Halal hysteria grips Quebec

Toula Foscolos
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“Nous mangeons tous Halal” (We're all eating Halal) screamed the front page of Le Journal de Montréal this morning, complete with stomach-churning, blood-smattered images to add to the panic and mass frenzy that would soon engulf its readers. Throw in Dutrizac’s malicious ambushing of a dépanneur owner on his radio show, and it’s been a good week for “Gotcha” journalism

Toula Foscolos w-e

I know I shouldn’t expect anything better than crass sensationalism from the JdM, or from the likes of Mario Dumont, who continuously egged on Quebecers to “resist” immigrant influences while a politician, but would it be too much for JdM journalists to actually pick up the phone and get accurate information, before publishing inflammatory and, most importantly, inaccurate statements on their front page?

Interviewed by other media outlets (those, who at the very least, were willing to do… you know… what journalists are supposed to do; research), Olymel (the slaughterhouse behind the controversy) quickly – and might I add, in bewildered fashion – defused the comments and set the record straight. Only chickens destined for Islamic customers are designated halal.

There! Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. The nefarious plot, secretly organized and carried out by Montreal’s Muslim and Jewish community to force unsuspecting Quebecers to eat halal and kosher products, was foiled, thanks to the constant vigilance of those watching out for all ethnic and foreign threats. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a Monty Python movie.

“We were in the nick of time. You were in great peril.”  

“I don’t think I was.”

“Yes, you were. You were in terrible peril.”

“Let me go back and face that peril.”

“No, it’s too perilous.”

And the story gets better. Upon further investigation, it was found that the process of killing the animal remains the same for both halal and non-halal products. So, the PQ and the CAQ can now go ahead and direct their “outrage” towards real animal abuse cases taking place at home. Thanks to this province’s archaic and lax laws, inhumane puppy mills continue to, not only survive, but thrive here, and halal is what’s gotten Pauline upset? Oy!

And the story gets better. Upon further investigation, it was found that the process of killing the animal remains the same for both halal and non-halal products.

There’s nothing I detest more than irresponsible “Gotcha” reporting because it always tries to appeal to the lowest common denominator; always tries to push buttons and create unwarranted panic and division. Sensationalistic and inflammatory by nature, its intent is to provoke, tantalize, frighten, shock and awe. Who cares if no objective information is ever disseminated? The reader is so terrified and indignant, s/he fails to even notice! And that’s the scary part…

I “get” that newspapers are a business, and that sensationalism sells. As times have become tougher, I’ve been witnessing a disturbing willingness for media outlets (print, TV, and radio) to resort to panic-driven stories, to catchy front pages full of misleading headlines; ready to fan the flames of intolerance. Let’s face it… in this province anything having to do with a potential –real or otherwise- threat to the French language and culture, is always going to attract more attention than a boring old informative headline. But there’s a fine line between the preservation of what’s sacred to Quebec and a witch hunt of all that is different.

"Gotcha journalism", the deliberate manipulation of the presentation of facts in order to portray a person or (in this case, an ethnic or religious group) in a way that varies from an accurate or balanced review of the facts, is highly unethical because it's deliberately biased reporting.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: media education is vital for newspaper readers and media watchers. People need to learn to approach news with a discerning and probing mind. Media education isn't always about having the right answers, but about having the selective reasoning required to ask the right questions or at least question the questions being asked.

It’s about reading a silly sensationalistic front-page story and having the know-how to dismiss it, and throw it in the trash; where it belongs.



Organizations: PQ, CAQ

Geographic location: Quebec, Montreal

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