Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Hysteria is not a substitute for debate
Montreal Gazette hockey writer Pat Hickey's article calling Theoren Fleury a sexual abuse enabler and a hypocrite has been met with the kind of predictable, over-the-top outrage that's come to characterize public debate in Canada.
Without question, Hickey's piece is hugely provocative, but it's an opinion piece, and not only is Hickey entitled to his opinion, he's paid to express it. His article on Fleury is well-written and his argument well-presented, whether you agree with it or not. At least one senior editor had to approve the article, and on a topic as sensitive as child sex abuse, it might have gone all the way to the publisher before Hickey got the green light.
In an industry where newsrooms are increasingly run by spineless yes men who don't hesitate to throw their own people under the bus to protect the sacred brand and please their corporate masters, it's a credit to the Gazette's commitment to editorial autonomy that Hickey was allowed to express a controversial but relevant opinion. The next test for the Gazette is whether it stands by Hickey in the ensuing firestorm, which is already well ablaze, with Fleury himself leading the charge for Hickey's dismissal from the newspaper.
Hickey deserves his employer's support, if only for the sake of journalistic independance and freedom of expression. Otherwise, we've reached a place of zero-tolerance for dissenting opinion, and that's not good for anyone - not even the misguided posers in the vanguard of the thought police.