Calgary, AB - The CBC’s television news coverage of the United States is consistently marked by emotional criticism, rather than a rational consideration of US policy based on Canadian national interests, according to The Canadian released today by The Fraser Institute.
This anti-American bias at the CBC is the consequence of a “garrison mentality” that has systematically informed the broadcaster’s coverage of the US. Garrison mentality was a term coined by Canadian literary critic, Northrop Frye. He used it to describe a uniquely Canadian tendency reflected in our early literature, a tendency, as he put it, to “huddle together, stiffening our meager cultural defenses and projecting all our hostilities outward.”
“The anti-Americanism of the CBC, we argue, is a faithful reflection of the garrison mentality evoked by Frye,” said Professor Barry Cooper, co-author of the paper and managing director of the Institute’s Alberta Policy Research Centre. “This mythical and symbolic anti-Americanism typifies a broad view of the world disproportionately maintained and believed in by Canadians living in the Loyalist heartland of southern Ontario.”
The authors examine the kind of anti-American views expressed in one major Canadian news outlet. They attempt to determine whether views critical of the United States reflect chiefly a rational criticism of the United States based on reasonable differences in interests with respect to policy questions or whether they are more a reflection of the emotional anxieties of the garrison mentality.
“The former is simply an ordinary disagreement between friends; the latter reflects more the limitations of Canadians than it does the defects of our neighbours,” said Professor Lydia Miljan, co-author and Senior Fellow at The Fraser Institute.
To gauge the extent of anti-American sentiment on CBC, one year’s coverage of the Corporation’s flagship news program, The National, for 2002 was examined. The authors chose 2002 because it followed the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, but was prior to the US invasion of Iraq.
In total there were 2,383 statements inside the 225 stories that referred to America or the United States on CBC in 2002. As with most news coverage, the largest number of statements was neutral; they constituted 49.1 percent of the attention. Thirty-four percent of the attention to America or the United States was negative, over double the 15.4 percent positive descriptors. Only 1.6 percent of the statements were considered ambiguous.
The main issue, constituting 27 percent of the coverage, was relations between Canada and the United States. Within this category 41 percent of statements were neutral. Of the remainder, statements were over twice as likely to be negative as positive regarding Canada/US relations (39 percent versus 18.9 percent).
Terrorism was the second most-often cited issue area where CBC mentioned America, at 10.8 percent. Here the negative comments overwhelmed positive evaluations by a 9-to-1 margin (37.6 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively). Neutral statements, however, constituted 58.1 percent of the total coverage, which somewhat restored balance insofar as even a factual report on terrorist activity is usually seen to be a negative reflection on terrorism.
The third most mentioned American issue on CBC in 2002 was build-up to the war in Iraq. At 10.5 percent, this topic was covered almost as extensively as terrorism, which received 10.8 percent of the CBC’s attention. The negative evaluations of the American policy in Iraq were only slightly lower than on terrorism, comprising an 8-in-10 negative-to-positive ratio, compared to 9 in 10 for terrorism.
In total, despite the relative short period of time after the 9/11 attacks, the CBC’s opinion statements of America during 2002 were overwhelmingly critical of American policy, American actions, and American purposes.
“CBC has certainly claimed an important agenda-setting role for itself. To the extent it deserves the reputation it covets, the corporation is at least partly responsible for enhancing and sustaining anti-Americanism in Canada following the 2001 terrorist attacks. CBC, in short, helped turn the joint outrage of Canada and the United States at the terrorists into mistrust and animosity between the two neighbours,” Cooper concluded