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The World Is Better Without Christie Blatchford

Lenin once remarked that "[d]uring the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the “consolation” of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it." Curiously enough, there is also a similar tendency amongst liberals and social democrats regarding reactionary intellectuals and public intellectuals. During the lifetime of these people, their peers on "the left" will distance themselves from their clearly backwards ideas but, upon their deaths, the same progressives will find ways to extol them, celebrate them, and find some odd common humanity so as to not speak ill of the dead. Whereas revolutionaries are sometimes turned into "harmless icons" (think, for example, the depiction of Nelson Mandela by liberals) the dead reactionaries are turned into sympathetic and in fact meaningful figures; where Marx is lessened, these reactionary ideologues are amplified.

Take, for example, the recent hoopla around Roger Scruton. A backwards intellectual who was so out of touch he was raving about the homosexual agenda, the assault on western civilization by immigrants, the glories of British Empire, and cold war conspiracies about a globalist left conspiracy right up to his death––the very same things that Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones rant about––suddenly became a special kind of conservative, a nuanced thinker… These praises, all sounding a like, were heaped upon him by every official obituary by journalists who would have otherwise claimed to oppose his opinions. The fact that he was an academic outcast because he was out of touch with the developments in academia, that his books contained more ranting than research and more contradictions than consistency (and not the good dialectical contradictions but straight up inconsistencies), was overlooked as if it had never existed. Even though his anti-people views could be used (and were used) to recruit racists, homophobes, and chauvinists of all stripes, none of this mattered to establishment journalists and intellectuals, many of whom would otherwise oppose––well at least intellectually––his hateful notions.

And now reactionary Canadian journalist Christie Blatchford is dead and every "respectable" journalist is falling over themselves to celebrate her life, mourn her death, and make her into somebody she was not. Of course The National Post framed the way she should be appreciated: she was one of their columnists and The National Post, being a right wing rag, would indeed celebrate her legacy. According to The National Post, Blatchford was "a tenacious voice for victims, a thorn to the smugly comfortable." Anyone capable of thinking critically who has ever read Blatchord's columns, though, would know this framing was a wildly inaccurate summation of her contribution to humanity. She cared nothing for the victims and marginalized and, in point of fact, spent most of her time attacking them. She certainly had a way of harping on the right-wing talking point of "victim culture", though, and pontificating on how the wealthy and privileged were the "real" victims––which is possibly what The National Post, being what it is, meant by "victims". As for her being "a thorn to the smugly comfortable" we also need to ask how? Her views were in fact the views of smugly comfortable conservatives, reactionary members of the establishment, and quite in line with the reactionary wing of the ruling class. She never spoke truth to power; she spoke power to truth.

Considering current Indigenous resistance to the pipeline and the significance of the Wet'suwet'en blockades, being "a thorn to the smugly comfortable" or "a tenacious voice for victims" would mean taking the side of those resisting Canadian corporations. But of course Blatchford, just a year ago, was extolling the virtues of the companies and complaining that the colonized's pig-headedness was the real problem. Of course, she also liked to pretend she cared about the needs of Indigenous people because, months after defending assaults on their land, she would write an article about a fire that claimed multiple lives in an impoverished reserve, and note that the ways in which "Indigenous people are expected to live" is "outrageous." But then she blames this "outrage" on bureaucracy, rather than the colonial structures she herself has defended (as with her previous 2019 article and her articles against Idle No More), and Indigenous quietism: "How is it they have not risen up in rage is a mystery." But they have risen up in rage, multiple times, and Blatchford was one of those journalists who would consistently write against this rising up, siding instead with the powerful. The police are being too nice with native protestors! The corporations pushing the pipeline are bowing to every "irrational" measure Indigenous people put forward and still these "irrational" natives resist! Why are they blocking traffic in areas where they have no "legitimate land claims"? Blatchford might not have written an article openly calling FNIIM peoples "savages"––such as her counterpart, and one competitor for the throne of most backwards Canadian columnist ever, Margaret Wente has done––but she pretty much has the same political line.

Having fun with the troops!

Then there was her Islamophobia, her ravings about how Canadian "borders were under siege with asylum seekers", that book she wrote that white-washed and extolled Canadian imperialism in Afghanistan (after being embedded and palling around with war criminals), a rant about how compassion among boys was effeminate, her defense of equally asinine thinker Jordan Peterson (and an attack on feminism), and the list goes on and on and on. There's also the fact that she even lacked integrity as a journalist and didn't protect her sources on at least one occasion. The thinking evident in these columns was substandard, simplistic, and reminiscent of the thinking of a garden variety racist who thinks that he doesn't have to do social investigation or research because such things are "elitist" and his own malformed opinions are the standard of truth. Even her book, Fifteen Days, reads like a dumbed down puff piece of the Canadian military, simpler than the Canadian military's own propaganda. Her views were not only backwards, but they were backwards pablum. The experience of reading a Blatchford column is the closest one can get to being lobotomized by racist doctor without actually being lobotomized by a racist doctor.

But now that she is dead, The National Post's framing of her career has become a truism. In fact, type in "Christie Blatchford insightful unrelenting" into a google search and you will find more than one article, from a variety of sources, that use these same terms to celebrate her actually shitty career. The Star, which was one of her targets and whose journalists tried to appear better than the likes of Blatchford, now calls her "a giant in journalism"––and not the kind of giant ogre that needs to be slayed, mind you. Journalists, and even "targets", who expressed disdain for her in life are showing up to celebrate her, to rebrand her as more sophisticated and impactful than she actually was, and to amplify her voice even more than it had been amplified when she was alive.

Behind this tendency of liberals and self-proclaimed "progressive" establishment intellectuals/journalists lurks the cliched injunctive to not speak ill of the dead. But it is more than this: it is to reverse the verdict, to speak positively about a negative figure, as if we owe someone more in death than we did in life. After all, if you really believed that the cliche to not speak ill of the dead was a moral command (though it is hard, outside of a superstitious fear of supernatural reprisal to see how this is a command), then you would simply say nothing, ignore the passing of a reprehensible figure, and submit them to forgetfulness. What is happening, though, is that the cliche is being transformed into the necessity of speaking loudly and fondly of the dead, to in fact lie about what they represented, and to pat oneself on the back for being magnanimous in the process. As if the dead are owed anything, particularly the dead who were anti-people ideologues in life.

Against this abhorrent and uncritical tendency I have always felt that it was worth asserting that we have a duty to speak ill of the dead who, in life, were opposed to life. Because if someone spent their life working to attack the masses, to celebrate reaction, to cheer on multiple forms of oppression, then their legacy must be subordinated to ruthless critique. To build it up in the moment of their death is to say that it was worthwhile, that the life they lived generated human meaning, when in fact the opposite was the case.

Let's put it like this. In life, there are people whose actions and work contribute to the enrichment of humanity; when these people die, whatever position in society they occupy, the human species is lessened by their passing. Conversely, however, there are people whose actions and work contribute to the lessening of humanity––whose entire lives are dedicated to pitiless attacks on the masses on behalf of the powerful, and who insult thinking and consciousness––and so when they die they enrich humanity… They will never again contribute their backwards views to human society, they will never again provide justification for chauvinist violence, they will never again provide budding fascists with ideological dross for their recruitment drives.

Hence the world is enriched when asinine reactionary ideologues like Blatchford die. The fact that multiple liberal journalists are lionizing her proves, yet again, that the "progressive" and conservative poles of capitalism are not that far apart.