Pay Attention To Us, Eh?

April 25th, 2009 at 6:39 am | 3 Comments |

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On Friday, it was reported that Sen. John McCain had mistakenly claimed that some of the September 11 hijackers had entered the United States through Canada. “If only there had been some semi-major news story about this in the past few days,” a friend remarked to me sarcastically, “it could have jolted his memory.” Of course, my friend was referring to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s recent and outrageous suggestion that, “to the extent that terrorists have come into our country, or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it’s been across the Canadian border.”

The fact that McCain made this gaffe just days after Secretary Napolitano made a similar one is perhaps less of an indictment of Sen. McCain’s grasp of recent news as it is an indication of how little American media cares about misconceptions regarding Canada. As I write this article, twenty nine news outlets have reported on McCain’s comments. In this age of twenty-four hour American media feeding frenzies, where outlets regularly jump on gaffes with relish, only one American media outlet has written a story on it: Fox, the network on which McCain made the erroneous statement.

Sen. McCain may not have been aware of how annoyed Canadians were over the Napolitano Canada gaffe, simply because it was overshadowed in the American press by a report that Napolitano’s office released suggesting that U.S. veterans were susceptible to recruitment into radical, right-wing extremist causes. For example, one recent headline stated, “Napolitano apologizes for right-wing report as other comments draw criticism”. That’s what a serious affront against Canada has been relegated to: the waste-bin of “other comments”.

Unbeknownst to Canadians, the American press failed to focus on Napolitano’s foreign inaccuracies, instead preferring to report primarily on the Secretary’s domestic vilification of veterans. Thus, while Canadian national newspapers the Globe and Mail and the National Post joined forces with smaller urban newspapers to condemn Napolitano (the NP called her “about as knowledgeable about border issues as a late-night radio call-in yahoo”), the American media focused their reporting efforts elsewhere. I don’t blame Senator McCain for not reading the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix or the Hamilton Spectator. Rather, I blame the U.S. media’s failure to inform Americans of the facts relating to their most important neighbor.

Talk to any Canadian, and American indifference will come as little surprise. Canadians have been aware, complaining and making fun of American ignorance for years. Rick Mercer, a well-known Canadian comedian, practically built his reputation on a segment on Canadian television called “Talking to Americans”. In fact, notable appearances were made on this segment by such well-known politicians as former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who congratulated Canadians on “preserving their national igloo”, former President Bush, who appreciated Prime Minister “Jean Poutine’s” endorsement during the 2000 elections, and former Vice-President Al Gore, who acknowledged that Toronto was the capital of Canada (it’s Ottawa).

The U.S. media’s response to these two incidents has been quite unfortunate, and just might explain why Americans are so undereducated about basic Canadian facts. Reporters play an important function in informing the public, and need to pay more attention to my home country, which also happens to be America’s biggest trading partner and one of its closest allies. Of course, Canada may not be America’s biggest trading partner for long if someone doesn’t tell Janet Napolitano that Canada’s border with the United States is drastically less dangerous than Mexico’s, millions of workers on both sides of the border depend on cross-border trade for their jobs, and promoting security ‘parity’ on both Mexican and Canadian fronts would be devastating for mutual prosperity. Dear American reporters: pick up your note-pads, get set, go!

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • simon

    Sorry Tim, but your post is asinine.”Rather, I blame the U.S. medias failure to inform Americans of the facts relating to their most important neighbor.”What exactly do you suggest the media do? Run front-page factoids that say “The 9/11 highjackers did not come through Canada.” ?

  • lshadgett

    Might be helpful to actually include a fact or two rather than just assertion. Napolitano’s remark, actually, seems quite guarded and carefully worded. Is she wrong? Do more terrorists come into the US from Mexico than Canada? If so, show me.

  • mlindroo

    > … preferring to report primarily on the Secretarys> domestic vilification of veterans.”Vilification…” Is it really such an offense to bring up the non-zero risk of another Tim McVeigh? Of COURSE the vast majority of heroic Iraq vets (regardless of political persuasion!) will cope just fine, but a non-trivial fraction will end up in trouble as a result of traumatic experiences. The previous Administration brought up quite a few horror scenarios that were far less likely somebody trying to emulate Tim McVeigh. MARCU$