The right-wing Canadian media establishment unleashed one of its loudest barking dogs this week as Maclean’s Andrew Coyne tried to tear a strip off the Occupy Wall Street movement in Canada.
Coyne’s cover story acknowledged that anyone living in the United States would have “good reason to be ticked” because of the wide range of serious problems in that country, but then, talking about Canada, he cited dozens of often odd statistics to attempt to show that, except for the poorest-of-the poor, things are hunky-dory here.
Coyne sets up a straw man, falsely saying that the justification for the Occupy movement is based largely on the claim that the top 1 per cent is exploiting the other 99 percent. Using more stats, he claimed that, while the top 1 per cent in the U.S. in 2007 (not counting capital gains) included anyone making about $400,000, the equivalent income figure for Canadians was about $170,000.
So the headline of the article contends that the Occupy movement in Canada is “A phoney class war” because we don’t have a huge number of people who earn millions of dollars every year.
He is right on this point, but it hardly makes the Occupy movement “A phoney class war” – as claimed in the title.
The real point of the Occupy movement and missed by Coyne is that the powerful and wealthy ruling class in Canada – perhaps 10 or 15 per cent, not 1 per cent, of the population – have been appropriating the resources belonging to the rest of us for more than 30 years.
Nowhere in the article does Coyne address many of the key issues Canadian Occupy supporters are angry about, such as the cost of student education, a lack of employment for young people, a real unemployment rate of some 13 per cent, high household debt, a lack of savings, and the undermining of our pension system.
Moreover, both Canadians and Americans are protesting the handling of the world economy by the neo-liberal elites that Coyne admires and cosies up to. The powerful, the banks, and subordinate governments across the west continue to lurch from crisis to crisis. They are obviously incapable of stabilizing the economy let alone satisfying the needs of everyday citizens.
Coyne suggests that Canadians should be content because we have more consumer goods than ever before. “Since 1980, the percentage of Canadian homes with a dishwasher, for example, has more than doubled, from less than 30 per cent to 60 per cent. Fewer than one in 10 homes had a microwave oven in 1980; today it is upwards of 90 per cent.”
While the article is pretty much a sham, it deserves our attention because it is featured on the cover of once-trustworthy Maclean’s, which is read most weeks by more than 300,000 Canadians – many of whom, unfortunately, are overly trusting.
The article reveals more about Coyne and Maclean’s then about the Occupy movement.
Coyne was born into an elite Canadian family. He is the son of former Bank of Canada Governor James Coyne, most likely a member of our country’s top 1 percent. He is a charter member of a group of Canadian journalists who support the neo-liberal ideology of big business and the Harper Conservatives.
As National Editor of Maclean’s he has been with the magazine for four years. His highest profile gig is appearing on CBC-TV’s The National weekly segment At Issue.
A profile in the Ryerson Review of Journalism a few years ago labelled him Mighty Mouth for his outspoken, often critical behaviour. A man who espouses a strange mix of liberal and neo-liberal views, Coyne has liked to make a strong impact with his journalism over the years.
He does believe that it’s okay that a very small percentage of Canadians are stinking wealthy. “What exactly is the harm to others if a few people get obscenely rich?”, he writes in the article.
Coyne is not in favour of hiking taxes on the super rich – (here comes a right-wing myth) – because higher taxes would have a negative effect on a multi-millionaire’s desire to make more money. He adds higher taxes would also mean wealthy people would not declare all of their income – i.e. break the law.
Another problem with Coyne’s article is that, even when he tries to show a little compassion for the multitude by expressing concern for the poor, he shows no real empathy. His writing is cold and calculating.
Coyne’s poorly conceived attack on the only fresh progressive movement western countries have seen in many years does not reflect well on Maclean’s, but the magazine has published more than its share of shoddy articles in recent years.
Under the direction of Publisher Kenneth Whyte, Maclean’s has faced a number of charges of bad journalism and sensationalism. Three examples:
- In December 2007, the Canadian Islamic Congress filed complaints with three Canadian human rights bodies that Maclean’s published 18 Islamophobic articles between 2005 and 2007.
- In March 2010, the magazine was reprimanded by the Quebec Press Council for a controversial cover in 2009 that called Quebec the most corrupt province in Canada. Besides the headline, the publication triggered widespread outrage in the province by running a front-page photo of the beloved Bonhomme Carnaval snowman clutching a briefcase stuffed with cash.
- In November, 2010, a feature story about worries that too many Asians were attending Canadian universities brought charges of racism, as well as nearly close to 1,900 mostly angry on-line comments. The article was entitled: “Too Asian?”
I understand that many people boycott Maclean’s because of its misadventures in journalism. Coyne’s article is another reason to stay away from this Rogers’ product. Personally, I haven’t read the magazine for years.