Monthly Archives: September 2010

Ezra Levant’s Vile Slander [Updated]

Sun News, under threat of a lawsuit, has apologized to George Soros for the scabrous column by Ezra Levant published in the Toronto Sun on September 5th, alleging, among other things, that Soros, as a thirteen year old Jewish boy in occupied Hungary, collaborated with the Nazis.  This is a slander that has been circulated by the likes of Lyndon LaRouche and Levant associate Ann Coulter.

All traces of the libelous column have been scrubbed from the Sun News site and from Levant’s own website.  However, I have seen it and it is horrific reading for anyone who still has a sense of common decency.

The charges of collaboration are demonstrably manufactured lies and have been publicly debunked many times, right down to the maliciously misleading re-edit of the 60 Minutes piece about Soros for which Levant provides a bogus “transcript.”  It is as wretched a hatchet job as you could ever expect to see in any journalistic medium.  It’s hard to imagine, in fact, how Levant and his editors could have proceeded without knowing that what they were publishing was slander.  Besides the revolting mean-spiritedness of the piece, therefore, there is the sheer recklessness with which it was produced and circulated.  And these are the people who want a broadcast license for a “news” channel with “mandatory access” status.

The Columbia Journalism Review today published an article on the affair here.

The whole awful story of how the noxious combination of Ezra Levant, Kory Teneycke, Sun News, and the vast resources of the right-wing hate machine in the US gave birth to this monstrosity here.

Ben Jonson

On this date in 1598 Ben Jonson was indicted for manslaughter.  In the same year he also produced his first major success, Every Man in His Humour.

Frye in A Natural Perspective:

With Every Man in His Humour Jonson began a new type of comedy, of which Ibsen and Chekhov (Ibsen at least in his middle or “problem” period) are the inheritors.  The contrast between Shakespeare and Ben Jonson is hackneyed, but like many hackneyed subjects, not exhausted.  One seventeenth-century play that we know failed to please was Ben Jonson’s The New Inn: we know this because its failure was highly publicized by Jonson himself.  Jonson wrote on the occasion a poem in which he scolds the public for not appreciating it and for preferring “some mouldy tale like Pericles” instead.  A critical issue is involved here that it might be fruitful to examine.  The New Inn is not first-rate Jonson; but neither is Pericles first-rate Shakespeare.  Yet Pericles was not only popular in its own time, but has been revived with success in ours, and I doubt that any dramatic company in its right mind would attempt to revive The New Inn, though I should hope to be wrong on this point.  Jonson’s critical principle was obviously true to him that he honestly could not understand why his audience preferred Pericles, and in trying to explain why it did we may get some insight into the rationale of Shakespeare’s technique. (14-15)

Kory Teneycke Under Investigation?

It was very satisfying to watch Harper henchman Kory Teneycke take on Margaret Atwood — and lose about as decisively as it is possible to lose.  He quit as point man for Sun TV News last week (“it becomes increasingly clear my involvement only serves to inflame”), and he may now be under criminal investigation for fraud and identity theft in relation to Avaaz’ “Stop Fox News North” petition, which we (courtesy of Eva Kushner) posted on a couple of weeks ago.

Stephen Maher picks up the story in the Chronicle Herald:

On Sept. 2, Teneycke complained on Twitter that he had been signed up: “So, apparently I have signed the Soros/Atwood petition against Sun TV News as well. What BS.”

Early the next morning, the Sun papers published a column from Teneycke — titled Maggie Atwood: Buzz off! — in which he revealed that the petition contained many false names, including Snuffleupagus, the Sesame Street character who only ever appears to Big Bird.

The activists at Avaaz read the column and checked the list and found out that, sure enough, someone had added Snuffleupagus and Boba Fett and also a number of Ottawa journalists in an apparent attempt to discredit the petition.

The next day, I received an email from Avaaz informing me that I had been signed up. So had Martin and plucky CBC blogger Kady O’Malley, who decided to stick her adorable nose into the story and went hunting for the list of names.

“am i the only one who can’t actually find the list of names online? someone url me, will you?” she wrote on Twitter.

A few minutes later, she tweeted: “maybe he knows. hey, @KoryTeneycke, where’d you see the list of names on the Avaaz petition?”

See, Teneycke had revealed — likely without meaning to — that he knew who had added the names to the petition. Avaaz had not put the names online.

Teneycke, I think, realized the jig was up and replied on Twitter: “@kady Source emailed me to say they registered Boba Fett, D. Shroot, etc. Petition lacks basic controls. Not sure who signed me up.”

Well, how did he know he’d been signed up?

Avaaz squealed about dirty tricks and hired big-shot Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby.

On Tuesday, Ruby sent letters to the RCMP and Ottawa police, giving them the IP address of the Ottawa-area computer used to add the names and asking them to prosecute the guilty party for fraud, identity fraud and theft of a telecommunications service.

The better news is that this may prove to be a fatal blow to the Fox News North application to the CRTC.  This is also yet another ugly development whose provenance is Harper’s office.  Canadians never have much appetite for this sort of thing, and their limited tolerance for it in this case may be exhausted.

Bring on the general election.

Frye and The Critical Path

In Bob’s announcement yesterday on the posting in the Denham Library of Frye’s previously unpublished letters to his secretary Jane Welch, he includes this tidbit:

[The Critical Path] is the first book since the Anatomy of Criticism that I’ve actually written, i.e., that hasn’t been a series of public lectures.  It’s also a very important book.  I probably won’t live to see it recognized as such, but you may.

I thought I might post on this and explore the reasons why Frye regarded this work as so important — and why its importance might not be immediately recognized.  But then I discovered that Bob Imre Salusinszky had already outlined as much in his introduction to volume 17 of the Collected Works:

In The Critical Path, in 1971, Frye talks about a “myth of concern” as comprising “everything that most concerns its society to know” and as functioning to “hold society together, so far as words are can help to do this” (36). This, then, is the equivalent in Frye’s thinking to the New Historicism focus on ideology.  But, for Frye, literature is not the same as concern: “it displays the imaginative possibilities of concern” (98).  Much later, in Words with Power, published in the same year as “Varieties of Eighteenth Century Sensibility,” Frye develops this discussion into a dialectic of “primary concern” — those things that concern all peoples in all societies at all times — and “secondary concern,” the ideological preoccupations of specific societies at specific historical moments: and literature is where secondary and primary concern are brought into relationship (42-3).  These reflections are where Frye’s veer sharply away from both the literary Marxism he engaged in the first quarter of his career, and the New Historicism he confronted in the final quarter.  It is in maintaining the distinction between an ideology and a myth that Frye’s criticism preserves the multicultural component that A.C. Hamilton has suggested will give it permanence in “an increasingly globalized world.” (CW 17, xxv)

To which I can only add that the inability of a whole generation of literary scholars to maintain a distinction between ideology and myth is at the root of the problems literary criticism now faces, including its steady decline in influence upon the general reading public.  In our current post-post-structuralist age, scholars tend only to talk to one another in a rarefied language only they understand.  But much of this is no more than what Frye calls the “squirrel’s chatter” of specialized scholarship.  He knew better than most that, because literature belongs to everybody, literary criticism belongs to everybody as well and can be written in a way that is accessible to anybody, as surely as every literary work is available to every reader who cares to engage it.  What makes literature accessible –and ought to make literary criticism equally accessible — is the universality of primary concern and literature’s unique ability to explore its imaginative possibilities.  As Frye puts it in Words with Power, any work of literature will reflect the secondary ideological concerns of its time, but it will also place those ideological concerns in the context of “making a living, making love, and struggling to stay free and alive.”  And that’s something everyone can understand.  We can only hope that literary scholarship will recognize sooner rather than later what Frye could already lucidly articulate forty years ago.

Leonard Cohen

The 1965 NFB documentary Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Leonard Cohen

Today is Leonard Cohen‘s birthday (born 1934).

An excerpt from Frye’s 1957 review of Cohen’s first collection of poetry, Let us Compare Mythologies:

The poems are of very unequal merit, but the book as a whole is a remarkable production.  The erotic poems follow the usual convention of stacking up thighs like a Rockette chorus line, and for them Mr. Cohen’s own phrase, “obligations, the formalities of passion,” is comment enough.  But it is an excess of energy rather than a deficiency of it that is his main technical obstacle.  Sometimes moods and images get tangled up with each other and fail to come through to the reader, or allusions to books or paintings distract the attention and muffle the climax, as in Jingle.  In short, this book has the normal characteristics of a good first volume. (CW 12, 165)

A 1979 television performance of “Famous Blue Raincoat” after the jump.

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The Stewart-Colbert Conspiracy

You really have to ask yourself — with Fox News amping up the lies and the hysteria on a daily basis, with the “mainstream” of the Republican party now so demented that even Karl Rove is muttering nervously about it, and the Teabaggers endorsing a string of totally unqualified (and, one hopes, totally unelectable) candidates for the upcoming midterm elections — would we really have reason enough not to despair without Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert?

Watch Jon announcing his “Rally to Restore Sanity” here.

Watch Stephen announcing his “March to Keep Fear Alive” here.

They will, of course, be held on the same day, and in all likelihood be incorporated into a single event with the finesse that only Jon and Stephen seem capable of.

It’s at crucial moments like this that the masterly eirons in our midst remind us that no bully is too big not to brought down with a well-aimed blow.  (Yes, Glenn, we’re looking at you.)

Frye-Welch Correspondence, 1968-1970

We have posted in the library letters written by Frye to Jane Welch (later Widdicombe) at the beginning of her long tenure as his devoted secretary: she began working for Frye in 1968. Frye’s travels during these three years took him to Ireland and London; Berkeley; Bellagio, Italy; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Merton College, Oxford.  During this time he was working on The Critical Path, which, he tells Jane Welch in one of his letters from Merton College, “is the first book since the Anatomy of Criticism that I’ve actually written, i.e., that hasn’t been a series of public lectures.  It’s also a very important book.  I probably won’t live to see it recognized as such, but you may” (no. 16).  Then there are the usual Frye quips, such as “I’m not all that anxious to read the Blake Newsletter, and I never believe anything I see in such things anyway, as a matter of principle” (no. 11), and “A big research library is wasted on me, too bad I never learned to read, and I’m getting itchy feet again” (no. 17).

You can read them all here.


On this date in 1519 Ferdinand Magellan set sail from Sanlúcar de Barrameda with about 270 men on his expedition to circumnavigate the globe.

Frye in “The Times of the Signs” in Spiritus Mundi:

[W]ith the voyages of Columbus, de Gama and Magellan, humanity as a whole began to realize that the earth was round, and to order their lives on that assumption.  Up till then, the centre of the world had been, as the word itself makes obvious, the Mediterranean, and the people who sat like frogs around a pool, in Plato’s phrase, on the shores of the sea in the middle of the earth.  But after 1492 the nations of the Atlantic sea-board began to realize that it was they who were now in the middle of the world. (66-7)

It’s Witchcraft

Bill Maher on newly designated Delaware Republican senate candidate Christine O’Donnell and her “dabbling into witchcraft.”

One of those odd moments of synchronicity — suddenly the subject of witchcraft is a current event.  Andrew Sullivan’s take on it here.

On a personal note, I watched two horror movies last night, the evening of September 18th: Drag Me to Hell and Paranormal Activity. The star of Drag Me to Hell is Alison Lohman, whose birthday is September 18th (yes, I Wiki’d the movie and then hit her link), and the events of Paranormal Activity commence on. . .September 18th!  What the? Next I’ll be working my way through the Saw series and I’m seriously hoping there’ll be no further “coincidences.”