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Media Report

CBC Glorifies Terrorism

by Arthur Weinreb

August 19, 2002

A recently broadcast episode of the Fifth Estate, entitled "In on the action", told the story of the left-wing Canadian group, Direct Action, popularly known as "the Squamish Five".

In the early 1980s, the group of five young radical leftists, feeling that non-violent protests were not working, decided to engage in criminal acts. They stole cars, weapons and explosives. They plotted armoured car robberies. They blew up a hydro sub station in B.C. and firebombed three adult video stores in Vancouver. They travelled across the country to Toronto carrying 550 pounds of dynamite and bombed a Litton Industries plant that was producing guidance systems for US Cruise Missiles. Ten persons working at Litton were injured in the blast.

The five were eventually arrested and tried. During the trial, one of the accused, Julie Belmas, pleaded guilty and the trial collapsed. All five were convicted and were given sentences ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment.

The program centered around the only one of the five who agreed to be interviewed, Ann Hanson, who having been in on every act committed by the group received the life sentence and is currently on parole. Although others were interviewed for the program including police officers, a victim of the bombing and left-wing activists abhorred by the violence, the main thrust of the program was to give the ex-con Hanson a platform to espouse her ideas while the host, Anna Maria Tremonti romanticized the group’s activities.

Tremonti: In a time of politics, plots and a passion to change the world, five young Canadians built a secret cell, hidden lives and big bombs.

Tremonti: [the Squamish Five] left behind a possible debate about the limits of political protest.

Actually if the actions of blowing up buildings and injuring people was debated, it was only by the leftist elite, who like Tremonti actually saw something to debate. Most decent law-abiding citizens, including those radical leftists who don’t set off bombs, didn’t see anything to debate. Direct Action were not any different than Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, whom the CBC never fawned over.

Tremonti: It is not such a big leap from leaflets to bombs.

Actually, it is a big leap. Tremonti makes it seem like all people who protest by handing out leaflets are just a day or two away from detonating a bomb. For Tremonti, this was an attempt, and a weak one at that, to normalize terrorist actions.

Tremonti: [The group] was in a journey towards militant illegal political protest. They had strong views on the environment, the nuclear arms build up, the exploitation of women and eventually they would tackle them all.

It sounds so romantic. Everyone from Timothy McVeigh to al-Qaeda to Hamas have strong views that justify (to them and apparently the CBC) causing death, injury and massive property damage. Tremonti appears to believe that it was somewhat okay to do what they did because they had strong views on certain leftist principles.

Tremonti: they had gone too far and they knew it. In a communiqué signed Direct Action, they expressed some remorse and acknowledged errors in judgment.

Tremonti: You know a lot of people would have seen it [the Litton bombing] as such a cold blooded act they would be very surprised you felt like that.

Hanson: We certainly weren’t terrorists in the sense of acting in order to frighten people.

Hanson:(about the video stores) I didn’t feel that it was an act of violence; you know, I felt that it was an act of liberation, that’s how I felt you know.

Hanson: What is a building. I don’t think that causes great pain. It may cause a little bit of trouble in the pocketbook for the company that owned these things but I don’t see it as an act of violence.

The group was apparently unaware that police radios could disrupt the bomb’s timing mechanism and the bomb detonated before it was set to go off. Tremonti clearly accepts the fact that the five felt "some remorse" for the injuries. An unbiased journalist would certainly have challenged Hanson, the ex-con, on the effect that the bombings would have had on people who worked in the buildings or could have been there and their families. But she merely accepts the parolee’s statements that they didn’t mean to frighten anyone. Hanson’s statements about not intending to frighten people is not unlike McVeigh’s statements that had he known there was a day care centre in the Murragh building he probably would have chosen another target.

Nor does Tremonti ever challenge the ex-con on her statement that she was not a terrorist. Terrorists never think of themselves as terrorists. They are all warriors in a just cause.

Of course, no television show on this type of activity would be complete without a reference to September 11.

Tremonti: There are important lessons to be learned in the aftermath of September 11th. Here too a group of determined political activists working in secret decided to get in on the action.

Tremonti describes the suicide bombers who brought down four aircraft and killed over 3,000 people at the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, as mere "determined political activists". It seems the terrorist label doesn’t fit them either.

If anyone ever had any doubts about the CBC having a left-wing bias, "In on the action" should dispell it.

Towards the end of the program, scenes of protesters are shown outside of the Vancouver courthouse where the trial was taking a place. And a young woman is speaking to the crowd through a megaphone.

We object to the media portrayal of the five accused as crazed terrorists bent on creating chaos in this country.

They need not object any more.


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