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When it comes to politics, boring liberalism is better than exciting extremism: Three key insights from George Will’s Hub Dialogue

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At first blush it can seem like an oxymoron, but some of liberalism’s biggest defenders are conservatives. This is because, as Washington Post columnist George Will helpfully explains in a recent Hub Dialogue, conservatism is contextual, and North American conservatives are in fact conserving the classical liberal ideals and principles that have undergirded the systems and successes of our countries since their foundings.

The Hub‘s editor-at-large Sean Speer spoke with George Will prior to his appearance at the Munk Debates on November 3rd where he defended the notion that liberalism gets the big things right. The two discussed the nature of North American conservatism and the current state of the Republican Party in America. Below are three key insights from their conversation.

1. North American conservatives are….liberals

“European conservatism was born in defence of stasis and hierarchy, blood and soil, throne and altar, in the stained-glass minds of conservatives. In North America, it’s very different. Americans welcomed the churning that dissolves natural hierarchies. They welcomed the fluidity of life and the uncertainty, the lack of tidiness and control; certainly the lack of ranks, the lack of all natural hierarchies. Classical liberalism wants a hierarchy—but a hierarchy of meritocracy. One that determines that careers are open to talents, and talents evenly distributed through society. North American conservatives—I know our terminological confusion, it’s too late. That ship has sailed. But conservatives are classic liberals.”

2. Oppressor-oppressed ideology leads to extremism and violence 

“Clearly, it seems to me illiberal ideas have given rise to astonishing sympathy, among people who should know better, for the predatory sadism of Hamas. The idea is this: that we should all look at society not as composed of individuals but of groups. The groups are either oppressive oppressors or the oppressed. Once you reduce the world to this simple binary, you’re on the way to extremism, because that gives people the ability to say, ‘Ah, okay, well, the Palestinians are oppressed. The Israelis are the oppressors. Therefore, the oppressed can do no wrong, and certainly no wrong to the oppressors.'”

3. When it comes to politics, boring is better

“A lot of people—and particularly young people—are drawn away from liberalism because liberalism is boring. Liberalism is pedestrian. Liberalism doesn’t claim to be on the right side of history. Liberalism indeed says history doesn’t have a side and it doesn’t take sides. Liberalism isn’t exciting. The way you would refute that is give them a course on the history of the 20th century. It was a blood-soaked century precisely because we had exciting politics. We were going to produce a new Soviet man, a new German man, all kinds of glittering things. When in the 20th century, in the 1930s particularly, when Stalin was imposing terror on his country, a lot of his Western apologists said, ‘Well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs,’ to which Orwell’s withering reply was, ‘Where’s the omelet?’ The omelet is always tomorrow, and tomorrow is always a day away.” 

Listen to George Will’s full interview with The Hub’s editor-at-large Sean Speer on the audio player below or on your favourite podcast app. 

If you enjoy Hub Dialogues, be sure to check out more insightful commentary on The Hub’s YouTube page:

CBC president will not apologize for its reporting on Israel-Hamas conflict, observers say the broadcaster lacks accountability

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Last week, CBC’s president and CEO Catherine Tait appeared before the federal heritage committee and clashed with Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman over the public broadcaster’s coverage of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. 

Some political and industry voices say that Tait’s behaviour at the committee was arrogant, and the CBC’s coverage of the Hamas terrorist attack and the ensuing war reflects a lack of public accountability on the part of the broadcaster.

One flashpoint was CBC’s coverage of an explosion that occurred at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, which Hamas-run government agencies in Gaza stated killed 471 people. Hamas blamed an Israeli airstrike for the explosion, while Israel rejected these claims and instead blamed the incident on a misfired rocket launched from Gaza by Hamas. CBC ran a story on the day of the explosion from the Associated Press with the headline “Palestinians say hundreds killed in Israeli airstrike on hospital; Israel blames Islamic Jihad.” 

Other outlets like the New York Times and the BBC also laid the blame on Israeli airstrikes during their initial reporting on the explosion. Examination of later evidence, including the size of the crater made by the explosion, revealed that a Hamas rocket launched from inside Gaza had most likely failed to launch properly before landing at the hospital. 

The New York Times released an editor’s note that acknowledged that it had relied too heavily on information provided by Hamas and noted the newspaper would be more careful with facts coming out of Gaza. The BBC also admitted it made mistakes when reporting on the hospital blast. CBC has neither retracted the article or the headline nor issued an apology.

At the committee hearing, Lantsman questioned Tait why the CBC has not retracted or altered its story and whether an apology would be issued by the CBC similar to other outlets.

“I will not apologize, because the journalism is among the finest in the world; our journalists operate in an independent fashion, independent of management, independent of the board of directors, and independent of government and political interference,” said Tait. 

In an exclusive interview with The Hub, Lantsman says that Tait’s answer surprised her and that Tait’s refusal to apologize demonstrates that she has little respect for CBC’s own journalistic principles. 

“When you make a mistake, you should own up to it. We saw none of that at committee,” says Lantsman. “Catherine Tait’s responses were stunningly arrogant and tone-deaf.” 

Tait emphasized during the committee hearing that the story in question was originally published by the AP and was not the CBC’s original reporting. 

“She basically ignored the question about Hamas being officially labelled a terrorist organization by Canada and other countries,“ says Brad Zubyk, founder of the upcoming political podcast Canada Unfiltered. “She basically shrugged off the accusations of misreporting on the hospital and blamed AP, which itself has been under some attack for unbalanced reporting, and she simply refused to apologize.” 

Zubyk says that the CBC’s failure to own up to the mistaken reporting like other outlets risks undermining its credibility.

When questioned by Lanstman on why the CBC will not refer to Hamas as “terrorists”, Tait referred to a blog post by the CBC’s editor-in-chief Brodie Fenlon, which states that while the CBC will label some terrorist attacks as such, it refrains from labelling specific groups as such. 

“CBC News does not itself designate specific groups as terrorists or specific acts as terrorism, regardless of the region or the events, because these words are so loaded with meaning, politics, and emotion that they can end up being impediments to our journalism,” wrote Fenlon. 

Mark Goldberg, a telecommunications consultant in Toronto, says the CBC lacks an accountability body, which impacts their reporting. 

“One of the biggest issues with the CBC is that they don’t answer to a truly independent review body for their journalistic standards,” says Goldberg. “The CRTC reviews the CBC very rarely. Every five years or so there’s a license hearing.” 

Lantsman says that by perpetuating flawed or disproven anti-Israel narratives, the CBC has put communities at risk. She says that combined with other perceived biases within the CBC, including a bias against the Conservative Party, that the CBC should be defunded. 

“A news organization that refuses to take accountability for flawed reporting and contributes to dangerous antisemitism deserves zero dollars of taxpayer funding,” says Lantsman. “I will never apologize for holding [to account] an organization who receives $1.4 billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies where viewership is down year over year and their trust scores have followed that steady decline.” 

Since the war began, Jewish-owned businesses have been targeted by anti-Israel protesters, while the community itself has been subjected to threats both online and in real life around the world. Last week, a Jewish school in Ottawa was closed following a bomb threat.