Industry expert to Maclean’s: Please hurry back to blandness


One of Canada’s leading magazine-industry consultants is sorely vexed with our Andrew Coyne, and indeed with Maclean’s in general, for kicking up a fuss over abortion a week after Dr. Morgentaler was ushered into the Order of Canada.

I hardly know where to begin responding, so I won’t. If you really don’t like our cover this week either, go read, and know you’re not alone.


Industry expert to Maclean’s: Please hurry back to blandness

  1. [sarcasm] Yeah! Take that, Macleans! If there’s no abortion law, that just means that we, the people, don’t want one! Stop trying to force your agenda on us! [/sarcasm]

  2. Clever observation, Dennis!

  3. I have no problem with Macleans publishing a reasonable analysis of Canadian abortion laws (haven’t read Coyne’s article yet, so one can always hope…) but it would be nice if you stopped publishing crap like the recent article on Rachel “Your 15 minutes are up” Marsden.

  4. I don’t see how disagreeing with Coyne’s premise is hardly being afraid to have the debate, let alone a call for Maclean’s to be blander: Maclean’s covers do appear calculatedly “shocking,” so observations of Whyte’s editorial approach fall well within fair comment.

  5. You can look to CanWest to see what happens when a Canadian media company tries to push a radical Right agenda.

  6. How quaint, the “you’re afraid to debate the issue we’re debating” gambit. Old dogs never grow tired of this trick do they.

  7. @bigcity: Yeah, so radical right. Over at the Citizen, we employ notorious radical right wingers such as Janice Kennedy, Susan Riley, and Dan Gardner — hirings that had to be approved from the lefty-slaughtering factory in Winnipeg.

  8. I can see it now: three female law students will demand an equal ammount of pages to write their own anti abortion regulation article, which can not be edited and must be accompanied by a cover of their choosing. When Macleans refuses, they’ll haul Andrew Coyne before at least three “human rights” commissions for his thought crimes. You can even have Mark Steyn live-blog Coyne’s showtrial.

  9. If you want to talk about old gambits McClelland, how about the old “assert the matter is settled” routine that the left seems to employ on any matter in which the status quo reflects its current policy preference? Or maybe the reliable yarn about simply defining said policy preferences as “human rights” in order to wrongfoot anyone who questions it? Guess you must have forgot about those.

  10. ALW,

    The matter IS settled unless you see something coming over the horizon thats likely to change the “status quo”. Long regurgitations of Canadian legal history (Coyne’s article) are certainly not going to do it.

    And, as for political leanings, what is Macleans really trying to do with an article telling the majority of Canadians that they are too stupid to understand the nature of their own country? Well, it panders to the 20-25% of the country that’s hard core Reform Party wingnuts, and tries to bait folks from the other 75% to buy the magazine in expectation of their blood pressure going up. Very much like the National Post. Except that Black and Whyte and crew proudly announced that the NP was going to be a Conservative paper. Now they’re trying to mainstream Conservatism by laundering it through Old Mac.

    I am reminded of Durkin and the RCP.

  11. The real question is, where was the cover story in 2005 when Elizabeth May was named to the Order? THAT was a black mark on the prestigious award.

    May has murdered thousands of principles. Her actions have given us hypocrisy-on-demand, making Canada the only country in the world with no law whatsoever governing shameless pandering. This is worse than the time UNB gave her an honorary degree!

    Why should the lobbying of those few committed to sanctimony without limits override the wishes of the majority of Canadians who are not among those polarized about the issue of whether the Green Party is really just a franchise of the Liberals? The move to give May the Order of Canada has forever politicized the highest civilian honour in the country. Let us pray for all of the voters who never got a chance to see the light of day.

  12. Controversial or not, the article was weak. A look at discussion boards all over the blogsphere (including the ones here at Macleans) shows Canadians are more than willing to debate abortion. Their positions may be very fixed, but that is becuase most actually DO understand the issue and its ramifications, and have arrived at the conclusion they aren’t likely to abandon.

    It’s “politicians” who usually seek to avoid a big abortion debate. There are a lot of good strategic reasons for that, and by barely discussing them, Coyne gives the impression he is unaware of them.

  13. I don’t think that post is saying Macleans shouldn’t be controversial, I think it’s saying that Macleans shouldn’t decide for us that because the majority of the country seems comfortable with our lack of any law regarding abortion that they can just declare that this isn’t because we’re comfortable, but because we’re ignorant.

    The problem, to my mind, is not that those in charge of Macleans seem to disagree with me, and want to write about that, the problem is that what they’re writing is that I only disagree with them because I’m ignorant and I don’t know any better. That if they could just educate me I’d see how wrong I am and realize that really, I agree with them.

    What the cover (and Coyne’s article) says is not just that I’m afraid to have a debate (which I’m not, as I’m quite certain that I’m on the side of the debate that the majority of Canadians support) but that the “let’s keep the status quo” side of the debate is illegitimate on its face. That we can have a debate, but I’m not allowed to take the position that the status quo is acceptable. That we MUST have a law on abortion (because that, apparently, is “what the supreme court intended” and if the supreme court intends for parliament to enact a law then, apparently, parliament MUST enact a law… eventually). It’s argued that somehow if we don’t establish a legal framework around abortion that this make us a “lawless society”. So let’s start the debate from that point and get to debating.


    If the minority of the country that’s unsettled with our current state wrt abortion law wants to have a debate with the majority that thinks everything’s just peachy, then fine. However, we’re not going to start the debate from the premise that “we must have a law regarding abortion, so let’s figure out what that law’s going to look like”.

    I’ll run the race if I must, but there’s no reason for me to give my opponent a head start.

    If we’re gonna have a legitimate debate, it should start with whether we need a law at all. I see no reason that supporters of the status quo should be forced to concede that point before the debate even begins.

    It seems to me that this issue of Macleans isn’t calling for a debate. It’s calling for opponents of regulating abortion to admit their current “ignorance” and simply concede the first point of the debate; and THEN we’ll have a debate.

    Good luck with that strategy!

  14. Or, I could have saved space and said: “What Dawg said.”

  15. I like that line in the above blog, “In Singapore, chewing gum is against the law. In Canada, we have no law respecting gum-chewing. Is it lawful to chew gum in Canada, or just not illegal?”

    You could spin that to so much about Coyne’s article. There’s a legal void around the chewing of bubblegum. When it comes to cheweing bubblegum, we’re a lawless society!

    Canadians deserve to have the debate about the limits we want to have on chewing bubblegum!

  16. I was going to point out that gum-chewing parallel, but just wait. Someone’s going to freak out that we’re comparing chewing gum to having an abortion. Which, of course, is not that point at all.

    The point is it’s silly to call us “lawless” because there’s an issue we don’t have a law for.

    More humorously it’s hilarious to hear “conservatives” proclaim “WE MUST HAVE A REGULATION! WITHOUT MORE REGULATION OUR DEMOCRACY’S A SHAM!!!”. Ah yes, the conservatives cry out for more regulation and more government intervention.

    Less humorous is this notion that the debate around abortion must rest on the notion that a regulation is needed. That somehow or other we must get a law on the books, whatever the law may be, and the debate should just be about what the law will look like.

    Well, I’m sorry, but not wanting to debate on those terms isn’t the same thing as not wanting to debate. There are too many people in this country who think we shouldn’t have a law on abortion at all (and no, they’re not just ignorant) to simply skip over that point and start debating what our legal framework around abortion should look like.

    If we’re going to debate our shocking lack of a legal framework around gum-chewing, let’s at least start by debating whether we think the lack of a legal framework around gum-chewing is “shocking”, and proceed from there.

  17. Just so I can get an idea of how long it takes to get my paper copies down here in Indiana, when exactly did the paper copies of this issue hit the shelves. I just go the Canadian vs American cover issue on Wednesday.

  18. PW doesn’t know where to begin responding, so here’s my best attempt:
    Maclean’s can publish whatever it damn well wants, it’s a(n apparently?) free country.
    Some blog-writer can complain all he wants that a newsmagazine is tackling a difficult subject, and that its editor is staking out a position with which the blogger disagrees. It’s a(n apparently?) free country.
    You can choose to read Maclean’s or not; you can choose to agree or disagree with Coyne. You can choose to cancel your subscription, or write a letter to the editor, or post a rebuttal on a blog for which a Maclean’s employee will even give a free link. It’s a(n apparently?) free country.
    The status quo IS a legitimate reference point in the debate, whether or not Mr. Coyne feels that this is not what is ultimately best for the country. Coyne accuses us of sticking with the status quo by default, not by conscious decision.
    Staying put at the status quo just because Parliament is too afraid to talk about it is NOT evidence of decision-making responsibility; it is, rather, the abdication of same.
    I want Maclean’s to lose its government subsidy, too, because I want ALL Canadian businesses to wean themselves from my cracked sore taxpayer teat, not because I feel (or don’t feel) that they are doing a decent job at being a newsmagazine. I want Maclean’s (and, radical thought, every other business) to survive or fail based on its success in satisfying its customers, supplying something for which there is a demand, you know, all the basic stuff a grade ten economics course teaches you about that long extinct free market economy.

  19. If the matter were settled, Dr. M getting the Order wouldn’t have been nearly as big a news story.

    Kim Campbell got the Order in the same ceremony. THAT matter (or lack thereof) is settled, because no one is talking about it.

    The abortion issue is settled in the minds of people who like the status quo. It’s not in the minds of those that don’t like the status quo. And since it was front page news on every major daily in the country, the proportion of people who aren’t happy with the status quo is not insignificant.

  20. The non-settled folks are relatively insignificant because superficial things like Morgentaler getting the Order are the only things that can get them coverage. Anti-choicers still a minority, still playing semantic games, etc is on the order of dog bites man these days.

  21. I’ve read and re-read that blog post, Paul, and I don’t see where you discern “sore vexation.” “Weary amusement” I’d have said was closer to the mark, or maybe just “weariness.”

  22. Wow, this post brought out all the lefties in the comments. Interesting to see that.

    “I want Macleans to lose its Publications Assistance Program funding. It doesn’t get to social re-engineer to the tune of 3+ million a year of public funding.”

    The irony. How many have said the same thing about the CBC and its liberal leanings?

    Funny how lefties love government funding of everything (magazines, film, etc), but only for leftist magazines, films, etc.

    Maclean’s has been branded as “radical extreme right-wing” by others. More irony. The “radical extreme” attempt at branding, this reminds me of a certain prime minister.

    There’s gotta be another human rights commission case to be found in these pages!

  23. Lord Kitchener’s Own wrote:

    “The problem, to my mind, is not that those in charge of Macleans seem to disagree with me, and want to write about that, the problem is that what they’re writing is that I only disagree with them because I’m ignorant and I don’t know any better. That if they could just educate me I’d see how wrong I am and realize that really, I agree with them.”

    In short, they *are* right-wing radicals (or share some of the same attitudes). I thought the problem with the “far left” was that it expressed just this condescending attitude toward “the people”?

    (Disclaimer: I’m not a “lefty,” whatever the hell *that* is).

  24. Well Bob, I’d say the kind of “you only disagree with me because you’re ignorant” tact is pretty non-partisan, in the sense that people on the left, on the right (or in the middle for that matter) use it far too often.

    I don’t think Macleans is (or has recently become) “far-right” as some have claimed, though clearly the magazine has moved a bit to the right in recent years. To me, as to many, that’s less of an issue than its recent more sensationalist bent and slightly tabloid-like layout (frankly, to me, I still largely enjoy much of the content, Mr. Wells and Mr. Coyne chief among my favorites, but the look and “feel” of the print version has me running online these days).

    Still, I did feel with regard to this issue that I was being told that it wasn’t so much that my opinion was wrong as that it was invalid. That I was simply ignorant, and that anyone could plainly see that there is something here that needs to be “settled”, and that more than that, one’s preference for the status quo was a stance in defense of lawlessness and an attack on the notion of democracy.

    To me, the question “do you support Canada’s status quo with regards to abortion?” was being set up as akin to the question “when did you stop beating your wife”. That rubbed me the wrong way, but as much as this issue does generally come down to “left” or “right” I don’t think that’s where I personally got hung up. I’d like to think a similar argument from the other side of the political spectrum, on some other issue, would have bugged me just as much.

    But of course, I’m only human. :-)

  25. The controversy over the Morgentaler honour ended up being a one day news wonder with no legs, and now we have this magazine cover story which doesn’t say much of anything clogging up our newsstands and coffee tables for a week after the story died.

  26. I think you’re welcome to recycle the magazine at will…

Sign in to comment.