A who's who of Canadian media heavyweights were in full damage control this weekend after mocking Indigenous cultural appropriation on Twitter at midnight, like a bunch of drunk racist uncles.
Toronto writer and editor Hal Niedzviecki set off a chain reaction of Hot Takes last week when, as the editor of Write, the magazine of the Writers’ Union of Canada, he prefaced an entire issue devoted to the work by Indigenous writers with a glib editorial that seemed to neutralize the importance of providing an outlet for marginalized voices in its jokey call for a “Cultural Appropriation Prize” to be awarded to a white middle-class writer who can best write from the voice or perspective of someone from a different culture.
A chastened Niedzviecki resigned from his post immediately and apologized for his insensitivity but things got more cringe-worthy later that night when several Canadian journalists on Twitter, in pseudo-solidarity with Niedzviecki, started raising money for an actual “Cultural Appropriation Prize” with several thousand dollars pledged, from sources both unsurprising (former staffers of the National Post)….
….and some unexpected (Steve Ladurantaye, a well-respected managing editor at CBC‘s The National, who profusely recanted his support the following day.
The second casualty in the media world over this tempest appeared to be Jonathan Kay, the editor of the Walrus, who capped off a day of defending a strawman argument (that writers should be able to write whatever they want) by himself resigning from his magazine (which could have been a coincidence of timing but appeared to many as a consequence for his insensitivity). On his way out the Walrus door, Kay wrote a column for the Post where he shamed The Writers’ Union for shaming Niedzviecki:
There’s a debate to be had about cultural appropriation: What takes priority—the right of artists to extend their imagination to the entire human experience, or the right of historically marginalized communities to protect themselves from possible misrepresentation. Personally, I land on the side of free speech: I’m fearful that, as at many points in history, small acts of well-intentioned censorship will expand into a full-fledged speech code that prohibits whole categories of art and discourse.
Kay’s mother, Barbara Kay, who describes herself on her Twitter bio as an “award-winning columnist,” and has over the years ironically marginalized herself to the point that she’s now a regular contributor to Ezra Levant’s low-rent alt-right outlet Rebel Media, tried to help her boy out via Twitter by asking why the “success stories” of the residential school system always take a back seat to the stories of state-sanctioned abuse and cultural extinction:
Barbara Kay’s abiding respect for the “success stories” of Canada’s Indigenous peoples was revealed when a screencap of her Facebook comments on her son’s departure from the Walrus were helpfully shared on social media by Indigenous artist Tanya Tagaq.
The Post‘s Christie Blatchford also contributed a Hot Take on this subject, bravely defending “free speech” and comparing calls for a future emphasis on diversity within The Writers’ Union of Canada (which has just over 2,000 members) to one of her pet peeves, the Black Lives Matter movement and their attempts to wield influence on another organization she doesn’t actually care very much about either, Pride Toronto:
If it looks like Pride, and walks like Pride, and talks like Pride, it’s Pride redux—in other words, as with the Toronto Pride Parade, this is the thuggish attempted takeover of a public (and publicly funded) organization by a single aggressively aggrieved group of activists.
Sun columnist Anthony Furey also went after “the mob” that forced Jonathan Kay to quit the job he was apparently quitting anyway, warning other media types that if they display glib disregard and change the subject from actual social issues into Debate Society parlour game schtick, they TOO could be out of a job: