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Book excerpt: A Nation of Serfs?

Chapter 11: The Fumbling Fifth Estate

Mark Milke - September 25, 2006

The following is an excerpt from:

A Nation of Serfs?: How Canada's Political Culture Corrupts Canadian Values
by Mark Milke
272 pages , $26.99
Published by John Wiley & Sons, 2006

Chapter 11: The Fumbling Fifth Estate

A failure to analyze: The CBC's incurious approach to George

In May 2005, two different media sources took distinct approaches to a controversial public figure, George Galloway, and his testimony before a U.S. Senate committee. The British Member of Parliament appeared in Washington, D.C. to answer charges he took illicit money in the U.N. oil-for-food scandal. Television networks were there to record the anticipated fireworks; another observer, a Brit now based in Washington, also tracked the testimony. If there were any Canadians who yet wondered whether some of their more high-profile state television reporters have an obvious bias, the Senate hearings revealed that, yes, some wear it on their sleeve.

CBC-TV reporter Neil MacDonald. CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge framed the story this way: "We take you ringside now for a verbal dust-up over the Iraq Oil for Food scandal." With the image of dueling boxers, Mansbridge described the combatants and, in Galloway's case, let the British M.P. off the hook in advance. "In one corner, a U.S. Senate sub-committee looking into who pilfered the missing billions," read Mansbridge. "In the other, George Galloway, anti-war politician from Britain accused of profiting from the program. His name is already cleared back home. As Neil MacDonald tells us, it hardly seemed like a fair fight."

The CBC piece became a cute game of MacDonald setting up Galloway as the charming, blustery, no-nonsense Scottish rogue against the Keystone Cop senators. After playing a clip of Galloway's you-lied-about-Iraqi-weapons-of-mass-destruction statement, Neil MacDonald gave this rundown of the charges before he concentrated on the fluff of the appearance as opposed to the substance of the charges against Galloway:

NEIL MACDONALD: The Senate committee had accused Galloway, a British M.P., of accepting bribes from Saddam Hussein through the Oil for Food program. He denies it. In fact, he says, it's American payback for his anti-war activity.

GALLOWAY: Senator, this is the mother of all smoke screens. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months, when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch.

More articles by Mark Milke