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Andrew Mitrovica, the Oilsands, and Rhetorical Intimidation

Former CBC and Globe and Mail journalist Andrew Mitrovica has a message for current CBC journalist Rex Murphy: don't speak in favour of the oilsands. Or else.

Not on the air. Not in person. Or we -- the anti-oilsands left -- will impugn your ethics without ever actually making it clear precisely what we're pretending you did wrong. This is the newest low the "journalists" at iPolitics -- launched as an experiment in political journalism in Canada, but what has essentially become a place where journalism has gone to suck -- have sunk to.

This is what Mitrovica's butthurt opus on iPolitics boils down to: Rex Murphy delivers opinion segments on CBC's The National that are supportive of the oilsands. He also gives speeches at private engagements supporting the oilsands. It must be a conflict of interest. Or something.

"In early January, I started researching the number and content of speeches that Rex Murphy has made about the oilpatch and the petroleum industry generally," Mitrovica writes. "I found that Murphy has made several speeches to oil-friendly audiences who lap up his cheerleading about the industry and his wisecracks about Neil Young, environmentalists and do-nothing Easterners, including his CBC colleagues."

"One speech that particularly caught my attention is captured in this YouTube video, where Murphy, cradling a glass of red wine, is in full rhetorical bloom at an oilpatch love-in in late November at Lake Louise, Alberta," he continued. "A Calgary Herald account of the 18-minute speech described Murphy’s performance in glowing terms: 'A words-weary audience jumped to its feet with an enthusiastic ovation for broadcaster Rex Murphy after he urged pipeline builders Friday to stop being ashamed of the multibillion-dollar projects they are trying to build … The audience reaction showed they were ready for some plain talk from someone clearly on their side.'"

"He was on their side, alright. Murphy’s speech was more like a hyperbolic pep talk about the virtues of oilsands development, delivered by a self-defined ‘journalist’ to Alberta’s corporate and political elite," Mitrovica pouts. "Then, on January 17, 2014, in one his soliloquies on the CBC’s The National, Murphy excoriated Canadian artist Neil Young for being, among other things, 'unfathomably irresponsible” for criticizing proposed oilsands development.'"

So, let's take a moment to keep things perfectly straight. Rex Murphy gave a speech in Alberta in which he praised the oilsands and criticized Neil Young. And then, some weeks later, Murphy voiced the same opinion again. For which Mitrovica is terribly aghast, even if he hasn't bothered to pay attention -- his castigation of Murphy for sneering about "do-nothing Easterners" is starkly at odds with the thanks he offers to Alberta for giving Newfoundlanders left jobless by fishery closures a dignified means to provide for themselves and their families.

Mitrovica continues on, using staggering terms such as "conflict of interest."

The rest of the article details Mitrovica's fastidious efforts to determine how much Murphy may have been paid for his speech in Lake Louise, and that neither Murphy nor the CBC seem to have taken him very seriously.

Hard to tell why.

After all, Murphy had made his opinion on the oilsands perfectly clear long before his speech in Lake Louise, and his opinion doesn't seem to have changed one bit after. So obviously whatever speaking fees he received to speak at the Suncor gala didn't influence or change his opinion. So that particular ethical question can be quickly dispensed with.

But has Murphy committed any other ethical offenses? Well, according to the CBC code of Journaistic Ethics and Practices, anyone who produces news, current affairs or public affairs information content are expected to "carefully consider what organizations they are publicly associated with." If public statements made risk giving the sense of partisanship or advocacy, they must discuss it with a supervisor. If an employee -- and Murphy is not a CBC employee, he freelances for the CBC -- then they must get approval from a supervisor before giving a speech (paid or unpaid) or sitting as a member of a discussion panel.

The code makes no mention of any obligation to disclose such activities on-air. Which makes Mitrovica's line of questioning pretty irrelevant. Did Murphy discuss his Lake Louise speech with whoever his supervisor, when he performs work for CBC, may be? That's kind of between Murphy and the CBC, isn't it? As it turns out, the code doesn't make explicit prescriptions regarding how such matters are to be handled. The presumption is that the supervisor is to dispense guidance, and if an on-air disclosure is warranted -- and it's clear that they don't always do -- then such a disclosure will be offered.

Murphy's work on the CBC has been something of a sore spot for Canada's political left recently, and the further to the left one may be, the more tender a spot it tends to be. Archleftist website went so far as to hold open auditions for a "not Rex" segment.

The left has long considered the CBC to be theirs, and the ongoing presence of Murphy -- who in terms of prominence, prestige and professional esteem has eclipsed his detractors in every way possible -- has been an irritant to the far-left. They'd do anything to drive him from the public broadcaster.

In order to do that, apparently they're willing to stoop so low as to concoct bizarre ethical complaints against him that, especially in the case of the one concocted by Andrew Mitrovica, tend to hold water so poorly they could audition for a Hollywood reboot of Titanic.

Fortunately, Rex Murphy is made of rather stout stuff. Tough enough stuff that he won't be rhetorically intimidated by the journalistic bottomfeeders at iPolitics.

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