Corporate Media Poisons the Well

In northeastern “British Columbia,” a blockade was held by a dozen Tla’amin First Nation members at the reserve’s voting station over concerns that the “treaty” process is undemocratic.1

An opinion columnist at the online Vancouver Sun wrote a piece that deserves credit for bringing a marginalized and important topic into the corporate media: Indigenous territorial rights.2 However, does the manner in which the topic is raised conform to ethical and professional journalistic standards?

The subheadline sets a tone for what is to follow in the story: “Return of Bruce Clark does not bode well for smooth settlement.”

Other excerpts in the text were aimed at the character of Clark, who holds a Ph.D. in jurisprudence, from Aberdeen University in Scotland:

“the return of the radical rhetoric of legal scholar Bruce Clark”

“Clark, the man dubbed a modern-day Louis Riel for his involvement in the infamous 30-day Gustafson [sic] Lake siege, has resurfaced offering help and advice”

“baldheaded lawyer wearing Star Wars glasses” [I fail to see how someone’s appearance bears on the arguments that person presents for Indigenous territorial rights.]

“Time has not made him more mellow.”

“too radical for B.C. courtrooms, and too rambunctious for the Ontario bar”

“Often lampooned as a colourful but fatally misguided militant zealot”

Most of what was presented about Bruce Clark, the person, was pejorative, with little to balance this aside from noting his “passionate” advocacy. Does Clark’s character and appearance have any bearing on the facts and legal arguments that he presents.

This appears to be a clearcut example of poisoning the well since the build-up to introducing the legitimacy of Indigenous dispossession was to paint an unflattering portrait of the messenger, Clark, based on unsubstantiated innuendo. If a message’s source is depicted negatively, what reaction would one expect to the message from uncritical readers? How would a negative characterization be expected to impact on the arguments put forth by the character?

Such negative or demonizing depictions are not new, especially concerning Clark. In 1995, a confrontation ensued between a group of Indigenous peoples holding a Sundance ceremony at Ts’peten (Gufstafsen Lake) — unceded Canoe Creek First Nation land, claimed by rancher Lyle James. A confrontation blew up into a massive mobilization of the RCMP at the site. The RCMP manipulated the media to demonize the Ts’peten Defenders as “terrorists” and “criminals.”

A RCMP management team’s video captures Supt. Len Olfert saying: “Kill this Clark and smear the prick and everyone with him” and “Clark is a goddamned snake.”3

The Solidarity with Six Nations website responded, “In light of the persistent media disinformation about Dr. Clark, we felt it was important to post Dr. Clark’s curriculum vitae to show that, contrary to the media demonization of Dr. Clark, in reality Dr. Clark has an esteemed background in law – and resulting academic and legal credibility.”

The Sun columnist writes, “He [Clark] hasn’t changed — he … still thinks Canada and the U.S. committed genocide against the first nations and still sports spectacles from the future.”

The juxtaposition and wording are telling. Clark “thinks” (as if it were just opinion) Canada and the US committed genocide against First Nations not that he presents a historical and/or legal argument to that effect. Maybe it was just a journalistic slip-up. The charge of genocide is paired with Clark’s wearing “spectacles from the future.” One wonders what Clark’s appearance has to do with the charge of genocide. Was it an intentional association or another journalistic [sic] slip-up? The columnist refused comment on what he had written.

Is this fair journalism?

Bruce Clark, in an email, is gracious toward the Sun columnist:

… It would be “fair journalism” for an article to attempt to analyse and if appropriate to ridicule the validity of the alleged connections. But that has never happened. Neither have any of the pejorative allegations about my character or for that matter my conduct ever been substantiated; just stated.

I do not necessarily lay the blame on the reporter. I guess that when a reporter submits a fair article the editor asks the reporter to include some past references to Clark to remind the reader who is being discussed. At that juncture reporter culls past articles for the media consensus and pastes that into the article. I suspect but can not prove that editors are more sensitive to publishers’ personal opinions and that publishers despise serious threats to the way things are that protects the privileges of money and power that depend upon order even though not law.

But the courts do the same thing as the journalists. And that raises my (and Jurgen Habermas’s in Legitimation Crisis) most basic point. When courts become politicised justice as the application of truth to affairs moves to second position, yielding priority to expediency. I was criminalised and disbarred because that seemed more expeditious than facing the truth about the unconstitutional nature of the invasion, occupation, usurpation and dispossession of British Columbia.

But it only seems more expeditious.

Eventually truth must be vindicated or the society will implode from internal corruption and ethical degeneracy. This societal weather change must come from the judiciary not the media. The truth must have a refuge and the courts are supposed to be it. Maybe as a editor you feel the same despair over journalism as I do regarding the legal profession but I think the greater duty rests upon the judges, certainly constitutionally…

Aside from the macro issue of truth versus expediency in society at large at the next level down there exists the blight that is the relationship between natives and newcomers. I attempted to address this issue in a letter to the editor c/o the reporter Ian Mulgrew. I do not know whether it was or will be published but what it said is relevant here and follows.

Thank you for the mention in Ian Mulgrew, “Treaty Process Frustration Growing: Return of Bruce Clark does not bode well for smooth settlement,” Vancouver Sun, June 20, 2012.

Smooth settlement is unlikely in any event of me, of course. But the reason nevertheless does have to do with the message I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to get reported for forty years. Speaking constitutionally, treaties should have been made before physical settlement.

Instead the four horsemen of imperialistic apocalypse—Invade, Occupy, Usurp and Dispossess—unconstitutionally were substituted by the Indian Act of 1876. The genocide of the culturally-aboriginal Indian Tribes whose territorial sovereignty the constitution protects thenceforth was administered jointly by Canada and the several Indian bands or “First Nations” that Canada invented and created for this purpose. In consequence the Indian Tribes have been hanging on the ropes for many years now.

Although the Indian Tribes still own the aboriginal title Canada is not negotiating with them for the extinguishment of the aboriginal title. The negotiations are with the several Indian bands or “First Nations” that have served, and continue to serve as Canada’s agent or puppet governments in the administration of the genocide of the aboriginal Indian Tribes.

The so-called British Columbia treaties are not treaties at all. They are contracts between Canada and its own statutory creations where the constitutional relationship is that of sovereign to subject. A treaty is a contract where the constitutional relationship is that of sovereign to sovereign, as it would be if Canada were negotiating with or trying to negotiate with the Indian Tribes.

But Canada does not acknowledge the legal existence of the Indian Tribes. Canada will not agree to third-party adjudication of the governing constitutional law. It will not waiver in its 136 year old policy of genocide until the threat of tribal sovereignty has been eliminated by the death of the last tribal person.

After that, there will be no one left to complain. And the Indian bands will have been compensated for their role in the crime against humanity and will be comfortable in their collaborating government sinecures. Will that make things run smoothly?

I suggest the truth will not rest. Treaties that are not real treaties will never rest secure since fraud vitiates all, even the passage of time, when the fraud is against the constitution.

The Supreme Court of Canada needs to address the law to settle its truth and then the political branch can begin the task of crafting a solution to that truth, a solution that will need a constitutional amendment to implement.

That achieved, the country or set of countries can go forward as constitutional democracies under the rule of law. Until then, there will be no smoothness other than due to suppression.

It may be as Clark suggested that the writer was pressured by editorship; however, in the end, the writer agrees to put his name to the words in print and thereby claims ownership.

The vitally important issue followed the discussion of Clark’s character, a question that the Canadian state and the Canadian legal system have prevented Clark from arguing in court (and marginalized from corporate and state media):

By what legitimate right did Europeans declare the continent theirs?

The Sun article does not deal in meaningful depth with the question.

  1. For more on the blockade see Daniel Adaszynski, “Tla’amin Treaty Vote, June 16th,” Vancouver Media Coop, 20 June 2012. []
  2. Ian Mulgrew, “Treaty process frustration growing,” Vancouver Sun, 21 June 2012. []
  3. See the video Above the Law: Deception at Gustafsen Lake. For more background see Kim Petersen, “Land & Jail Part II: Canada’s incarceration strategy,” The Dominion, 5 January 2009 and Kim Petersen, “One Man’s Struggle Against Genocide: From Attica to Gustafsen Lake,” Shunpiking, April 2005. []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.