A few days ago, the National Pest published an extremely homophobic (and blatantly accusatory) ad about public schooling in Ontario. Today, we get this non-apology apology, or non-retraction retraction, if you will…
Earlier this week the National Post ran an advertisement that has caused some controversy. The ad, bought by the Institute for Canadian Values, argued against aspects of the Ontario school curriculum that include instruction about certain aspects of human sexuality. Specifically, it objected to teaching young children — those between junior kindergarten and Grade 3 — about transsexual/transgender/intersexed/two spirited issues.
The National Post has procedures in place for vetting the content of advertising, especially advocacy advertising. The procedures are intended to ensure that such ads meet a standard of tone and respect that is consistent with furthering constructive dialogue about important public policy issues.
In this case, those procedures were not followed. An ad that should not have run in its proposed form was allowed to run.
This ad will not run in the National Post again.
So far, so good. So what’s so bad about this? This:
The National Post believes strongly in the principles of free speech and open, unhindered debate. We believe unpopular points of view should not be censored simply because some readers may find them disturbing, or even offensive. Free speech does not apply only to views that will not offend anyone.
The ad in question was attempting to make the case that the Ontario curriculum was teaching very young children about issues that, at that age, should be the domain of parents. In addition, it made the case that even when parents or teachers may object to the material being taught, they did not have the right, in the case of parents, to remove their children from the class, or in the case of teachers, to decline to teach the material on the grounds that they objected to it.
In an open society, these positions are worthy of being part of a debate on this issue. They are also legitimate arguments to make in a paid advertisement in a media outlet.
Where the ads exceeded the bounds of civil discourse was in their tone and manipulative use of a picture of a young girl; in the suggestion that such teaching “corrupts” children, with everything that such a charge implies; and in their singling out of a specific group of people who have made choices about their sexuality with which the group disagrees.
I didn’t choose to be straight, much less because of anything I was “taught” at school, in any grade. My LGBT friends didn’t choose to be queer for such reasons, either. But the bigots of the National Pest chose, as adults, to run an ad promoting bigotry in the guise of concern for the well-being of children.
And they’re still doing it, albeit more subtly and politely, with this half-assed apology that makes the tacit assumption that sexual orientation is a “choice”. I trust you didn’t miss the old canard that hate speech is “free speech” which is only unpopular and/or offensive, either. It’s the justification for their whole existence as an outlet for the petty hatreds and deep-seated spite of old white straight people. The Pest is most certainly NOT a reliable newspaper. It is a crapaganda rag for conservatism, and the sooner that we understand that, the better.
I suppose that we should accept this “apology” in the spirit in which it was made…a spirit less of unprejudiced goodwill or sincere contrition than of “I’m sorry I caught you with your fingers in the cookie jar”, or maybe “I’m sorry I slapped your fingers when you got them caught in that nasty old cookie jar”.
Sorry, Pest, but I don’t forgive you.