By Geoff Olson
A number of surprises in the news recently: in pornography, parliament, and the press, respectively.

Porn first. Playboy magazine announced it will no longer feature photos of fully nude women. No more nakedness in the half-century old men’s magazine? This sounded more like an diktat from The Taliban than a dispatch from the Hefner empire – something as counterintuitive as an annual swimsuit edition for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Considering the Playboy bunny symbol is franchised out to all manner of products and services, this move is likely intended to boost the company’s global branding strategy. If Canadians still want to get their hands on print material displaying immense boobs, there’s always Hustler and Hansard.

This brings me to a more important topic, Parliament. The chief spectre in that spooky Gothic building – the keyboard-tickling Phantom of the Oilpatch – failed to scare the bejayzus out of the Canadian population with his death metal number about women wearing fabric on their heads. This pre-election tune might have rocked his theoconservative base, but it didn’t chart with the rest of the country.

Watching the numbers coming in from ridings across the country Sunday night, I wondered if we were in for a repeat of the legendary collapse of Kim Campbell’s Tory government in 1993 –  the electorate’s payback for the reign of Brian Mulroney. As it turned out, no. But it was almost a rout; it appeared as if Canadians had come upon an enormous can of Raid and were spraying it liberally across the land. Strategic voting had worked well – perhaps a bit too well.

On to the surprise from the press. Last weekend’s print editions of the Vancouver Sun, Province, The Penticton Herald, and other Postmedia papers came wrapped with paid political advertisements; essentially giant yellow attack ads for the Conservative party. (“Voting Liberal Will Cost You…Can you Afford a Liberal government?”)

Wrapping broadsheets and tabs with in-your-face ads as faux-front pages, complete with the newspaper logo, is nothing new. But this was crossing the Rubicon. Whoring out front pages across the country just days before an election was a low unworthy even of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his boss, Satan.

The Globe and Mail’s split endorsement of the Conservative Party on their editorial page was tragicomic enough, but here was a case of boardroom Judases selling their publications’ paper-thin integrity for a few pieces of silver.

This is even more galling considering it involves the promotion of the most reviled PM in Canadian history, a man whose years of offences against parliamentary procedure, legislative process, legal transparency, and cultural diversity were only tepidly investigated and critiqued by Postmedia’s own staff.

To compound the problem, at least eight Muslim women in Canada have reportedly been attacked since the mangler of John Lennon’s Imagine began to work the Islamophobia wah-wah pedal – a little number about niqabs that didn’t go down well with the Supreme Court of Canada.

“A more ignominious betrayal of the venerable journalistic legacies entrusted to editorial writers can scarcely be imagined. There’s a special place in hell for those who would stigmatize and endanger vulnerable minority women for political gain, and there’s another one right next door for those in positions of power who enable it,”wrote Sandy Garossino in The National Observer of the Postmedia ad gambit.

She calls out the yellow political attack ads as “a stain” the publishers “can wear now.”
The hazard-light colour choice is ironic considering its historical associations in the press. In 1895, the New York World launched a cartoon featuring a child wearing a yellow dress  – ‘The Yellow Kid’ – as a regular character. The colour printing was an experiment designed to draw in newspaper customers.

Over time, the colour took on darker associations with publishing.  From Wikipedia: “Yellow journalism, or the yellow press, is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism.”

To which we can now add, “selling out the front page to an incumbent party’s campaign days before an election.”

Strange days, indeed. Playboy gets cleaner while Postmedia gets dirtier. At least Parliament got a good spray.

The Vancouver Courier, Oct. 22

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