Zerbisias had a bit of an online donnybrook with the Blogging Tories' own aggregator-in-chief, Stephen Taylor, over his blogging last week about the Keith Boag report on the introduction of the government’s Federal Accountability Act. In his report, Boag contrasted the legislation with the new government’s attempts to control media access and questions.
Taylor called foul, saying “I agree that the PPG [Parliamentary Press Gallery]/Boag certainly has the right to be frustrated. However, facile and on-demand media access is not an issue of government accountability (in the context of the FAA [Federal Accountability Act], or the election/mandate that was fought/received on the issue). My complaint is that it was selfish for Boag to complain about his frustration when it was unrelated to the story.”
Zerbisias initially had sympathy for Taylor’s take on the story, but when she realized that Taylor had not posted the video of the entire CBC item, but only a clip showing Boag’s attempts to equate government accountability with how the PMO treats reporters, she went ballistic, calling Taylor’s post “GROSSLY MISLEADING, UNFAIR AND BIASED [her emphasis]:
“That’s because, among his many sins, he only posted video of the top and tail of Boag’s report -- perhaps a minute of what was actually a four minute report to make his case against Boag. Taylor ‘‘footnotes’’ the video but not once does he say that it was heavily-edited -- indeed mutilated -- to indict Boag. And yet he damns Boag for editing the report?”
I am not going to wade into the debate between Zerbisias and Taylor, as they are more than able to fend for themselves, but I was struck by the fact that Zerbisias seemed prompted by the incident to refer to us as “these Blogging Whories” (sourcing Robert McLelland, no less). Perhaps she has called us this before – if so, I never saw it.
I am not sure why Zerbisias uses the term “whore” to describe us, but I gather it is because she regards us as blind cheerleaders for the Conservative party and anything its elected and unelected officials do. This is patently untrue (and in my case I would refer anyone to my February archives).
Nevertheless, the issue I am taking up isn’t whether or not Zerbisias’s inference that we are all unreconstructed apologists for the Conservative party is true; it’s the language she used.
I must say that, as a terminally dateless social misfit, I find the term “whore” to be an odd fit. But I regard its use as a metaphor in the political realm to be inside the foul line. That was also my view when a few Conservative politicians applied the image to Belinda Stronach, when she crossed the floor to the Liberals last May. Many of our political and ideological opponents, however, felt differently about the use of the term.
You may recall that Saskatchewan Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott described Stronach as having “prostituted” herself to Paul Martin. Alberta PC MLA Tony Abbott said Stronach had “whored herself out for power.” (Abbott later apologized for and retracted his comment.)
These comments prompted a firestorm on the left and centre-left, from folks who viewed the comments as sexist and demeaning to Stronach:
Yesterday, I waded through the vicious, sexist blog comments. I listened to the vicious, sexist comments from Conservatives and their supporters on CBC’s The National. My ears are still ringing from the “can I say that on TV?” vicious, sexist comments on CTV News. I mean, “whored herself out for power” as Alberta Con Tony Abbott so charmingly put it?
--Antonia Zerbisias, Blog, May 18, 2005
At least MacKay’s hurtin’ hoedown was gentlemanly, unlike the skank-done-us-wrong reaction from Conservative supporters
--Antonia Zerbisias, Blog, May 19, 2005
Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan and a battery of prominent women in the Liberal caucus yesterday demanded an apology from Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and several Tory politicians for what the Grits called sexist and woman-hating comments about Belinda Stronach’s defection to the Liberals.
“What we have seen yesterday and today from members of the Conservative party, the comments, the comments that have been made about our colleague, that are nothing more than simply sexist and misogynist ...” said McLellan, who yesterday introduced Stronach at the former Conservative’s first Liberal caucus meeting.
--Kingston Whig-Standard, May 19, 2005
In a May 19th op-ed in the National Post, Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla wrote: “There are few who would disagree that the words “prostitute,” “whore” and “attractive dipstick” wouldn’t have surfaced if Belinda Stronach were male. Criticism is acceptable. Sexism is not. To attack her in such a manner not only debases a smart and successful Canadian, it debases the Conservative label.”
Finally, Zerbisias’s mothership, the Toronto Star, ran an editorial on May 19th calling the comments “a torrent of odious and sexist invective.”
Footnote: The inside story of Stronach’s floor-crossing, detailed in a February Toronto Life profile, provides support for the prostitution metaphor. Pimping services were provided by former Ontario Premier David Peterson, who negotiated with Martin chief of staff Tim Murphy on Stronach’s behalf, and insisted on a cabinet position for Stronach.