Sunday, June 25, 2023

Answering an unhinged Terence Corcoran

Mr. Cranky
Cranky McCrankypants
I fear I may have pushed Terence Corcoran over the edge, to use one of my least favourite puns on my name. “I can’t go on,” the 80-year-old National Post columnist confesses at the end of his rambling vivisection of my latest contribution to the literature on Canada’s beleaguered newspaper industry. “Edge’s book is a muddled fact-filled ideological smear job which is as malicious as the book’s cover suggests.” What Corcoran sees are nothing less than Nazis.

“The Nazi theme is echoed on the book’s cover, a smudgy yellow and black effort that includes partial images of the National Post’s masthead re-set in a typographical font similar to the masthead of Der Sturmer, a Nazi weekly published in Germany from 1924 through to the end of the Second World War.” 

Of course, I have had nothing to do with designing the covers for any of my books, other than to make a few suggestions which New Star Books publisher Rolf Maurer usually dismisses out of hand. The covers of my most recent books with New Star have been designed by Oliver McPartlin of Victoria, and you can tell from his website that he does fantastic work. 

I am hardly an expert in typefaces, but it seems to me that the type on the cover, which does indeed say National Post, is of the Old English font similar to those used on the masthead of such newspapers as the New York Times and the Times of London. It is apparently descended from the Blackletter or Gothic font, which dates to the 12th Century and was used for numerous European languages well into the 20th Century, including German until the 1940s, when it was officially discontinued after Hitler found it “Jewish-influenced.” Frankly, it doesn’t look to me at all like that used in Der Stürmer. 

Speaking of Herr H., what really got Corky going was my daring to reference a book by the former German Reich chancellor. The headline to his diatribe was “A malicious smear job — What does Mein Kampf have to do with Canadian media?” I attempted to explain, but my comment on the National Post website was “de-activated” for somehow violating its community guidelines. 

We are clearly operating here under Godwin’s Law, which is sometimes interpreted as stating that “the first person in an argument (usually in an online comment thread or forum) to mention the Nazis or Adolf Hitler has lost.” By this measure, Corcoran lost with his opening salvo. 

I did manage to get one comment in under Corcoran’s column before being cut off. It was in answer to his assertion that I claimed “the Public Policy Forum (PPF), headed by Edward Greenspon, conspired with Postmedia to produce The Shattered Mirror, a 2017 report that called for the government to help rescue the newspaper industry from the tech revolution.” I made no such charge but merely outlined the sequence of events, which would lead any reasonable reader, even Corcoran, to suspect that something was going on. 

My other two deleted comments urged others to read the book for themselves, and provided a link to Chapter 1, which is posted on this blog and on my website.  

Corcoran’s main complaint seems to be that I outline in my book how former Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey “orchestrated a Hitlerian ‘propaganda’ campaign to create public support for a government bailout of the ailing newspaper industry.” He also laments how I “trash the PPF and Postmedia for having produced a propaganda masterpiece.” First, I have no evidence of Postmedia’s involvement in producing the PPF report The Shattered Mirror. In fact, the negative response I chronicle to it by newspaper industry association News Media Canada, of which Postmedia is by far the biggest member, would suggest otherwise. There is little doubt, however, that PPF head Ed Greenspon soon began working with other bailout proponents in a group I call The Newspaper Lobby.  

I also stand by my assertion that The Shattered Mirror was a propaganda masterpiece. I questioned it at the time, but the more I looked into it, the worse it smelled. It was Prof. Dwayne Winseck of Carleton, however, who really blew the lid off the report. All I could do was sit back and marvel.   

My case, noted Corcoran, “boils down to classic leftist nonsense that cabals of think tanks and corporations control and monopolize Canadian media and politics.” In making my case, I include much propaganda theory and research into the phenomenon of think tanks like the PPF. They are extremely influential in public policy making, from what I can tell, and many are driven by the ideological biases of their donors. Readers can make up their own minds if I have made my case or not. 

Corcoran even manages to compliment me and insult me in the same sentence. “He is a meticulous researcher, documenter and footnoter who manipulates and twists his fact-filled work through a warped and ignorant leftist misunderstanding of business, newspapers, journalists, governments and media consumers.” That’s called my perspective, Corky. An historical researcher, which is what I was trained as, is first taught to assemble all the relevant facts, then importantly to interpret them through a lens that should be explicitly stated, as I have done with propaganda theory and research into think tanks. 

He adds that my book “is filled with detail, conjecture and Edge’s twisted view of the media and how and why business decisions are made. His idea is that Postmedia owner/managers are responsible for allowing the company to fall into financial distress — as if no other news organization in the world has not faced similar crises.” Of course they have faced similar crises, but those not in the clutches of blood-sucking foreign hedge funds have not been starved of resources like Postmedia’s newspapers have in order to pay their New Jersey overlords more than $30 million a year in debt payments. That’s the whole point of my book. 

Corcoran calls my 2014 book Greatly Exaggerated: The Myth of the Death of Newspapers “a lengthy wrong-headed work that portrayed newspapers as triumphant over the new technologies sweeping the world. It is a work that is so wrong that one suspects Edge wrote his new book as a defensive move so he could blame newspaper owners for his own failure to understand the changing tech environment.” I don’t think the word “triumphant” describes the thesis of that book very well, as the ending of the story of newspapers’ struggle for survival had and has yet to be written. Most, however, seem to be making a successful transition to hybrid print/online publications, as I note in this update.  

Wrong, wrong, wrong. He keeps repeating that word to deride my “business ignorance, which holds that anything a company or its executives do to remain successful or even alive amounts to corporate malfeasance.” Wrong again, Corky. Not everything a company or its executives do to remain successful or even alive amounts to corporate malfeasance. Some things are dodgier than others, however, such as using 15 of a foreign country’s 21 largest dailies newspapers to shamelessly lobby for bailout after bailout. “Among his most laughable linkages is the proposition that the market-oriented Fraser Institute and the statist-oriented Public Policy Forum are kindred think tanks manipulated by Postmedia owners.” Nonsense. I describe the PPF as “a boutique shop for clients with policy needs congruent with the Liberal agenda.” That could never be said of the Fraser Institute, which is an entirely different animal that played no role in the story I tell. Its inclusion was merely by way of background. 

“His views are wrong, often inconsistent, and ultimately a threat to principles of press freedom,” Corcoran goes on, failing to mention how what I think could possibly be a threat to principles of press freedom. By then he is starting to splutter and probably froth at the mouth. I am disappointed that he would engage in such a crude bludgeoning, as he is usually much more surgical. One of my favorite parts of the book is Corcoran’s flaying of the PPF on attending its 2017 gala, which he delightfully characterized as “a night in the swamp.” And while I have never met the man, I was almost imagining we could be friends after he quoted recently from one of my columns for Canadian Dimension.  

I suspect he’s also sore over my recent column in the Globe and Mail, which called for Ottawa to let Postmedia go under rather than continually bailing it out because that might be the only way to get rid of the blood-sucking vultures. Even my old pal Terry Glavin was a bit choked about that, which he made abundantly clear in prefacing my first column in a series he hosted last week. 

I had to take to Twitter to make it clear to Terry and his readers that I don’t want Postmedia’s newspapers to stop publishing. In fact, I exhorted MPs to ensure they are preserved in the coming implosion of Postmedia, which I am told could be closer than anyone suspects. That way Terry wouldn’t be out of a job. As for Corky, I think it’s time he packed it in.

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