Canadaland: In Defense of Ad Hominem

An open letter to Michael Enright and those who tell us how not to respond to racism.

Michael Enright
℅ CBC Media Centre
PO Box 500 Station A
Toronto, ON  M5W 1E6

28 September, 2017

Dear Mr. Enright,

In your recent appearance on the CANADALAND podcast, you referred to an article I wrote on Conrad Black as a “journalistic mugging,” saying that the proper response to Black’s false statements about First Nations people should have been to fact-check them. There are a lot of unspoken premises to that advice that I find deeply insulting.

It’s not just me who gets this advice. From the NFL to Jagmeet Singh, there is no shortage of people who have lately been lectured on how we should respond to racism, almost always from people who have no personal experience of it.

You went on one of Canada’s most popular podcasts to tell me why I’m wrong. Allow me a few minutes to explain why you, and those like you, were wrong to do that.

Some quick background for others who may be reading this letter. Conrad Black has published many articles, and at least one book, in which he describes First Nations people as violent, “Stone Age” primitives who were saved by Western Civilization, and he has concluded that rather than expressing grievances over our treatment, we ought to express gratitude. Black has presented as fact a host of easily disprovable claims about First Nations people, and has usually done so in articles that had nothing to do with history. My reply to his most recent iteration — an article berating First Nations people because a non-Native teachers’ union condemned the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald — was to show Conrad Black what his own legacy would be. Having recently (and for the second time) seen an obituary with my own name at the top, I can testify to the clarifying power of it.

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