Below, a short and yet very interesting blog’s post on how journalists build stories and fantasies on biased information and unchecked facts.

Who’s the fool now?

I don’t know if Michel Arsenault is totally clean. I don’t try to help him. However, I’m tired of these moralists who want to wash “whiter than white”.

Especially those who remain anonymous in order to spread smears and rumours. I’ve read for weeks a load of articles on Arsenault, but I still wait to understand what is the real problem with Michel Arsenault.

Every single time, we hear about him, it is somehow linked to his trip on Tony Accurso’s boat. Why?  Because it is allegedly linked to corruption in some journalists’ sick minds. Why not? But where are the facts and evidences…

What do we have so far? News articles and anonymous letters roughly claiming that Mr. Accurso’s businesses are shady, that he brings on his boat politicians and union leaders, that he gets big public contracts, that he is therefore a bribe-master and the other corrupted…

Journalists claim that all these people had been secretly invited by Mr. Accurso. As far as I understand, this is not correct. Let’s talk first of Tony Accurso’s businesses. His success made him a public personality who can not get out the light so easily. 

His boat is too big and his invitations too visible to remain hidden. His companies’ contracts? They’re public, ain’t they? Despite what journalists write, there are no secret in Accurso relations with politicians.

If I don’t like Michel Arsenault style, he still has to bring accountability about his actions… and has to answer even embarrassing questions.

The shady side of this story is actually to find on the opposite way. Who is interested in spreading these rumours for months? I’d really like to know who is the puppeteer of this smear campaign. And why?

We can easily imagine that the string are pulled by very well-organized people who have access to powerful media. That’s actually why I wanted to react today even though I’m not a fool and I’m fully aware of the business world realities.

Let’s not pretend we just found out that the corporate world is running on friendly networks and acquaintances. The real problems are illegal operations: I don’t see any in that specific case.

For quite a while now, Alain Gravel has found out the origin of every single problem in Canada… Friendship between politicians and businessmen ! Without evidences or even facts, he explains week after week how badly politicians are corrupted. 

 Alain Gravel’s rhetoric during his weekly show is demagogic and populist. “Everybody’s corrupted”, is the main topic his Radio-Candada fans hear.

Unfortunately for him, he should have some facts to show his audience before he accuses all of the local politicians of corruption. Gravel allegations are simply ideas and gut feelings shown as facts and evidences.

There are certainly some bad local politicians in Montreal, but Gravel’s generalization is destructive for our democracy.

Gilles Rhéaume and his Ligue Québécoise contre la francophobie canadienne are heading to the United Nations to ask the Human Rights Committee to denounce “Quebec bashing” as a form of racism, discrimination, and xenophobia.

What the Quebecois perceive as Quebec bashing seems to have swelled in the wake of the 1995 referendum. The expression seems to be cognate with “Gay bashing,” a reprehensible form of discrimination-based violence, not unlike lynchings in the American south decades ago.  The term ‘homophobia’ implies a manifest hatred of gays, often expressed through violence, stemming from a deep-rooted fear. A similar deep-rooted fear of French-Canadians does not exist, nor does a similar form of violence targeting the Quebecois. Mr. Rhéaume’s use of terms like “francophobie” and “Quebecophobie” offends me.

I am also offended by the implied assertion that those who live according to the laws of Quebec, those who abide by that set of arbitrarily appointed regulations that deprive Anglophones and Allophones of their rights, may not publicly and vocally take issue with those laws, rules, and regulations without being branded racist, discriminatory, or xenophobic. I used to cringe when former Premier Lucien Bouchard would trot out the term “humiliation,” as if crying that feelings had been hurt was enough to stifle legitimate critique.

There is nothing wrong with Quebec bashing if it means taking issue with either the government of Quebec, or aspects of the ingrained culture of the Quebecois majority that could foster discrimination of Quebec residents from other cultural groups.  The Bouchard-Taylor commission was criticized, and praised, for exposing the ugly underbelly of Quebec society. At least we know, some said at the time, where we stand.

There is nothing wrong with Quebec bashing if it means casting a critical eye, and a critical voice, upon those policies one finds unacceptable and incompatible with a democratic society. Bill 103, the successor to Bill 104, was pushed past the democratic throng who had long ago stopped trusting their government to uphold and respect not just the constitution and the letter of the law, but the spirit of democracy.

Where does this great cry of Quebec bashing come from? Call it a backlash. Was there at time when Francophones were treated as second class citizens in their own homes? Certainly. Gabrielle Roy’s The Tin Flute chronicles the dichotomy of inequality between the English on the hill and the French down below. Did the fist-waving heroes of the October Crisis inspire the Quebecois to rise up and become the Maîtres chez eux they always knew they could be? Perhaps. The Crisis blurred lines between hero and villain. And those who cheered on the heroes of the would-be revolution are today pointing fingers at such Old World English institutions as, well, Macleans magazine.

The magazine, and writer Martin Patriquin, labelled Quebec as “the most corrupt province.” Is pointing that out tantamount to Quebec bashing? Mr. Patriquin did not blame the perceived corruption on anything inherent in Quebec culture, or on some atavistic carryover from the French character. There was no mention of the old standby stereotype of “Pepsi-May West,” or its bastardization “Pepper.” No one from the Rest of Canada has ever called for Quebec to be bulldozed into the sea. And I haven’t heard of any WASPs spray-painting anti-French slogans all over town. 

But I used to see “Anglo go home” tagged here and there, and it confused me; where did that mean I was I supposed to go?  I have never heard of Francophone tombstones being toppled or defaced.  But I have seen Anglophone Jewish tombstones desecrated in the very cemetery where my grandparents, father-in-law, and other family members are buried. I don’t know who is responsible, and I cannot make any assumptions as to who I suspect, regardless of the history of strife between the Jewish and French communities in Montreal.

Mr. Rhéaume  provides a handful of examples of noted Quebec bashers, like novelist Mordecai Richler, political gadfly Howard Galganov, journalist Diane Francis, Don Cherry, and, of course, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

The Galganov era of Quebec politics came with its own set of problems, and really amounted to no more than a footnote in Quebec history. Mr. Galganov is gone now, and so, it seems to me, are the kind of sentiments he harboured deep in his belly. Don Cherry is a clown. Given his infamous sport jackets and flippant on-screen performances, I don’t think he’d object to that characterization.

Mordecai Richler, though, still haunts the Quebecois, or at least those few who still feel the sting of what they considered to be misplaced invective. Richler made a career of holding up a mirror to society. In 1992, he wrote Oh Canada, Oh Quebec: Requiem for a Divided Country. In that book, and in two journalistic pieces that preceded it, Richler chronicled the history of discrimination against anyone and anything not French in Quebec. Needless to say, Richler was vilified in the Francophone community, and still today, nearly a decade after his death, is considered an enemy of the people. 

“I’m trying to tell the truth,” Richler said at the time. “I don’t think that it’s something that has to be in season, like hockey or hay fever. I think you should be able to tell the truth any time. And if it makes people uncomfortable, I can’t help it.” 

Indeed, if his claims can be substantiated by history, and I think that they can, then can they really be considered Quebec bashing?

I was disappointed in Maclean’s for pulling its punches and apologizing for the magazine cover, which depicted Bonhomme Carnaval carrying a cash-stuffed briefcase. I thought it was funny, as good an attempt at pointed criticism as an editorial cartoon can be. It is hardly Quebec bashing, because, again, corruption exists in Quebec, and Bonhomme is as good a representative of Quebec as anyone.

The direction and target of any kind of bashing in this province would seem to be out of proportion. And the community who seems to suffer the least has some nerve tapping the UN for help. The term “nation” has become complicated over time. If separatist Francophones want to consider themselves a nation, that’s their business, whether La Federale supports them or not. But to spuriously argue that they have become the targets of discrimination is dishonest and arrogant, and makes a mockery of the real discrimination that identifiable groups genuinely face every day, right here in Quebec.

Some journalists in Quebec, such as Fabrice de Pierrebourg or André Noël, consider journalism as a show and are pretty good at entertaining readers. Even if they tell fairy tales.

The shocking and yet inaccurate accusations the two men made against Marc Gascon, Saint-Jérome’s mayor, are a sign of this fact. They deliberately smeared his reputation and published unsourced information, in order to get a scoop and to make their point : Gascon is involved in a corruption scandal.

Unfortunately for them, their facts once again are non-existent. Their article is merely a childish (but creative) gathering of suppositions.

There are not a single evidence of Gascon’s involvement in a corruption (or collusion) scandal involving construction companies.

Gascon had not realized his home improvement works by companies under contract with the city of Saint-Jérome as La Presse claimed. Gascon did not get a Las Vegas trip offered by construction companies’ managers as Pierrebourg and Noël said. 

Always the same old story with these two so-called investigators. They intentionally mix true and false in order to max out their stories. Though, when we take a closer look, we realize that inaccuracy is the main characteristic of their work.

The Supreme Court of Canada concluded its extended examination of press freedom Friday by handing a qualified victory to a Globe and Mail reporter, whose fight to protect a confidential source continues.

The top court upheld the concept of journalistic privilege in the province of Quebec in a 9-0 decision, but ruled that reporters and their lawyers have to assert that qualified right on a case-by-case basis. 

The nine justices ordered a Quebec trial court to reconsider the case of Daniel Leblanc, who has refused to reveal the identity of the anonymous source behind his groundbreaking stories about the federal sponsorship scandal.

Leblanc and his lawyer called Friday’s decision a victory, but the case has been sent back to Quebec Superior Court to weigh the pros and cons of allowing the reporter to continue protecting his source.

The Supreme Court outlined a set of rules to guide the Quebec court. It ruled journalists should be forced to reveal sources only when there is no other way to get information that is considered vital for the administration of justice.

The ruling is the latest in a series to address the practice of journalism, from source-protection issues, publication bans to defences for media organizations in libel cases.

In Friday’s ruling, as well as in a May decision involving the National Post, the court refused to create a blanket constitutional protection for journalists, saying they are a “heterogeneous and ill-defined group of writers and speakers.”

The ruling laid out a four-point test that gives judges “a mechanism with the necessary flexibility to weigh and balance competing public interests in a context-specific manner.”

Friday’s ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by the federal government against advertising firm Groupe Polygone to recoup $35 million in sponsorship money paid by the former Liberal government.

In that case, a Quebec Superior Court judge ordered Leblanc to answer questions from Polygone’s lawyers about his sources.

Leblanc has steadfastly refused to name the source he code-named “ma chouette” or “my sweetie.”

The Quebec court never heard specific arguments on the source-protection issue when it originally heard the case, but the trial judge still made his order compelling Leblanc’s co-operation.

“It is for the party seeking to establish privilege to demonstrate that the interest in maintaining journalist-source confidentiality outweighs the public interest in the disclosure that the law would normally require,” Justice Louis LeBel wrote Friday for the majority.

“If Mr. Leblanc’s answers were almost certain to identify MaChouette then, bearing in mind the high societal interest in investigative journalism, it might be that he could only be compelled to speak if his response was vital to the integrity of the administration of justice. Ultimately, these matters will be for the judge to determine, but he must consider them.”

Leblanc called the ruling a victory because the court recognized the concept of journalistic privilege, but said he wanted to study it further.

“I think the Supreme Court has recognized the importance of the work of journalists, the protection of sources and that’s why I think it is a victory today.”

Globe lawyer William Brock said the decision is a victory for the public because it gives potential whistle blowers the protection from reprisals that they require in order to come forward with information of wrongdoing.

“This judgment gives substantial protection to confidential sources. We never asked for, and I don’t think there could be absolute, unconditional protection because I think everyone realizes there will always be certain exceptional situations,” said Brock.

“Someone else faced with knowledge of something like the sponsorship scandal in the future is going to be comfortable coming forward and saying, I’m going to do something about this.”

But Osgoode Hall law professor Jamie Cameron said that although the case is clearly a win for Leblanc and all journalists, the Supreme Court has still been reluctant to grant Canadian reporters some of the same protections as their foreign counterparts.

“The problem is that the privilege does not have constitutional status and is left to the uncertainties of case-by-case decision making,” said Cameron, who represented the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which was granted intervener status in the case.

“The time has come for Canada to follow the lead of the U.S. and other countries, and adopt a shield law that would protect the journalist-source privilege.”

In a case involving the National Post newspaper earlier this spring, the court recognized the right of reporters to protect confidential sources, but concluded it was not an absolute right.

The ruling meant that the Post was ordered to turn over a document that had been leaked to reporter Andrew McIntosh at the height of what was known as the Shawinigate affair. McIntosh, who has since quit the Post, was investigating business dealings in ex-prime minister Jean Chretien’s riding.

McIntosh received an envelope containing what appeared to be an internal loan document from the Business Development Bank of Canada. The bank said the document was a forgery, and called in the RCMP, which issued a search warrant.

An RCMP spokesman would not comment Friday on whether it ever followed up and seized the document, saying their investigation was still active.

Cameron said the recent Supreme Court rulings have produced mixed results for journalists.

“There have been positive developments as well as setbacks, in cases such as National Post. The court has been supportive of press freedom, but only to a point. Changes for the benefit of the media and the press are set in a framework of caution and incremental change,” she said.

But Brock said a ruling that established a new libel defence for journalists, as well as the Post and Globe cases have been good for the craft.

“These decisions are good for journalists, and more importantly it reflects the importance the Supreme Court has placed over the past few years on the journalistic function and the role it plays in a free and democratic society.”

Kathleen Lévesque, a French Canadian journalist notably writing for the daily newspaper Le Devoir, is more of an activist than a journalist.

Lévesque does not bring facts to her readers, but feed them with her own perception and ideologies. A Union leader (for many years, Kathleen Lévesque headed the Journalists Union of Quebec),  her activism might impact her work?

The most disturbing point of Kathleen Lévesque work is that she perpetually confuses facts, gives approximative statements and does not check her facts. Actually, she deliberately writes ambiguous articles, challenging people’s honnesty and ethics. Is it journalism or smear campaigns?

Another thing shows Lévesque trash-journalism methods : the way she sets up her headlines. Regularly, she will add the word “scandal” to it… probably more catchy even if most of the time there’s no real scandals behind her work. 

But facts are not that easy to bend. Despite Levesque’s suspicion and smear campaigns, none of her so-called “scandals” have led to a judiciary action so far. Most of the time, behind her “scandals”, one can only find political stakes.

What she describes as “collusion” does not exist.  Her last “scoop” over a self-claimed corruption scandal at the Saint-Rémi City House is a new example on how her work is biased.

 Nobody buys her tricks anymore. Kathleen Lévesque lost any type of credibility with her abuse of “scandal-like” headlines. Sensationalism corrupted her facts.

No proofs. Partisanship. No counterpoint… This is not journalism. So why does Kathleen Lévesque works this way? Which interests is she working for?

Fabrice de Pierrebourg is the archetype of trash journalist who never checks his news or uses reliable sources as soon as it comes to getting a scoop.

His “journalistic” book on Canadian Secret services (A Nest of spies) is a masterpiece of information manipulation as well as a lack of talent.

Every single Canadian intelligence expert just laughed at this book who looks a lot more like a bad James Bond movie than a truthful report.

Fabrice de Pierrebourg does not really care about truth and journalistic ethic. What matters for him is sensationalism and to shock his readers.

Readers who are not able to see what is true and what is not in Pierrebourg work. The man has become a master in creating a cocktail of real news, rumours and true lies.

His report on Trudeau airport security, which made him famous, is as dishonest. Pierrebourg was not seeking to test the airport security. He was making a point as well as a statement. 

Actually, it is a bit sad that a prestigious newspaper such La Presse just hired this type of so-called journalist. They probably have forgotten that Pierrebourg was fired from his last job…