John Semley, contributor to the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star talks with Jesse about the media pageantry around Remembrance Day, reporting on viral videos, Ezra Levant’s supposed boner and Don Cherry’s shrinking box.
[00:00:37] “Except for evergreen news. The Berlin wall. Remembrance day. These things that happen every year happen this year.” Semley
“It’s not really news, it’s un-news. It wasn’t a slow news week, It was like news you could of known would be news you know three years ago that it would be news. And this stuff interests me in that it doesn’t interest me at all.” Jesse
[00:03:24] “There is still this conception of the six o’clock news or the ten o’clock news or the 11 o’clock news or the newspaper as this is the public space. And not everything is going to be hard news and breaking news, this is also where we come together to feel things. And it feels bizarre and absurd to me, I mean Remembrance Day is one of theses events where you get hard news reporters trying to hit emotional notes.” Jesse
“I remember the cover of the Star I think this week was a couple who had met before he went off to World War 2 and that was the big story, like trying to make it this human interest piece. And I suppose the sad thing is the further we get, I mean certainly World War 1 but even World War 2 the harder it’s going to be to find people who are still alive. I see a sort of narrowing of it, people trying to seize on. Trying to ring something out of it while the ringing is still good.” Semley
[00:04:27] “I guess if you do want to find something that’s newsy and edgy about this, how about the fact that there are more veterans of the Afghanistan conflict who have committed suicide than died in the actual conflict. And how about the fact, that Canadian veterans are now not being seen in photographs. They will not allow themselves photographed with members of the conservative party because the way veterans are treated.” Jesse
[00:05:03] “That’s not a unique experience to inherit second or third generation but I did a piece for the Star actually last week where people thought it was tasteless to bring this stuff up on Remembrance Day to be like hey this is the day of solemn remembrance. And in my opinion this is the day when issues of war and the politics of war and people dying in trenches and scratching at their throats because they’re being gassed, and all these horrifying experiences are front of mind. So why shouldn’t we be sort of mounting discussions like that around remembrance day.” Semley
“…There was one report, an interview about what trench warfare was actually like and how horrific it was. You know it was to this question, wow these people, what they put up with and how did they endure it? And the answer was they didn’t endure anything, everyone had a complete psychological collapse and the discipline in these forces broke down after a year in like every army.” Jesse
[00:06:24] “If we’re talking about the Berlin wall, instead of talking about, oh great Germany was unified and Europe was strong and together again. Let’s talk about all the other cases in the world where communities are segregated either by bifurcation of their population or sort of economic stratification and things like that. Instead of there was a wall and 25 years ago they started chipping away at the wall and now there’s no wall. And here’s 800 meters of balloons.” Semley
“The balloons were pretty, Stop shitting on the balloons.” Jesse
[00:07:08] “I’m not getting a lot of information from these reports. What I’m getting is a clear message about how I’m supposed to feel about these historical events and don’t tell me how to fucking feel.” Jesse
“That’s a very good point, I mean today is a day to be be sad. Or in case of the Berlin Wall I guess today is a day to be happy. That sort of function of the news has collapsed all over the place. I mean the op-ed writing versus the hard news writing has kind of become blurred in a way. Or there is an expectation now, you need three op-ed’s per every hard news story that there is.” Semley
“All of these are remnants of a dying media formula where you have space to fill, that must be filled. Where you have hours to fill of a broadcast that must be filled. and they make less and less sense in a internet news cycle where you’re like why are you saying this if it didn’t need to be said.” Jesse
[00:08:03] “Saying the word viral video brings a twinge of embarrassment in the back of my neck. But when the news starts reporting on viral videos.” Semley
[00:09:02] “This is such a old school/old media kind of thing. Trying to catch up to the internet. I feel like reporting that something went viral is like saying on the news something is newsworthy today.” Semley
[00:09:57] “I was like a tech guy journalist, at the CBC doing regular news world hits back when it was called news world. And I would be trying to push my agenda, trying to do serious tech stuff about surveillance this, privacy that and copyright. and what I would get brought on the air for would be, We want to do a thing about this viral video. And it was always just a flimsy excuse to play the viral video and so it was interesting because the journalists kind of went from the early days where they were like…skeptical of the internet and duressive of the internet. And dismissive of the internet and all internet culture because they felt personally threatened by not just citizen journalism but just that people were watching that instead of watching their tv show.” Jesse
“A bunch of morons went crazy for a stupid video today.” Semley
“Yeah but then you’re trying to have your cake and eat it too. Bunch of morons went crazy for a stupid video, Here it is. It’s so undignified, a reporter reporting that this had this many tweets or followers. At a certain point the news becomes stuff I saw on the internet earlier today.” Jesse
[00:11:19] “A viral video is like catching a greased pig you know. And it’s not the news broadcasters have like apprehended the greased pig, they just have a photo of someone trying to catch it, that they are reporting on.” Semley
[00:11:36] If something is funny, let it be funny. We don’t need a think piece in the Star/The Post about what makes a viral video funny…It’s like explaining a magic trick.” Semley
“You put your finger on something interesting though that these are often the same people who were crying foul about say Huffington Post aggregating their news content but then when it comes to a YouTube video, there like hey free content.” Jesse
[00:12:33] “Let write about an Adult Swim movie that’s playing at 4 in the morning that’s confusing potheads.” Semley
[00:13:25] The whole story including Levant’s facts.
[00:14:00] “How dare these immigrant families object to Remembrance Day, but they didn’t. And as the Globe and Mail reports here, Ezra Levant fucked up. That’s what Simon Houpt wrote in the Globe, That he wrongly accused Ontario school board of allowing exemptions for Muslims students on Remembrance Day and this more than Ezra’s original rant about this went viral. And it’s a delicious idea that as it was reported, this school board puts out the word to their schools that if students want out of Remembrance Day, if their families aren’t into it, you can do something else. And Ezra jumps the gun, he thinks it’s them making this exemption for Muslims who should be forced to accept the values of our country and celebrate Remembrance Day. But Ezra got it wrong, because what it actually was about said the school board was a lot of families don’t want their kids going to places where there are Canadians in uniform because of the recent murders of uniformed Canadians. So egg on Ezra Levant’s face.” Jesse
[00:15:33] “John Doyle reported on his numbers, he gets like 5000 people per broadcast. I think that this podcast is doing like 20,000. And yet he’s in the mainstream consciousness that Trudeau reacts to him and he’s a media figure in this way.” Jesse
[00:16:02] “He didn’t fuck up, Sun did their due diligence. The original memo from the school board did say we will exempt students if their families want the exemption. Sun did their due diligence and asked the school board what’s that about. And the school board guy said, it’s for a religious accommodation and the original memo had one set of links to Muslim soldiers. So Sun kind of connected that dot, that wasn’t definite but the idea that this was actually a religious exemption, a religious accommodation was explicitly told to Sun when they followed up on it. Now what happened next, once Ezra came out with that story, the school board changed their tune and they started to tell other news sources that no no no. It’s about parents not wanting their kids to be near people in uniform” Jesse
[00:17:10] Agar conversation in detail.
[00:18:17] “The media story here is that everybody was so jazzed at the idea that Levant completely blew this one, and completely jumped to this conclusion and I later found out. I took it up with Simon Houpt at the Globe and Mail and I asked him Are you aware that the school board actually confirmed it was a religious accommodation. And he sent me this like long exhaustive explainer as to how that’s actually if you look at it in detail , it’s not so clear that was the policy they were referring to… Meanwhile he didn’t include any of this in his actual piece on it. And the headline reads that Ezra Levant wrongly accuses the Ontario school board of allowing exemptions for Muslim students on Remembrance Day.” Jesse
[00:19:24] “What levant jumped to I guess correctly is a conclusion that is so consistent with the Sun news editorial. It’s so consistent with what Ezra will say when Omar Khadr writes an editorial for the Ottawa Citizen or what Michael Coren will write books about how Muslims are coming to destroy our values and wage war against Christianity. That a story like that is so Sun ready.” Semley
“It’s the perfect foot in mouth, you guys are awful human garbage. Everyone wants that to be true. It’s delicious, it didn’t happen that way.” Jesse
[00:20:34] “Hockey night in Canada is sort of the banner center piece of you know Canadian hockey culture and coaches corner is the banner centre piece of that where Don Cherry and Ron Maclean between the first and second period talk about the game so far. And it’s known as much for the sort of commentary that they’ll bring to bare as for Cherry’s flamboyant suits and his lambasting of fetch European players and his opinions about how women shouldn’t be in dressing rooms. It’s become a sort of go to outrage generator, and he’s annoyed there because Coaches Corner has been cut short and they’re trying to do less Coaches Corner which Cherry is upset by because he sees himself as being the star of the show and the reason people tune in. And there’s a couple of ways to think about this. A, maybe they were just going long and they had to sort of trim it back. B, the thing that I like to think is that Sportsnet is trying to suddenly tell Cherry that he’s not wanted. They are like Brian Dennehy in Rambo trying to run him out of town.” Semley
[00:23:40] Rock-em sock em VHS tapes
[00:24:32] “If Cherry was like with it enough in the 80’s to embrace the VHS format then maybe there is still hope, he’s still got a feverish audience. So Don Cherry, I know you’re listening, give me a call and I’ll tell you about podcasts.” Jesse
Get a weekly note about our top stories.
This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.
We are a very rare kind of company – actually and truly independent journalism.
We tell great stories that need to be told, without fear or favour.
We work for you.
Support us. We uncover secrets and hold the powerful to account.
We've done it before. We keep doing it.
Plus: ad-free podcasts, maybe some socks or a t-shirt. Up to you.