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October 13, 2010

The Globe and Mail shrinks in more than size

The Canadian Charger

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Newspaper redesigns often have an air of financial desperation about them. Cajoling readers with different fonts, layout, or paper size does little but add a transient sense of novelty that dissipates quickly. The Globe and Mail's latest attempt to tart itself up is particularly sad.

The daily broadsheet is now a pared-down, 11-inch-wide “narrowsheet” that looks as if it’s mutating into a tabloid.

Editor-in-chief John Stackhouse said the redesign is the most significant in the paper’s history, but the radical reduction begs allusion to a hungry person who has been forced to tighten his belt, but nevertheless boasts how slim he looks. 

Unfortunately, the redesign didn’t stop at physical appearance.

The paper’s management also decided that informed commentary on the Middle East is a luxury it can no longer afford. The firing of columnist Rick Salutin removes not only the last critic of Israel from its commentary pages, but also the paper’s claim to be a newspaper in the public interest.

Salutin told The Canadian Charger that he had known for two or three weeks his column would end, but otherwise had no comment. The official explanation is that Salutin had had a long run, 20 years, and that his removal was simply part of the redesign. Though this excuse has superficially plausibility, it doesn’t hold water.

If it were simply a matter of replacing an old voice with a new one, one would have expected Salutin to be replaced by a columnist of a similar calibre and political view.

After all, providing a variety of opinion shows respect for readers and is the hallmark of a good newspaper. The kind of incisive honesty Salutin brought to the Globe and Mail can be seen in the beginning to his June 4 column: 

“Israel’s claim this week that its soldiers killed nine civilians in self-defence on an aid-to-Gaza flotilla it had boarded is at best tone deaf. It strains credibility. You attack unarmed ships at sea and when people resist, shoot them and then blame them. It’s beyond Orwellian.”

Instead, we find his place taken by Irshad Manji.

Manji, for those who many not know, has built a successful career out of attacking Islam, and blaming Palestinians for their own oppression. For example, in her book The Trouble with Islam Today she writes:

“I have to be honest with you. Islam is on very thin ice with me....Through our screaming self-pity and our conspicuous silences, we Muslims are conspiring against ourselves. We’re in crisis and we’re dragging the rest of the world with us. If ever there was a moment for an Islamic reformation, it’s now. For the love of God, what are we doing about it?”

Of course, she makes no mention of Israel, and its illegal, sadistic occupation of Palestine. But then, why should she?

Manji loves Israel. “For all its flaws as a state, Israel is one mother of a pluralistic place,” she said at the University of British Columbia on March 5, 2004. “I embrace the flawed, imperfect pluralism Israel gives to the world.”

Her embrace of Israeli “pluralism,” means that Manji is conspicuously mute on Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians, home demolition, attacks on humanitarian aid vessels, use of banned weapons, theft of Arab land, intimidation of Arab politicians, or Israel’s racial segregationist policies, to name just a few factors that might have something to do with the way Muslims behave.

Doubtless a major reason for her silence is that fact she is hailed as a “Muslim friend of Israel” and Zionist groups sponsor her talks: in the latter case, UBC’s campus Hillel and the Israel Advocacy Committee.

Yes, indeed—being a useful voice for the Israel Lobby has its rewards. Now, with a national column, Manji can spread her anti-Islamic venom and surreptitious Zionist propaganda to a wider audience.

For its part, the Globe and Mail can bask in the multicultural glow of replacing an intelligent, honourable Jewish journalist with a Ugandan-born Muslim woman, even if she is unqualified and an Israeli apologist.

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M. Elmasry

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