Year of The Graves II - Ghouls and Gobshites.
Broken bottles, broken plates. Broken switches, broken gates. Broken dishes, broken parts, streets are filled with broken hearts. Broken words, never meant to be spoken. Everything is broken.
Yes, that’s a Bob Dylan lyric in the subtitle. Yes, everything is broken.
The clanging and banging from all the reputation-salvaging operations that The Year of the Graves project has touched off only serves to prove the point of it.
The point is that last summer’s bedlam erupted during a weird “epistemic crisis” that is shaking the foundations of liberal democracies everywhere. Zombie invasions are definitely back in. The phenomenon has utterly enfeebled the disciplines of journalism, among other things. The point is that it’s not just that facts don’t seem to matter anymore, it’s that it doesn’t seem to matter that facts don’t matter anymore.
I’ve tried to be a nice guy about this. That stops now.
As I mentioned in Saturday’s newsletter, my The Year of the Graves project for the National Post is being linked to a spread in Friday’s New York Post. This is being done by people who fancy themselves to be somehow “progressive” and are now claiming loudly that I’m a “residential schools denialist,” the equivalent of a Holocaust denier. The there are people on the right who claim the New York Post “has caught on to Canada's unmarked graves hoax. Like Terry Glavin’s ground-breaking op-ed yesterday.”
They’re both wrong.
The two Posts’ attention to last year’s hullabaloo more or less coincided because of the anniversary of the “news” event that kicked off the Summer of 2021’s national psychotic episode of riots and statue-topplings and church burnings and white people losing their damn minds. I never called it a hoax. I wish it were that straightforward. I certainly didn’t resort to the “fake news” claim that shows up in the New York Post headline. And my contribution wasn’t an “op-ed.”
The Year of the Graves was a 5,500-word reconstruction of events appropriately subtitled How the world’s media got it wrong on residential school graves. And the New York Post gets it wrong about what happened last summer in the first paragraph: “One year ago today, the leaders of the British Columbia First Nation Band Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc announced the discovery of a mass grave of more than 200 Indigenous children detected at a residential school in British Columbia.”
Except the Tk’emlúps announced no such thing, as The Year of the Graves took pains to point out.
You shouldn’t need too keen a sense of irony to notice that the New York Post cites “fake news” while inadvertently trafficking in the same fake news it purports to expose. The Tk’emlúps never said anything about a “mass grave.” That collossal error was how the craziness began in the first place, in the Friday, May 28, 2021 New York Times headline Mass Grave of Indigenous Children Reported in Canada. That’s what set off the spectacular cavalcade of error that roared across Canada and around the world last summer.
That’s what the Year of The Graves project chronicled, and for my sins I have had my ears boxed for allegedly taking that one American “mass grave” mistake and using it to dissemble about all the “unmarked graves” stories that followed. I did no such thing, and that is not what’s in The Year of The Graves. What the project shows is that almost all the shock-horror stories that followed were just as wrong, on their own merits, as the first one about the “mass grave” in Kamloops. And for pretty well the same reasons.
The Canadian news media got the stories wrong by breathlessly banner-headlining “discoveries” of graves that were not discovered, attributing to local indigenous leaders shocking claims they did not make, reporting announcements that Indigenous leaders did not announce, and then more or less ignoring those leaders when they tried to set the record straight.
Within weeks, 1,300 residential school burials at residential school sites were reported to have been “announced” or “discovered” or “confirmed” by local Indigenous leaders in these ways, and it wasn’t true. I wasn’t “debunking” or denying what what Indigenous people said. I was doing the opposite.
Here’s the key thing. Those first few days of “mass grave” hysteria and “genocide” backgrounders set the tone for absolutely everything that followed, long after the terminology shifted to “unmarked graves.” It was over the weekend immediately following the “mass grave” screw-up that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lowered the flags on Parliament Hill and on all federal buildings across the country. It was over that first weekend that thousands of people marched and mourned and started muttering darkly about how to take revenge on the Catholic Church.
This is important. The “mass grave” alarum was the reason Canada went into national-shame mode. It was during that fever-pitch moment that the “long-overdue reckoning” was kicked off. The flags stayed at half-mast for more than five months, and all the while, the death train rumbled across the landscape and put in at every downtown station and village whistle stop along the way.
By Tuesday, June 1, after the flags were already lowered, Tk’emlúps Chief Rose Casimir was already trying to correct the record, referring to ground-penetrating radar surveys as the “initial horrific findings of what potentially could be, they are very preliminary. . . there could very well be children beneath the surface.” It’s precisely because I took a similiarly cautious approach to the Kamloops case in Year of The Graves, and for having pointed out the avalanche of misreporting that followed last summer, that I stand accused “Residential Schools Denialism.”
Chief Casimir was even more emphatic and unequivocal three days later, although her words were not so widely reported: “This is not a mass grave, but rather unmarked burial sites that are, to our knowledge, also undocumented."
It was not all due to an “American mistake.” That’s just how the craziness started. I’ve tried to be a nice guy about this - I didn’t want Year of the Graves to be a naming and shaming exercise, and that’s not what I mean to do here, but I’m not in a nice-guy frame of mind anymore. Like I said in Year of The Graves, everybody makes mistakes. But these weren’t simple mistakes. So, given the deluge of imbecility the project has been showered with, especially on this particular point, here goes.
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