Racism, Fascism and Philistinism

By Smith, Doug | Canadian Dimension, September 1992 | Go to article overview

Racism, Fascism and Philistinism


Smith, Doug, Canadian Dimension


George Orwell's essay on Politics and the English Language sprang to mind when I read about June Callwood's being branded a racist. Orwell complained of the way some words were being so abused that they had been rendered meaningless. "The word Fascism," he wrote, "has now [and he was writing in 1946] no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable'."

It is impossible from Winnipeg to judge the ins and outs of the controversy surrounding Callwood's departure from the board of directors of Nellie's, the shelter for battered women which she helped establish. But even from a distance it is evident that the harsh and hurtful characterization of her as a racist serves mainly to trivialize the seriousness of racism in Canada. This sort of inflated rhetoric plays into the hands of those who rail against "political correctness" in order to protect their own privilege.

Speaking of which, no sooner had I put my copy of Orwell's collected essays back on the shelf than the Summer issue of Actrascope, the magazine of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, arrived. In it Jack Gray, the president of the Writers Guild of Canada (a branch of ACTRA) writes that "Cultural appropriation, regardless of the sincere, worthy and well-intentioned motives of those who embrace it, is yet another form of attempted control of creators, a new branch of," wait for it! "cultural fascism,..."

Gray goes on to slag the Canada Council for seeming "to align itself with those who seek to impose on Canadian creators restrictive rules regarding what is referred to as 'cultural appropriation.'" It is very unclear just what the Canada Council is or isn't doing on this issue. The one interview I heard with Council official Joyce Zeman on Morningside suggested the Council simply intended on expanding the range of people represented on its juries. Gray himself admits that the Council's statements on the topic have been vague at best, but apparently it is vagueness of a fascist order.

But if one wants to view the threatened male at his most hysterical, it is necessary to turn to Robert Fulford's column in the July 13 Financial Times. In it Fulford defends the Art Gallery of Ontario against Bob Rae and his ravaging Philistines. In a fit of pique the AGO closed its doors to the public this spring when it did not receive a large enough grant increase from the provincial government. Most of Fulford's column is devoted to abusing culture minister Karen Haslam. …

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