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Canada's Peter Pan By: Kathy Shaidle
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 25, 2008




For those Americans seeking to understand the reflexive antipathies of their northern neighbors, the improbably successful career of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's George Stroumboulopoulos is all too instructive.

To viewers unfamiliar with the CBC's multiply-pierced, aging hipster star, Stroumboulopoulos's TV fame may seem puzzling. His live, late night "info-tainment" show, The Hour, features interviews with newsmakers and celebrities, shot before a studio audience and punctuated with loud alt-rock and manic graphics. It's Wayne's World if it had been left in the basement.

The picture grows more puzzling with the very possible future scenario of Stroumboulopoulos hosting his own show at Al-Jazeera. Indeed, this 36-year-old former MuchMusic VJ (who was hired to give the nation's public broadcaster an infusion of "youth"), may very well seek to follow in the footsteps of two other ex-CBC-ers at radical Islam's favorite TV channel, whose talk show hosts praise the beheading of civilians.

Why not? After all, being Jewish didn't prevent former CBC presenter Avi Lewis from joining Al-Jazeera, followed by the network's veteran news editor-in-chief, Tony Burman. Both had been groomed by "the Corpse" at considerable taxpayer expense, only to jump ship when Al-Jazeera came calling.

Such defections aren't that surprising of course. In fact, they are simply in the natural order of things. The intimate affinity between radical Islam and the Left is a well-known phenomenon and has been well documented by the likes of David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes and others. So for the CBC, which is reflexively leftist, to produce stars who end up prostrating themselves before – and serving – the West's totalitarian adversaries is only to be expected.

The CBC's lifeline is its anti-Americanism. Without it, it is questionable if the CBC would or could exist. To cite just one infamous incident, the network's live "town hall" discussion the evening of September 11, 2001 was a "they asked for it" embarrassment. The CBC never met a terrorist they didn't prefer to describe as a "militant" or an anti-American dictator (i.e. Castro, Chavez etc.) that it didn't do its best to paint in the best of lights.

If you are looking for true concern for the suffering of Muslim women under Islamic gender apartheid or for a balanced presentation of America's war against Islamofascism, the CBC is clearly not where to turn. Instead, documentaries by Michael Moore and other left-leaning filmmakers are granted precious airtime. (Curiously, the CBC's official employee blog jokingly refers to staffers as "comrades.")

And so, Stroumboulopoulos was a natural hire for the CBC. In 2004, he co-hosted one of those typically desperate and patronizing CBC programming "events", a series called The Greatest Canadian. Viewers voted for the historical figure they felt most deserved that accolade, and Stroumboulopoulos successfully championed the father of Canada's bloated, inefficient – but "free" – healthcare system, socialist leader Tommy Douglas. Aside from the sickening notion that Canadians are prouder of a broken down government entitlement program than, say, their soldiers' bravery on D-Day, the ugly fact is that Douglas, like so many "enlightened" progressives then and now, championed eugenics.

Having "won" the televised contest, Stroumboulopoulos got his own show, The Hour, in January 2005. Critics weren't kind. One TV columnist called the program "short attention span theatre" and compared Stroumboulopoulos to "Poochie", the "cool" surfing dog on The Simpsons, brought in to (unsuccessfully) modernize the "Itchy and Scratchy Show." Many singled out Stroumboulopoulos' wardrobe for special criticism: the all-black ensemble favored by artsy college kids, enlivened only by those colorful plastic bracelets advertising the latest liberal causes.

As the embodiment of the Canadian elites' strongest principles and silliest causes, it comes as no surprise to see Stroumboulopoulos mocking "American right wingers" on a July 11 episode. Strictly for laughs, he re-played a Hamas-sponsored children's show that's been broadcast throughout Palestine, which ends with the assassination of a George Bush puppet and another puppet crying out: "Allah, I killed him!"

Afterward, Stroumboulopoulos commented:

"… Obviously it's a pretty dickish move to brainwash your kids to kill people ... But I know that a lot of American network people were going off on this one, yer [Fox News Channel's] Bill O'Reillys and yer Sean Hannitys and some other guy, they were losing their collective 'mind'" – Stroumboulopoulos used sarcastic "air quotes" when he said "mind" – "so I mean it's important for The Hour to take a stand on a show like this. We here on our program do not advocate the killing of anyone on a kids' show, unless it's death by anvil or a piano falling from a cliff."

Before the program ended, Stroumboulopoulos squeezed in the words "bull****" (three times) and "stick a Taser up my ***".

The fatal brainwashing of Palestinian children with hate and with the instruction to kill and die, therefore, becomes joke fodder for an urbane ex-video jockey. Everything is so funny to Stroumboulopoulous you see. The world is just a silly place . . . because, naturally, people like him would fix it all so fast if they were just given the hands-on opportunity.

Stroumboulopoulous makes what he wants to be the main point about himself unmistakably clear: he is above the news. He is better than the news. If he were actually part of the news, if he had the power to make the news, then the news would obviously be more positive, because the world would be a much better place.

Like his progressive comrades, Stroumboulopoulous postures as if he has access to a higher truth -- a truth that the common folk, especially the American network people whose allegedly tiny minds he ridicules every day, cannot see. That is why he condescendingly scoffs at them -- like a know-it-all teenager that hasn't yet entered the real world -- at every turn.  

This access to the truth allows the Georges of our world to represent "the people" for whom they pretend to speak. It allows them to offer up their prescriptions for saving society. We are well aware of the disastrous outcomes that these prescriptions caused globally in the 20th Century, but these are not of much interest to Stroumboulopoulous.
 
Thus, when it comes time to deal with a televised threat against the life of a U.S. President, Stroumboulopoulous' loyalty remains to the CBC Party Line and, therefore, to the god of "cool," which means he must turn what Hamas is really about -- the yearning for a Final Solution in the Middle East -- into a pointless gag. It would be heresy at the CBC, after all, to examine the ideological foundation upon which Hamas' death threat is actually based, because then Stroumboulopoulous would have to confront the reality that there are enemy systems far more evil than  Bush's America -- a concession a hipster leftie like Stroumboulopoulous could not possibly afford.

These are the sad ingredients of the painfully transparent manufactured image that we see in George Stroumboulopoulous. We get the carefully constructed easy going, laid-back guy who uses foul language because it's no big deal and because, well, hey, we're not like those uptight, puritanical Americans who fuss about Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl, eh? Even The Daily Show's Jon Stewart wears a suit and tie. But not George Stroumoulopoulos. And he's so cool that even when his guest is a political or artistic giant, the possibility is always there that Stroumoulopoulos might call the dignitary "dude." This is because Stroumoulopoulos is intellectual and hip. He can talk to a Prime Minister and to a rock star. He is a man of all worlds and can carry himself through all of them with nonchalant ease. And he needs to ostentatiously implant this ability into your head at every second with embarrassing exhibitionism, rather than, with a graceful humility, allowing you to gather it on your own.

And so Stroumboulopoulos desperately strives to be cool, which is of course, the one thing fatal to "coolness" itself. He champions, for instance, an oxymoronic sounding cause called "HipHop Literacy" on one YouTube.com video, while wearing an American flag t-shirt with skulls where the stars should be. The priding oneself of one's stunted development is evidently clear here, as a 36-year-old man pats himself on the back for wearing sneakers when talking to dignataries who merit  respect -- and for having never grown out of adolescence.

Through every episode of The Hour, Stroumboulopoulos neurotically searches for his audience's affirmation and sanctioning -- an audience which nervously and lamely giggles on que at every childish and self-centred joke Stroumboulopoulos makes. The dynamic is creepily uncomfortable to watch, reminding one of the forced and unnatural laughter of first-year undergraduates to an unfunny joke made by a university professor in a lecture auditorium.

If you're a conservative, you don't have to get arrested to get on The Hour, but coming close helps. When author Mark Steyn's travails with Canada's Human Rights Commissions became too big for even the CBC to ignore (Steyn and the nation's oldest magazine having been charged with "flagrant Islamophobia"), he was invited on The Hour and graciously described his host later as a talented fellow and not "a reflex Trudeaupian liberal."

Stroumboulopoulos was earnest and twitchy, hyperactively playing with his copy of Steyn's book America Alone, which was conspicuously  stickered with Post-It notes. "You say 'immigration' like it's a bad thing" was the closest the host came to mounting a thoughtful challenge to Steyn's thesis. He wondered why it would be so bad if Islam became Europe's dominant religion; after all, "democracy means majority rules, right?" Stroumboulopoulos was his most animated when reminding Steyn that George Bush once told a "foreign minister" that "God told him to invade Iraq." Except that never happened: the story is a widely debunked urban legend based on Palestinian propaganda.

Iraq inevitably came up again in a more typical interview, with activist Naomi Klein. Most famous for her anti-consumerism manifesto No Logo, Klein joined Stroumboulopoulos to sell her latest book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. The episode saw the CBC lapse dangerously close to self-parody; Canada's elite class (left and right) is notoriously nepotistic, but Klein's background sounds like a spoof: her father was a draft dodging doctor, while her mother helmed the feminist documentary This Is Not A Love Story. Klein's spouse is Avi Lewis (the Al-Jazeera defector mentioned above), whose father is a famous socialist diplomat and whose mother penned a long-time feminist column in Canada's largest circulation daily.

"That democracy and free markets go hand in hand is one of the great myths of our time," declared Klein, wearing the incongruous fixed smile she'd maintain for the whole interview, even when discussing the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Klein informed Stroumboulopoulos that America was "grabbing Iraq's oil" as part of a "right wing class war." She explained her reasons for writing the book, claiming she'd felt "disoriented after 9/11", with all the talk about "a clash of civilizations" and how nothing would ever be the same. To "feel grounded again", Klein evidently felt the need to retreat into stale Marxism and sinister conspiracy theories.

Stroumboulopoulos didn't challenge any of Klein's statements, instead offering a Bob Dylan lyric as his main contribution to the interview.

It's true that The Hour's talent roster isn't entirely biased. Recent guests have included "skeptical environmentalist" Bjorn Lomberg, and Ben Stein discussing his contrarian "intelligent design" film, Expelled. The trouble is the disconnect between Stroumboulopoulos' self-created image as a mouthy, motorcycle riding rebel and his softball interviews with controversial guests like abortion doctor Henry Mortgentaler.

He's Barbara Walters with a soul patch. She's rarely met a dictator she didn't love. How long before "Stroumo" follows in her footsteps and beyond?

* Jamie Glazov contributed to this article.

Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury.com. Her new book exposing abuses by Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, The Tyranny of Nice, includes an introduction by Mark Steyn.


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