titles they wear, supposed to be children’s protectors.

This has tainted racialized communities with a social paradox that quickly ages children out of childhood in order to strip from them the aegis of innocence, yet also infantilizes our adults in order to subordinate them to white hegemony. Thus, acting in loco parentis, the brutality visited on racialized adults and children alike by authority figures—our schools, police, court systems—is not seen as cruel and unjust violence, but instead as a form of socialized corporal punishment, birthed by colonialism and nurtured institutions—our political class and mass media—which function as vestiges of white patriarchal hegemony.

The acceptance of this socialized corporal punishment, by white authority figures, is why Eric Casebolt (then a McKinney, Texas police officer) can throw a black child through the air, drag her by the hair, and slam her to the ground, and not only will he not be charged with a crime, a prominent white news anchor will comment “The girl was no saint, either.” It’s how former Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann can jump out of a police cruiser and summarily execute 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and have his actions covered by a municipality that blames Rice for failing to “exercise due care to avoid injury.” And it’s also how an all-white jury can acquit Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley of second-degree murder, even after Stanley admitted to aiming a handgun at Cree youth Colten Boushie and pulling the trigger.

Spare the rod and spoil the child. If there is no child to be found behind those savage eyes, then put down a threat.

On the other hand, white youth who commit atrocities in the name of white nationalism are not only draped in the innocence of childhood from birth, but are covered by its long tails into adulthood.

Consider the case of Kam McLeod and Bryan Schmegelsky, two young white men from Port Alberni, British Columbia, who are currently the subjects of a nationwide manhunt. Early on, when their disappearance shifted from missing teenagers to murder suspects, news media continued referring to them as “teens” and uncritically ran pull-quotes from community members who called them “boys.”

To be clear, these “boys,” 18 and 19 respectively, are not only prime suspects in the murders of three people, but Schmegelsky is alleged to have uttered violent threats to his classmates, and have a fascination with neo-Nazi imagery and organizations. Yet, their families have been offered uncritical coverage in Canadian news: McLeod’s father describing him as “kind, considerate and caring,” and Schmegelsky’s father describing his son as “a child in some very serious pain.”

Not long after McLeod and Schmegelsky’s alleged killings, 19-year-old Santino William Legan, of Gilroy, California, armed himself with a legally purchased AK-47 variant rifle, and opened fire at a local town festival. Three people were killed, two of them children, and another 12 people were injured by gunfire. Though Legan was himself killed in a shootout with police, and was found to have posted links to a white supremacist manifesto on one of his social media pages, he was—rather amazingly—described in a tweet by South Carolina-based The Greenville News as “a quiet teen who stayed out of trouble.”

The infantilizing and innocence-jacketing of white murderers and murder suspects is part and parcel of a long tradition; the childhood of New Zealand mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant (aged 28) was given an extensive profile by Australia’s The Daily Telegraph, Dylann Roof (aged 21) was described as a “sweet kid” corrupted by “internet evil” in coverage after his arrest, and was even brought a Burger King meal by police while in custody. Twenty-two-year-old Santa Barbara shooter Elliot Rodger’s “happy childhood” in England was covered by The Guardian, and it took years to debunk the myth that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the mass shooters at Columbine (aged 17 and 18 respectively), were lonely kids retaliating for a lengthy history of being bullied in school.

Rather than harsh social discipline, young white men who commit these heinous acts are faced with a society endlessly devoted to making sense of their crimes. Behind that, I believe, is a motivation to understand how white children brought up according to plan, and kept safe from exposure to socially corrupting elements—drugs, crime, pornography—could regress so drastically from civilization to savagery. Racialized children, on the other hand, are born into stigma and need no such understanding or explanation. Their already and always existing predisposition for delinquent behavior requires purging from their bodies, and if they happen to be injured or die in the process, well, they should have exercised due care.

I have no doubt that, when Schmegelsky and McLeod are finally apprehended, plenty of coverage will be devoted to figuring out where these young men went wrong. I also have no doubt that, even in the face of glaring evidence that white mass shooters are working from a well-established ideology that requires the removal—if not extermination—of non-white races for a harmonious society, plenty of coverage will be devoted to missing that point.

What I do doubt, however, is that the broader conversation on mass killings will land on the relationship between white supremacy and the power it grants white people (white men in particular) to inflict brutality on others, as well as the logics to justify it.  The social agreement to infantilize spree killers after they’ve passed into adulthood is only one factor in a broader environment of racialized patriarchy; one that warps them in to believing they are acting as soldiers in a race war, and every murder they commit, even against other white people (whom they often deem to be enablers of race-mixing and demographic replacement) is a swing of the rod for the good of society.

And this is why I believe corporal punishment inside the home to have such a damaging effect on black children. A world which grants them no childhood, no innocence, and no protection from physical harm against the people who believe they are entrusted with the responsibility to purge the world from the perceived savagery of our races, well, that’s a harsh enough world already. At the very least, they should find safe shelter from that world with their families, and inside their homes.

Source: Who gets to be a ‘teen’ and a ‘good kid’?

Media Coverage of Anti-Semitism, Racism Rise in Trump Era

Interesting media analysis, particularly the differences and absence of differences between coverage under the Obama and Trump administrations:

President Trump generated an uproar this week with his widely condemned comments regarding four Democratic lawmakers of color, coupled with a campaign rally in which attendees chanted “Send her back!” in reference to Rep. Ilhan Omar. A closer look at media coverage of the congresswoman’s own anti-Semitic comments earlier this year raises the question of whether the current uproar will pass with as little long-term impact. Answering that may hinge on whether the media finds a new Trump angle to focus on.

Looking back over the past decade, the timeline below shows the percentage of airtime by month on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News that mentioned “racism” or “racist” using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archiveprocessed by the GDELT Project.

From September 2010 to May 2013 there was a marked silent period in which mentions of racism largely disappeared from all three news channels. The acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin in July 2013 appears to have restarted the national conversation around race. This week’s remarks by Trump appear to have sparked the most attention to the topic of the past decade.

Notably, there does not appear to be any meaningful change in mentions of racism between Obama and Trump’s presidencies.

In contrast, coverage of anti-Semitism does appear to have increased sharply during Trump’s term. The timeline below shows coverage over the past decade that mentioned the words “anti-Semitism” or “anti-Semitic” or “antisemitism” or “antisemitic.”

The topic attracted almost no attention during Obama’s presidency, but has received several bursts of coverage since Trump’s July 2016 “Star of David” Clinton tweet first prompted accusations of anti-Semitism. Interestingly, Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitic tweets in March 2019 received far less attention, with Fox News covering them more than CNN and MSNBC combined.

In each case, the story faded within a week. Looking at the broader topic of discrimination, the timeline below shows coverage mentioning “discrimination” or “discriminatory” or “discriminated” or “discriminating.”

Beginning July 2015, the month after Trump declared his candidacy, coverage of discrimination largely disappeared from all three channels and has remained far below Obama-era levels through the present. It is unclear what may be driving this shift, since anti-Semitism coverage has increased, but coverage of racism remains unchanged.

One possibility is that the stations have devoted so much of their airtime to Trump over the past four years, with just over 9% of their total airtime mentioning his name thus far this month.

Looking more closely at the timeline above, the fact that Trump’s media profile has been steadily shrinking could also help explain his attack on the four Democrats. Trump has a long history of adopting controversial and media-genic stances in periods of declining media coverage as a way to boost attention.

Putting this all together, it is likely that just as Omar’s anti-Semitic remarks this past March faded from interest within a week, so too will the media move on from Trump’s remarks this week.

RealClear Media Fellow Kalev Leetaru is a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber & Homeland Security. His past roles include fellow in residence at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government.

Source: Media Coverage of Anti-Semitism, Racism Rise in Trump Era

Most UK news coverage of Muslims is negative, major study finds

Not unique to the UK, both in terms of coverage and which outlets have greater negative focus:

Most coverage of Muslims in British news outlets has a negative slant, according to a major analysis by the Muslim Council of Britain, which concludes that news stories in the mainstream media are contributing to Islamophobia.

The study found the Mail on Sunday had the most negative coverage of Islam, with 78% of its stories featuring Muslims having negative themes – above an already-high industry average of 59%.

The New Statesman, Observer and Guardian were the least likely to portray Muslims in a negative light, according to the analysis of 11,000 articles and news broadcasts during the final three months of last year.

The findings come amid growing scrutiny of Islamophobia in the Conservative party and whether its roots lie in rightwing media coverage. A YouGov poll of Tory members by the campaign group Hope Not Hate found that 60% believe “Islam is generally a threat to western civilisation” and more than half believe “Islam is generally a threat to the British way of life”.

Source: Most UK news coverage of Muslims is negative, major study finds

Trump Is Right That “Much Can Be Learned” From Australia’s Immigration Policies.

Some valid points about the risks of normalizing xenophobic discourse, rather than having more neutral wording to describe issues:

Australia’s asylum policies—which see asylum-seekers languishing for years under inhumane conditions in offshore detention centers in Papua New Guinea and Nauru—are already a source of great shame for many Australians. Widely condemned by human rights groups and the United Nations, the policies contravene various human rights charters, including the 1951 Refugee Convention and even the Convention Against Torture. A U.N. report called on Australia to close the offshore centers, finding “inadequate mental health services, serious safety concerns and instances of assault, sexual abuse, self-harm and suspicious deaths; and about reports that harsh conditions compelled some asylum seekers to return to their country of origin despite the risks that they face there.” Just last week, a former detainee who spent six years on Manus Island begged the U.N. Human Rights Council to hold Australia to account, calling the centers—not just the circumstances they were fleeing—a humanitarian crisis.

But when Donald Trump—the U.S. president whose administration separates children from their families to deter asylum-seekers—says there is much to be learned from Australia’s immigration policies, it’s a fresh reminder of just how bad things have become.

On his way to a working dinner with newly reelected Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the G-20 summit in Japan last week, Trump tweeted out four Australian government flyers, noting that “much can be learned” from them:

It’s not the first time Trump has praised Australia’s hard-line policies: In 2017, then–Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was attempting to convince Trump to uphold a deal negotiated under the Obama administration for the U.S. to resettle detained asylum-seekers who had been attempting to reach Australia. When Turnbull explained Australia’s policy of not accepting those who seek asylum via boat, Trump reportedly told him, “We should do that too. You are worse than I am.”

Trump is reportedly a fan of Turnbull’s successor, Morrison, repeatedly comparing his recent surprise upset to his own (and, of course, declaring that he saw it coming). It’s not clear where Trump saw the Morrison posters, but they seem to represent a friendly little tip from one tough-on-borders leader to another, just as the image of a drowned Salvadoran migrant father and daughter made headlines around the globe.

The lesson Trump presumably wants to draw from these posters is how better to deter people from seeking asylum—something those people have every right to do under international law. As Trump said when he saw the viral image from the U.S. border, “A very very dangerous journey. And by the way many other things happened. Women being raped; women being raped in numbers nobody believed.” The Australian government often justifies its cruelty as a deterrent: to discourage refugees from making the “very very dangerous journey” by sea by making it clear that they will never be settled in Australia, and will suffer greatly if they try to be. It’s for their own good, the government says while simultaneously stoking fears of a flood of boats making their way to Australia if they weaken their system even slightly—punishment in the name of protection.

As Kon Karapanagiotidis—founder and CEO of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and one of the most outspoken refugee advocates in Australia—laid out in a reply to Trump’s tweet, there is a swath of horrors to learn from Australia, if abject cruelty and maximum suffering are what you’re aiming for.

The most obvious thing for the U.S. to learn from Australia is not to go down this path. This should be obvious enough, from the list Karapanagiotidis shared, from the conditions these human beings live under with no end in sight.

But there is an especially acute lesson to take away from this about not allowing cruelty to become normalized. Just like in the United States, this has been an incremental slide for Australia. Many of the asylum-seekers who try to reach Australia attempt to come by boat via Southeast Asia. Mandatory detention of these migrants for the assessment of “unlawful arrivals,” implemented in the early ’90s by a Labor government with a 273-day limit, soon became offshore detention. The 2000s conservative coalition government implemented the “Pacific Solution,” interning asylum-seekers on nearby island nations instead. Temporary detention soon became seemingly permanent, with a later coalition government declaring that no asylum-seeker who arrives by boat will ever be allowed to live in Australia, regardless of the legitimacy of her claim. (The only options for detainees are to return to their home countries, something they are often pressured to do, or wait for a resettlement deal to be negotiated.) The system has become increasingly secretive, with the media unable to access the camps, and those working within them facing jail time if they leak information.

It’s not too late for the U.S. to avoid this path. As Jason Wilson wrote in the Guardian just a few days before Trump drew the comparison, “Australia’s camps are now baked into its national politics. … The longer that they are in place in the US, Italy and elsewhere, the more likely it is that in those countries, too, they will become permanent features of the political landscape.”

At first, the U.S. left seemed to be doing a good job at this—something Australia could learn from. The left rallied fiercely against the Trump administration family separation policy when it first came out that children were being kept in detention facilities, forcing Trump to sign a June 2018 executive order putting an end to the practice. At the time, the hearteningly effective use of protest made me sad about Australia’s own failure to mobilize effectively or early enough against its now-ingrained inhumane policies.

However, after Trump signed the executive order, returning many traumatized children to their families, that outrage seemed to simmer out—despite hundreds of children remaining in detention. Recent weeks have seen the issue reenter the public consciousness, with the discovery that many more children were separated than first thought, and an inspection of a Clint, Texas, detainment center revealing appalling conditions. There has been a renewed push, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to again label these kinds of camps “concentration camps,” which, accurate or not, has reenergized opposition to them and turned the facilities into a central issue for 2020 Democratic candidates. But outrage fatigue is real, and the second rarely matches the first. Australia may be beyond the capacity to feel outrage at this point, with reports of a mental health crisis—dozens of detainee suicide attempts and acts of self-harm since the unexpected reelection of Australia’s conservative government in May—barely moving the needle.

There are also lessons for the U.S. media to be taken from Australia. It is essential that journalists keep reporting on and scrutinizing the horrific conditions in these detention facilities and keep finding ways to get the message across. But perhaps most importantly, they need to fight any efforts to impose laws or policies banning access to the centers for journalists and advocates, as the Australian government did in 2015, passing the draconian Australian Border Force Act, which made it a criminal offense for whistleblowers to reveal anything that happens in the detention centers to the media. Journalists have little access themselves, with the Pacific nations that house Australia’s detention centers refusing almost all journalist visa requests—something that Australia is believed to have had a hand in. For the most part, all the Australian public now gets from inside these camps are rare leaked recordings and the Twitter feeds of prominent detainees. Australian journalists and advocates fought this law, and I don’t mean to demean or question their efforts here. But it’s important for the U.S. media to take heed. Images and reports have proved incredibly potent in swaying public opinion, and so, from Trump’s perspective, a lesson here might be to implement something similar.

There are lessons, too, for Democrats to learn from Australia’s major left party, the Labor Party, not to bow to public pressure to be “strong” and “tough” on border control. Despite recent efforts to provide some relief, in the form of a bill allowing for the temporary transfer of detainees to Australia for medical or psychiatric treatment passed in Parliament with the support of Labor and a number of independents, Labor has proved spineless on the issue, with mandatory offshore detention now more or less a bipartisan policy.

Many in the party may oppose the practice, but overall, Labor is afraid to differentiate itself from the right, lest it be labeled weak on national security—something the coalition has attempted to do in the wake of Labor showing the smallest ounce of compassion in helping pass the medical transfer bill. Democrats need to decide how they intend to fight this system, rather than just try to alleviate some of the suffering it creates. Some argue that billions in emergency funding for the southern border only props up the system, advancing a fundamentally inhumane set of policies.

Trump’s desire to “learn” from a horrific policy that has been repeatedly slammed by the U.N. Human Rights Council is hardly surprising. But for once, he’s right—in a sense. There are many lessons to be learned from Australia. The most important? Take note of them before a system becomes seemingly too ingrained to do much about it.

Source: Trump Is Right That “Much Can Be Learned” From Australia’s Immigration Policies.

Macpherson: Quebec’s Fox News, only bigger

Of note, and the consequent implications:

For their shrill populism, the Québecor media have been called Quebec’s Fox News. But in terms of their influence on this province’s politics, they’re much bigger than that.

Last weekend, in the annual Quebec journalism awards, Québecor’s newspapers, television channels and digital media were shut out.

But its flagship daily Le Journal de Montréal boasted of survey results suggesting that on all platforms, the three Québecor dailies were read at least once a week by more than half of Quebecers over the age of 14.

And Québecor’s TVA network bragged that its newscasts and LCN all-news channel led the television ratings in their respective categories.

This market domination by the Québecor media, and their resulting influence on public opinion, help explain poll results published this week suggesting that Quebec is the only province where a majority supports legislation like Bill 21.

The Legault government’s proposed anti-hijab-and-kippah-and-turban bill is supposed to settle, after more than a decade, the issue of accommodating minority religions. As the Bouchard-Taylor provincial commission on the subject reported in 2008, that issue was largely created by sensationalist and often inaccurate reporting by Québecor. And it’s mainly Québecor that has kept the issue alive.

In December 2017, TVA reported that a Montreal mosque had female construction workers removed from a work site outside during Friday prayers. The report was quickly debunked, but it wasn’t until a year later that TVA grudgingly admitted it was false and apologized.

Instead of editorials, Québecor’s dailies have columnists who circulate among its “convergent” platforms defending the supremacy of what one of them, Mathieu Bock-Côté, calls Quebec’s “historic French-speaking majority” — that is, ethnic French-Canadians — against the province’s minorities and other enemies of the true people.

Last January, another Le Journal columnist, Denise Bombardier, called minorities who complain of their treatment in the province “enemies … of French-speaking Quebec.” And she issued a call to “extinguish these hotbeds of intolerance,” even though she acknowledged it might be used by the “hotheaded and violently prejudiced.”

Le Journal’s columnists have clout. The non-binding 2017 National Assembly motion against the public use of English, in the form of the bilingual “bonjour-hi” greeting in businesses, resulted from a campaign spearheaded by one of them, Sophie Durocher.

Another, Richard Martineau, is obsessed with “Islamism” and has been accused of Islamophobia, which he denies.

In 2017, TVA’s rival Radio-Canada reported that in the previous 10 years, Martineau had written about 700 columns directly or indirectly concerning Islam.

A UQAM sociologist, Rachad Antonius, told Radio-Canada he had concluded from a study of Le Journal’s news coverage and columns on Islam that their cumulative effect fostered distrust of Muslims.

But if “Islamists” are a Martineau dog whistle, they may not be his only one. A cheerleader for Bill 21, he predicted that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will come under pressure to challenge the legislation from “followers of multiculturalism who live in Hampstead or Côte-Saint-Luc,” Montreal suburbs widely identified with their Jewish residents.

Québecor’s domination of the marketplace puts pressure on other media to follow its lead, in both news coverage and opinion. And its position may get even stronger, as its competitors get weaker.

The same day that Le Journal boasted of its readership, its main competitor, La Presse, published another plea for reader donations.

From 250,000 paying subscribers when it was still charging for its journalism, the number of its financial supporters willing to donate money to keep reading La Presse has shrunk to a total of 23,500 donors for the past four months.

This was after Le Journal reported last week that La Presse and another of Québecor’s competitor, Quebec City’s daily Le Soleil, are in serious financial trouble, and have asked the Legault government for help.

It said the government is “particularly pessimistic” about the future of Capitales Médias, which owns Le Soleil and five small regional dailies. And it said that, despite La Presse’s campaign to raise $5 million in donations, it could be broke within a year.

Source: Macpherson: Quebec’s Fox News, only bigger

Migrants and the media: what shapes the narratives on immigration in different countries – The Conversation

Interesting comparisons:

If you want to spoil a movie for yourself, wait for a nice dramatic moment and then imagine what it was like to shoot it: the cameras, sound and lighting crews all around; the portable toilets round the back; the half-finished bowl of crisps on the catering table. If a film is to succeed, it needs us to suspend our disbelief and not think about the process.

But when we consume news media, we need to do the opposite – and think carefully about how and why these products were made. When it comes to reporting on polarising and contentious issues such as migration, what happens behind the scenes in media organisations can affect not only how we think about the issue, but even policy itself.

Our team of researchers from the University of Oxford’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), the Budapest Business School and the European Journalism Centre based at Maastricht in the Netherlands, has been working to turn the camera around on news production in Europe. Our objective was to understand why different themes and narratives about migration have taken hold in different countries – and what factors contributed to the people creating these stories operating so differently.

We interviewed more than 200 journalists and key media sources (such as government migration spokespeople, NGOs and think tanks) in nine EU countries, looking at their personal reasons for working the way they did and the institutional, social and political norms that shaped their outputs.

For example – compare this Swedish newspaper reporter who is very positive about the role of journalism: “I enjoy great respect. People listen to what I say and want to hear my opinion”, with this UK newspaper journalist: “Even my own friends hate the fact that I work here and think I’m a disgrace, but I’ve just learned to ignore it and I just get on with my work.”

The same two journalists articulate very different ways of reporting migration. The Swedish journalist describes their approach to reporting on non-EU migrants who are not fleeing persecution or seeking asylum:

Globalisation is a positive force. We rarely write something negative. Labour force migration is positive.

Contrast with this the UK journalist’s explanation of how they would use the term “migrant”, in general:

To be brutally honest, it’s more likely to be people who are a burden on society than those who are a benefit to society, because there is more newsworthiness in a foreign criminal or a teenager who’s being looked after by the council than, say, a brilliant academic who’s come here to further their career … so from our perspective it’s more newsworthy if people are abusing the system or exploiting loopholes or abusing the hospitality being extended to them by British society … because that triggers a reaction in readers.

Both reporters work for newspapers and both cover the issue of migration, but they describe very differently both the place they occupy in society, and the subject they report on.

Matter of perception

Reporting is a fundamentally human process – ideas, data, and anecdotes all pass through reporters, whose perceptions of the world, areas of interest and biases are all affected by various national, social, institutional and political factors. Some are obvious and affect their immediate working experience – such as what they imagine their proprietor or editor might want to read or see. Others are more abstract – such as their sense of responsibility to help people, or to “tell it like it is, warts and all”. This can have a big impact on the reporting of a sensitive issue such as immigration.

These sometimes competing pressures affect everything from what a reporter perceives will actually constitute a valid story, to the words they will use to tell that story. For example, here is a Hungarian broadcast journalist talking about the importance of terminology to the immigration debate:

We prefer to use the term ‘refugee’, as the word ‘migrant’ might sound correct in English, but in Hungarian a ‘migrant’ is an enemy who will kill us. Therefore, we call them ‘refugees’ … We could use the term ‘migrant’, but it is a delicate one as it is widely used by pro-government propaganda.

This national context is critical. Different media traditions are contingent on national history: experiences of migration differ from country to country and even norms of the role of journalism can be fundamentally different.

In Spain and Italy we found it common for reporters to highlight the expectation that they should make an emotional connection with the reader. In Germany and Sweden there was more focus on technical reporting. In some states with a recent history of autocratic government – such as Hungary – there was a more obvious effort by governments to try to influence reporting than in more established democracies.

But government influence was also felt in more nebulous and indirect ways in some countries where the ideal of press freedom was highly prized. Personal connections between politicians and powerful individuals within media organisations are known and understood by reporters, who consider this when they choose how to report issues. One UK newspaper journalist said the owner of the paper was always in their mind when reporting on a story: “There is an awareness of the owner’s circle of friends – he knows lots of influential people – and [awareness of] his enemies.”

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that journalists both shape – and are shaped by – their national policy discourse on migration. Reporters consider, of course, the factual question of “what has happened?”, but other variables also shape the world in which they operate: including what their audiences expect, how the story has been reported by other media, what may get the reporter into trouble, what the editor thinks of the issue and what sells.

Press culture

The way different national media report migration both emerges from cultural practices within media organisations, but also reinforces them. This can have profound impacts on policy outcomes. For example, the culture within UK media – particularly within newspapers – is particularly focused on winning political victories. Would the Brexit referendum result have been the same if it was more moderate?

German journalists, on the other hand, were particularly focused on moderation and social justice. The country may have reacted differently to receiving a million asylum seekers if the nation’s media had been less homogenous in this approach.

Finally, Hungary has developed a “patron and client” model of government relations with media. Would the administration of Victor Orban, the prime minister, have been able to implement its radical anti-immigration policies if the media were less dependent on government and had a greater degree of editorial freedom?

These questions are hypothetical, of course. But by drawing attention to the process of media production, rather than just content, we highlight the need for thoughtful scrutiny of media practices, that may, in turn help lead to better understanding of media and its role within policy-making in the future.

Source: Migrants and the media: what shapes the narratives on immigration in different countries – The Conversation

Tolley: Racialized and women politicians still get different news treatment

I am a great fan of Erin Tolley’s work. Some good words of advice to journalists covering politics and other spheres:

In the days after Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation from federal cabinet, reportssuggested she was difficult, not a team player, and even “mean.” Supportersdenounced this framing and pointed to its gendered and racialized undertones, a criticism with which the prime minister eventually agreed. Even so, media coverage came complete with editorial cartoons depicting Wilson-Raybould bound, gagged and beaten. Although the cartoons were largely condemned, some commentators derided the critics as overly sensitive, while of one of the cartoonists blamed faux-outrage and virtue-signalling.

As the days wore on, a caucus colleague suggested that Wilson-Raybould couldn’t handle the pressure of her cabinet position. Others argued that the evident cabinet discord is a predictable outcome of the government’s focus on “identity politics,” with one columnistsaying the prime minister had “been hoisted by his own petard.”

The media and political institutions have both edged toward more inclusivity, but women and racialized minorities remain, as former journalist Vivian Smith has put it, “outsiders still.” This outsider status partly reflects basic demographics: Parliament, newsroomsand the parliamentary press gallery are still mostly made up of white men. But it is also indicative of the ways that race and gender structure politics.

I have researched news coverage and found systemic differences in the ways white and racialized politicians are covered by journalists. Similar patterns exist in media coverage of women in politics. As I point out in my 2016 book, Framed: Media and the Coverage of Race in Canadian Politics, these patterns are longstanding, so as the 2019 federal election campaign kicks into high gear, we are likely to see more of the same.

Racialized candidates’ coverage is as plentiful but more negative than that of white candidates. Their coverage focuses less on politically salient issues and is more likely to mention aspects of the candidate’s background like their race, immigration status or religion than is the case for white candidates. Racialized candidates are less likely to be quoted and more likely to be featured in stories that are buried on the inside pages of print editions. These patterns give racialized candidates less visibility and credibility.

Race influences how journalists decide to frame and portray their subjects. This type of coverage cues voters to apply racial considerations to their evaluations of politicians. It is grounded in assumptions about the meaning, importance and consequences of race. One aspect of this process is to assume that race is only relevant to subjects with minority racial backgrounds. Because of this, stories will often advance racial explanations in the coverage of racialized subjects but not in those about white subjects.

So, for example, when the news media do shine a light on racialized politicians, that coverage often frames them as a product of their demography. After the US midterm elections in 2018, which saw a record number of women candidates and several “historic firsts,” much of the coverage focused on the candidates who “broke race and gender barriers” and would be heading to Congress. There’s nothing wrong with covering these trailblazers, but the focus on their socio-demographic backgrounds conceals the other qualifications that they bring with them, including their professional credentials, community organizing and political acumen. The focus on socio-demographics has the effect of suggesting electoral success was a function of these candidates’ race or gender and that the backgrounds of white or male politicians did not factor into their victories.

Racialized women break the political mould in two ways: once on account of their gender and again on account of their race. Their media coverage bears the marker of their intersecting identities.

In my work, I have documented the portrayal of racialized women serving as members of Parliament in Canadian print news coverage since 1993. In addition to highlighting the novelty of racialized women politicians, there is a tendency to exoticize them.

In a 2008 Toronto Star news story, then-Bloc Québécois MP Vivian Barbot was described as having a “captivating smoky voice.” In a 2009 column in the Globe and Mail, Ruby Dhalla was referred to as “a young drop-dead gorgeous, Indo-Canadian woman,” while a list of “10 things you should know about Ruby Dhalla” that appeared in the same paper said the Liberal MP is “like something out of a Bollywood movie.”

Some argue that media framing is simply a reflection of a candidate’s self-presentation. For example, in speeches and interviews, Olivia Chow, a longtime Toronto city councilor, MP and one-time mayoral candidate often referenced her background as an immigrant and woman of colour. Her background helps to explain her political activism, but Chow herself suggests it is also a response to the racism and sexism she endured on the campaign trail. Her treatment included an editorial cartoon that depicted her with exaggerated slanted eyes, dressed as a Maoist communist, and riding on her late husband’s coattails. The race and gender of white male politicians is rarely mentioned: they are portrayed as the neutral standard. Chow tried to counteract this tendency by framing her own narrative rather than leaving it up to the media.

The ways in which the media cover political candidates partly comes down to what news outlets think will interest their viewers and readers. Journalists consider timeliness, relevance and novelty when deciding what stories to cover, what angle to adopt and who to quote.

The Canadian Press Stylebook, a reference for print journalists, provides some guidelines. In its section on race and ethnicity, journalists are counseled to “identify a person by race, colour, national origin or immigration status only when it is truly pertinent.” However, it goes on to say that “race is pertinent in reporting an accomplishment unusual in a particular race: for example, if a Canadian of Chinese origin is named to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.”

The standard of a racially unusual accomplishment is not echoed in the section on sexism, which instead instructs journalists to “Treat the sexes equally and without stereotyping. . . . The test always is: Would this information be used if the subject were a man?” By contrast, there is no mention of this kind of reverse test in the section on race and ethnicity. There, journalists are not counseled to ask, “Would this information be used if the subject were white?” In other words, when determining what is relevant, the standard that journalists are advised to apply is different for race than it is for gender.

Although those in the media and those in politics might each be loath to admit it, these institutions share a common lineage, resting on foundations that are both racialized and gendered. In the political realm, for example, racist restrictions barred some Canadians from voting, sometimes until well into the 20th century. In other words, politicians and the news media are navigating institutions marked by racialized assumptions, not to mention prejudice, patriarchy and classism.

In this context, racialized women candidates stand out, and their atypicality provides journalists with what seems like a novel hook for a story.

The way for journalists to improve the fairness of their coverage is not to ignore race and gender altogether, but instead to use the same standard when deciding on the hook for stories, the way they will be framed, and which details they will focus on when they are covering white men and racialized women. Race and gender are as much factors in the political trajectories of successful white men as they are in the stories of racialized women who have triumphed. News coverage should reflect this.

Source: Racialized and women politicians still get different news treatment

Birth Tourism: Media interest following my Policy Options piece (updated)

While I had expected considerable media interest, given the substance and the politics of the issue, yesterday had me doing TV interviews on all major networks and a radio interview with Rob Breakenridge of Global news in Calgary.

The most in-depth TV interview was on Power and Politics at the 1:13 mark: Power and Politics 23 Nov 2018.

Global TV:  New numbers show more ‘birth tourism’ in Canada than thought

CTV: New data shows birth tourism on the rise on Canada

Later interviews

On Radio Canada Vancouver (in French):

Boulevard du Pacifique: La Colombie-Britannique, chef de file du tourisme des naissances

CTV’s Your Morning:

Shocking new study reveals “birth tourism” in Canada is steadily increasing

The Sunday Edition, with Michael Enright, featuring mmigration lawyer Jamie Liew and Jas Johal, MLA for Richmond-Queensboroug: Birth tourism may be a hot button issue in the next federal election

 

Government closely watching public opinion on asylum seekers, docs show

Duh!

The federal government has been closely monitoring public reaction to the influx of asylum seekers in Canada — regularly conducting national surveys and measuring discussions on social media.

Documents released to The Canadian Press under access-to-information law show department officials receive weekly internal updates on media coverage and public response to issues related to asylum seekers coming irregularly into the country across the Canada-U.S. border.

This monitoring includes internal polling conducted by the Immigration Department to track public opinion about asylum seekers.

Two mid-year surveys of 2,000 Canadians, conducted by the department in March, suggested Canadians were not overly confident about Canada’s ability to manage the border at unguarded points-of-entry and had little sense of obligation about accepting asylum seekers from the United States.

Fewer than half of respondents — 43 per cent in a telephone survey and 35 per cent in an online survey — agreed that Canada is taking appropriate steps to manage irregular border crossings.

Forty-two per cent of telephone respondents and just 18 per cent of those online indicated they felt the number of people coming to Canada and claiming asylum was at an appropriate level.

“Canadians are more receptive to refugees who have been selected by the government of Canada compared to those who come to Canada and claim asylum,” the internal document notes as one of its key takeaways from the public survey.

The documents also show the Immigration Department closely measures public comment about asylum seekers on social media. This includes a weekly average of how many times the issue is mentioned every day.

The government also measures the number of times media stories published about asylum seekers include “myths countering messaging.”

It also uses social media as a tool to disseminate information as part of its outreach efforts to discourage irregular migrants from coming to Canada.

A targeted advertising campaign using search engine marketing to reach key populations in the U.S. was launched on Dec. 18, 2017 and continued until March 17, 2018, which included “targeted messaging based on users’ search terms to users in select U.S. cities where larger temporary protected status populations are found,” the internal document states.

Canada first began experiencing an influx of “irregular” border crossers in early 2017, shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would end a program that offered temporary protected status to immigrants from several countries in the United States.

Over 36,000 asylum seekers have since arrived in Canada from the U.S., avoiding official border checkpoints where they would have been turned back to the U.S. under the Safe Third Country agreement between the two countries. Instead, they have been crossing the border along forest paths and fields, declaring their intent to seek refugee status once on Canadian soil.

The issue has sparked calls for Canada to suspend or amend the Safe Third Country Agreement as a way to stop the flow of irregular migrants.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair points to the fact that there was not a major surge in the number of irregular border crossers apprehended by RCMP this summer compared to last summer.

“Our senior officials are working hard, they are working hard and they are managing the situation quite ably,” Blair said Thursday.

However, year-over-year numbers show that overall, more people have crossed irregularly into Canada so far this year compared to the number of individuals who crossed from January to September of 2017.

Source: Government closely watching public opinion on asylum seekers, docs show