Smear Tactics of the National Post: Correspondence with Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay, February 17-21, 2010

On February 14, 2010 I gave an invited lecture on “Media Self-Censorship and the Threat of Government Censorship” at the Islamic Society of York Region's Crescent Centre in Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto. My talk received hostile coverage in the National Post in an article by Joseph Brean published on February 16—to which I responded in a letter to the editor, sent very early the next morning.

My ensuing correspondence with two National Post editors is of some interest for what it reveals about the ethics of this newspaper. Letters editor Paul Russell stated on February 17 that he would print my letter (though not until after the 18th), and Jonathan Kay agreed that I was owed a right of reply. In the interim, the National Post printed on February 17 a letter which attributed to me an opinion Brean's article had snidely insinuated must be part of my belief system—and on that basis made a direct accusation of antisemitism. On the afternoon of February 21, by which time it was obvious that my original letter had been flushed down the memory hole, I wrote again to Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay. The last text here is Paul Russell's two-sentence message of apology (if that's what it is).

Cyril Connolly wrote in The Unquiet Grave that “Imprisoned in every fat man a thin man is wildly signalling to be let out.” One might say, by analogy, that within each of these two editors of the National Post a person of some decency was making rather pallid efforts—not, alas, sustained—to make himself visible.

 

Smear Tactics of the National Post: Correspondence with Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay, February 17-21, 2010

 

1. Michael Keefer to Paul Russell (Letters editor), February 17, 2010

From: Michael Keefer
Sent: Wed 17/02/2010 1:42 a.m. 
To: Letters (National Post
Subject: Letter to the editor (responding to Joseph Brean's Feb. 16 comments on me)

Sir:

Joseph Brean's report on my talk at the Islamic Society of York Region's Crescent Centre illustrates very neatly some of the points I made about systematic omission, distortion, and deception in the news.

Mr. Brean wished elsewhere in his article to insinuate that an Iranian video shown earlier in the evening had stupidly exposed warlike nuclear ambitions on Iran's part. Naturally, then, he avoided mentioning that one of my examples of media falsehood was the deployment against Iran of the same lies about WMDs that were used to legitimize the invasion of Iraq in 2003—this despite the 2006 US National Intelligence Estimates, which declared that Iran was at least a decade away from being able to produce key components of a nuclear weapon. (The IAEA's rigorous inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities have of course never found any sign of a weapons program.)

I referred also to scientific analyses, published in the online Journal of 9/11 Studies, which show unequivocally that the World Trade Center towers were brought down by planned demolition—and noted, as one of my examples of deception-by-omission, that the corporate media have avoided mentioning these very newsworthy studies. Mr. Brean also managed not to mention their existence.

As for the Toronto 18 group, its only two or three members who had dangerously fanatical ideas had been under close surveillance for years. The group as such was assembled by one police agent, given the idea of making bombs by a second, and provided with expertise, financial assistance, and materials by a third. Until Mr. Brean can propose a better name for this pattern of events, “police frame-up” will do just fine.

Michael Keefer

 

2. Paul Russell to Michael Keefer (and replies), February 17

Letters (National Post) wrote (Feb 17, 6:10 a.m.):

Michael: 
Thanks for your letter. It will be considered for upcoming editions
P. 
Paul Russell
Letters editor

 

Michael Keefer wrote (Feb 17, 12:04 p.m.):

Dear Paul,

Thanks for your quick reply. 

My text is perhaps longer than you normally print in the letters column. However, I do think the National Post owes me the right to respond to Mr. Brean's remarks about me.

Would that fall more under Jonathan Kay's editorial responsibilities than yours? I'll send him a copy of my letter.

Sincerely, 
Michael Keefer

p.s. I note that for some reason the apostrophes have dropped out of my text in the form you have it. I'm re-sending it to you as an attachment to this message.

 

Letters (National Post) wrote:

Michael: 
I'm planning to run your letter, so no concerns. 
P.

 

Michael Keefer wrote (Feb 17, 2:32 p.m.):

Dear Paul, 
Many thanks. 
Michael

 

Letters (National Post) wrote:

Michael: 
Thanks, and FYI, there is no room tomorrow. 
P.

 

3. Michael Keefer to Jonathan Kay (and replies)

Michael Keefer wrote (Feb 17, 12:22 p.m.):

Dear Jonathan,

I'm attaching a copy of a letter I wrote in response to Joseph Brean's February 16 column, in which I received his unflattering attentions at some length.

I sent the letter last night to the Post's letters page, and received a very prompt response from Paul Russell. I've replied to him saying that I would guess my text is longer than the Post usually publishes on its letters page—but that I do think the Post owes me a right of reply.

I also guessed that right-of-reply issues might be your editorial responsibility, and said I'd send my letter to you: I've attached it to this message. (For some reason, all the apostrophes dropped out of the version that Paul has.

Best wishes, 
Michael

 

Kay, Jonathan (National Post) wrote (Feb 17, 12:30 p.m.):

Let me talk to the letters editor
I think you should have the right to respond ...

 

4. Michael Keefer to Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay (and reply), February 21

From: Michael Keefer
Sent: Sun 21/02/2010 4:29 p.m. 
To: Letters (National Post); Kay, Jonathan (National Post
Subject: Re: Letter to the editor (responding to Joseph Brean's Feb. 16 comments on me)

Dear Paul and Jonathan,

Unless I've been more than usually unobservant, the National Post hasn't run my letter. I would guess now, since we'll soon be five days on from the time I sent it in, that it's not going to be published in the Post. So much, then, for the right to reply.

I don't reproach either of you, but I do reproach whoever countermanded the good intentions you expressed in your notes to me.

In my letter, dated on the 16th but actually sent very early on the morning of the 17th, I replied just to Joseph Brean's article.

But let me draw your attention to the little twist the Post gave to the story by publishing on the 17th a letter from a person in Thornhill who asserted that Brean “quotes Michael Keefer as saying 9/11 was a planned demolition run by Americans (which was obviously a product of the all-powerful Zionist lobby in Washington).”

Most if not all readers will understand that sentence to mean that everything after “as saying” was actually quoted by Joseph Brean from the talk I gave. Not so: Brean didn't quote the bracketed words from me, for the very good reason that I said nothing of the sort.

Of course, without the implication that I blamed 9/11 on “the all-powerful Zionist lobby in Washington,” the direct accusation of antisemitism in the person-from-Thornhill's last sentence wouldn't work quite as smoothly. (Unless one has something plausibly antisemitic to start with, it's a long jump to the blood libel.)

The profound indecency here isn't Joseph Brean's—he was just doing his job, which seems to consist of repeated exercises in what I've termed “subtractive politicizing.” Nor should it be laid at the door of the letter writer with the Passover-Seder-hymn name, who's probably no more than a clever schoolboy.

The real indecency is on the part of a newspaper that amuses itself by dancing in the waltz-time of Two Smears-No Reply.

Sincerely, 
Michael

 

Letters (National Post) wrote:

Michael:

I'm sorry, but while Jonathan and I generally supported the idea of running your letter, other senior editors had concerns with it, and hence its lack of publication. But thanks for your note and your observations about the other letter.

Paul Russell
NP letters editor