John Ivison broke me this morning. I think he broke a lot of other people too. In a column entitled “Trudeau’s lavish handouts risk turning workers into welfare slackers,” the boomer hack who specializes in producing rage-bait for Canada’s national newspaper chain wrote about his fear that “some workers might prefer to sit on their duffs for the next three months, pocketing $2,000 a month, rather than going back to work when called by their employers.”
Today is the National Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job, and here’s Ivison saying the quiet part out loud.
People’s lives mean nothing, public health advice means nothing. The only thing that matters is leaving workers so desperate they’ll accept unsafe working conditions and shit wages, grateful for the largesse.
The horrific possibility Ivison would sacrifice our lives to avoid? That employers might be forced to raise wages in order to attract workers.
Can you imagine thinking there is no price too high to keep workers from getting a raise?
And let’s be clear about who Ivison wants to leave to fend for themselves. An analysis released last month by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found the country’s unemployment rate is set to reach heights we haven’t seen in 70 years, and while one-third of workers earning $14 to $16 per hour are at risk of unemployment during this crisis, only 1 per cent of those earning over $40 per hour are at risk of losing their jobs.
Thus far, well over one-third of working-age Canadians have applied for the CERB, and that number continues to grow.
As the saying goes, every day on Twitter there is a main character. The goal is to never be it. Today John Ivison was it. He rocketed to the top of Canada’s trending topics as thousands of people expressed outrage and fury at what he had written.
Proselytizing for a death cult
Ivison wants to “wind down” support for the most vulnerable members of society so they have no choice but to take any job they’re offered. Even if it isn’t safe. Even if it doesn’t pay enough to live on. Even if public health authorities are telling them to stay home.
For callous shitweasels — to steal a phrase from the immortal Mr. Lahey on Trailer Park Boys — like Ivison, our hopes, our dreams and our very lives must be sacrificed to preserve the profits of the richest members of society.
Your grandma in long-term care? She might die because her privatized care home was critically understaffed before the pandemic, her carers work three jobs to make ends meet, spreading the virus from one home to another, and the owners fled when shit got real. But for a brief, glorious moment in time, it returned value to the shareholders, so thank your gran for her sacrifice and move along now. Nothing to see here.
Your brother at the grocery store? He’s essential, he’s a hero, but he can get fucked if he wants a raise, or a mask.
Your kid who just graduated and can’t get a job? We can’t keep giving her $1,250 a month (two-thirds of the CERB amount, though many students pay the same rents and grocery prices) or else she’ll turn into a lazy couch potato.
Nothing matters but preserving the wealth and privilege of the richest members of society.
That’s not my worldview, and I’d wager it isn’t yours either. In fact, I know it isn’t. Poll after poll shows overwhelming majorities of Canadians want stronger social programs and government supports, and wealth taxes to pay for them. We want to stay at home until there’s real progress on COVID-19, and we want government to care for those who need help in this pandemic, while making it as easy as possible for people to respect public health advice.
These numbers are off the charts when it comes to younger Canadians. None of us are buying what the John Ivisons of this world are selling.
So why does this fringe death cult and its antiquated ideology dominate the opinion pages of our newspapers?
Shut up and be civil while we screw you
Defenders of the status quo often claim the problem with the world today is that young people are too mean online, and those who would sacrifice our very lives to preserve their quarterly profits deserve our respect and our civility.
Jeff Bezos, whose company Amazon has faced widespread criticism and wildcat strikes by workers demanding personal protective equipment and better workplace safety measures, has seen his net worth increase by tens of billions of dollars during this pandemic. He’s not alone: the billionaire class is making out like bandits while adopting the language of universal suffering to justify their refusal to protect their “essential” workers.
The barons of this new gilded age, and the loyal bootlickers they keep on retainer, will pay any price to reopen the economy and restore their privileges — so long as that price is paid in our lives and not their profits.
To talking heads like Ivison, who took to Twitter to bemoan the “vilification” he has suffered for writing his amoral screed, your anger is the problem. If you get mad and, heaven forbid, express that anger, you are responsible for shredding our social fabric and promoting moral decay.
Allow me to advance a controversial opinion: callous indifference to our lives, and advocacy of policies that harm most working people so the bosses can buy another jet, is a damn sight more uncivil and socially unacceptable than being called a shitweasel. It isn’t even close.
I think it’s time we let that anger shine through more, not less. Anyone who prioritizes the profits of billionaires over the lives of the rest of us needs to feel the sting of social opprobrium. It’s the only way they’ll learn.
It’s tough, but fair — and no more lacking in civility than advocating for the “winding down” of government support for the millions of newly underemployed and unemployed Canadians currently receiving the CERB.
Postmedia are trolling us with rage-bait, for the clicks
Also today, Postmedia announced that despite an estimated $8–10 million in preexisting subsidies this year and access to a 75 per cent wage subsidy for employees earning up to around $58,000 a year, the company is implementing salary reductions and temporary layoffs and permanently closing 15 community newspapers in Ontario and Manitoba.
That might have something to do with the fact Postmedia is owned by U.S. hedge funds, whose priority is to earn enough money each quarter to pay the interest on loans from those same hedge funds.
They don’t care about the public interest. The only thing that matters is clicks. So they employ shitweasels like Ivison to get us mad. Because if we’re mad, we’re clicking, and that’s the only mandate of a newspaper apparently.
They’re vacuuming up federal media subsidies with no requirement to up staffing levels. So the millions we’re handing them go out the back door to their hedge fund owners.
Then to make up for the catastrophic decline in actual news reporting caused by round after round of devastating cuts, like those announced this morning, they pay old white dudes to make extreme arguments that line up with the ideological biases of their American owners and laugh all the way to the bank as we keep on hate-clicking.
There are good journalists doing good work for Postmedia, but their number dwindles with every round of layoffs, and their work is consistently undermined by the publication of regurgitated press releases from think tanks that serve the interests of billionaires, and bile-filled screeds like Ivison’s bemoaning the laziness of ordinary people doing their best to survive.
Want to do something about it? Set up a recurring monthly donation to one of the now dozens of independent, non-profit media outlets that actually serve the public interest. If you’re lucky enough to still have a community paper, subscribe. They’re the future of journalism, not Postmedia.
Unlike some media critics, I’m all for government support for journalism. But that support should only be extended to non-profit media outlets with a mandate to serve the public interest, not for-profit corporations who pay their CEOs millions and return their profits to U.S. hedge funds.
It adds insult to injury that Postmedia continues to troll us with amoral hacks like Ivison, whose extremist ideology is not shared by most Canadians, while taking millions of dollars of our money and continuing to gut newspapers across Canada.