Burning Rex Murphy’s encyclopaedia: Promoting Idle No More

18 Dec

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 9.36.52 AMSometimes I forget that Canada is a massive country where people are separated into silos.

Idle No More has reminded me that there exists massive gulfs between people, experiences and awareness.

I don’t actually fault the folks who aren’t aware of their ignorance. After an aggressive social media campaign, flash mobs, rallies, blockades, coordinated actions, letters of support from national unions and a hunger strike, the media coverage has still been significantly lacking.

How can someone know what’s going on if none of their friends are talking about it? How can they talk about it if there’s an effective media blackout?

How can Stephen Harper feel the necessary heat if he’s only hearing from people who he decided long ago he disrespects?

All news isn’t created equal and how we see the world is linked to whose version of events we read. And sometimes, we must look at the mouthpieces who exist in a world that many of us would consider to be foreign. Their insights, while oftentimes entirely laughable, are sometimes helpful.

To be able to understand why Harper thinks he can get away with refusing to meet with Theresa Spence, we need to look into the abyss of his cheerleading crew. Many of these privileged few have a platform like a national new program or newspaper from which to rant. So, let’s use Rex Murphy.

Three days before Idle No More took root across Canada on Dec. 10, Murphy wrote a love-letter to Stephen Harper and disguised it as a column. In Rex’s famous lilt, a combination of an angry great-uncle and Stuart McLean, he insists that the criticisms that are heaped upon Harper (mostly online) are unfair. Harper has been elected for seven years, says Murphy, and Canadians should have noticed that his “secret agenda” has not revealed itself. Harper, he says, has “not, contra naturum, transformed Canada into a gulag or prison house for the poor, artists, liberals, greens or whomever he sees as his opponents.”

Murphy’s flowery use of an encyclopedia (and an old Latin textbook) throughout does more than just obscure the debate about Harper. Like a magic trick, Murphy forces the audience to focus on his supreme intellect while his other hand is hiding the secret to his magic: that he’s practiced over and over on how to use an encyclopedia.

In the wake of the Idle No More protests, Murphy’s obtuse verbal diarrhea exposes just how far apart the two solitudes of this issue are: those Canadians who are aware that there exists a problem (or who live and experience it) and those Canadians who not only refuse to acknowledge it but who actively try to hide it.

Murphy’s column finishes with these lines:
So why is it that people are not content just to disagree with him, to label him simply wrong or misguided but must revile him? Why is there such fervour of suspicion about “the agenda” and so much invective and worse directed at him? I don’t know.
They make Mr. Harper, in their own white-hot minds, bigger and more scary than he is or could be.

I doubt Theresa Spence, who’s life hinges on Harper meeting with her, would agree with his flip analysis. I also doubt that the millions of Indigenous people in Canada who rely on Harper to uphold the Treaties but who have no clear recourse to punish him when he doesn’t would agree either.

Murphy’s analysis demonstrates the dangerous level of ignorance that has managed to infest the brains of many Canadians.

Sorry Rex, Harper is pretty big and scary. Not sure what a white-hot mind is (must have been a saying from some decade I didn’t get to experience) but in my mind, the power and danger that Harper yields should scare us. It should scare everyone who believes in Indigenous rights, the rights of refugees, the rights of unionized workers, women, pensioners, young people, etc. etc.

It’s obvious: Murphy is so far removed from reality that he lacks the necessary shame to avoid making such a claim about Harper. But as the voice that dominates CBC Radio across Canada every Sunday afternoon, we should also fear his influence to contort or obscure our issues.

He’s part of the problem that our society is so siloed and fractured.

There are great debates that we all need to have, together, but we need to have these debates on a level playing field. With men like Murphy and Harper in substantive positions of power, leveling this playing field is an enormous task. And, while I think that Murphy’s online rantings at the National Post are mostly background noise, it’s important to pause and remind ourselves the damage that such a narrative can do when it remains unchecked.

Indeed, Murphy’s audience, the comment section trolls that many of us have trained ourselves to avoid, need to be brought into the discussion. We need to cut through the rhetoric and challenge this encyclopaedic Trojan horse if we’re going to have any impact in shifting the national debate on our Prime Minister.

Put simply, we have a great deal of work to do. If our movements are ignored, obscured or made the object of fun by folks like Rex Murphy, then we have to tell our own stories and amplify them ourselves.

10 Responses to “Burning Rex Murphy’s encyclopaedia: Promoting Idle No More”

  1. Lavender Blume at 3:10 pm #

    Great analysis. I applaud your down-to-earth approach; we need to bring these issues to a place where everybody can participate in the discourse. Murphy and those like him really do indulge in a form of intellectual masturbation. While people of privilege (for lack of a better term) do tend to have an inherent bias that makes it difficult for them to understand what the poor and disadvantaged actually experience, there are many middle-class people who also don’t trouble themselves to take an honest stab at thinking about what unions are really about, or why aboriginals are launching a full-scale counterattack. So I think it’s very helpful to look at this problem as one of ‘silos’, as you call it. And I can relate to what you say about people not talking about these things, i.e. on a person-to-person level. I have very few friends who even know what’s going on. That makes me sad, angry… and scared.

    • Wildrose at 1:12 am #

      Lavender Blume, I share the pain. Most people and friends don’t know what is going on and seem to not want to either. 😦

  2. nadinelumley at 6:09 pm #

    You no longer have reporters, you have repeaters.


    The new game began in Canada on Aug. 27, 1980. “Black Wednesday”, as it became known, was the day newspaper corporations across the country colluded to swap properties and kill competition. The Ottawa Journal and the Winnipeg Tribune folded, and Vancouver Province’s owner, Southam, bought the Vancouver Sun. The two had been in bed together since 1950s via a press-and-profit-sharing agreement at Pacific Press that killed the third paper and defended against upstarts.

    Suddenly competition for readers was no longer necessary; these publicly traded corporations now focused on advertiser-pleasing copy as the technique for pulling more ads.

    At least Postmedia has an understandable reason for changing standards: they’re legally obligated to maximize profits. But the fact that the commercial-free public broadcaster also ignores the public good suggests that there is a new definition of journalism.

  3. Dan G Jarrett at 9:34 pm #

    Thank you Nora for popping this pompous loud-mouthed over-respected wind-bag. Rex Murphy never has anything intelligent to say. Like most, perhaps all talk-radio contrarians its all noise and bluster with no substance. Rex you suck and using a thesaurus doesn’t had the fact.

  4. Arnold Murphy at 5:57 pm #

    Rex should consider his own prose, why do we give Rex such credibility? Because of his access to media and to publication, that same access being denied other Canadians, he is a talking head, regurgitating only what the Goebbels of the Conservative machine want. I suggest to them that ignoring people in the media is one thing, and ignoring them in the real world is another and to the CBC, not reporting on the real world event of the magnitude of a hunger strike is going to be really difficult. If anyone thinks this is just going to blow over, they are sadly mistake, I can see the Belushi character in 1984 coming out to play before he get’s sucked up by another storm of paperwork.

    • Scuddy at 9:01 pm #

      It will blow over because the average Canadian is not and has never really been concerned with the plight of natives. They have their own lives and issues to deal with, and are more concerned that the blockades and protests in no way disrupt them. If you were to poll Canadians and received honest answers the majority would say the natives are mostly to blame for their problems. Why do you think so little progress had been made.? Natives are not and will never be an election issue, and spending more on natives would likely only take votes away from the party that proposes it.

  5. Will at 7:59 pm #

    Murphy makes a lot of money presenting his comments on the CBC, and meanwhile spends a lot of his time trying to protect the guy who is attempting to dismantle the CBC.
    I think that alone demonstrates his true intelligence! Like a sick cat he’s licking the barrel of the gun that is about to destroy him.

  6. Richard at 12:45 am #

    RE: “I doubt Theresa Spence, who’s life hinges on Harper meeting with her, would agree with his flip analysis.”

    Please, Theresa Spence’s life is in her own hands. While it would be prudent for the Prime Minister to meet with her, her act of starvation is entirely of her own volition. Ironic, that you are railing against obscuring the point, while doing the exact same.

  7. Sherwin Arnott at 11:32 pm #

    I share many of your views about Rex Murphy. I wrote a critique of Rex Murphy back in 2011 http://www.sherwinarnott.org/politics/rex-murphy/ – it’s important for us to keep challenging his ignorance and I thank you for doing so. He is *not* credible, but he is in a position of power.


  1. Provocative Penguin | Burning Rex Murphy’s encyclopaedia: Promoting Idle No More -

    […] This piece originally appeared on [Nora's Blog] […]

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