By guest blogger George Thompson
Just as the mainstream media ramped up anti-terrorism fear to justify invading Iraq and Afghanistan, the same could be said of the campaign to generate distrust of teachers’ unions in order to justify further privatization in both the US and Canada. Indeed, as the main opponent of privatization, teachers’ unions have increasingly come to be portrayed as villains and even terrorists in the mythology of the corporate media.
The headline, which ran on the front page of the Toronto Star on January 1st 2009, asks “Did teachers’ union fund Colombian terrorists?” The fact that there is absolutely no evidence linking the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) to terrorism is no obstacle to trumpeting a New Year’s Day headline that casts significant doubt on the credibility of teachers’ unions. Using the age-old trick of asking if one is guilty of something horrific, creates the implication that one could be guilty and the severity of the crime is enough to make us imagine the worst. Furthermore, the headline leads to the natural assumption that when one “funds” something one implicitly supports it. Editors also know that many readers don’t go beyond the headlines, and such out of context “bytes” will accumulate authority in the minds of readers as they are added to a history of similar anti-union headlines and reporting. This is known as the “Chicken Little” effect.
The article later goes on to explain that what the author really means is that OSSTF may have been the victim of a theft in which a Columbian union representative could have redirected donations intended for humanitarian purposes. This portrayal of the victim being responsible for the crime reveals the extent to which the news media has shifted to the right as news agencies have been downsized and consolidated under central control.
The article further down explains that Roger Langen, human rights officer with OSSTF pointed out a number of projects supported and largely overseen by OSSTF. For instance, Langen stated that,
one project was a “human rights self-defence communication workshop” for activists who may be in trouble.
“If you’re under threat, here is how to defend yourself – phone a number of journalists, start networking,” Langen explained.
It was successful, he added: One of the union’s leaders had been kidnapped and his mother was able to call a Swedish journalist who put pressure on the soldiers. He was later released.
Thank God the kidnapped union leader in the above quote didn’t call the Toronto Star.
To the author’s credit, the truth about what probably went on is hinted in the fine print at the very bottom of the article:
In its 2008 report, Human Rights Watch said Colombia has led the world in trade unionist killings for a number of years.
Obando, 39, whose trial began in December, denies the allegations. A single mother of two children, she has been repeatedly denied requests for home detention. Langen and other supporters are holding a benefit at the Tranzac Club on Brunswick Ave. on Jan. 9 to raise money for her children.
Indeed, the conclusion suggests the author has had a change of heart, for now he is passing along information about how to help the family of the suspected terrorist. On this note, we must now ask the real question: “IS THE TORONTO STAR SUPPORTING TERRORISTS?”