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Notes-from-the-Cultural-Wasteland

An Open Letter to Canada
by Morris Sullivan

Dear Canadian:

I donít think you suck. That should be apparent from the second line of my April/May 2002 Impact column, "Notes from the Cultural Wasteland." Similarly, the third line should have informed you I donít necessarily believe Canadian figure skaters suck.

For the record, I have met some Canadians, and they werenít bad people. Iíd say that, as a group, they were no worse than Australians Iíve met, or South Africans, Pakistanis, Puerto Ricans, or Brits. Or people from Minnesota, for that matter.

Also, in case you missed my comment, "I admit I know next to nothing about figure skating," I know almost nothing about figure skating. Furthermore, I donít particularly care to know anything about figure skating, so thereís no need to attempt to educate me about it or point out how little I know about it. If youíre reading Yahooís figure skating news, you undoubtedly know a hell of a lot more about it than I do, and I defer to your expertise on that topic.

However, if you read the column and felt incensed by it rather than laughing, I suspect you either: (a) were so enraged by the link/title, where Yahoo erroneously picked up "Canadians Suck," rather than "Notes from the Cultural Wasteland"; (b) have no sense of humor; (c) are unfamiliar with satire; or (d) are a television newscaster. In case itís (c), let me explain: "Satire," according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is "a literary work in which irony, derision, or wit...is used to expose folly or wickedness."

The "folly or wickedness" I intended to expose, by the way, is that inherent in the American television news media. I attributed neither folly nor wickedness to Canadians, figure skaters, nor the Canadian pairs team. The column is obviously media criticism, by which I used satiric devices to expose some things about television news coverage that annoy me. To see a similar column in which I use some of the same devices to similar ends, read this one, in which I criticize news coverage of a racecar driverís death.

Some of the responses to the column have questioned my credentials. I have no credentials, beyond those of any casual viewer, that qualify my opinion on figure skating. However, my credentials as media critic are pretty solid: Iím a professional journalist, so I have something of an insiderís view of these things. I write for print, but I have been involved in several different aspects of television production, including writing and direction. And Iím a theater critic. Between the lot, I think Iím pretty well qualified to recognize half-assed journalism and to judge how well someone comes across on camera.

Which brings me to the team itself. I have learned from this controversy that if I really want to piss off a large group of people, the phrases "pussy-whipped," "snide little bitch," and "trailer park housewife" will do the trick. However, I think I made the distinction clear between the pair as people and the pair as "camera presence." I still disagree with the news anchors that the Canadians came across as good losers. However, to clarify: I donít know them, and I may well like them if I did. They might be really good folks. However, they didnít play well on camera, and I suspect the commentators deliberately ignored that fact in the interests of furthering their own views and making the story much bigger than it deserved to be.

Incidentally, thereís something I could have mentioned but didnít: I seem to recall that before the judging controversy, there was some news-talk about their stormy relationship. Itís been a long time, but I think I even remember there being an implication that whatsername was kind of a Diva. Then suddenly, she was a hero--and a gracious one at that. Thatís pretty typical of TV newsmedia crapola. (And Iíll refrain from going into my opinions about the collision and fall between her and her Russian opponent during warmups and the TV news spin on that).

Since the breaking news about Russian gangster involvement in the scoring, I imagine a lot of figure skating fans think that I should apologize for the column. Once again, it doesnít matter--my column was about the media, not about figure skating. Iíll let those of you who want to "clean up" the sport worry about that stuff.

Incidentally, I find the idea of Russian mobsters fixing figure skating competitions hilarious. I might write a satirical novel about that some day, in which I will also include the gangsterish act of one skater having another kneecapped with a baseball bat. (By the way, they were both Americans, as I recall).

Now, some of you have asked if my response would have been the same had it been an American team in the Canadiansí place. No, it wouldnít have been. Iíd have been even more suspicious of the news coverage and written even more scathing criticism of the TV news media.

However, I probably would not have said "Americans suck," for two reasons. First, Iím an American. Second, I have no desire to be lynched by redneck hillbillies.

Thank you for reading Impact. I hope this addresses some of your concerns.

Morris Sullivan

Email your feedback on this article to editor@impactpress.com.

Previous Notes from the Cultural Wasteland Columns

Other articles by Morris Sullivan: