"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wSaturday, June 28, 2003

OVERPLAYING THE RIGHT HAND: Arguments about ideology and the failure of The Report are already becoming tiresome to me, so I suspect most readers have had their fill. That said, there is one wrong impression that I wish to correct, especially because it is being reinforced by the Byfields.

In a slapdash piece for the National Post, Ted Byfield claimed that The Report was the public voice of Christianity in Canada. During an interview with Lifesite, Link said the pro-lifers would be hardest hit by this, and one Paul Tuns, editor of a Toronto-based "life and family newspaper" called Interim, which covers "abortion, euthanasia, the gay-rights agenda, feminism, educational choice, judicial activism and religious freedom, among other issues," invited former Report readers to come on in, the water's fine.

The thing is, sure, The Report was a socially conservative magazine, and it ran a mostly liberal-baiting regular column by Ted and Virginia Byfield called "Orthodoxy," but it was always more than a "life and family newspaper." The U.S. has a several dozen non-liberal media outlets -- the Weekly Standard, Reason, National Review, Chronicles, the American Spectator, etc --, a large religious press, and a cable network. Canada has the occasional right-of-center regional paper (e.g., the Ottawa Citizen, the Calgary Herald), the imploding National Post, a few small religious weeklies (e.g., the Interim, the B.C. Christian News), and a big hole where The Report used to be.

What The Report did was take all those groups that would be at each other's throats in the U.S. and cram them into one magazine. You had libertarians (Colby Cosh, Jeremy Lott, Kevin Steel, Ilana Mercer put in a few guest appearances), paleocons (Kevin Michael Grace), Catholics (Link, Terry O'Neill), Baptists (Mike Byfield), atheists (Colby Cosh, Paul Bunner), pro-lifers (Joanne Byfield), pro-choicers (Cosh), neocons (Bunner), prohibitionists (Joanne, O'Neill, Mike on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and every other Sunday), legalizers (Cosh, Buner, myself), and users (I'd probably better not say).

Which is a long way of saying that if The Report had a theme song, it wouldn't be "Onward Christian Soldiers" (though I doubt if it would be "Oh Canada" either). In fact, the magazine rarely had a uniform editorial position on any issue. For instance, when people would complain to me about the seemingly endless downpour of drug scare stories, I would surprise them by saying that, in 1997, the mag ran a cover story calling for the legalization of pot (indeed, here's an example of Cosh playing whack-a-mole with O'Neill's statistics).

The angle of the argument about the Report's passing that has been underplayed is the conviction that pretty much all Reportsters shared in common: The belief that the West is getting screwed: by the federal government, by treaties with both foreign powers (e.g., Kyoto) and local tribes, by the courts, and by the effete snobs in the Eastern media. More likely to hold the staff together than taxes or abortion or any other issue was resentment that Alberta in particular is being treated as a second class province. And this is not an issue on which they were in a minority. In the last decade, Albertans tried to shift the balance of power back toward the provinces by creating first the Reform then the Alliance parties, only to see their candidates rebuffed by voters in Eastern provinces, and the current incompetent management returned to power. We can look at this, as some have suggested, in terms of Western social conservatives versus Eastern liberals, or we can look at this as Albertans tend to do, in terms of a broader struggle: It was about the East keeping the West in its place.

posted by Jeremy at 4:29 PM