It’s not for lack of public curiosity that the media avoids certain questions. The reaction to my questioning Canada’s sports minister about which countries’ athletes should be barred from sports competitions highlights the significant interest in critical geopolitical questions.
Last Monday I questioned Pascale St-Onge about her push to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes from international sports competitions in response to Moscow’s illegal and brutal invasion of Ukraine. As an assistant sought to whisk the sports minister out of the room, I asked whether she felt the same way about US athletes after that country invaded Iraq? St-Onge smirked and walked away.
I followed the minister out of the room to ask whether Canada’s athletes should also have been excluded after this country led the 2011 NATO bombing of Libya, which remains divided and devastated to this day. She continued to move towards the elevator while her assistant sought to (politely) disrupt my line of inquiry.
As the minister waited to descend, I asked what she thought about Israeli athletes participating in international competitions despite its apartheid and illegal occupation of Palestinian land. St-Onge waited uncomfortably. As she entered the elevator, I again asked about Israel and gave the minister a final opportunity to reply by hitting the elevator button to re-open a near closed door.
The clip I posted to twitter has been viewed over 1.4 million times. Other versions of the video posted to Twitter by MintPress, Al Quds, Palestine Online, TRT and others have been viewed hundreds of thousands times more. The clip has also circulated widely on TikTok, Telegram, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube and other social media platforms with one Arabic language Facebook post of the video garnering over 1.2 million views.
St-Onge’s smirk, her assistant’s effort to disrupt me and the awkwardness around the elevator makes for a dramatic interaction. But the video’s popularity is also due to the simple nature of the question, which exposes some flagrant double standards.
International media reported on the video. Al Jazeera English had me on while leftist US comedian Jimmy Dore did a segment on it. It was also reported on by Chinese, Indian, Russian and Venezuelan media.
Despite the international coverage and social media circulation, no Canadian outlet has mentioned it. No one from CBC radio asked for a comment.
The media’s failure to question government officials about what state crimes warrant sports boycotts highlights a flagrant bias. But establishment commentariat’s failure to criticize the video, even on Twitter, highlights a more subtle, though maybe more sinister, bias.
In August the media railed against a somewhat similar video of a man challenging finance minister Chrystia Freeland as she walked through a hallway and entered an elevator. The Albertan was condemned, and many commentators suggested politicians required better protection.
There are obvious differences between the two videos. Freeland is higher-profile than St-Onge and, unlike my questioning, the Albertan was vulgar. But, like St-Onge, Freeland was without security and can only be seen with female assistants while being challenged by a man.
If the commentariat wanted to draw attention to it, they could have labeled my intervention dangerous. Is part of the reason they didn’t because of who the exchange embarrasses?
Politically incoherent, the Albertan’s intervention was unlikely to convince many. The Freeland incident allowed media to reinforce the notion that only they – and vetted individuals – should have access to politicians.
My video, on the other hand, exposes the media’s deference to power. I asked a simple question that journalists with regular access to St-Onge should have asked.
In our interaction St-Onge embarrassed herself and the government. But she also exposed a sycophantic mainstream media.