Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Margaret Wente’s errors and omissions: “grandstanders” Greyson and Loubani

And another Margaret Wente correction – the latest of many such Editor’s Notes - now appears at the bottom of a column about John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, a column that bears striking similarities to an earlier one by Ezra Levant (no link to that place here).

Below are a few other problems with a slag heap which, given their uncertain status in Egypt, could put the two Canadians at continued risk.  Here’s Wente dissing the doctor:

Loubani, 32, is an emergency-room doctor in London, Ont. Recently, at a public meeting, he noisily denounced a federal cabinet minister for reducing health care for refugees. He calls himself a Palestinian refugee, although he was born in Kuwait. (He immigrated to Canada when he was 10.)

In this passage, Wente connects Loubani’s activism to what she suggests is an invented Palestinian persona - omitting that he is indeed of Palestinian parentage.  Whatever one’s view of that particular diaspora, it’s simply a fact that thousands of Palestinians are born in refugee camps across the Middle East.  Hey, even Wente herself is a sort of transnational.  She identifies as both American and as an “Accidental Canadian” – one whose provocative contrarianism might easily be confused with the kind of 'look at me' grandstanding she attributes to the two men.

She also omits important context to Loubani’s protest against federal health care cuts to refugees.  Yes, the video link she provides was bold.  But at the time, many unprecedented ‘noisy denunciations’ (as well as individual actions of exactly the sort Loubani engaged in) were carried out by demonstrating doctors and nurses all across the country, supported by their professional associations.  Here’s just one of many like Loubani’s.  They were joined by a broad cross-section of Canadians, and prominent Jewish Nobel Laureates like Elie Wiesel – “radical grandstanders” all (or maybe just the one with the funny name).

Granted, health care for refugees and immigrants likely wouldn’t be high on Wente’s priority list.  (Writing about how she got to the head of the line for her artificial hips  -“At first, I felt uncomfortable pulling strings, but I got over it”- she seemed unconcerned that her Portuguese cleaning lady, who barely speaks English, has arthritis too. There's no chance she will ever get the access and the state-of-the-art treatment that I did”).

We expect journalists to pose relevant questions. But there are no questions here – except the ones Ms. Wente answers herself.  Will the men be sufficiently grateful?  Hell, no, she assures us, before they’d had the chance to speak.

Greyson, according to Wente, is a ne’er do well gay, “spare time”, professor, and member of a “noxious” group, whose films are “flops”.  He and Loubani are “foolish, reckless, disagreeable” “troublemakers” with “a history of grandstanding”, who’ve “gotten a lot of mileage out of their incarceration”, and who “viscerally despise” the government (though the only vitriol on display seems to emanate from MW).

Cheap, easy characterizations are the stuff of most Wente columns.  (There’s no need to bother with real people when you can collage some handy fake into your story, as Wente did with her Occupy protester "John"). 

If we were to judge Ms. Wente soley by her own past actions (the astonishingly unethical “Johns”, the plagiarism), she doesn’t come out looking too good, though her employer was kind enough to give her the benefit of the doubt.   It would be nice if – once in a while - she could focus on issues, and extend the same courtesy to those with whom she might disagree, or whose looks she doesn’t like.

This kind of writing is sad, thin gruel, and a steady diet makes it less appetizing.

Addendum:  Here’s a little backgrounder to Loubani’s previous (apparently peaceful) protest activities.

Update:  Here's a statement from the Canadian Medical Association Journal decrying attacks by writers like Wente and Levant on Dr. Loubani’s character and motivations.