The B.C. media:
Courtiers to the corrupt
It takes a wide-ranging support network to prop up an
organization as obviously corrupt as B.C.’s Office of the
Police Complaint Commissioner. Among the collaborators, if
through incompetence or gutlessness, are B.C. journalists
August 1, 2016
If there’s any journalist in British Columbia knowledgeable about police accountability, that person keeps it a secret. To give just one glaring example of this industry’s ignorance, almost all B.C. reporters think the province’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner investigates police. Moreover, no B.C. reporter writes with any insight at all about police accountability.
It’s a topic on which they know just about nothing. Try to contact them and you’ll get every impression they want to know nothing. With few exceptions, reporters have rejected everything I’ve sent them, even when I delivered solid tips about very concerning actions and highly questionable policies. I even sent these leads neatly packaged, with plenty of detail and background info.
To be sure, this project has suffered from a lack of media coverage. That was a crucial factor because, when all branches of the establishment stand united in corruption, people sometimes hope the fourth estate will take a stand. What a pathetically naïve, futile hope.
I did have a lot of letters to the editor published. But info that comes to light in the letters section rarely makes its way into news stories or commentary. That’s true even when the details can easily be verified. Journalists sneeringly dismiss letters as the work of cranks. That’s a media convention.
And a vital point to understanding journalism is that journalists are extremely conventional people. Conventional people don’t think for themselves. In the case of reporters, they evaluate information according to the social status of the source. Statements from establishment figures matter. So do statements from officially designated special interest groups. No one else matters. Especially if they’re challenging establishment figures or ideas, outsiders will likely be dismissed.
Nor are journalists very bright, at least not in Canada. Most of them are somewhere in the dull-average intelligence range. The tiny intelligent minority is vastly outnumbered by Canadian journalism’s many, many vacuous twits. Academically, J-schools function below the level of other faculties at the same institutions. Budding reporters graduate knowing just about nothing about political science, history, economics and other topics that should be essential to those who’d write about public affairs.
They don’t improve on the job. Consequently, an awful lot of Canadian news coverage consists of fluff, establishment PR and emotional bullshit.
If reporters know anything, it’s trivia, pop culture and celebrities. Their fascination with fame—the focus on personalities instead of issues, the preoccupation with the vapid comments of airhead pop stars—reflects journalists’ own ambitions. Most reporters chose that line of work in an effort to gain stature. Journalism is one of just a few ways a person of no particular abilities can become a bit of a local celebrity. It’s revealing that journalism’s most highly coveted job is also journalism’s stupidest job—an empty-headed TV newscaster who simply reads a script.
Journalism is essentially a vanity occupation. Their laughable delusions to the contrary, journalists are not people who’d ask difficult questions of important people.
Here in B.C., reporters won’t even question our system of police oversight, with its obvious lack of transparency and accountability. That’s not to mention a near taboo on outright scandals like the Vancouver police/OPCC joint cover-up of Constable Taylor Robinson’s gratuitous assault on a disabled woman. Reporting on the Robinson cover-up would mean questioning important people and their subordinates: the bigshot lawyer who heads the OPCC; his lying ex-cop/deputy police complaint commissioner (see below); the two provincial political parties that stand united in their opposition to police accountability and, in the case of a legislative committee, brushed aside evidence of OPCC corruption; the Law Society of B.C. staff who lie on the OPCC’s behalf; the B.C. Civil Liberties Association that won’t criticize the OPCC’s lack of transparency or accountability, let alone the Robinson cover-up; and the Pivot Legal Society poverty pimp who “represented” Robinson’s victim but supports the cover-up.
All those people, all those groups constitute parts of the B.C. establishment and its hangers-on. To journalists, those are the people who matter—even when they’re obvious liars, even when they’re obviously corrupt.
But despite that, some reporters should be interested in good stories. I’ve sent them some good leads. Among them were the Robinson cover-up (neatly packaged with plenty of detail and background info) and the ludicrous manner in which a legislative committee rejected all public submissions to its inquiry into the OPCC. Having been dismissed almost consistently, I had occasionally wondered if someone has been ordering B.C.’s media to back down.
That concern came up again in my experience with the Georgia Straight. At one point the paper did voice my concerns about the Robinson cover-up. But very soon afterwards the supposedly brave publication ran a patently dishonest response from deputy police complaint commissioner Rollie Woods, a former head of VPD Professional Standards. The Straight has since barred me from online comments. Although Woods very obviously lied to the Straight and its readers about a key aspect of the Robinson cover-up, editor Charlie Smith and reporter Carlito Pablo have continued to treat Woods as a credible news source.
Deputy police complaint commissioner Rollie Woods’ letter to the Georgia Straight was a typical OPCC mix
of obfuscation, misleading statements and outright lies. But Woods’ worst whopper was his claim that
OPCC boss Stan Lowe ordered a public inquiry into how Vancouver police handled the Taylor Robinson case.
Straight editor Charlie Smith printed this especially outrageous lie unchallenged, passed up an opportunity to
question the OPCC and later barred me from commenting online. Since then Smith and another Straight reporter
have continued to treat liar Woods as a credible news source.
Maybe someone is ordering the media to back off. Their compliance wouldn’t surprise me. I’ve met many journalists. They’re deluded in their pretence that they speak truth to power.
Additionally, many journalists remain very close socially with high-ranking bureaucrats, PR flacks and poverty pimps, among other provincial bigshots and their hangers-on. They’re all courtiers to an obviously corrupt mob of opportunists.
So while this project has reinforced my worst suspicions about Canadian journalism, it has also offered insights into other aspects of B.C. political culture: the politicians, legal establishment and poverty pimp industry.
The project focused on the OPCC, evidently off limits for journalistic scrutiny. There has been critical media coverage of B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office, but most of it has been driven by cop interests. Some exceptions have been small newspapers, most notably White Rock’s Peace Arch News, which have been covering the appalling delays in IIO investigations. The bigger media leave that subject alone.
As for the RCMP, the absurd, outright perverse on-the-job behaviour of so many Mounties has been an ongoing public scandal for years. (Here’s just one of many examples.) Journalists love the spectacle but rarely address the way the RCMP’s in-house oversight system allows these weirdos to destroy a once-respected Canadian institution.