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Small Complaint To The CRTC About CHOI-FM

Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda.
How do you get big propaganda? You start with small propaganda!
(Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda. Source)

1) Introduction

Nature of the complaint: Incipient hateful propaganda toward opponents to Project Rabaska?
Reference number of the complaint: 324843
Radio station: CHOI-FM in Quebec City
Date and time of the event: 2006-Nov-15 around noon.
Name of the host: Mr. Stéphane Dupont

2) What I don't appreciate in the original radio broadcast

I don't know what the legal definition of "hateful propaganda" is in Canada, and I'm not an expert on the topic. On the other hand, I listened to the sound track for that radio broadcast (it lasts 21:21 minutes), and I have the impression that it's incipient hateful propaganda.

Here are a few typical characteristics of hateful propaganda (according to me), compared with excerpts from the broadcast:

2.1) Attribution of evil intentions to a group of citizens. Traditionally, hateful propaganda invents horrible intentions, and attributes them to the group of citizens it wants people to hate.

Examples: "there are lobby groups willing to do anything [...] they cause me to fear for my children"; "opponents to Rabaska [...] are willing that [...] the city be destroyed"; etc.

2.2) Projection of the bad deeds of an individual to a group of citizens. One of the preferred techniques of hateful propaganda is to take the crimes of one individual, then attribute them to a whole group. If one Haitian is caught shoplifting, they will accuse all persons of color of being thieves, etc.

Examples: A few criminals cause a bomb threat, and this criminal mentality (and worse) is attributed to the majority of opponents to Rabaska. The FLQ assassinates Minister Pierre Laporte, and the host "wonders" whether the Rabaska opponents will go that far, or worse.

2.3) Attribution of derogatory names to a group of citizens. Hateful propaganda traditionally uses derogatory names like "dirty nigger" or "greedy Jew", etc.

Examples: "Beaumont [is a town] where the majority of citizens are cretins"; "[these people] terrorize me"; "incredible and dangerous lack of judgment"; "hysterical", etc.

2.4) Paucity of facts, quotes, references. A bit like germs that can multiply where there isn't any bleach, hateful propaganda tends to multiply in an environment where there are no references to original documents, to verbatim quotes, to facts.

Examples: No quotes are given concerning the letter sent to the Quebec City Port Authority, but its content is attacked. The position of Rabaska opponents is presented as baseless, but no figures, arguments or references of that position are given, etc.

The last point isn't part of hateful propaganda, but it's nevertheless deplorable:

2.5) The host doesn't speak French correctly. The language spoken by many young French-Canadians has been described as composed of 33% English words, 33% religious swear-words, and 33% mispronounced French words. Radio hosts like Mr. Stéphane Dupont are not a positive force in the education of our youth.

Examples: English words like "entertainer" instead of "divertir", "joke" instead of "blague", "ride" instead of "croisière", "truck" instead of "camion"; "jouale" pronounciation of the lowest quality; French mistakes like "tous les étapes" instead of "toutes les étapes"; vulgar words like "maudit"; etc.

3) What I don't appreciate in Counsel René Dion's answer

Following the complaint to the CRTC, Counsel René Dion (the lawyer for CHOI-FM) sent us a letter. Of course, I agree with many of his assertions, but not all:

3.1) Counsel Dion seems to claim that all those who lodged the complaint are against Rabaska. Personally I am, in many ways, in favor of natural gas (for example, if all coal-fired power plants in the USA switched to natural gas, we'd have a lot less acid rain, etc.). I'm not complaining to the CRTC because I'm against Rabaska. I'm complaining to the CRTC because I'm against hateful propaganda. If Mr. Stéphane Dupont had said what he said, but against another group of citizens, I'd complain just as much.

3.2) Counsel Dion doesn't seem to make the difference between an editorial comment, and hateful propaganda. See the excerpts quoted in section #2 here above.

Example: "it is clear that what was said is the expression of opinions, an editorial comment", p. 3.

3.3) Counsel Dion doesn't seem to make the difference between aesthetics, and insults.

Example: "the [CRTC radio license] holder agrees that some of the words are not aesthetically acceptable [to call cretins the inhabitants of Beaumont]", p. 3.

3.4) Counsel Dion seems to separate the notion of freedom from the notion of truth. I'm absolutely in favor of defending freedom of expression, and Counsel Dion is perfectly right to say we must defend this freedom as one of our most cherished legacies. Except freedom of expression is not an absolute. Otherwise, Adolf Hitler wouldn't have done anything wrong during the 1930's, when the Nazi propaganda machine taught Germans to hate Jews. Yes, we need freedom of expression, but this freedom of expression is not something that floats out there in a vacuum. It's freedom to tell the truth. Not freedom to say anything.

At the root of these presuppositions is the more or less obvious influence of currents of thought which end by detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth.
[Veritatis Splendor, #4]

Examples: "the editorial comment [...] must remain under the protection of freedom of expression because it remains one of the foundations of a free and democratic society". p. 3.

3.5) Counsel Dion doesn't seem to understand what laws and the judicial system are for. Laws and the judicial system are not what determines whether we behave well or not. Even if the judicial system doesn't punish us, that doesnt mean we've behaved well. Even the best laws can only be a kind of crutch to help citizens acquire virtue. There is a huge difference between striving to be as virtuous as possible, and striving to make as much money as possible while avoiding jail-time (and fines, unless those fines are less than the amount of money our infraction makes us earn).

4) Who is to blame?

Are all opponents to Rabaska choirboys? Certainly not! Statistically, we can assert that in any sufficiently large group of men, there will always be a few jerks and a few criminals.

Is Mr. Stéphane Dupont a Nazi? Certainly not! On the other hand, we must not forget that, in a way, we are all born with a "little Nazi in our heart" (Catholic theologians use the expression "Original Sin" to talk about the same thing). You and I were born with the potential to become a Nazi, or a saint (or something in between). We must not succumb to racism, and believe that only Germans in the 1930's can become Nazis! It's unfortunately a constant threat, for all men, in all times.

It's because we're all born with a "little Nazi in our heart" that education is so important. Our country needs stable and loving families to properly raise our future citizens. Our country also needs good schools to give good training to the people. Finally, our country needs good media to edify young citizens and encourage them to acquire wisdom.

Is Mr. Stéphane Dupont guilty of having said hateful things? Firstly, I'm not a judge. Secondly, even if Mr. Dupont was declared guilty, it would remain that Mr. Dupont is only a pawn. If he can earn his living by saying the things he says, it's because his boss hired him, and that his boss gave him a job to do.

Is the owner of CHOI-FM the most guilty party in this whole affair Certainly not! We have the businessmen we deserve. At some point of time, CHOI-FM offers a product because there's a demand for that product. Media owners are partially responsible for the more or less civilized state of their readers and listeners, but in return, people are also responsible for the kind of media they tolerate and even encourage.

So who is the most guilty? I've already answered that question elsewhere.

5) Conclusion

The Rabaska issue is almost meaningless, when it's compared to the seriousness of spiritual pollution. We must not forget that wars are not essentially caused by bombs and guns. If you don't believe this, go pile up lots of bombs and guns in the middle of a field, and wait. The bombs and guns will gently rust, grass will grow, rabbits and groundhogs will come and run around, etc.

Wars are caused by propaganda (see among others "The War-Maker's Bifocals"). A civilized society must monitor its media (radios, newspapers, television, etc.) to ensure that hatred and discord are not disseminated, but on the contrary that media are used to promote thoughtful and democratic debates.

(And of course, if you don't agree with me, I'll be happy to post your e-mails here!)

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