Substacking the deck | Canada’s National Observer: News & Analysis

Both Sarah Hagi and Canadaland’s Jesse Brown have delivered pretty decisive blows to new media star Tara Henley’s credibility, but we’re not done yet.

Henley, the former CBC producer who recently resigned over perceived stifling political correctness, declared in an explosive Substack debut column that the public broadcaster’s new fixation with anti-racism emerged from a “radical political agenda that originated on Ivy League campuses in the United States.”

You have to hand it to her.

It takes a laser focus to ignore the slaughter of Muslims at prayer in Quebec City, an incel rampage through the streets of Toronto, violent attacks on Chinese-Canadians in COVID’s wake, the arrest and handcuffing of a Black retired judge in a Vancouver park, Quebec’s removal of an observant Muslim teacher, the arrest and handcuffing of a 12-year-old Indigenous girl and her grandfather who tried to open a bank account, or the revelation of over a thousand unmarked graves of Indigenous children at Canadian residential schools mere months ago. To name just a few.

The suggestion that increased racial sensitivity by Canada’s public broadcaster is the effect of elite American liberal posturing is flatly bizarre.

If anything, it is Henley herself, rather than the CBC, who has been overtaken by American influencers. The entree of an obscure broadcast producer to online self-publishing was heralded by no less than social media giants Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss, among others.

Surely it’s pure coincidence that Henley also had a side gig as a books columnist for the Globe and Mail. And that she profiled these same writers at length in a 2,200-word long-form piece about Substack.

Or that Henley’s first podcast guest, Batya Ungar-Sargon, is by chance the author of Bad News: How Woke Media is Undermining Democracy, also reviewed in her most recent Globe books column.

It’s possible to imagine an entire lineup of American Substack interviewees all culled from Henley’s Globe books column over the last year:

  • John McWhorter, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America
  • Ben Burgis, Canceling Comedians While the World Burns: A Critique of the Contemporary Left
  • Catherine Liu, Virtue Hoarders: The Case Against the Professional Managerial Class
  • Michael Lind, The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite
  • Dan Kovalik, Cancel This Book: The Progressive Case Against Cancel Culture

Indeed, since the beginning of 2021, Henley’s Globe and Mail books column has covered books by 54 writers, of whom 34 are Americans — and overwhelmingly white. Of the racialized American writers Henley reviewed in the Globe, most — like McWhorter and Liu — took direct aim at “woke” liberalism.

Opinion: The suggestion that increased racial sensitivity by Canada’s public broadcaster is the effect of elite American liberal posturing is flatly bizarre, writes columnist @Garossino. #CBC #cdnmedia

In a year when Canadians were confronted with the residential school burials, the exhausting challenges of COVID, the two Michaels, China’s crackdown on Hong Kong, the collapse of local media and devastating climate impacts that killed hundreds of British Columbians, Henley’s Globe book reviews blissfully ignored it all.

Well, except for COVID, where she strikes a curious note, given everything that’s been written and what is known about the virus.

Last July, as Canada’s vaccine rollout was in full swing, Henley reviewed The War Against Viruses: How the Science of Optimal Nutrition Can Help You Win, an Aileen Burford-Mason book on using nutrition to combat COVID. Then last week, as Omicron ravaged populations everywhere, she reviewed Laura Dodsworth’s A State of Fear, about how the U.K. government overpowered the British public with fear over the pandemic.

Dodsworth is a professional photographer turned right-wing media darling. She gained fame through a previous project documenting male and female genitalia, and has now emerged as a vocal opponent of mask and vaccine mandates.

Dodsworth can now be seen on Twitter retweeting the infamous extremist Paul Joseph Watson and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Dodsworth may seem like a nut, but it’s the Globe and Mail that amplified her book through Henley’s column.

The CBC can, of course, always use improvement. In many ways, what’s been lacking in this country is a media voice that can truly speak to all of us across the divides of personal experience.

That’s not going to be the same old CBC we’ve long been familiar with. Increasing racial sensitivity is important, but it’s also just part of the story and the beginning of an evolution.

As local media collapses, all our communities need news and coverage of the issues that matter in their own lives, as well as big-picture stories.

What we don’t need is second-rate analysis handed from American observers who know nothing and care less about this country.

And that, in a nutshell, is what Tara Henley is selling.

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