I am adding my name to this letter as a writer, a writing teacher, and as a former graduate of the UBC Writing department. Let me say first that I have no allegiance to Steve Galloway or the MC, but I am saddened by the fact that this scandal has destroyed at least one person’s life in its public exposure of face and name, divided friends, and made enemies of men and women.
What is of most concern to me, besides UBC’s failure to seek “due process” in a timely manner, is the apparent ineptitude of UBC’s public relations department in their initial liaison with media. To quote Hart Hanson’s statement of support on the Open Letter, the travesty is that UBC allowed the media rumour mill, “to grind out a rape narrative in the public consciousness”, and did nothing to assuage these rumours even after the independent investigation revealed there was no substantial evidence to support anything other than the fact that Galloway had an affair with a student (which, surprisingly, is not a criminal offence). Perhaps what is disgraceful is that by allowing Canadian media institutions the opportunity to swing this sensitive story toward a global campaign of extreme moralism, it has participated in the distortion of news in the name of sensationalism.
I’m going to go way out on a limb here and suggest that just maybe, aside from the economic gain of what amounts to tabloid journalism, that the media spin executed may have an agenda to feed our radically moral, socially democratic machine at all cost. Media in Canada lacks much real journalism anymore. It seems driven mostly by hashtags, cobbled through cut and paste, supplemented with tweets, and Facebook messages. Articles discussing this case have been tainted with biased inflammatory opinions, lacking any depth or individual thinking at all. Yet many Canadians have been polarized by a propaganda that has successfully fueled extreme reaction. I have to wonder, after all this very public discussion, if we are so enslaved by the politics of our Canadian identity as ambassadors of justice that we will violently stamp out anything that even seems unjust. Are we so vigilant in our pursuit that we are becoming vigilante?
Canadians want to appear to be everything Americans aren’t but I hear an echo of our American brothers, a call to stomp out injustice before it begins. I have witnessed the big media institutions in Canada participating in a crusade that promotes a certain brand of “supreme democracy”—a heavily funded moralism that doesn’t leave much room for true justice or freedom of thought, and I hope UBC has not fallen here, has not allowed themselves to become an intellectual hill of skulls.
I regret this kind of institutional manipulation, the warping of what Ralph Waldo Emerson called “the sacred integrity of the mind”. I stand beside my mentors and colleagues here, fellow writers and seekers of truth. I stand beside those who endeavor to teach the craft of writing, and the legacy of free expression. I stand with men and women both. Words and innuendo are powerful weapons and all in the writing professions have the duty to use them judiciously. Thank you Joseph Boyden for writing this letter first, and to everyone here who has taken a stand against sensationalism, though for all intents and purposes it’s too late.
Glen Gould has said, “We must react not as captives and automatons but as individuals.” I am doing that now. I encourage UBC to do the same, to do what it can to be clear and transparent in this matter with those involved, and to speak publicly about the mishandling of the case, and make right what it can now. If not for those affected directly, at least for the rest of us here, and for the future reputation of the University itself.