Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
Journalists are skeptical of politicians, unless those politicians are called Indian chiefs. Then reporters turn into stenographers, or even cheerleaders.
Take a politician named Theresa Spence. She’s been the toast of the Media Party for the past 26 days, the length of time she’s been on a hunger strike. Which is amazing, because even Gandhi never lasted more than 21 days on his hunger strikes. The IRA hunger strikers looked like skeletons by 26 days, and started dying weeks later. Not Spence — she’s still Rubenesque, walking around, doing interviews, all with her trademark double chin.
That’s not a comment on her attractiveness. It’s a comment on the Media Party’s love affair with the Idle No More protests. Reporters have simply stopped asking critical questions of politicians because they’re Indian.Last year, when Toronto’s conservative mayor, Rob Ford, announced he was going on a diet, the media mocked him, demanded to know his weight every day, and the Toronto Star proudly uploaded a video, taken on a cellphone, catching Ford going into a KFC.
Spence has admitted she’s snacking, even detailing her menu (fish soup and moose soup) but that hasn’t stopped the Media Party from reporting her hunger strike as not only true, but putting the saint precariously close to death. The CBC actually quoted a medical doctor — who had never examined her — saying she was in grave danger. That’s not just journalistic malpractice, it’s questionable medical ethics, too.
Idle No More is just an Aboriginal reboot of Occupy Wall Street. It has the same vague demands, summarized as “give us more free stuff.” It has the same low-level criminality — Occupy illegally squatted in parks and was heavy into drug use and public sex, while Idle No More prefers blockades of railroads. And they have the same supporters and organizers: Canada’s left-wing labour unions. And, of course, the Media Party.
Spence is a master media manipulator; she knew better than to do her dieting stunt up in Attawapiskat, where it hit -33 C this week, and was accessible only by airplane. She flew to Ottawa and pitched a teepee for the benefit of the bored Parliamentary Press Gallery. She also stayed in a hotel, but that was never shown on camera — it contradicted the narrative of a chief willing to make every sacrifice for her people.
That’s what a hunger strike is: A public declaration that you are willing to commit suicide in slow motion to achieve a higher purpose. What was Spence’s purpose? She demanded a meeting — a week long — with the prime minister and governor general. And, to Stephen Harper’s discredit, he caved in on Friday and will meet with First Nations leaders, including Spence, on Jan. 11.
There are more than600 Indian chiefs in Canada, the average reserve having about 1,000 people. Will everyone be able to command the PM’s appearance? Can others do that, too? But, again, for what? Why would Spence die for a meeting? What’s on her agenda?It couldn’t possibly be for more money — her Attawapiskat Indian band has received $90 million from Harper so far, and has just 1,500 people there. It’s just 300 homes.
Do the math: The Attawapiskat band received $34 million in 2011. And the local diamond mine spent $51 million in town. That’s $85 million, for 300 families. That’s $280,000 per family. Tax free.So how come so many in Attawapiskat live in leaky, cold shacks? Not the chief of course; she has a sturdy, well-heated house and drives an Escalade. Her boyfriend is the band manager — his contract is for $850 a day, plus expenses. Why does the band have $8.9 million in the stock market, in shares like Google and Pepsi and Exxon, but not enough money to fix some leaks? Why are there 21 politicans on the payroll of a tiny town? Why did Spence once bill the town $8,000 a month to manage the daycare?
Those are questions reporters might ask white politicians. But lucky for Spence, she’s Indian, so they don’t.