For the last few weeks now the Prime Minister has been going all over the country to engage Canadians during town hall-style question and answer periods. Last week at a town hall stop in Edmonton, Prime Minister Trudeau responded tongue in cheek to a questioner by asking her to refer to mankind as peoplekind.
The young woman laughed, and the crowd applauded. Still, the interaction was odd. Even though it was clearly well received by the questioner, as she responded with “There you go, exactly. Yes. Thank you,” it somehow turned into an event that was garnering national and international media attention.
Commentators started deriding the prime minister for his mansplaining manterruption, virtue-signaling feminism, and more generally, for ushering in an era of political correctness gone terribly awry.
The prime minister has since apologized, saying that it was a dumb joke that he shouldn’t have made.
Anytime a politician has the good sense to apologize for remarks made, whether an errant tweet or in this case a bad joke, it’s commendable. However, the real issue here is that Trudeau’s remarks got so blown out of proportion precisely because so many Canadian journalists were perfectly fine with playing a truncated version of the clip devoid of any context. My own colleagues are not exempt from this either, as the shortened version was played multiple times all across the Global News Radio network.
The full exchange was remarkably easy to find online, and could have very effortlessly been played, while still making fun of the prime minister. After all, it was a lame joke, and it is the sort of thing that even defenders of the prime minister could find themselves rolling their eyes at. So why did so many journalists feel the need to spread misinformation?
After having seen the way the prime minister’s remarks were being received by right-wing media in America, the Toronto Star’s Washington correspondent Daniel Dale tweeted out a transcript of the exchange in its entirety.
Once the interruption and poor attempt at humour is given in the appropriate context of a longwinded question focused on maternal love, God the Mother, and women in the economy, it becomes patently clear that the prime minister’s worst offence is being that guy in your office who thinks his dad humour is legitimately hilarious.
To be fair, the fact that this misinformation spread with such fervour is ultimately innocuous. Nobody got hurt, (except for maybe the prime minister’s dad joke telling ego), and in the end, everyone will forget this happened a few days from now and we’ll all move on.
But there is a much larger issue here of a particular breed of journalist spreading misinformation, which at best is out of sheer ignorance or laziness, and at worst engaging in the willful promotion of a clip he or she knows doesn’t paint the full picture in order to advance their own narrative.
It’s one thing if outlets like Fox News are jumping on the prime minister and have no qualms over misrepresenting a situation in order to advance a false narrative of political correctness gone too far, or if someone like Piers Morgan puts out a column that reads like unhinged hate mail from a 20-something men’s rights activist. But it becomes an entirely different situation when respectable Canadian journalists at reputable Canadian outlets are on board with misrepresenting a situation.
For the glass half empty types, it starts to paint a worrying picture of Canada going the way of the United States when it comes to the increasingly polarized media atmosphere, and the loose relationship certain journalists are willing to undertake with the truth.
We live in a terrifying era wherein fake news and idle twitter fingers turned to nuclear trigger fingers pose a legitimate threat to international world order. It shouldn’t be too much to ask that those who are tasked with providing contextualized information actually do their jobs.
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