garrison mentality

CBC television news has a consistently anti-American bias. So says a paper released today by The Fraser Institute, which describes itself as "an independent public policy organization". (I couldn't check them out, as their link is not working.)

According to the paper,
The CBC's television news coverage of the United States is consistently marked by emotional criticism, rather than a rational consideration of US policy based on Canadian national interests, according to The Canadian "Garrison Mentality" and Anti-Americanism at the CBC, released today by The Fraser Institute.

This anti-American bias at the CBC is the consequence of a "garrison mentality" that has systematically informed the broadcaster's coverage of the US. Garrison mentality was a term coined by Canadian literary critic, Northrop Frye. He used it to describe a uniquely Canadian tendency reflected in our early literature, a tendency, as he put it, to "huddle together, stiffening our meager cultural defenses and projecting all our hostilities outward."

"The anti-Americanism of the CBC, we argue, is a faithful reflection of the garrison mentality evoked by Frye," said Professor Barry Cooper, co-author of the paper and managing director of the Institute's Alberta Policy Research Centre. "This mythical and symbolic anti-Americanism typifies a broad view of the world disproportionately maintained and believed in by Canadians living in the Loyalist heartland of southern Ontario." [Story here.]
I don't know if this anti-American bias exists, I haven't seen enough CBC News to judge. I do know I find Canadian TV news an absolute breath of fresh air for its more critical take on US affairs. Perhaps an anti-American bias is just a slight correction - a little balance - from the rest of the pack.

Thanks, ALPF! I was fast today, eh?


Anonymous said...

Here is some BG on Fraser..
I know you will be surprised that they are primarily a right-wing think tank.



barefoot hiker said...

I've heard people say this before. One's opinion on it tends to be reflective of one's own self-identifications. There are Canadians, not surprisingly, who very strongly identify with the United States; some to the point of wanting us to join. Naturally, such people are prone to see anti-American bias in any news story that questions US policies or reports on US actions unfavourably. I've had long discussions with friends like this who tend to see the West as an American-led monolith, opposed by the rest of the world, "us-or-them", and any questioning of the pack leader is essentially treason. The great irony here is that this is the same "garrison mentality" being ridiculed in the stance of Canadian nationalism, only writ larger. Much larger.

People will see what they want to see, ultimately. Bias is really in the eye of the beholder, and you really can't argue with it.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

What I've noticed is that people have an "I'm the center of the universe" mentality when it comes to bias. In other words, people believe themselves to be absolutely neutral and fair, but everyone else is obviously biased.

I ramble about it here:

Rognar said...

The CBC is certainly anti-Bush, as it reflects the general attitudes of most Canadians. As to whether or not it is anti-American, well, you would be hard-pressed to ever find a story praising the US on the CBC, but the same could be said of most Canadian media sources. It's more newsworthy when Americans blow up a hospital rather than build one.

Marnie said...

Hm, Barry Cooper and the garrison mentality. You can read more about him here:


(I recommend the Walrus, if you're shopping around for magazines to subscribe to.)

laura k said...

"I know you will be surprised that they are primarily a right-wing think tank."

Oh yes, big surprise. ;-) Thanks for the link.

"The CBC is certainly anti-Bush, as it reflects the general attitudes of most Canadians."

That's the impression I get. And under the "with us or against us" doctrine, anything less than 100% praising is liberal bias against.

laura k said...

Thanks Marnie! It looks very good - perhaps similar to Harper's?

Just what we all need, more reading material! ;-)

Anonymous said...


The CBC's mandate as a public broadcaster is to (attempt to) reflect the views of all Canadians. While that is obviously not entirely possible for one newscast to do, it does tend to be more balanced in its approach than its privatized counterparts CTV and Global.

In Canada there is a strong dislike of, and disagreement with, President Bush. That bias resides within much of the public, and consequently is reflected in much of the CBC's coverage.

That said, there is much less anti-Americanism in general within this country. I like the "with us or against us" comment - I think the writers of the Garrison Mentality are trapped in this one a bit, where the thinking becomes to be anti-Bush is to be anti-American. And that is simply untrue. Disagreeing with the President's decisions has little to do with our feelings for the country itself. Many of us do not like the current US administration, but have little against the citizens or the lifestyle of the country by comparison.

Most Americans are great people. Those who get swept up in rhetoric are somewhat concerning - Canadians like to think of themselves as "thinkers" rather than "followers" (how much reality is actually in that claim may be up for debate). Perhaps it is Canadian reaction to those follower folks we see that provides the basis for anti-Americanism claims.

And certainly we too are guilty of assuming on part of a whole the actions of few ... very often Canadians will look at the far right and refer to them as "Americans" in general, as if speaking about all Americans as opposed to just one segment. I think we all make that mistake now and again, just as I think the Garrison folks have made it with CBC coverage of the White House vs coverage of America in general.

It's a slip we all need to watch out for.

Rognar said...

While that is obviously not entirely possible for one newscast to do, it does tend to be more balanced in its approach than its privatized counterparts CTV and Global.

I'm not sure I agree with that, but, of course, such judgements are pretty subjective. I find CTV to be the most "centrist" of the major TV news sources, with the CBC being a bit to the left and Global a bit to the right. Needless to say, Global is my favourite...:D

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm with you on Global at least, though I see CTV further off to the right than CBC ... CTV tends to tow the corporate line more in its reports, but I guess that shouldn't be a surprise given their ownership.

As for Global being your favorite, bud, I would have been shocked had it been anything else. :-P

Anonymous said...

PS CBC is still my fave (obviously) but I have to admit Global has the best sportscast.

And everyone seems to forget just how important that is in a news program.

Marnie said...

> perhaps similar to Harper's?

I haven't read Harper's much, so can't compare. The Walrus, IMO, has a nice mix of political commentary, general interest, the arts, humour and a few puzzles at the back. A good cryptic crossword is not to be sneezed at.

Rognar said...

I fint it amusing that the anchors of the three major TV news outlets have personalities that match their networks.

Lloyd Robertson is old, dull and reliable, just like the average Canadian viewer of the CTV, home to Desperate Housewives and American/Canadian Idol.

Peter Mansbridge is a bit more of an intellectual. He turned his back on a big-money contract with a US news network, making him the perfect choice for the artsy urban elitist who prefers the CBC.

Kevin Newman at Global is the young muckraker, attack dog of the Asper family and menace to the Liberal establishment, a voice for the Canadian Right.

Anonymous said...

You know, that's a pretty damn good comparison.

Makes the artsy urban elitist in me proud.

And no, that is not sarcasm. I can admit my dark side. ;-)