The Fractured Nation Interviews

Maude Barnstone

The Babelization of the Airwaves

Fractured Nation Interviews Johnny: If the CRTC had become a tool of the BBMC, how do you explain its attempt to balance this overwhelming influence of a few media barons by licensing more and more specialty channels?

Maude: A lot of those specialty channels were licensed to those same media barons thereby increasing the concentration of the media and the power of the media baron, not lessening it. It also created what I would call the ethnic media baron, media companies that specialized in programming to specific ethnic groups in their own language.

Johnny: And what would be wrong with that?

Maude: Remember when you asked me if multiculturalism played a role in The Fracture and I said only peripherally.

Johnny: Yes.

Maude: It was the granting of these specialty channel licences and their impact on the creation of a shared history, in conjunction with government funding and encouragement of multiculturalism that, in my opinion, propelled Canada further down the road to oblivion.

Johnny: Dr. Singh made more or less the same observation about multiculturalism’s contribution to Canada’s dismemberment.

Maude: Dr. Singh is not a stupid man. He has seen first hand what the lack of a shared history can lead to; what an inability to make another group understand your point of view because they don't know where your coming from, or came from, historically speaking.

Johnny: And the media creates this shared history or, in the Canadian example, raised barriers to its creation?

Maude: D’oh [striking the side of her head like Homer Simpson]. The media doesn’t create this shared history – American media being the exception – as much as it informs us of what we have in common, what we have accomplished together, the values we share. All of these are part of a shared history and, as Dr. Singh explained, a country can not survive without the cohesiveness that it provides.

Johnny: How did the creation of specialty channels threatened this creation of a shared history?

Maude: Sharing leads to understanding and even appreciating what the other person is doing, saying, reading, listening to. The proliferation of so-called multicultural channels with each language group watching the news, soaps, television programs and movies from the home-country in their native language eliminated the possibility of innocent, random eavesdropping on another citizen’s concerns and experiences. It made creating that bond that comes from sharing your experiences, your accomplishments, your religion with others via mass media a thing of the past.

Johnny: If I understand, Canadian mass media made it possible for new immigrants to live and work in their own language, to almost completely cocoon themselves from Canadian society while being ostensibly part of it. Am I making any sense?

Maude: Much more sense than the Canadian government which allowed this to happen. It took decades for official bilingualism to become acceptable, and during its early stages fed a paranoia, mainly Western paranoia, that French-Canadians, Québecquers were about to take over the country.

Johnny: Having a paranoid citizenry is not good.

Maude: No kidding Johnny. Paranoia leads to misunderstanding and misunderstandings among ethnic groups often leads to violence. What I call the babelization of the airwaves encouraged the proliferation of official and semi-official languages which further insulated ethnic groups from society at large and from each other and fed the paranoia that erupted into so much violence.

Johnny: Babelization of the airwaves, that’s another interesting characterization.

Maude: It is an accurate characterization. The Confusion of Tongues, the fragmentation of humanity described in Genesis when the people who were building the Tower of Babel could no longer communicate should have served as a warning to Canadians.

Johnny: Yet, you say that multiculturalisation and now this “babelization” of the airwaves was not a significant factor in The Fracture?

Maude: Babelization of the airwaves was significant in that during the troubles leading to The Fracture, it allowed those with an interest in the country fracturing, to easily communicate their message to their supporters and to convince others to join their cause; Islamists communicating their message in Arabic with which every Muslim must be conversant, being the most successful.

This cacophony made it difficult, not only for the government but more importantly for the general population, to appreciate what was being expounded on the multicultural airwaves, and to deal with it.

While paranoia was a characteristic of Canadian society before The Fracture, it was not the paranoia between groups that would bring about The Fracture, it was, in my opinion, Canadians’ fear of their own government; a fear, which I admit, was exploited by some of the more ruthless political and religious elements in Canadian society to further their own ends.

Johnny: Now I am confused.

Maude: With the exception of the Islamic movement, the people were rebelling against the BBMC; against government secrecy; against arbitrary search and seizures; against arbitrary imprisonment and deportations.

They were rebelling against the conditions that the BBMC and the government had imposed on them. For some, it was abject poverty, for others it was because they no longer had a voice in running their country, for still others it was the destruction of the environment …

It was a rebellion of the citizens against the BBMC, its influence on the public agenda and the wealth and power it had accumulated at their expense.

Johnny: Babelization of the airwaves then just provided a means for people sharing their grievances against the BBMC and the government in their own language and planning their revenge in their own language.

Maude: Boom-Boom was right, you are a fast learner.

Johnny: Who was it that wrote that when a small segment of the population accumulates the lions share of a country’s wealth, to keep most of it and maintain the privileged position wealth makes possible, they must share it with the less fortunate, usually through taxes, or convince their government to build more prisons? The choice to build more prisons invariably being the wrong choice.

Maude: I think it was John Kenneth Galbraith in a book called The Culture of Contentment in which he predicted a revolt of what he called the underclass against the privileged, wealthy – the contented few. His prediction, except for the Islamic element, which he did not, could not foresee, is a fair description of the situation that led up to The Fracture.