Margaret Atwood is once again lending her name to a worthy cause, and like her support for the environment, brown-bag lunches, and stay-at-home book tours, the celebrated novelist’s actions have generated some mild controversy in the Canadian media.
The latest episode erupted on Tuesday when Atwood announced (via Twitter) that she had added her name to a petition protesting Sun Media’s efforts to launch a Fox TV-style news channel in Canada (the channel is being dubbed “Fox News North” and “Tory TV”). That immediately prompted a response, also via Twitter, from Sun Media national bureau chief David Akin accusing Atwood of supporting “an anti-free speech movement” and effectively accusing “me and my colleagues of hate speech.”
Atwood in turn replied that the issue isn’t about free speech per se, but rather Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s meddlesome involvement with the CRTC, which recently denied the network a top-tier broadcast licence. As Atwood puts it in fewer than 140 characters, “we shouldn’t B Forced to Pay for it, & CRTC chair should be arms’ length, not Harper tool. Fox free 2 set itself up.” She elaborates her position in The Globe and Mail:
Of course Fox & Co. can set up a channel or whatever they want to do, if it’s legal etc., she told The Globe and Mail in an email. But it shouldn’t happen this way. It’s like the head-of-census affair “ gov’t direct meddling in affairs that are supposed to be arm’s length “ so do what they say or they fire you.
It’s part of the ˜I make the rules around here,’ Harper-is-a-king thing, she wrote.
In today’s National Post, columnist Kelly McParland hits back with an editorial deriding Atwood for “sign[ing] onto this silliness.” Atwood, McParland writes, “stands for good stuff like freedom of speech and freedom of the press, except when it comes to the case of people who don’t agree with her…. Right Peggy? Because you can’t be a good Canadian if you’re a Conservative. Everyone at the CanLit festivals agrees, so it must be true.”
The Post‘s paranoid speculation about a left-leaning CanLit cabal is nothing new. Assuming that at least some of Quillblog’s readers will want to follow Atwood in rejecting Fox News North, you can do so by adding your name to the petition here.