Wente Watch

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The end of Wente Watch

As most of you have noticed, there have been no posts recently. This is partly because I was on vacation, and before that was very busy at my regular job, but also the Globe appears to have closed the Google News loophole for editorialists and columnists.

I could, of course, simply take out a subscription. But to do so for the primary purpose of reading Margaret Wente, of all people? It would be a sad irony indeed if one effect of this blog were to increase the money going into her pockets.

Margaret Wente is not the worst columnist in the Globe's stable - that honour goes to the insufferably narcissistic, jejune, and misandrist Leah McLaren. Unlike McLaren, however, people actually take Wente seriously. She shows up regularly as a TV talking head, has won several National Newspaper Awards, frequently provides fodder for the most rabid blogs in both Canada and the United States, and has a good deal of power at the nation's most influential newspaper.

And what does she do with this media spotlight? A count of the fifty-odd columns refuted in this blog shows that fully a third are devoted to criticism of one or another non-Western culture or nonwhite people. It is hard to think of any other writer in English who is so single-mindedly concentrated on ethnocentrism as an ideology. There are, indeed, writers more Islamophobic, or more hostile to blacks, or anti-immigrant, especially in the United States. But I know of no one else who works so hard on smearing all non-white peoples with a broad brush, who will invent social problems where none exist, who will scurry to find any possible racial angle to a story.

And indeed this is why Margaret Wente provokes such fury in me, for I am everything she despises. I was born in Canada. I am not white. I look to Tiruvalluvar or Kalidasa for inspiration every bit as much as Shakespeare or Dickens. I believe the Bhagavad Gita has as much to teach us today as does Locke or Montesquieu. I make no apologies for eating samosas, celebrating Diwali, dressing my children in traditional dress, or sending them to Tamil classes. I take pride in my ancestors and their achievements.

None of these things make me any less Canadian. To Wente, however, I have not "assimilated" (in other words, abandoned my identity) and am therefore at best a living example of overly tolerant political correctness, at worst a potential terrorist. Over and over again, she tells us we don't fit in, that we don't belong. The welfare state doesn't work if we are around. Feminism cannot coexist with us. Liberal democracy breaks down under the threat of our clothes alone.

Is there any limit to the lies and distortions Wente's pen will cast? An immigrant to Canada herself, she has no hesitation in telling native-born Canadians what they should wear, how they should behave, what our identity is, merely on account of the colour of our skin. She has only contempt for our ancestors, our traditions, and our values.

Every possible stereotype, every smug expression of superiority, every casual smear at a nonwhite culture that one can conceive of has found its way into Margaret Wente's columns. She cannot see past the colour of our skins, to read us as individuals and not symbols of our races. In her world, Muslims are destroying democracy in Europe, blacks are firing guns in a gangsta rap-induced frenzy, South Asians are beating their wives, Africans are deliberately infecting women with AIDS, and aboriginal Canadians abandon their children to alcohol and drugs.

The various social problems Wente describes exist in white communities as well, and she rarely has any empirical evidence to back up her claims that patriarchy and violence are endemic to non-white communities. Indeed, she does little actual research, relying mostly on unknown cranks and "everybody knows" statements.

Her popularity is due to her uncanny ability to strike a chord in the reader's id, the hidden coterie of prejudice that all of us have but that we like to think we have let go of in a modern society. Wente strikes this atavistic nerve, reawakens the fear of all that is dark and different, tells us it's okay to let logic, reason, and evidence fall aboard, and trust the evidence not of our eyes, not even of our hearts, but of our fears.

Pay money to read such a person, even if for the sole purpose of refuting her? Never.

Yes, that means those who predicted this blog would not last long were correct. On the other hand, more than a few people have said they don't waste their time with Wente, so why should I? From now on, I won't.

Thanks to all who have read my posts, and extra thanks to those who have commented or emailed. I appreciated every one, even the hostile ones.

I do have another blog, and will start to post regularly there, constructing ideas instead of refuting them. If you like my writing, I invite you to find your way there.