Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner July 22, 2021
When I take too much pride in publishing a weekly column in a respected, long- lived Canadian daily newspaper, as I have for five years in the Examiner, I am reminded of a comment which, it is said, was uttered by the Greek philosopher Plato: “Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy. It requires we suspend our egos and live in another world.”
Ouch. Sobering, that.
Yet I have to admit I was always drawn to opinion writing and to the reading of it. My views and convictions are very much shaped by the well-expressed and reasonable columns of others, even more than by reading fiction or even poetry, although these have an influence.
Today, living as we are in a news-saturated atmosphere, we have the challenge of maintaining our emotional equilibrium. We work at finding truth and adopting a perspective on it. Judging, in other words, right and wrong.
So we need to be discriminating about whose views we are absorbing. Let’s look at some toxic sources first: Fox News Network, which has led to the disturbing situation where one-third of Americans accept the “Big Lie” about a stolen election. We have Rebel Media in Canada. Also, for me, unworthy is the National Post. This latter continues to publish now widely discredited Rex Murphy and Conrad Black. To say nothing of the Sun newspapers. Beware of any outlet owned by Rupert Murdoch, or his sons, the Australian magnates, or the Koch brothers in the U.S.
I know it’s a lot to ask an everyday reader to check, who owns this organization? They should be required to publish, on the front page, the ownership details. For years the Toronto Star has made public its basic social justice bias. That’s my national paper of choice. And one of its writers, Bruce Arthur is my columnist of choice.
Call it due diligence in respect of your own mind. Call it well-earned suspicion, that you could be manipulated for the sake of somebody’s power. And persuaded about your vote.
In addition, my discerning sons have alerted me to the quality of the columns in the sports pages. There is none wittier than Cathal Kelly in the Globe and Mail. Beat this for an entertaining read: “The Canadiens are built from the back to the front. But like male-pattern baldness, the Leafs are built from the front to the back. They like to talk about architecture, but it’s really about construction.” And on he goes.
Even though his favourite sport is soccer.
Let me list some of my other must-reads, (or read when time allows): Thomas Friedman in the New York Times (he speaks Arabic among other languages), Elizabeth Renzetti in the Globe, a worthy successor to the great feminist Michelle Landsberg, Chantal Hebert, always three weeks ahead of anyone else in her analysis, Gwynne Dyer (born Newfoundland, lives London), who is found all over the place and can’t be beat for international analysis that one can understand. Doug Saunders for sure: knowledge and decency.
Some to avoid, (says she, opinionedly) are: Robyn Urback, Don Martin, Barbara Kay or her son Jonathan, Brian Lilley, and, I say this sadly because I once taught him at Lakefield College School and he’s a fine fellow, Konrad Yakabuski in the Globe.
Columnists have opinions. I respond to their thought. None of this is personal. I am really responding to their spirit; I like kindness, even in a sharp critique, a belief in human goodness even when it is most absent, and a left-leaning political perspective.
I like to know a bit about my favourite columnists: Where were they born? Where do they live? Where were they educated? I regret that news organizations have largely done away with knowledgeable commentators on religion.
The best we can hope for is profound comment on ethics. True humanism, please.
Next week: the Twitterverse.
"Gleanings" is Rosemary Ganley's new book. You can purchase directly from the author at at email@example.com or from >Amazon<