Montréal, le 11 avril 1998
Numéro 6
(page 2) 
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            Vos commentaires           
Publié sur la Toile depuis le 21 février 1998 
Martin Masse 

Gilles Guénette 
Claire Joly 
Pierre Desrochers 
Pierre Lemieux 
Brigitte Pellerin 

Ralph Maddocks 
     LE QUÉBÉCOIS LIBRE défend la liberté individuelle, l'économie de marché et la coopération spontanée comme fondement des relations sociales.   
     Il  s'oppose à l'interventionnisme étatique et aux idéologies collectivistes, de gauche comme de droite, qui visent à enrégimenter les individus.   
    Les articles publiés  partagent cette philosophie générale mais les opinions spécifiques qui y sont exprimées sont la responsabilité de leurs auteurs.   





 by Martin Masse
           Our readers who rely only on the francophone media to stay well-informed will probably wonder why they haven't heard anything about this Bouthillier affair, while we devote two articles to it this week after having reported on it already last week. The reaction of the francophone press to this story has indeed been nearly unanimous: let's keep our mouths shut. 
          To our knowledge, besides Le Québécois Libre, only a few commentators have given an account of and denounced what the president of the SSJMB said: Jean Lapierre at CKAC; Jean Paré, the publisher of L'Actualité, on radio; Michel David in a Le Soleil column; and Michel Venne in a Le Devoir editorial. Gilles Proulx also interviewed Bouthillier but, with his usual judiciousness, only to congratulate him for his courageous statements. 
          La Presse only published a little article two days later on Alliance Quebec's denounciations. Which is of course the best way to trivialize the story and show it as only another episode of Anglos-whining-for-no-reason, when it's Quebec's democracy that is being attacked, a matter that should concern everybody.  
          Only a few mentions, thus, that can be counted on the fingers of both hands. Apart from that, no actual report on the event itself, either on TV, radio or in newspapers, no demands for clarifications, no accounts of reactions to it. Nothing. That's it. 

An extraordinary media phenomenon 

          You really need to stop a few seconds to realize to what extent this is an extraordinary media phenomenon. In a society where language issues are being endlessly debated, where the slightest declaration by an eccentric writer who only represents himself — namely Mordecai Richler — brings headlines everywhere the next day, this story was not deemed worth a few minutes of attention in dozens of newsrooms in the province. Even though — and this needs be repeated — this man heads an organization in charge of the important festivities for the so-called Fête nationale in Montreal, an organization which has thus officially received the mandate from the government to bring together all Quebeckers.  
          Criticism is frequently being aired, in the rest of the country, about the biases that characterize how nationalism and unity issues are being reported on in the francophone press. Each time, some columnist or editorialist jumps on his high horse to declare that Quebec has no lesson to receive from anybody. But this is nevertheless another striking example of such partiality. How can we explain it? 

          1) Some journalists are simply in agreement with the xenophobic statements made by Bouthillier, or at least are hostile enough towards anglophones to excuse them. 
          For example, Le Québécois Libre sent a press release last week to all the main media outlets in Quebec, with our editorial denouncing the SSJBM's position. One striking reaction, that of Pierre April of the Presse canadienne in Quebec City, who left a message on our phone machine asking that we do not send him more of « that kind of literature », with an intonation that clearly meant « that kind of extremist garbage » 
          What does Mr. April really think of this story? For him as well as for other journalists, Bouthillier may still be a respectable spokesman, even if his words went a bit further than his thoughts. It is rather those who denounce him who should be condemned. 

          2) In the little nationalo-statist intellectual circles of Quebec, everybody has friends, family members or colleagues who have invested a lot during the past decades fighting for « l'option », winning conditions or not. One would cause them chagrin by helping to propagate negative stories. An emotional pressure inevitably builds up. 
          Better play it safe, not report that kind of bad news while hoping to stay free of remorse as it pertains to your journalistic ethic, and get on with the business of calling Anglo militants « extremists » on every occasion. Since Anglos don't watch our programs, nobody will complain and my sister-in-law who is a PQ member will be very happy.  

          One can only notice, for example, that Pierre Bruneau at TVA referred to Messrs. Richler, Galganov and Henderson as extremists, with an indignant face that he seldom puts on, as he interviewed Culture minister Louise Beaudoin concerning the 60 Minutes document about the language police. Mr. Bruneau and his newsroom team, however, did not see fit to interview one of their anglophone compatriots to wax indignant following the remarks of the extremist Bouthillier.
         3) One last reason which reinforces the first two, is that we must do whatever is possible to keep among us the least-well-kept dirty little secret in Quebec, that is that there are xenophobes, racists and intolerant people among the defenders of the nation. To report on and denounce Bouthillier's comments would imply admitting that all those who, in English Canada and the U.S.A, pretend that Quebec nationalism is an essentially ethnocentric movement with its nut fringe, are right. It would mean feeding those who wage « smear campaigns » against Quebec abroad. 
          It is significant that the four commentators who denounced the SSJBM all deplored the following consequence: Bouthillier is making a bad name for nationalism, his comments will justify the worst criticisms about Quebec. If the rare voices which denounced him seem so preoccuped with this, one can imagine how worried must be those who did not dare do it! We only need to observe the hysteria that followed the airing of this document on 60 Minutes to see that this question of Quebec's image abroad touches a very sensitive nerve. 
          Furthermore, Guy Bouthillier himself doesn't seem too concerned with this, which probably allows him to say aloud what he thinks without worrying about the consequences. Here is how he rejected criticism concerning another controversial issue, the use of the notwithstanding clause, at the same hearings (my transl.): « And I know very well that we are being answered, in circles that you may also associate with, that we are being told: Be careful, be careful, what are they going to say about us abroad! (...) Besides, what is exactly this international public opinion? Does it really exist? It is an international public opinion, or is it not rather the expression, outside of our frontiers, of an opinion invented here, fabricated here, built up here by the English Canadians of Montreal, Toronto or elsewhere? » 
Denial of reality 

          Too many people have invested too much, since the Quiet Revolution and even more since 1976, in the collectivist image of a French Quebec that takes charge of itself and imposes itself, to dare question it now. To reveal the dirty little secret that corrodes our nice and skin-deep « national » identity would bring a too brutal questioning. Doubts could even extend to such a sacred cow as bill 101. Unacceptable. 
          In psychoanalysis, you call that a denial of reality: the refusal to recognize a fact whose perception would be traumatizing for the subject. Bare a few exceptions, everybody prefers to stay put and wait until it goes away. Whence this law of silence that rules over the francophone press. 
Le Québec libre des 
          « Après avoir pris ainsi tour à tour dans ses puissantes mains chaque individu, et l'avoir pétri à sa guise, le souverain étend ses bras sur la société tout entière; il en couvre la surface d'un réseau de petites règles compliquées, minutieuses et uniformes, à travers lesquelles les esprits les plus originaux et les âmes les plus vigoureuses ne sauraient faire jour pour dépasser la foule; il ne brise pas les volontés, mais il les amollit, les plie et les dirige; il force rarement d'agir, mais il s'oppose sans cesse à ce qu'on agisse; il ne détruit point, il empêche de naître; il ne tyrannise point, il gêne, il comprime, il énerve, il éteint, il hébète, et il réduit enfin chaque nation à n'être plus qu'un troupeau d'animaux timides et industrieux, dont le gouvernement est le berger. »  

Alexis de Tocqueville 


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