November 17, 2014
#58 An Interview With My Harshest Critic
Joe Clark has been aggressively challenging and sometimes attacking my work for years.

He runs a blog dedicated to criticizing CANADALAND. This is our first conversation.

Episode Rundown

[00:00:21] “Joe Clark is on the show today. No that Joe Clark, the Right Honourable Joe Clark, the former Prime Minister of Canada. This is a different Joe Clark, This Joe Clark is well what he is. I only recently found out he is a former Toronto Star columnist, a Globe and Mail columnist, a columnist for Extra the gay and lesbian newspaper here in Toronto. He is also an author I have learned, he wrote a book on web accessibility and another book on Canadian english spelling. But that’s not how I have known Joe Clark, that’s not the writing I’ve been familiar with. The writing of his that I’ve known has been in a form of comments to Facebook posts, emails sent to me over the years, and writing on his blogs. And primarily his most recent blog, which is called Canadaland Watch. which you can find at Joe describes the blog as media criticism of media critic Jesse Brown podcast of Canadian media criticism.” Jesse

[00:01:59] “Why do you have my phone number but I don’t have yours?” Clark

“Would you like my phone number?” Jesse

“It’s a bit late now isn’t it. It was a matter of principle at a certain point.” Clark


[00:04:42] “So what, that’s the problem with your coterie of downtown progressive pseudo-intellectual journalists who practice identity politics to the absolute extreme but have no understanding of sociology.” Clark

[00:07:40] “Nothing I do or anyone of the small number of people like Simon Houpt who opposes you in a tiny tiny way can ever do will dislodge Jesse-Nation which is the Ford-Nation manque.” Clark

[00:09:40] “To try to give you a complete answer to your first question. When I add everything up, the fact that you’ve made multiple references to my personal appearance, that fact you talk about my coterie of friends and what part of town I hang out in. The fact that you seem angry about typos and typographical manichaus that no one else seems to get upset about.” Jesse

“Because they are equally incompetent.” Clark

“And the fact that many many many people who work in journalism also feel that they get angry emails from you.” Jesse

[00:11:32] “You had (Jian Ghomeshi) him in your sights with your goddamn crossbow and then you took it away and ran out of the blind and trotted on to daddy so Kevin Donavan could carry your water.” Clark

[00:12:08] “You debuted this funding campaign which is fine. That was always going to be a success, it was disingenuous of you to think it was not going to work. It was always going to be a success.” Clark

[00:12:41] “If we look at the timeline here. You have this information back in the spring. You chose not to run with it for I think incorrect and spurious reasons. and then you also decide to go to the Toronto Star with it and knowing at some point that the shit would hit the fan. This would be published and it so turned out because of events that happened very shortly after you debuted your crowdfunding campaign which is premised on the idea that you’d be the country’s sole independent media watchdog, if I may use the word. The biggest story of your life, you will never have a bigger story than this I predict. You went straight to the lamestream media with. Why?” Clark

“Because for me to debuted this on Canadaland would be disastrous for the story…I won’t misrepresent that I had also my own personal reasons for taking to the Star in that I and I know you find this to be spurious as well. But I don’t have libel insurance.” Jesse

[00:13:55] Grant vs Torstar was a story in 2009 where Peter Grant, a land owner sued the Toronto Star for publishing an article about Grant buying land for a golf course. The allegation come from local residents that suggested that Grant used his political influence to buy the land.

[00:14:22] “It’s clear that he thought, that he had heard that the Star had dropped the story. He was preparing for a Canadaland story, I believe. So the immediate response would of been to attack my credibility, to attack me personally…There is the jilted ex-girlfriend and then there’s the freelance writer who also a jilted ex-girlfriend of the CBC.” Jesse

“You probably meant angry, that’s our word of the day.” Clark

“Angry, and he even I think somewhere he said something about how I was a freelance writer who had a problem with him.” Jesse

“As does half the freelance writers in Canada but carry on.” Clark

“That’s fine but it was clear to me that this was going to be the defense was that if you can discredit me and you can discredit this one source who we thought was going to be my only source. Than that would’ve been his plan of attack. Had it not appeared in the Star. So looking at this from the point of view of my sources, the alleged victims of Jian Ghomeshi and their interests.” Jesse

“They’re clearly not alleged. you don’t have to hedge that.” Clark

“Well I think that you’re probably right since he hasn’t denied that he beat them. But I reserve the right to edit this because I still don’t want to get sued.” Jesse

“You’re not going to get sued cause some of us read defamation law textbooks and case law for fun.” Clark

“Anyone can sue anyone.” Jesse

[00:15:43] “What was necessary, what served the interest of the story. To the publics interest to know and the interest of my sources who are entrusting me with their story and trusting me with their identities and were still exposing themselves to some degree. And it would all be for naught if the story was torn down.” Jesse

[00:16:32] “The bit you just said about a moment ago about how that the credibility of the sources and your credibility would be destroyed.” Clark

“I don’t know, it certainly would be challenged.” Jesse

“Lots of things are challenged. You are be challenged right now and you’re holding up fine.”  Clark

[00:17:06] “You can even file a libel claim based on malice if he felt that I was operating out of malice if he felt I didn’t report it responsibly.” Jesse

“Malice and responsibility are two different things. Malice has multiple senses in defamation law but by far the primary one is an intent not encapsulated by the words in dispute. So it doesn’t just mean hatred, it doesn’t mean you hate Jian Ghomeshi’s guts as so many of us do. I was an early adopter of hating Jian Ghomeshi’s guts.” Clark

[00:17:50] “I’ll accept as some level that you wanted to shoot the crossbow and take him down, and skin his hide.” Clark

“I’m not agreeing to that characterization. I wanted to tell the truth on” Jesse

“And the effect of that would be the same. And I suppose actually if you’d admit that than that could be imputed as malice. And the definition I just described.” Clark

[00:18:24] There is no power that can prevent other people from filing frivolous lawsuits against you. Selma bouvier, I have a lucrative hobby filing frivolous lawsuits.” Clark is talking about The Simpsons Season 3 episode 21 Black Widower.the quote is actually a letter Selma sends to a prison inmate who turns out to be Sideshow Bob. It goes I have a steady job and a lucrative hobby filing nuisance lawsuits.

[00:18:58] “Let’s imagine the first couple of days. He could of found a lawyer easily who could of filed a  defamation complaint against you which as you know starts with a letter that has to be served properly demanding an apology and retraction. Stating the words that are complained of and why they are defamatory. But by day three or four or seven or ten when, I’m going to mangle her name Lucy DeCoutere and other victims came forward.” Clark

“Would they have come forward if it was my blog and I was facing a lawsuit?” Jesse

“I think it’s entirely possible.” Clark

[00:20:36] “If you’re given what is incorrectly known as a libel notice, if you’re given a demand for an apology or retraction. You imminently publish it. The first thing you do is take a picture and put on twitter, then you scan it and put it on your blog. And then you say you will not be muzzled. Then the game is on, but the ball is in your court and you have the court of public opinion in the palm of your hand. I mixed a couple of metaphors there, it’s true though you are in control of the narrative at that point. They’ve alleged that your writing is defamatory  having to restate the alleged defamatory words and why they’re defamatory and that makes the papers. Even if you never become the Vichy like collaborationist you didn’t with the Toronto Star” Clark

[00:21:34] “Ok next, let’s imagine things go terribly for you and in fact he finds a lawyer, a confident lawyer that knows defamation law and is willing to file a complaint in I believe divisional court. Anyway they take you to court about it. Well I asked around, for example I asked Peter Downard who wrote the book Libel, one of the several books I read for pleasure in my spare time. Wouldn’t this be an obvious case of enormous public interest that could set a serious precedent, and wouldn’t you do Pro Bono work for Jesse Brown in this case. And he wrote back, I don’t know I have to think about it. That’s not a no.” Clark

“Do you think I asked lawyers if they would take this on Pro Bono when I was researching this?” Jesse

“I would expect you did yes, but did you ask someone like Peter Downard?” Clark

“I asked some of the most prominent libel lawyers in the country. I spoke to three different lawyers.” Jesse

[00:22:22] “Anyway you slice it, it would of been a massive irresponsible gamble to what end.” Jesse

“Stop saying irresponsible.” Clark

“It would not be responsible to my sources, it would not be responsible to my family. Any you know what, it worked out ok.” Jesse

“Well except for lying to your contributors on the pretext that you are an independent critic. One of the biggest stories of your life, you ran to daddy with.” Clark

[00:23:13] “They don’t care if the truth comes out on Canadaland or Toronto Star. They care if the truth comes out.” Jesse

[00:23:23] “How much did they(Toronto Star) pay you?” Clark

“I’d be happy to tell you that but they don’t want me to. I can tell you they payed me industry standard rates.” Jesse

“You signed a gag order?” Clark

“No. I am a freelancer who is constantly making contracts with different media organizations and the practice in the industry if you ever want to work again is you don’t tell people what you’re getting paid.” Jesse

[00:26:03] “You will not shut up about the corrosive effect of union funding on the Tyee.” Clark

“I don’t think I said anything about that being corrosive.” Jesse

“Re-listen to your own episode. You keep talking about the union which you didn’t even identify funding the Tyee.” Clark

[00:28:07] “Could you please stop trying to scoop my episode on Jan Wong, that’s coming up.” Jesse


[00:32:52] “I am running an independent media project that likes of which I at least am not familar with the precedent that I can base my actions on. So on an adhoc basis, I’m navigating unfamiliar waters trying to serve the truth and trying to serve my audience and trying to create a business and trying to do the work I like and trying to talk to people I find interesting as well as expose things that need to be exposed. I do this on now a twice a week basis and the public trust that I have with my audience, people are not idiots. Is measured by the support that they can revoke at any time. It doens’t mean I’m always right.” Jesse

[00:36:56] “They’re standards for reporting that shift wildly from newsroom to newsroom and organization to organization. And they are all each respective news organs attempt to create standard of credibility and to have responsible reporting. The problem in this country is that they are too often used as excuses to not report. You can be so responsible in your standards that you don’t break any goddamn news. So I do things a little bit differently. I refuse to have the standard of one news organization or another thrown at me. There is no bar you need to be called to to be a journalist. There’s no licensing body.” Jesse

Then why do I even bother with J-school Jesse?

[00:37:48] “So the ultimate metric is are the stories true. And my stories hold up, and it allows me to publish things that other people aren’t publishing. And that’s the service I provide.” Jesse

[00:38:40] “For very high profile things like in the Yatim case where essentially you are accusing the hack there of recapitulating the defenses evidence. The defense private evidence right. You can’t get a response.” Clark

“I didn’t accuse her of that, my sources that were reporters that were at that hearing accused her of that.” Jesse

That’s a distinction without much of a difference.” Clark

“It means, it’s substantiated Joe.” Jesse

[00:39:52] “She gave me a no comment which is better than a no comment” Jesse

[00:40:10] “Im having a blast, let’s do it.” Jesse

“You don’t seem to be having a blast.” Clark

[00:40:48] “What I want, what I’m hoping to kind work towards is greater realization that it’s ok to be critical of one another in this industry. The same way we are critical of every other industry and institution. You know that thing that journalists do where we afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Where we ask tough questions. We need to do that to ourselves. It’s a cultural thing and it’s the culture I’m trying to play some role in changing. The things not be so chummy and insetious and that we understand that, that is what we do professionally. It’s not personal, that’s the way things are in a lot of other countries that have robust press and free discourse. I think that is what is really desperately needed here. And I have to not get so frustrated that it hasn’t happened yet, just three months into this project.” Jesse reading a transcript of what he said back in episode 13. Very Meta.

“Well done, every year theres night of a thousand Stevies in New York where drag queens and some females show up as Stevie Nicks. I suggest we inaugurate a night of thousand Jesse’s, so a thousand of us show up with microphones and do Jesse Brown.” Clark

[00:42:24] “Looking at media power couples who occupy too many slots in the media already. Ian Brown and Johanna Schneller. Sarah Fulford, daughter of Wedgie(Robert Fulford) and Stephen Marche and Elizabeth Renzetti and Doug Saunders. These married couples that occupy all these slots. You don’t want to touch that because I’m inferring that you find that too personal.” Clark

“Well what would are Fondue parties be like if I went into that.” Jesse

[00:42:55] Actually it’s writers selling out their sources, but Didion being a reporter. That statement that Clark made is sensical.

[00:44:41] “You promised that if I post this interview, you are going to stop criticizing Canadaland.” Jesse

“Would you like to know why that is?” Clark

“No, I don’t want to know why it is, I just want you to know I don’t want you to do that. That I don’t think anybody should take on my word that I’ll hold up these standards and they shouldn’t scrutinize what I’m doing. I think you certainly have the means in a perpetual way. Seems like you got the time. I think nobody wants transparency, I know you love that word. Nobody really wants to be held accountable especially when they fuck up. I don’t want you to catch me on something. I imagine you will that might actually stick. I think it needs it and it would be incredibly hypocritical of me to say that I want you to go away and stop doing this. When I’m doing this to so many other people.” Jesse

“Nothings going to stick, Jesse Nation will back you to the hilt.” Clark

“Joe, I’ve been in dialogue with you before, I’m in dialogue with you now. I’m not going anywhere. If you want to keep doing this, I consider this a service and I thank you for coming here and speaking with me today.”

“Jesse, you have a lot to learn.” Clark

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