Monday, January 08, 2007

Sly propaganda from the CBC

This won't mean anything to non-Canadians, but if there are any hosers out there, let me know if you heard this as well. I was cleaning the toaster this afternoon, and had the radio on in the kitchen - CBC Radio Two, because I like the classical music. The news came on, and you know how it is when you're working on something, you're not really listening carefully, but at some level your brain is sort of processing what you're hearing.

A story came on, about how Esso is planning to change the name of their Quebec gas stations from Marché Express to On The Run. This had the language commissars up in arms, because they didn't like the French name being changed to an English one. So far, so good, until the newsreader mentioned that the patriotic organization the St. Jean Baptiste Society was also protesting. My mind sort of casually strung these words together: Quebec...patriotic organization...protesting... and I thought "Ah, yes, some organization of Quebec veterans, good, good - something to do with our last veterans from WWI, no doubt...wait a minute...ST. JEAN BAPTISTE SOCIETY???"

Since when has the St. Jean Baptiste Society been classified as a "patriotic organization"? And if it is, one has to ask "Patriotic - to which country?" It's like saying "Sinn Fein is a patriotic organization." Sure, but when you have some debate over where a country begins and ends, it becomes a rather ambiguous statement. This is why I thought it was foolish for Harper to wade into this business of "Quebeckers are a nation", because it never ends. No sooner have we all been lectured silly about the delicate nuances of the French word "la nation", than we have to turn to more discussions of the meaning of "la patrie". And of course "mon pays" means something in French that "my country" doesn't mean in English, and so on. Anyway, it bugged me that this little bit of propaganda was slipped in on an English CBC broadcast.


Blogger Kasia said...

I asked my hoser boyfriend about this. He's heard of the SJBS, but doesn't know enough about them to have an opinion on the matter. (When I asked him what it was, he said "Some Quebec thing.")

That said, I can't believe Harper was foolish enough to call Quebeckers a "nation". Quite apart from all the hyper-nuanced semantics of "la pays" vs. "my country" (which can and will be argued to death), any political scientist will tell you that the basic definition of 'nationalism' is the belief that the boundaries of the state should be coterminous with the ethnic group (or 'nation'). So in other words, by calling them a 'nation,' he's partly legitimized their beef.

I have to admit, though, I always am slightly amused when I hear about Quebec's demands for secession. It reminds me a bit of the rather less-discussed (and less likely to happen) proposed secession of the Upper Peninsula from the rest of Michigan. When the heavily-subsidized portion of the entity starts calling for independence, I just think, "And how quickly will you be applying for aid?" I can imagine the U.N. reviewing Quebec: "Let's voluntarily seceded from one of the wealthiest nations in the First had near-autonomous status in many ways as it was, and were being given lots of money by the federal gave all this up so you could come ask the U.N. (and, by extension, Canada) to give you aid because you're not economically self-sufficient? Right. NE-E-XT!"

Now, if Alberta tried to secede, that might be a different story. :-p

10:24 am  
Blogger Peter said...

What else can you expect from the CBC, eh?

3:35 pm  
Blogger Ellie M said...

Propaganda -- on the CBC?! Say it ain't so!!!!! ;)

5:51 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Yeah, I know, I shouldn't be surprised, but I still am. It's the CBC I'm miffed at, for the relentless propaganda, but I also just realized something ironic. The original name of the gas stations, which the language police want to keep unchanged, is 'Marché Express'. But 'Express' isn't even a French word, it's English.

9:40 pm  
Blogger xavier said...

Dr. Maubus:
Errr no. Express is a French word (ok more accurately exprès). It's a Romance word because it exists in Spanish, Catalan and Italian (aka espresso)
However, you're correct to note that use of the word is an anglicism. In French exprès means something that formally expresses the thought or will i.e. the express conditions
2) Someone who's encharged with transmitting the thoughts/will of another: e.g. express mail


5:53 am  
Blogger xavier said...

Dr Mabuse:

Another thought: it was also foolish of Esso to want to change the Quebec name of its gas stations for an idiomatic English expression that most Quebecers simply won't get.
Whether we like it or not, brand names will always be different in Quebec ;)


5:57 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

xavier: Yes, I wasn't so concerned with Esso's decision itself - it seems like rather a foolish one. The way it stands, 'Marcé Express' is almost like a nice little French/English play on words. Switching to the other will cost money, and for what? Can the paperwork really be that heavy for running a set of stations with a different name? But that's their business, and if it's a bad decision, they deserve to lose money over it. It was that CBC description of the SSJB that annoyed me; they're always doing this (the CBC). Trying to "shape public opinion" instead of just telling us what is happening. The article would have been fine without "patriotic organization" - that was only put in to give a little nudge to dumb sheep to make them go the way the brilliant minds at the CBC want them to go.

6:31 am  
Blogger Craig Goodrich said...

I had always thought that the reaction of the typical Anglo Canadian to the threat of Quebec secession was pretty much the same as the reaction of upstate New Yorkers to NYC mayoral candidate Norman Mailer's threat a while back to have the city secede from the state...

1:07 pm  

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