It’s one of the fastest reversals of government policy that I’ve ever seen.
On Sunday, the Trudeau Liberals were promising to bring in a licensing regime for news outlets and podcasters, by Monday they were singing the praises of a free press.
It all started last week when a panel struck by Justin Trudeau himself to examine the future of media in Canada released their final report.
Called “Canada’s Communications Future: A Time to Act,” the report called for new media to be required to register with the government and be licensed. On Sunday, Trudeau’s culture minister told CTV’s Question Period that he agreed with that idea.
“Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House we believe in a strong, free and independent press,” Trudeau said when questioned by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
Well, let’s be honest, a “strong, free and independent press,” isn’t one that has to register with the government and obtain a licence. To do that would be to give the government control over what media outlets could say, print or broadcast.
That’s bad for democracy and a complete violation of the ideal of freedom of speech.
Thankfully, Trudeau went a step further in saying he will not go forward with this idea.
“I want to be unequivocal, we will not impose licensing requirements on news organizations, nor will we regulate news content,” Trudeau said.
The only troubling part of Trudeau’s response is that he said his government’s priority is to ensure that Canadians have access to, “diverse, high-quality and credible news.” Who decides what is “high-quality” or “credible” when it comes to news?
I hope it’s not Justin Trudeau or any other politician. Politicians are the biggest purveyors of “fake news.” They’re the people who try to spin everything.
It was just about one year ago, Feb. 7, 2019, that I stood in a commuter parking lot north of Toronto as Trudeau reacted to the first story on SNC-Lavalin and lied to the world.
“The allegations in the Globe story are false,” Trudeau said.
Of course, we would come to learn that the allegations were true and then some. Yet, for weeks, the government’s line was that the media outlet was lying.
If we lived in a licensed system, would the Globe see their licence revoked for publishing something the government claimed was a lie? Would they have even published it in the first place or held back out of fear of irritating the authorities?
And make no mistake, the report tabled last week called for registration and licensing of media outlets more than once.
In recommendation 56, the report calls for online media to be registered by the CRTC, meaning any news outlet, any podcaster, any content creator — a recipe blog — could be registered by the government.
“This would require a person carrying on a media content undertaking by means of the Internet to register unless otherwise exempt,” the report states.
And at recommendation 74, the report called for the CRTC to be given the power to, “impose codes of conduct, including provisions with respect to resolution mechanisms, transparency, privacy, and accessibility regarding all media content undertakings.”
All media undertakings.
Thankfully, the response was swift and firm from most Canadians: The government doesn’t get to regulate the media like this.
To do so would be a violation of the Charter and its guarantee of freedom of expression.
“Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication,” is how the Charter phrases it.
A media regulated and registered with the government would never be free.
This was a bad idea that should never been suggested, that the Trudeau Liberals never should have agreed to but I’m glad they are running away from it.
Freedom deserves no less.
Humanity's Biggest Problems Require a Whole New Media Mode – WIRED
Medical Matters Weekly welcomes Director of Institute of Digital Media and Child Development Kris Perry – Vermont Biz
Vermont Business Magazine Kris Perry is a social worker, a child advocate, the director of the Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, and the next guest on Medical Matters Weekly at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, August 17.
The show is produced by Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) with cooperation from Catamount Access Television (CAT-TV). Viewers can view on facebook.com/svmedicalcenter and facebook.com/CATTVBennington. The show is also available to view or download as a podcast on svhealthcare.org/medicalmatters.
Perry holds a bachelor’s in sociology and psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a master’s in social work from San Francisco State University. She made her career as a child advocate within several organizations starting with the Alameda County Social Services Agency, where she worked in child protective services. She pivoted to leading systems change as executive director of First Five San Mateo and later as executive director of First Five in California and nationally in Washington, D.C. She served as president of Save the Children Action Network.
Perry returned to California to serve as senior advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom and as Deputy Secretary of California Health and Human Services Agency. There she led the development of the California Master Plan for Early Learning and Care and was instrumental in the expansion of access to high-quality early childhood programs. In her current role as director of the Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, she works to fund and disseminate scientific research focused on the impact of digital media on child development and the translation of those findings into programs and policies that promote child wellness.
Medical Matters Weekly features the innovative personalities who drive positive change within health care and related professions. The show addresses all aspects of creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for all, including food and nutrition, housing, diversity and inclusion, groundbreaking medical care, exercise, mental health, the environment, research, and government. The show is broadcast on Facebook Live, YouTube, and all podcast platforms.
After the program, the video is available on area public access television stations CAT-TV (Comcast channel 1075) and GNAT-TV’s (Comcast channel 1074), as well as on public access stations throughout the United States.
Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) is a comprehensive, preeminent, healthcare system providing exceptional, convenient, and affordable care to the communities of Bennington and Windham Counties of Vermont, eastern Rensselaer and Washington Counties of New York, and northern Berkshire County in Massachusetts. SVHC includes Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC), Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, and the SVHC Foundation. SVMC includes 25 primary and specialty care practices.
Southwestern Vermont Health Care is among the most lauded small rural health systems in the nation. It is the recipient of the American Hospital Association’s 2020 Rural Hospital Leadership Award. In addition, SVMC ranked fourth nationwide for the value of care it provides by the Lown Institute Hospital Index in 2020 and is a five-time recipient of the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence. The health system is fortunate to have the support of platinum-level corporate sponsor Mack, a leading supplier of contract manufacturing services and injection molded plastic parts based in Arlington, VT.
BENNINGTON, VT—August 9, 2022—Southwestern Vermont Medical Center
Alex Jones Begs The Question, What's More Expensive For Media: Lies, Or The Truth? – Forbes
We are having a Goldilocks moment in American media. We simply can’t decide how much truth we really want. Too many lies can lead to expensive lawsuits, as Alex Jones proved this week with a $49M verdict for spreading misinformation about Sandy Hook. Too much truth, on the other hand, can lead to lawsuits by special interests afraid to have infamous stories made famous, as hundreds of writers have learned (including this author).
Is a healthy midpoint actually possible, or would the news simply lose all meaning? Or can we as consumers bend the news back towards the truth? Jones’ story should be a clarion call for both the right and the left to demand more truth from their storytellers. The future of democracy depends on it.
Too Many Lies
Last week, Alex Jones was caught lying about the Sandy Hook massacre . On December 14th, 2012, 26 people were killed by a mass shooter, including 20 children between 6 and 7-years-old. Before families could even take a moment to grieve their profound loss, Jones had already gone on air to deny the mass shooting, saying “why does government stage these things, to get our guns.” and referring to grieving parents as “crisis actors.”
It’s hard to know if his motivation was earning money, but certainly, that was an outcome. InfoWars was already a relatively successful media business, with 4 million unique views a month in 2010, and in 2013 estimated revenues of $10M a year. By 2018 he had 10 million unique views a month, more than mainstream publications like Newsweek and the Economist. During the trial, it was estimated that Jones’ businesses were collectively worth somewhere between $135M and $270M.
His bread and butter are what is sometimes politely referred to as “conspiracy theories,” a term that implies that stories like PizzaGate could actually be true. But a theory can ultimately be scientifically tested, and those peddled by Alex Jones have come up false. He is often known for spreading “misinformation,” a sanitized way to say “lying.” His site is aptly named InfoWars—it is a provider of information in deep war with the truth.
Given the strength of defamation law in this country protecting people from damaging speech, the parents were ultimately awarded $49M by a Texas court (which they may not fully receive given state limits in Texas). However, with more rulings likely to come from states like Connecticut without such a cap this upcoming year, it is likely that figure will rise substantially and send a very strong message to those who aim to manipulate people’s understanding of the truth for political gain.
Many have suggested that his motivation in the case of Sandy Hook was not in fact money, but a desire to push back against gun control efforts. It’s reasonable that in the wake of mass shootings, communities start to think long and hard about greater gun control, and that those who believe that more guns are good for America (like some Republicans proposing to further arm teachers) are troubled to see what they view as an infringement on their rights. But even that debate can happen on the basis of truth—that mass shooters exist, that they are 98% men, and that children have died in these shootings causing infinite devastation on the part of their families.
The Truth Hurts, but Its Negation Hurts More
Most parents at some point will suffer their very own version of an info war, as their children deliberately twist facts for personal gain. Jones’s actions are not unlike those of a child who breaks a beloved porcelain vase and quickly blames their younger sibling. The parents are not mad necessarily about the vase—they are mad about being lied to, and the lack of empathy that implies.
But children generally grow out of such deflection and blame games, whereas Jones apparently did not. It wasn’t just a vase that broke—the lives and hearts of parents were cracked open not just once in the initial mass shooting, but countless times as Jones followers harassed them and negated their truth.
I believe Jones knew he was inflicting real harm—like watching his little sibling get spanked for that broken vase—and took no action to stop it. What’s upsetting about his actions is that in saying that Sandy Hook was “100% real” on the stand, he presumably knew he was lying to his listeners; episode after episode.
Infowars viewers should be outraged. Jones treated them as ignorant pawns ripe for his political objectives. The right deserves to hear conservative perspectives based on the truth. And so does the left. Fighting fair means starting from the same playing field, which in the court of ideas has to be objective fact. As Scarlett Lewis, a mourning parent who lost her son at Sandy Hook noted from the stand in her testimony, “Truth — truth is so vital to our world. Truth is what we base our reality on, and we have to agree on that to have a civil society.”
When the Truth Hurts Someone with Power, It’s Extra Costly
On the other hand, the truth can be costly, too. Corporations have increasingly learned that suing people in media for sharing the truth about the impact of their business practices can be an incredibly effective way of getting such whistleblowers to stop—simply because of their inability to keep up on legal costs vs any actual assessment as to whether their statements are true or not.
In 2019 I was personally sued by private prison company CoreCivic
, in the wake of the family separation crisis, for saying that prisons and immigrant detention centers separate families. On a simply mechanical basis, when one family member goes behind bars for any reason and their child or mother or husband is no longer with them, it seems like a prudent use of the English language to refer to this family as “separated.” Claiming otherwise is negating the suffering of these detained parents who deeply missed their children in the same way that Jones attempted to negate the suffering of the Sandy Hook parents.
The Business and Human Rights Centre has referred to this CoreCivic lawsuit as a SLAPP suit, a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. They further define SLAPPs as “one tactic used by unscrupulous business actors to stop people raising concerns about their practices.” SLAPPs can take the form of criminal or civil lawsuits brought to intimidate, bankrupt and silence critics.” It is just one of 355 lawsuits that they’ve identified globally in a 2021 report, including by companies like Chevron
, Unilever and Walmart
, targeting both writers and activists. And as media rooms shrink internationally, it makes it hard for investigative journalism not only to thrive but to afford the level of legal protection required to tell hard truths. And yet, if we don’t, we lose our ability to shape the world we all want to live in.
Do we need $150M lawsuits to determine the truth? Or can we simply ask for more from media?
Let’s face it—no one likes a lawsuit. Certainly not grieving parents. “It seems so incredible to me that we have to do this — that we have to implore you, to punish you — to get you to stop lying,” Lewis told Jones from the stand. “You don’t understand, and you won’t understand unless there is some form of punishment that would make you understand.”
There is a hope that the hefty price Jones will pay will discourage others who seek benefit, whether monetary or political, on the basis of lies. But it’s a cautionary tale that simply shouldn’t be necessary. All of us can become more conscious consumers before spreading information, whether on the right or the left. We can let conspiracy theories die on the vine rather than fueling them with likes and shares. The average person is unlikely to sue, but we can still take responsibility for the information we spread. We can punish such lairs with their marginalization. And we can commit to protecting those who dare to tell the truth.
Full disclosures related to my work available here. This post does not constitute investment, tax, or legal advice, and the author is not responsible for any actions taken based on the information provided herein. Certain information referenced in this article is provided via third-party sources and while such information is believed to be reliable, the author and Candide Group assume no responsibility for such information.
CoreCivic filed a lawsuit in March of 2020 against author Morgan Simon and her firm Candide Group, claiming that certain of her prior statements on Forbes.com regarding their involvement in family detention and lobbying activities are “defamatory.” While we won dismissal of the case in November of 2020, CoreCivic has appealed such that the lawsuit is still active.
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