Sunday, July 18, 2004
Published on Friday, July 16, 2004 by the Globe & Mail
My Five Minutes on Fox
Defending Canada Against the Broadsides of the U.S.
Right is a Learning Experience
by Rudyard Griffiths
My descent into Fox News's bizarre take on all things
Canadian started with a mention on Matt Drudge's
website. The editors of the Drudge Report had posted
the findings of a survey my organization had released
in the final week of the federal election. When we
asked 500 Canadian teens a series of questions in a
telephone poll about our country's role on the world
stage, 40 per cent indicated that they agreed with the
statement, "America is force for evil in the world."
Albeit a strong opinion seemingly held by a
significant number of teens, this statistic generated
only a few mentions in the Canadian media -- a sharp
contrast to what was soon to unfold on U.S. airwaves.
The first sign that the Drudge Report mention was
whipping up a tempest in a teapot came in the form of
a screed by arch Canada-baiter and top-rated Fox News
personality Bill O'Reilly. I suspect his producers
have Google news alerts set up with the key words
"Canada," "socialism," "draft dodgers" and
"anti-Americanism." On his show, Mr. O'Reilly used the
single survey statistic to let loose on Canada's
political leaders, the media and our "ignorant teens."
One of his choicer utterances included: "The truth is
that the USA has freed more human beings in 230 years
than the rest of the world combined. France has freed
almost no one. Ditto Canada. . . . I object to the
anti-American foreign press and bums like Chirac in
France and Chrétien in Canada."
Sorry, but didn't our Governor-General and President
George W. Bush just commemorate the 60th anniversary
of D-Day together in France? Last time I looked, we
fought alongside the Americans in Korea, during the
long grind of the Cold War and served with distinction
in Bosnia and Afghanistan. And by the way, we have had
a new Prime Minister for seven months and his name is
Getting mentioned on Fox News all but guarantees you
the full, if fleeting, attention of America's
conservative news media. In the ensuing 24 hours, my
e-mail inbox was clogged with a strange mélange of
messages from Canada-hating O'Reilly fans and updates
from friends on both sides of the border as to where
our now "viral" poll was popping up in the U.S. media.
CNN's Tucker Carlson of Crossfire fame offered what
was a familiar anti-Canadian refrain in the continuing
coverage of the poll result: "It's time for America to
get some self-respect. . . . Until Canadian attitudes
change, there should be a moratorium on Canadian
immigration to the United States. No one who says
'aboot' could come here."
It is easy to write off Bill O'Reilly and Tucker
Carlson as blowhards or worse. But egging on their
sound bites and over exaggerations is the roiling
anger of a U.S. public fed up by the incessant tide of
global anti-U.S. sentiment.
The United States is a nation long used to being
loved. From their iconic and near-universal popular
culture, to powerful memories of the freeing of
nations and peoples in wars long past, Americans have
taken great strength from the enduring popularity of
their founding ideals and way of life. This sentiment
propelled the United States, in the second half of the
20th century, to engage with the world and fashion
many of the great international institutions and norms
that underwrite the prosperity and, until recently,
the security we enjoy.
Implicit in the anti-Canada rants of Mr. O'Reilly and
his ilk is the belief that America is now alone.
Indeed, many Americans feel acutely that the country
is under constant threat of attack by its enemies and
is misunderstood and unfairly criticized by ungrateful
former allies. For this growing segment of U.S.
society, the rational response is to give up on a
global community that has seemingly given up on the
United States and act unilaterally to preserve U.S.
national interests abroad and security at home before
it's too late.
Fox News and conservative U.S. media have the pulse of
a tangible isolationist movement in the American
heartland. And while recent events might sometimes
make it difficult to discern the good that America
does in the world, an international community lacking
U.S. participation is far worse off than one that
benefits from active U.S. interest and involvement.
Three days after our poll appeared in the Drudge
Report, I got the opportunity to go on Fox News to try
to do some damage control. It was an interesting
lesson in talking to the prickly and standoffish
America that Fox News proudly champions. The show was
aptly named Heartland, and its host was the combative
former Republican congressman John Kasich.
Right from Mr. Kasich's first question as to whether
Vietnam draft dodgers had taken over our education
system, I knew I was in for an uphill struggle. I
tried to explain that Canadian teens were no different
than American teens. They wear Nike shoes, listen to
U.S. popular music and most likely know as much about
U.S. history as their own. My conciliatory tone didn't
satisfy the former congressman. What about the press?
Is the same liberal media cabal that banned Fox News
from Canadian airwaves responsible for our teens'
anti-Americanism? My five minutes flew by and I felt I
was failing miserably to counteract the stereotype
that all Canadians are Yankee-haters.
Mr. Kasich wrapped up the show by proudly stating that
he was going to Canada this summer to go fishing and
what a beautiful country we had. In that
characteristically gregarious American way, he
suggested he and his "loud mouth" would try to
convince Canadians that the United States wasn't a
force for evil in the world.
As bad as global opinion might get toward the U.S.,
and despite the degree to which anti-Americanism
abroad is feeding isolationism in the United States, I
am optimistic about the future.
Frankly, they are just too damn friendly, even on Fox
News, to fall captive to the false security of a
Rudyard Griffiths is executive director of the