Constructed Truth; Mad Cheddar; Crime and Punishment; In Memory; Family Faux Pas

Constructed Truth; Mad Cheddar; Crime and Punishment; In Memory; Family Faux Pas
Illustration by Kelsey Heinrichs

Constructed Truth

Deep in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, the reclusive hypochondriac Marlon Bain recapitulates: “It is not that Orin Incandenza is a liar, but that I think he has come to regard the truth as constructed instead of reported.” This same spurious distinction underwrites John Macfarlane’s Editor’s Note (September).

Macfarlane describes the difference between a magazine’s advertisers and its journalists. The former have something to sell, while the latter have something to say. That gloss is not only wrong but insidious—and just plain hard to believe. The fact is, journalists sell stories. Writers pitch material to editors, and editors pick the most interesting, then work with the writer to get a story into print. Along the way, there are hundreds of editorial decisions over usage, pitch, tone, angle, what to quote, what to cut. But the overriding aim is to tell the story in a way that readers will buy.

For Macfarlane to suggest that journalists are not self-interested—and that this is what distinguishes them from advertisers—is ridiculous to the point of surreal, reckless, cavalier, and wilfully blind.

His argument is the same as Bain’s: that some people regard the truth as something to construct, while others regard the truth as something to report. He puts advertisers in the constructed camp and journalists (at least at The Walrus) in the reported camp. But the distinction is completely false. The so-called reported truth is every bit as constructed as plain old advertising.

The simple truth is this: without readers, there would be no journalists—even at The Walrus.

Christopher R. Graham
Toronto, ON

Mad Cheddar

Having just consumed your cover story on the KD colonization (“Manufacturing Taste,” September), I thought you might relish word from an outpost of the consumer empire, Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories. This is where an appetite for KD can really cost: $3.69 per package. The low-income people in this part of my riding have very few choices that can feed their sense of Canadiana, or fill their kids’ bellies at the end of the month.

Dennis Bevington, MP
Western Arctic

Kraft Canada manufactures 120 million boxes of KD in the “desolate” Montreal suburb of Mont-Royal?

Ville de Mont-Royal, or TMR, might very well be the richest community in Quebec. It and Parc-Extension are separated by a huge fence. On the Parc-Ex side, the average income is roughly $35,000. On the TMR side, the average family income is $141,848. Desolate? I don’t think so.

Sébastien Poitras
Montreal, QC

Now I know what Yankee Doodle was up to calling his cap with a feather “macaroni.” PS: Def considering KD for dinner.


Crime and Punishment

Thank you for Edward L. Greenspan and Anthony N. Doob’s insightful article (“The Harper Doctrine: Once a Criminal, Always a Criminal,” September). Harper’s inability to apply rational and critical thought to his decision making; his disregard for Canadians in legal trouble, because of various reasons (most of which Harper is not interested in addressing); and his moral branding of designated human beings as bad will only increase divisiveness and confrontational behaviour. Presumably, this is the outcome he wishes. His approach does not reflect the generosity and maturity of Canadian society.

Sue Yates
Duncan, BC

Have Stephen Harper or any of his cabinet members ever met and talked with anyone behind bars? I doubt it. In my thirty years of working with people in prisons, it never occurred to me to refer to any one of them as a drug dealer, a thief, a murderer, or whatever, much less a criminal. Often, I realized that they had simply got themselves into a nasty muddle because of poor choices or because of a socioeconomic situation that made illicit ways attractive. What they needed now was help in getting back on track.

Fortunately, people can change their thinking as well as their behaviour. Someone who is once a subscriber to the Harper doctrine is not necessarily always one.

Joan Bachmann
Morges, Switzerland

For the Harper government, incarceration has nothing to do with rehabilitation or a punishment commensurate with the offence; it’s about judgment. It says that to commit a crime is to fail as a human being. Just as the new breed of Conservatives don’t understand, and don’t care that they don’t understand, terms like “public health,” they don’t understand the term “criminal rehabilitation.” In their world view, all that’s needed is a vengeance system so people will know there is a lifelong price to be paid for breaking the law, and that’s all that matters.

Paul Childs
Edmonton, AB

In Memory

Nathan M. Greenfield’s “Deconstructing Dieppe” (September) was informative and well written. On that fateful day, my father, Duncan Charles McLachlan (1915–2000) was with the Black Watch of Canada, which stormed Blue Beach. He spent three years as a prisoner of war at Stalag VIII-B. Although I have heard about Dieppe all my life, Greenfield’s words enlightened and moved me. It was hard to read “The second and third waves of Royals, including elements of the Montreal-based Black Watch of Canada, bled and died under fire so ‘brutal and terrible,’ reported CBC journalist Ross Munro, that it shocked him ‘almost to insensibility.’ ” That surely was the darkest day in Canadian history.

Janet McLachlan Neatby
London, ON

Fandom Faux Pas

I enjoyed Emily Landau’s article about Degrassi’s twenty-fifth anniversary (“Teenage Dreams,” September). But it was a bit disappointing that Landau, who mentioned she was seven when she started watching Beverly Hills, 90210 and caught Degrassi later in syndication, didn’t interview anyone who had grown up watching the show during its original run. This could have provided more perspective on what the show meant to its generation.

Christine Walton
Ottawa, ON

This appeared in the November 2012 issue.

“The time has come,” The Walrus said, “to talk of many things.” Send us a letter, an email (letters@thewalrus.ca), or a tweet, or post on this website. Comments may be published in any medium and edited for length, clarity, and accuracy. Mail correspondence to: 411 Richmond St. E., Suite B15, Toronto, Ontario, Canada  M5A 3S5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *