Response to Sun News Interview with Margie Gillis by Chris Dupuis

On June 1, 2011 Sun New anchor Krista Erickson interviewed Canadian dance icon Margie Gillis, ostensibly as part of an “ongoing examination of funding to the arts”. What resulted was an unfortunately typical right-wing attack on the systems that fund arts and culture within our country. Much has already been written about the economic benefits of funding the arts, as well as the fact that it represents such a small part of our budgets that cutting it does not amount to any measurable savings in the greater scheme of things.

While many of the responses to this interview have deftly wielded statistics that decisively prove these things, I highly doubt Erickson is stupid or unprepared enough to have missed this information when conducting this interview. Her commentary here is not the result of ignorance or as Gillis says “a lack of compassion”. It stems from something much more sinister.

One of the things I found most surprising about this interview was the fact that Erickson so blatantly acknowledges her hatred of the arts. During the conversation she self-identifies as a “cultural philistine”, which says just as much about the organization she works for as it does about her. Would Sun News send someone who self-identifies as an anti-Semite to cover a story on the Jewish community? Would they send a White Nationalist to report on Caribana? We are living in an era where the notion of journalistic neutrality has all but disappeared and I understand that Erickson isn’t claiming to be unbiased. But for a reporter to so blatantly declare their prejudices on a particular subject during an interview reflects the unfortunate reality of how low journalistic standards are falling in this country.

Given her position, I don’t doubt that Erickson sees no value in funding the arts. And why should she? If you don’t make use of a particular service the government offers, you may very well think they shouldn’t offer it at all. If you believe women should be kept barefoot and pregnant, you probably won’t be supportive of funding for the Canadian Women’s Hockey team. If you are a life-long vegan, you are not going to see the value in government subsidies to the animal industry. If you were born and raised in an economically and socially privileged family in Canada, you might have a hard time understanding why the government provides funding for refugees who come from other countries and haven’t enjoyed all of the benefits you have.

What may have escaped Erickson in this interview is the fact that we live in a democracy and one of the principles of a democracy (particularly an extremely wealthy one like Canada) is that we commit to collectively pooling our financial resources through various forms of taxation and then rely on our elected officials and the agencies they oversee to use those funds for various programs and services. None of us are going to think everything our government spends money on is worthwhile.

But arts funding still amounts to such a small amount of money. So why do those on the right want so desperately to see it cut? After all, cultural funding is about patriotism and protecting our national identity. It is about telling our stories, remembering our histories, and presenting our culture to the rest of the world. Surely a proud Canadian like Erickson could see the value in those things, even if she dismisses the work of an artist like Gillis.

The real reason that the right-wing wants to see arts funding cut is not because of the minuscule amount of money it will save or even because they are unpatriotic. It’s because most art (and most artists) espouse left-wing values. Removing funding for arts and culture is about silencing the voices they most passionately disagree with. And you can hardly say you want to have a dialogue when you don’t want to hear what the other side has to say.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what's sinister about that? it's 101; they want things privatized.

but, really, let's stop talking about her and this and ignore it all. sun tv's ratings are abysmal. don't bring any attention to them and they will disappear.