When we returned home, I was truly looking forward to returning to my regular media diet of Twitter, Facebook and our local newspapers. Instead, I was shocked to realize that the Canadian news landscape was far too much like the Chinese one we had just left behind. The only difference was that the control was by corporate interests instead of the government.
Just days before we arrived back in Vancouver, the Canadaland.com website published a lengthy story about a Postmedia edict to all of its newspapers directing them to swing their publications significantly to the right. Or, as some described it, to the Alt-Right.
The story by reporter Sean Craig described how, during an October 2018 meeting, “Several editors at the National Post — Postmedia’s flagship newspaper — were summoned to a meeting on the 12th floor of the company’s headquarters [where] company president Andrew MacLeod told them that their paper was insufficiently conservative.”
Postmedia owns a significant share of Canada’s newspapers, including 25 major dailies, some 35 smaller community newspapers and free commuter papers in Vancouver and Toronto. Since the Manhattan-based hedge fund Golden Tree Asset Management acquired the bankrupt CanWest media in 2010, Postmedia has closed or downsized newspapers, and has explicitly ordered papers to endorse Conservative candidates in federal elections.
The move from “right-wing’ to “Alt-right” was on display recently when the Vancouver Sun and Province published an opinion piece by Mark Hecht, a geography instructor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University. The column, which complained of “the dogma of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion” and praised “the virtues of homogeneity and exclusion,” was immediately branded as “white-nationalist” by The Tyee.
Almost as soon as the Twitter journalism community called it out, the article was removed from the Sun website. It was subsequently also removed from the Province’s site, but not before being embraced and circulated widely by right-wing ideologues and neo-Nazis.