Media

RTH Removes Letter

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 02, 2010

On May 14, 2010, Mayoral candidate Mahesh P. Butani wrote a letter to Hamilton Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel in response to Dreschel's column of the same day concerning Larry Di Ianni's possible mayoralty bid.

Mr. Dreschel wrote that Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson's decision not to run "leaves pot advocate Michael Baldasaro and Mahesh Butani, a boutique property developer and blogger, as the only registered candidates, which virtually gift-wraps a second four-year term for Eisenberger."

The letter from Mr. Butani made some very strongly worded accusations, including the accusation that Mr. Dreschel has "an aversion to coloured people." I decided to publish it because I considered it a newsworthy matter of public interest that a mayoral candidate would write such a letter to a newspaper columnist during a mayoral election campaign.

That is, I believed that it was newsworthy for having been written, rather than believing it to be true.

However, in today's column (Andrew Dreschel, "Tossing around racism crosses the line", The Hamilton Spectator, June 2, 2010, p. A11), Mr. Dreschel responded to the letter and to its being published in Raise the Hammer and in The Hamiltonian, Cal DiFalco's blog. (Note: I cannot find a link to the column on the Spectator's website.)

Mr. Dreschel called Butani's letter "clearly defamatory" and noted that he believes Mr. DiFalco and I "have assumed, in law, liability for Butani's defamatory statements and remain legally at risk for as long as they are posted."

Dreschel also noted, "The Spec notified blog operators Ryan McGreal of Raise the Hammer and Cal DiFalco of The Hamiltonian that they have legal and ethical responsibilities not to knowingly publish defamatory content."

I did receive an email from a Spectator editor, who noted that the email was "not for posting". I won't post it without the editor's permission, but I will copy what I wrote in response:

Thank you for taking the time to write to me. I wrestled with whether to publish the letter, but I decided to do it because it seemed newsworthy for a mayoral candidate to write such an open letter. That's why I prefaced it with the editor's note. (I notice that Cal DiFalco also published it on thehamiltonian.net, presumably for the same reasons.)

However, I understand what you've written and you raise some legitimate issues that I'll be sure to consider and keep in mind. I apologize if it came across that RTH is attacking the Spectator; that was not my intent, and I wish for our publications to maintain a cordial, respectful relationship.

For what it's worth, I don't agree with everything Mahesh wrote, and I suspect readers (and voters) will be split on whether his letter reflects well or poorly on his candidacy. Indeed, the comments on the piece already reflect this.

The editor replied with a simple "thank you", and I considered the matter at rest until today.

I still believe that the letter was newsworthy and that publishing it serves the public interest. Unfortunately, I Am Not A Lawyer and Raise the Hammer does not have the funds for a legal defence in a potential liability suit.

Therefore, I have decided to take the original article down and replace it with a link to this explanation.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Several of his essays have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. Ryan also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on twitter.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 10:24:56

Yep, it's silly season all right.

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By Jason (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 10:36:50

Not really. It's business as usual in Hamiltons old boys club.

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By Cal DiFalco (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2010 at 10:51:34

Ryan and RTH readership:

Well written. I posted the topic and removed the topic, for the same reasons you stated.

Respectfully, Cal DiFalco

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 10:52:13

Mahesh's accusations of racism immediately stuck me as potentially libelous (using my limited legal knowledge), however I completely agree with you that it was indeed a newsworthy story and thus worth posting.

It's too bad this had to happen, but I'm not surprised. I'm not happy about it but you did the right thing Ryan, no sense martyring yourself and RTH for something like this.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 10:52:47

Then why is mr Dreschel allowed to write his drivel, I am always taken back by his OPINIONS of things.

I mean it was pretty nasty andundignified what he wrote, he did not give Mahesh the respect they he should receive as a person running for an elected position in this city.

Inthis world there is a lot of incorrectness, in my mind Mr Dreschel crossed the lines of what is approriate as well.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 11:16:00

Then why is mr Dreschel allowed to write his drivel, I am always taken back by his OPINIONS of things.

The fact that it's his opinion is why its allowed.

From what I've read, libel only occurs when you express something as a statement of fact which can be proven as false in court; thus personal opinions don't count. It's also potentially protected under the fair comment defense.

Edit: To prevent the inevitable responses to this post, I should probably also formally declare that I am also not a lawyer and that everything I am saying is based on an Ethics/Law class from university and my own online reading. Also, I am not defending Mr. Dreschel or his views.

Comment edited by UrbanRenaissance on 2010-06-02 10:23:38

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 12:21:45

UrbanRenaissance: I am not a lawyer either but if one is writing for a major media outlet (LOL) then one would expect the writer to engage in behaviors that would promote fairness, balance in teh article they are writing.

What Mahesh wrote may not be considered by some as fair play but he did speak the truth that goes unspoken in this community, just as other voices who try to speak are ridiculed and put down.

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By Fair comment (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 12:29:09

Ryan, You could have posted the letter because it was interesting, but just removed the libelous part. It's that simple.

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By rrrandy (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2010 at 13:14:49

Again, not a lawyer, but when the object of the potentially libelous statement writes the statement in his column, isn't it now moot?

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By anders (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 13:20:41

I miss Tammany!

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 13:56:27

I miss Tammany!

Seconded! We could definitely use some real legal insight here.

...then one would expect the writer to engage in behaviors that would promote fairness, balance in teh [sic] article they are writing.

Again, it's an opinion piece, not a regular article. If his writing was presented as news then yes, one would expect fairness and balance in what he writes, but since it's framed as an opinion no one can expect anything other than the author's personal beliefs.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 14:25:46

It would be extremely odd indeed for an action for libel to be sustained when said libel is republished in a major newspaper by the person allegedly libelled. Not at all impossible, but odd.

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2010 at 15:21:41

I wish someone would write in here and say 'I am a lawyer and this is how it works.' Alas, I too am not a lawyer and have little grasp of libel law.

But, I tend to agree with grassroot's comment: "What Mahesh wrote may not be considered by some as fair play but he did speak the truth that goes unspoken in this community, just as other voices who try to speak are ridiculed and put down."

What Dreschel wrote tends to give the impression that those who run for public office must first be vetted by the self-appointed arbiters of public discourse in the MSM. This I find anti-democratic and profoundly disappointing. This effectively means that 99% of the people you meet who might make really good majors are discouraged - with good reason - from putting their names forward.

There are obviously lots of constituents in this city (e.g. new immigrants, First Nations peoples, the poor, dwellers of the lower city) whose voices are totally ignored in our political processes. There are lots of innovative ideas to be gained from listening to such marginalized voices.

Surely, what Hamilton is new ideas. One thing you can say about Mahesh is that he does have lots of new ideas. He should not be marginalized and ridiculed by journalists treating their column as a bully pulpit.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 15:31:13

All true michaelcumming, all true. And if Mahesh had made that point and stopped there the essay would have been golden. Then he went a step further and accused Drescel of having "an aversion to coloured people". I think it's silly for Drescel to threaten a defamation suit for that but it surely goes farther than what we can fairly say in a criticism of the guy. It's not like there's a shortage of real things to criticize that you have to make more things up.

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By little brat (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 16:08:21

dude is a little spoiled brat. Been entrenched with the old boys club for so long he doesn't know what to say when someone challenges his crappy journalism. If the city had another newspaper we wouldn't have to read garbage like this column....from either paper. The Spec would be forced to can him and get a writer who actually knows what he's talking about and isn't just a puppet for the rich.
At least they took him offline so we don't accidentally stumble across his column anymore.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 16:12:46

I recall once writing a comment on here that suggested Larry DiIanni was a liar. He called me on the phone, asked me about it and when I went to the piece in question I saw his point and made some minor changes to the article to satisfy him without losing the point of the article. Case closed. That's what you'd expect from a mature grown-up like Larry. I guess not everyone is cut from the same cloth.

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By TD (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 16:41:18

This is a disappointing turn of events. While I disagreed strongly with the propriety of Mr. Butani's allegation, it was clearly an opinionated letter, not an editorial position of Raise the Hammer, and RTH ought to be no more liable for its contents than any letter to the editor the Spectator runs (and they publish plenty of views I think are hideous and harmful)*. Certainly it doesn't warrant a threat of legal action against Ryan & Cal. A polite phone call to from Mr. Dreschel to Mr. Butani would have been a good start.

*Despite this, I am aware that the SCC has ruled publishers are legally responsible for publishing defamatory material (although IANAL either).

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 16:59:41

That's what you'd expect from a mature grown-up like Larry.

EXACTLY. You can trust that readers are grownups and can figure out the truth... or you can be the old-media and assume readers need to be spoon fed with a plastic tipped baby spoon.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 17:05:18

Surely, what Hamilton is new ideas. One thing you can say about Mahesh is that he does have lots of new ideas. He should not be marginalized and ridiculed by journalists treating their column as a bully pulpit.

I think it's silly for Drescel to threaten a defamation suit for that but it surely goes farther than what we can fairly say in a criticism of the guy. It's not like there's a shortage of real things to criticize that you have to make more things up.

I completely agree with both of you, and personally what bothers me most about this whole thing is how disappointed I am with Mahesh. Once you figure out what the hell he's saying, he makes many excellent points and has some intriguing ideas. I was really looking forward to seeing his full platform; instead he got sucked into a flame war and really lost a lot of credibility in my eyes.

RTH ought to be no more liable for its contents than any letter to the editor the Spectator runs

Again could not agree more but the current law seems pretty murky when it comes to blogs republishing or linking other peoples opinions. I can;t blame Ryan for taking the "better-safe-than-sorry" route.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 17:09:10

Once you figure out what the hell he's saying, he makes many excellent points and has some intriguing ideas.

I did get one chuckle out of Andrews column - when he said that he couldn't get a word in edgewise in his interview with Mahesh. Maybe he has a different Mahesh than the one on here. LOL

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By oh please (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 17:44:13

I can appreciate that you all hate Dreschel...but are you so blinded by your hatred that you can't even acknowledge when he's the victim? He was unfairly called a racist in a public letter. He has the right to defend himself. You can disagree with his viewpoint, but that doesn't mean he should be libeled for it. I can say I dislike some of the writers on RTH...I can't say they beat their wives.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 19:42:09

Oh please: a victim, well maybe but one does have to look at things in their perspective. Mahesh acknowledged that he spend half an hour or more of his time engaging in whatever process Mr Dreschel was asking him of. What is disappointing, is that Mr Dreschel, toted the old boys network and completely disrepected him by his lame comments.

There is so much more that Mr Dreschel could of debated about Maheshs abilities or lack of experience, but he just wrote him off, like he was yesterdays garbage. In my eyes, NOT COOL AT ALL.

The people in this city are looking for change, for a leader that will be a strong voice for all the people not just a select few.

I respect Mahesh because he acknowledges that all the people need to be heard and respected, he has a understanding that is more profound.

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 21:16:54

I would put as much weight on the coloured people comment as some idiot yelling FU from road rage. Not classy, but not serious either.

Weighed against Dreschel's dripping cynicism, I think Butani's angry letter is less appalling. You would have to be a concrete thinker to take any clearly emotional writing at face value.

Dismissing someone as a nobody based on a factual but demeaning one-line description should be a much bigger crime. It is an ugly oversimplification that attempts to discredit the subject and thus manipulate voting. But the old boy's club endorsement can backfire like it did with DiIanni to put Fred in office.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 22:03:32

Something tells me that this:

...And giving my permission to reprint this letter if they choose - to the publisher of Raise the Hammer and The Hamiltonian - which are the only real media left in this city with any sense of integrity.

is the line that pissed off Dreschel the most, not anything having to do with an 'aversion' to coloured people (pretty weak stuff as far as accusations of racism go). It's pretty clear that Ryan and Cal are the intended targets of Dreschel's self-pitying whine, not Mahesh. Dreschel writes:

By publishing Butani’s untrue and harmful statements, Raise the Hammer and The Hamiltonian have not only undermined their credibility, they’ve demonstrated the kind of immature behaviour that, if uncorrected, may one day rear up and bite them on their assets.

'Assets'. Get it? Hnyuck, nyuck. Vintage Dreschel. Today's whinefest was all about trying to discredit the nasty bloggers who are cutting in on his action. It's no coincidence that he also dismissed Mahesh as a 'blogger': the worst possible insult in Dreschel's world.

Sad, really. I admire the journalistic craft and do not relish the increasing irrelevancy of the MSM. Their revenue model may be toast, but let's face it, citizen journalists aren't about to replace their content model anytime soon. New and old need each other, and our media landscape will be very empty indeed if the old media don't smarten up soon. Dreschel's little ca 2005 anti-blogger tantrum doesn't give me much hope.

Comment edited by highwater on 2010-06-02 21:17:53

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 22:19:13

I have to say, the worst part of Dreschel's column was that it contained the vague implied threat that he would take legal action against the Hamiltonian and Raise the Hammer. He didn't come right out and say it, but it was definitely implied, I mean really, the only people RTH and the Hamiltonian would be potentially liable to is Dreschel personally.

I would have respected him more had he sent a demand letter, or actually launched a lawsuit. Using his columd as a means of conveying a vauge threat to intimidate others into doing what you want is not cool.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 22:26:11

Using his columd as a means of conveying a vauge threat to intimidate others into doing what you want is not cool.

Which makes Ryan's decision all the wiser. He has protected himself on the off chance Dreschel has the character to follow through on his threats, while at the same time calling wider attention to Dreschel's (and the Spec's) bullying tactics. Nicely played, Ryan.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 22:26:48

Anyone who is part of a sinking ship will flail, wail, claw, scratch and do whatever necessary to stay afloat...or in the case of this particular ship (the MSM), threaten petty lawsuits instead of using precious newspaper space to report the umm...... news.

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By alrathbone (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 22:29:53

Jeeze, I don't agree with what was written, but I really don't think Dreschel's case would've gone to well in court (I am Also Not a Lawyer) given how difficult it would be to prove he does not have such an aversion as asserted, and that Mr. Butani could probably assert that a reasonable person in his position might believe it to be true.

However, as happens far too often, the threat of a lawsuit has had the same effect as winning one.

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By IANAL (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 22:36:30

>However, as happens far too often, the threat of a lawsuit has had the same effect as winning one.

Yes and no. On the one hand this is a victory for 'libel chill' and a defeat for free speech.

On the other hand by threatening legal action Dreschel has brought a lot more attention on himself, none of it flattering, this could turn into another Streisand Effect.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 22:46:18

Jeeze, I don't agree with what was written, but I really don't think Dreschel's case would've gone to well in court

All Mahesh would need to do is have the judge and lawyers read through all of his blog postings and they'd probably dismiss the case just to get the heck out of there. LOL.

i'm JUST joking around Mahesh...trying to inject some humour into this ridiculous situation. I look forward to hearing you during the mayoral debates. Don't hold back! This old boys club needs to hear fresh ideas and smart ideas....you'll just need to watch that pesky 5 minute time limit that they always use at the debates.

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By ANAL (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 22:49:24

Let me just say that any lingering shreds of credibility Dreschel had with me went sailing out the window when I read his suckfest today. After all the slimy smears he's thrown at his enemies over the years he's gotta lotta nerve crying Oh Poor Me when someone finally bites back. Sure Mahesh went over the line and that's a shame because most of what he wrote was a piercing arrow of truth to power.

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By saddened tongiht (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 23:20:59

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Jason (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 23:27:33

Perhaps you should go read the comments under Maheshs original piece. Folks didn't like that comment but we're all grown ups here. That means we're able to voice our displeasure with one small comment without tossing out the whole piece.

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By Keanin Loomis (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 23:58:40

I'm a recovering, lawyer (caveat: US trained). In this case, US law seems to be much more logical and First Amendment Protections are very high. It's not libel if a) it's obviously opinion and/or 2) you can't prove it's actually false. There is no reasonable doubt that Mahesh was meerly stating his opinion and there is no way anyone can prove that they are not a racist.

Canada is much more plaintiff-friendly (i.e. intent is presumed and the statements must only be determined to lower the esteem of the members of plaintiff's community). And, it seems, a publisher can be held accountable. In this case, there are logical arguments to make - for one, it certainly is newsworthy that a quixotic candidate for mayor with a modicum of respectability decides to undermine his candidacy by throwing a public temper tantrum against a column that really had nothing to do with him and really said nothing untrue or unflattering (and isn't there the possibility that Dreschel was working on a flattering column of Mahesh that would have elevated his candidacy?). But, unless one is agitating to make judicial precedent on principle, and where the only thing that is guaranteed is that the lawyers make money, Ryan (and Cal) made the right move.

Whether a newspaper EDITORIALIST should hide behind such a candy-ass cause of action is a whole other matter. In my opinion, what most clearly demonstrates Dreschel's lack of judgment is this: publishing Mahesh's opinion letter so that the community can make a true determination on the legitimacy, temperament, judgment, fitness for office, etc. of each of its mayoral candidates does nothing to undermine your credibility. Thus, he has ironically undermined his.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted June 03, 2010 at 01:20:21

If Mahesh is not entitled to his 'opinion', then maybe he could be right about how value is placed on one candidate, but not another-?? He may or may not be right about 'why'.

We all have opinions. We all have opinions about leadership, transparency, & accountability at City Hall & where it's going to come from.

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By Jason (registered) | Posted June 03, 2010 at 07:09:53

You're forgetting something though. Elections aren't about leadership. They are about money.

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By Colin (anonymous) | Posted June 03, 2010 at 07:10:52

I find it ironic that Dreschel blows off Maheshes candidacy in a one sentence dismissal and then has the nerve to write, "Obviously desperate for attention, Butani also invited Raise the Hammer and The Hamiltonian, two community blogs, to publish the letter." Yeah, he's "desperate for attention" alright because you mainstream media types have already written him off!

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 03, 2010 at 08:48:49

"Obviously desperate for attention, Butani also invited Raise the Hammer and The Hamiltonian, two community blogs, to publish the letter."

This is yet another slight against those dastardly blogs, of course. Ie. only someone 'desperate' would publish anything on them.

You know when I first saw Mahesh's letter, I thought it was way over the top, perhaps a little paranoid even. I still think it was wrong to claim that Dreschel has an 'aversion' to coloured people (he hates lots of white guys too), but the rest of Mahesh's letter is ringing more and more true - almost prophetic even, in that Dreschel and the Spec's subsequent actions have neatly encapsulated Mahesh's criticisms of our local media. It's not paranoia when people are actually out to get you.

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By Comeon (anonymous) | Posted June 03, 2010 at 13:28:19

I can see how Andrew got pissed at Mahesh but to name Ryan and Cal, is crazy. He came across as a bully and the spec should not have allowed him to belittle their paper. Ryan and Cal are very well regarded in Hamilton. Andrew lost it.

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By big pussycat (anonymous) | Posted June 03, 2010 at 14:48:10

Maybe Andrew should put a leash and a sweater on his pussycat and take a hike.

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By Insider (anonymous) | Posted June 03, 2010 at 21:11:22

The Riposte from the Calumnist (one who practices caluminy or false statements and slander)in yesterday's Hamilton Speculator is unimaginably stupid but understandable as a knee "jerk" response or defensive maneuver because it appears that as a result of this imbroglio around the alleged marginalization of a candidate on the alleged basis of aversions, and “hues” and crys amongst the chattering classes, some of whom hold the levers of power at the esteemed newspaper, changes are likely going to be made at the Speculator, in short order soon, particularly as there is a new helmsman. Stay tuned.
For this reason, also the actions taken by RTH are smart, because there is going to be one man at some point in time who, when knocked off his pedestal, will be more than “short” with RTH and will want to bite back.Not that he will have a leg to stand on. No siree !

According to my honest lawyer, claiming libel and slander and then going on to himself repeat the alleged falsehood (He doth protest too much) in undeletable print and sold by his employers to thousands of subscribers (thus profiting from the alleged libel that was wantonly repeated) clearly negates any consideration that would given by a court of law for any claim of libel.

In reading Mayoral aspirant Butani’s original post, no where did I see any statement calling anybody a rascist. Alleging, based on the experience they have had with someone, that that someone has an aversion to coloured people is not the same as alleging they are rascist. Apologists for the calumnist on this forum and he himself (He doth protest too much) immediately jumped to that conclusion and started to play the race card and the victim to cause a diversion. Or may be they were truly offended by their own self accusations. Hard to tell.

In the real world, someone may not like a person or persons of a different colour but still may not be a rascist. Racism, by its definition, is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. People with racist beliefs might hate certain groups of people according to their racial groups and these groups or individuals may be denied rights or benefits, or get prejudicial negative treatment.Having rascist beliefs is what makes one a rascist.

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By Whew (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 04:29:17

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 10:31:01

Dismissing someone as a nobody based on a factual but demeaning one-line description should be a much bigger crime. It is an ugly oversimplification that attempts to discredit the subject and thus manipulate voting. - Ted Mitchell

Exactly! It is not the media's place to decide who is and is not a viable candidate in an election… that's the job of voters.

Why is Mr. Butani a "fringe candidate"?

Is it his Columbia University education?

His genuine and passionate desire to make the city a better place?

His track record of civic involvement?

His experience finding investors for downtown?

Or does he simply not fit Mr. Dreschel's "mold" of what a Hamilton Mayor should be?

Mr. Dreschel needs to quit playing the victim and explain why he said what he did if he wants any sympathy from me. Otherwise I am inclined to believe Mr. Butani's accusation.

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By teapottempest (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 12:39:37

But Mr. Bhutani denies there was any accusation, so it really doesn't matter. Nothing to see here

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 04, 2010 at 13:24:40

I want to thank everyone for your expressions of support following my note about removing Mahesh Butani's open letter to Andrew Dreschel. It really means a lot to me, and I expect to Cal DiFalco as well.

It was a difficult decision to take down the article. I'm a fierce believer in free speech, and I don't particularly like being threatened into a course of action, however implicitly.

The comments already articulate a lot of what I've been thinking and feeling about the issue, and I don't want to task RTH readers' patience with a lot more meta-content when there's plenty of primary news to discuss.

I just want to take a few minutes to reflect on one aspect of what happened that's particularly close to my heart.

People Are Not Morons

Murky legalities aside, it seems to me that accusing a local affairs website of defamation for publishing what a mayoral candidate wrote must be based on the idea that readers are morons who need to be told what to think.

I get a strong sense of this paternalism from the traditional media, who see themselves as trusted guardians of the truth, tasked with filtering information so citizens know what to believe.

Most people aren't morons, and they can recognize good writing and solid analysis all by themselves.

The media's before-the-fact filtering actually serves the interest of the owners of the means of production, by ensuring that whatever makes it into print is of a high enough quality that readers are willing to pay to read it.

When the traditional media get confused about this and see themselves as their readers' protectors rather than their shareholders' protectors, that blinds them to opportunities for richer collaboration with readers-as-peers.

Open Discussion Works

As a corrolary to the first point, I'm of the opinion that an open discussion, governed by basic norms of respect and honest debate, will generally have the effect of raising and reinforcing good ideas while exposing and discrediting bad ideas.

Certainly that was what happened in the commentary that followed Mahesh's letter.

Readers were able to draw a clear distinction between the thrust of his argument about the role of the mainstream media in propping up the status quo, which many commentators shared, and the appropriateness or inappropriateness of some of Mahesh's more particular statements, which many commentators challenged and criticized.

This seems well and good to me. A candidate has the opportunity to make an uninterrupted case for something he believes strongly enough about to write an open letter, and readers/voters have an opportunity to evaluate his case on its merits.

Personally, I agreed with some of what Mahesh wrote and disagreed with some of it - I don't know Dreschel personally but I've never read anything by him that would lead me to believe he has an aversion to people of a particular ethnicity - but I had no problem concluding that it was newsworthy as an important artifact of a candidate for political office.

Again, that's because I respect RTH readers and assume that people can make up their own minds about someone else's opinion.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 14:15:28

readers are morons who need to be told what to think.

Ummm, have you ever read the Spec?

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By Howard Elliott (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 15:36:37

Ryan:

For the record, here is our take on what happened. It’s pretty simple.
If we published something that called, or even implied, someone is a racist, we would almost certainly be sued. Unless we could prove it was true, we would lose. There is ample precedent in Canadian law for such litigation.

That is what this has been about since the outset. It’s not about telling people what to think or read, protecting or filtering. It’s about allowing someone to make a false claim that defames another individual. When you published the post, I wrote you and said quite clearly that we have no reason or interest in influencing anyone’s behaviour, however we objected, strongly, to one of our employees being called a racist. All we ever hoped for, or asked, was that the allegation of racism be removed.

Andrew decided to write a column on the subject after discussing it with me and our lawyer. The purpose for having our lawyer involved was to make sure we were speaking accurately about what the law says. I can assure you, we never had any intent of taking legal action against you. That wouldn’t be a productive use of our time or resources.

We felt, and continue to feel, that fair comment is one thing, but there are limits that one should not be able to exceed, and calling someone a racist does so. Had the racist allegation been removed prior to posting or after once I complained, there would have been no issue.

There is no neutral carrier defence in Canada. Once an editor, be it a print editor or blog editor, makes a conscious decision to publish something, the editor/organization assumes legal as well as ethical responsibility for the content. That is not my opinion, or a reality I particular enjoy. It is clear Canadian law, period. Realizing you probably won’t believe this coming from me, I’d encourage you to check for yourself. There is one rule, and it applies to all of use, equally.

I continue to enjoy reading your blog (notwithstanding the constant MSM-bashing, some of which is unfair and inaccurate.) I know many other Spec people are also followers, and we all appreciate the work you’ve done and will continue to do to make Hamilton a better city.

Howard Elliot
Managing Editor
The Hamilton Spectator

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 16:46:58

If we published something that called, or even implied, someone is a racist...

...one of our employees being called a racist...

Had the racist allegation...

...and calling someone a racist does so.- Howard Elliot

Enough of the hyperbole, he was never called a "racist". Mr. Butani may have eluded to it but he never called him a racist.

You seem to struggle with language and reading comprehension for a "Managing Editor".

No wonder we bash the MSM... bunch of hacks!

Comment edited by Kiely on 2010-06-04 15:47:33

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By rrrandy (registered) - website | Posted June 04, 2010 at 17:31:56

I agree with the minority here who see that Dreschell was libeled with the comments, and that it was correct to take the comment out. Dreschell gets paid to write the way he does; indeed, he gets paid enough to drive a nice bmw. That may make him ostentatious, but it doesn't make him a racist, or even a a bad writer. It just puts him firmly in the middle class, with the power of his position. The way he uses it, well, he does what is expected, he stirs things up. I am surprised at how so few on this list can see the basic fact - he was called a racist (an aversion to coloured people = racist, c'mon) - lets keep it real. Now, there may be an argument that the SPEC is a racist institution. I am serious. How many of the editors, publishers, even staff writers, are people of colour? What is their hiring policy? This is perhaps a community issue that needs addressing, not defending unproven allegations. Who here would like to be accused of something nasty, with no evidence. That's just not right, period.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted June 04, 2010 at 18:30:05

Thanks for the thoughtful response Howard. I understand a little of this law (indeed I consulted a lawyer friend of mine who backed up your comments) and you've made a consise and fair summary of the legal position there. However, my take on the RTH commentators critisism of this incident is: Why did Andrew (and the Spec) choose to go this route? If I am a public figure and someone makes an outlandish and unsubstantiated allegation against me which, while it may be defamatory, is not likely to 'stick' - why would I make an issue out of it?

Was Andrew genuinely upset? Did he really feel that the comment would 'stick'? I doubt it. If Andrew read the commentary related to the article he would have seen the largely adverse reaction to Mahesh's clearly mis-guided statement. As Ryan says - we are not morons. Clearly this allegation was never going to wash. So why make it a big deal?

Public figures get defamed all the time. Andrew Drescel cries out for attention. His articles are incendiary and crafty and typically highly charged. This is a compliment! Surely, in journalistic and artistic terms, there is nothing worse than not making an impact, than being ignored? And, conversely, there is nothing better than generating a lively response!

I enjoy Andrew's columns personally, not for the insight - of which there is, sadly, precious little - but for the craft. Andrew is a talented writer, and a 'shit disturber' of the highest order (and yes, I'm sure I could defend that in court!). Stirring the pot is a wonderful skill. To create discussion and push people's buttons (aka 'shit disturbing' :) )is an artful craft, one which Andrew has honed to precision.

But once again we have to wonder - why did he take this tack? Yes, the remark was potentially defamatory, and yes, RTH would have been liable - but why publish the mock threat? It seems so - childish.

As Ryan has said, RTH is here to promote discussion. There was no malice intended. We are all big boys and girls here. Perhaps next time Andrew could take the adult approach and place a call and ask for an apology if he was genuinely upset (which I doubt he was). I'm sure Mahesh and Ryan, if they knew of his genuine grievance, would have been happy to make amends. The Spec chose to take the same route our municipality often seems to take, and threaten legal action.

We are all supposed to be on the same team here. If this is how we choose to communicate - having our lawyers (if only RTH had one...) on constant standby - then it's a sad state for this city. It's precisely because The Spec chooses to take this kind of approach, and persistantly mis-direct it's talented journalist's efforts, that it gets bashed so much.

Thanks again for the response. I'm sure others will respond shortly. I look forward to this continued discussion :)

Cheers

Ben

Comment edited by rusty on 2010-06-04 17:32:57

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 19:26:57

I'd just like to point out that while the current law in defamation may be clear, it is in fact common law, not based on any statue or act of parliament, and it can change, and evolve based on the decisions of future judges. The internet and blogging has and will continue to challenge the law. The law will have to evolve some creative solutions.

Recently courts have held that publishing a hyperlink to defamatory content hosted elsewhere is not itself "publication" of that defamatory comment. Alright, well what about quoting someone's message in a forum such as RTH? Say Jason makes a defamatory comment here in his comments (sorry Jason, just using you as an example), and I quote him in reply and state that I disagree with him. By quoting him am I republishing the defamation and now liable? Is Ryan liable because someone made a defamatory comment using his website? How different are these examples from what Ryan and Cal did, publishing essentially a verbatim quote from a letter Mahesh copied to them?

All of these quetions will have answers eventually, and I think that judges will have to realize that the complexities of new media require new rules, not just the same old ones they've been using for newspapers.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 19:27:47

Ben, your constant communication with a 'lawyer friend' worries me. LOL.

Howard, thanks for your thoughtful response. I hope you see the concern from some of us in regards to Andrew choosing to waste his column on this topic and suggesting that a lawsuit could be forthcoming over something rather minor. I'm certain that you are correct on your interpretation of the laws that govern publishers...you would be up on that more than any of us.

I also hope you can see the concern some of us have with a select group of only wealthy folks who are considered legit candidates to run for office in Hamilton by many of your writers, especially considering you are the only daily in town.

Finally, I hope you can see through some of the smart-aleck comments, largely made out of frustration with the constant tone and agenda that is put forth in Andrew's column. He routinely dismisses entire groups of hard working, passionate Hamiltonians who are quite possibly doing more to improve our city than he is, simply because some of their views don't fit with his views. This is personally my biggest beef with the MSM and why I cancelled my subscription (although I do miss Paul Wilson).

Hamilton has so much going for it and it seems that whenever we face some major decisions that could improve our city, some of your writers only see a headline opportunity, even if it means muddling the message.
In other cases you have writers who seem to 'get it' such as Terry Cooke, Jeff Mahoney and Paul Wilson.
I don't envy your job and I realize I'm just one guy in a big city, but I wanted to clarify some of my frustrations with your product and respond in kind to your response.

Cheers Jason

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By Legal Beagle (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 20:20:52

H.E (His Excellency) who wrote from the Spec is full of it.
Why is he defending his "employee" ?
If I were him I would distance myself. In fact I would ask that employee what he was up to and why he was allowing his aversions to backfire on the Paper.
Everyone seems to be of the opinion that there was an allegation here that is libelous, or that is false, and yet no one has even proven that Mahesh is wrong.

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By Howard Elliott (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 20:31:33

I did not intend to get involved in anything other than a one-time statement of our thinking. Typically, in forums such as this, the anti-MSM outcome is pre-determined, so it seems pointless.

That said, there are some thoughtful comments here, so I feel I should respond to them, in fairness and to be polite.

Ben:
'However, my take on the RTH commentators critisism of this incident is: Why did Andrew (and the Spec) choose to go this route? If I am a public figure and someone makes an outlandish and unsubstantiated allegation against me which, while it may be defamatory, is not likely to 'stick' - why would I make an issue out of it?'

All I can tell you is Andrew believed the comments were unfair and out of line, and he wished to write a column about the incident. I agreed, so we did it. It's not a matter of whether it sticks or not, it's a matter of whether such unsubstantiated comments should have been allowed in a public forum in the first place. As you said yourself, legally, it crosses the line. So why would it be a surprise that we chose to respond?

As for your suggestion that we could have simply asked for the 'grievance' to be addressed, I did that and nothing happened.

Was Andrew genuinely hurt? I think so. Wouldn't you be if someone made you out to be a racist in a public forum?

Frankly, I was at least as upset as Andrew. The idea that someone would paint The Spectator as being racially intolerant is ludicrous. We are not perfect by any means. But we have received an award from SISO for being an inclusive employer. Thanks to the efforts of our managing editor, news, Jim Poling, The Spec had the first and only internationally-trained journalist internship program, which led to Sheridan College starting the first program in Canada with the goal of assisting and re-training internationally trained journalists. I am proud to be the co-chair of Hamilton's Centre for Civic Inclusion, an organization with the goal and mandate of making the city as welcoming to newcomers as it can possibly be, and I'm also proud to sit on the local Immigration Partnership Council, developing a Hamilton-based immigration strategy.

So are we sensitive about being labeled as racially intolerant? Yes.

Finally, we do not communicate with a lawyer at hand. But when we're made out to be racist or racially intolerant, we do respond as we feel appropriate. I make no apologies for that. We may have many sins, but that is not one of them.

Respectfully,

Howard

(Apologies for bad spelling. I'm at home and without usual tools.)

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By Howard Elliott (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 20:46:40

Jason:
I appreciate your thoughtful response, though obviously I don't agree with much of it.

I will say that I disagree strongly that depicting someone as a racist, which your own adherents at RTH seem to agree hapend here, is not a "minor" thing.

As for having the kind of city we all want, I hope and pray that it's the kind of city where depicting someone as a racist with no cause or proof is unacceptable.

Thanks, and all the best
Howard

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By Spec Subscriber (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 21:51:04

Howard, respectfully, supporting SISO and sitting on the Immigration Partnership neither proves nor disproves rascism.
No one has accused the Spec or Andrew of rascism. You'll have implied it.
Fact remains. At the time the article was written, there were only two candidates for Mayor. One was Baldasaro.
The other was an unknown Butani who was extensively interviewed by Andrew and then summarily dismissed and marginalized. As much as he disparaged him as a Blogger, he was given back in good measure a characterization that he was not happy with. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander. All is fair in love and war.
Unlike the Toronto Star that has a cross section of opinion writers that somehow balances the newspaper, the Spec keeps trotting out more of the same. If you want to redeem the Spec in the eyes of educated folk in Hamilton you must try to offer more diversity. Give Butani space in the Spec to write an opinion piece on what his campaign is about.

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By alrathbone (registered) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 21:54:51

"That is not my opinion, or a reality I particular enjoy. It is clear Canadian law, period."

Yet but it would require someone to sue to be enforced. If one did not want to use the law, it wouldn't be used.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 21:56:15

Mr Elliot: Yes it is wrong to call someone a racist, unless one has substantiated proof but I wonder if Mahesh picked up a feeling of being minimalized from your staff.

I mean Mr Dreshel is pretty opinionated and well not everyone in the community agrees with his so called rants. Actually as an individual, I find him to very obtuse to say the least.

The reason that people are let down by MSM, is because they have cause to, just take the recent events of the boat that was brutally attacked and people died. In MSM, there is only one side it would seem. The ends justifies the means. What is the message you are sending out, is it fair, balanced. If there is only one side, then disinformation comes out.

You may not have control over that but please remember that people are not stupid and can see through things.

Comment edited by grassroots are the way forward on 2010-06-04 20:59:11

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By Cal DiFalco (registered) - website | Posted June 04, 2010 at 22:11:43

Hi Howard, Ryan and the readership here at Raise the Hammer. I am treating this matter as a learning experience. I am hoping that to a lesser or greater degree many of us may have learned from this.

Thank-you

Cal

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 04, 2010 at 23:44:09

Jason: I appreciate your thoughtful response, though obviously I don't agree with much of it.

I will say that I disagree strongly that depicting someone as a racist, which your own adherents at RTH seem to agree hapend here, is not a "minor" thing.

As for having the kind of city we all want, I hope and pray that it's the kind of city where depicting someone as a racist with no cause or proof is unacceptable.

Thanks, and all the best Howard

Howard, let's say that we all agree that Mahesh's 'race' comment crossed the line. It seems that pretty much everyone is in agreement on that point. I wonder if you would care to elaborate on some of my other points regarding the usual dismissal of non-wealthy candidates and the common practice of belittling great people doing great work in our city (i.e. - salmon eaters etc....)

Clearly nobody is defending Mahesh's comment. Some of us have a problem with how it was handled and a bigger problem of what 'appears' to be a sense of entitlement that comes across in the paper. I realize nobody is perfect, and I don't expect the paper to suddenly become a bastion of great urban thinking, but I know first hand that I'm not the only one who cancelled my subscription simply due to not being able to take it anymore. I love newspapers (more than online stuff believe it or not) and I'd love to re-subscribe someday, but I won't until I sense a change in the attitude from the paper. And by the way I've been starting to see a bit of this recently with pieces by Terry Cooke and many of your editors weighing on things like the PanAm stadium and LRT - I hope it will become a trend and not just a fluke. You guys have tremendous influence in public thinking and policy. I'd love to see that influence used to promote things like vibrant neighbourhoods, two-way streets, LRT, curbing sprawl, sustainable development, urban-centric development instead of suburban-centric etc......

I guess what I'm saying is, you don't agree with my previous post, which is expected. But why? Am I completely misreading Andrew's columns? I like to think of myself as really only having one agenda - the betterment of Hamilton. Terry Cooke used to annoy me; now I wish he'd run for mayor.

Again, thanks for the reply. Jason

Comment edited by jason on 2010-06-04 22:47:51

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By sMediaWatch (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2010 at 00:05:10

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 05, 2010 at 01:01:56

Dear Howard,

First of all, I want to thank and acknowledge you for taking the time to engage the arguments posted here head-on - to agree where applicable, to take issue, and to criticize where you see fit. It's very much to your credit and I really do admire and appreciate it.

Also, thank you for providing valuable insight into the process you and Andrew Dreschel went through in deciding to publish Wednesday's column.

At the very least this civil discourse helps to insulate us against the lure of confirmation bias and consensus trance and in-group snark that seems to accompany the discussion when it turns to the traditional media. No one can claim you don't know what you're talking about, which means the world-views we express and defend need to be able to accommodate the ideas you've introduced.


Some of Mahesh's comments were inappropriate and unwarranted. That's clear, and I think very few people would disagree. (And I've had a crash course this week in what the law says about what you can publish and under what circumstances.)

Yet the exasperation he feels is real and it would be a tragic missed opportunity to throw the deep frustration underlying his j'accuse out with his more hyperbolic assertions.

Mahesh is complex and mercurial, but his passion for this city is abundant and his anger stems from the strong sense that his efforts to improve downtown have been frozen out by a full-spectrum wall of inertia and status quo defensiveness.

He's not alone in feeling this way. I hear constantly from people, usually recent arrivals to Hamilton from elsewhere, who come to feel that this city does everything in its power to prevent them from succeeding.

It's regrettable that Mahesh took all of his frustration with this phenomenon out on a single person, but the fact that Dreschel dismissed his candidacy in a single breath - and that's exactly what he did, no question about it - was presumably the last straw for him.

Again, it's easy to banish and exile Mahesh for his inappropriate comments, but that would not make the very real source of his frustration - not Dreschel but the whole system of inertia that kills progress dead in this city - go away or bring us any closer to understanding and overturning it.


The original RTH crew started this website - and lots of people contribute to it and read it and discuss and debate on it - because we really deeply love this city and it was breaking our hearts to see mediocrity and fearfulness and cynicism and narrow self interest govern so much of it.

The people you find on this site are natural fans and supporters of newspapers. We're highly interested in civic affairs, we're news junkies, we're policy nerds, we love and support and esteem the noble project of journalism, and we're clearly willing to read and write and debate.

One of the positive outcomes of your much-appreciated participation here is that it helps us to understand you better - to remember your humanity, and your expertise, and your passion, and your wisdom on matters about which we're admittedly snot-nosed amateurs in many ways.

I hope it can also afford you an opportunity to understand us better - what we value, what we want for our city, what we want for and from our media.

Please don't write us off as mere MSM-bashing bloggers with whom the traditional media just can't win. You would miss the chance to tap into a large and energetic community that currently feels to various degrees that the Spec doesn't speak to them.

Given the slow collapse of the advertising revenue model for newspapers, you have a great opportunity to refocus your revenue stream directly around engaging passionate readers rather than selling advertisers on a specific affluent demographic.

I don't pretend to know how that will play out or what it will look like, but I do believe you could do an awful lot worse than reaching out to readers who love journalism so much they do it as a hobby!

Please know that I read and support the Spec and that I've been a daily subscriber for years. I start every morning with a bowl of cereal and the A section. Even when I get angry, I still enjoy and value the paper, and I take delight in the opportunity to engage the paper's articles and columns and editorials in discourse.

If I held the Spec in contempt or considered it irrelevant or a waste of time, I wouldn't read it and I certainly wouldn't respond to it. I wouldn't occasionally submit op-eds for your consideration if I didn't recognize and value your enterprise.

If you go back through the archive of my essays and blog entries on RTH, I think the record will show more laudatory views toward your paper than critical. Even where I am critical, it's because I want the paper to succeed, not because I want the paper to fail.

I hope that one positive outcome of this fiasco is that it puts us on a path toward understanding and learning from each other. I don't want this or that communications medium to succeed or fail. I want this city to succeed - and to bring everyone along in that success. I have no doubt that you want the same thing.

Respectfully,

Ryan McGreal
Editor, Raise the Hammer

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted June 05, 2010 at 01:48:35

jason & Dave K, my apologize – this is long one again, pour a drink, brace yourselves :-)

Dear Howard Elliot:

A lot of truths have already been written in this world for us to live a life of dignity and honour. We fail on most days to live such a life - only because we do not have the will or courage to search for these truths and apply it to our lives in spite of Google.

Hence we need to use lawyers to support our words – as we are unsure on most days of what and why we write.

As a (colored) immigrant who has done much for Hamilton, I have over the years, faced many incidents of closet-racism. The outcome of all such incidents were the same thing – Discrimination.

That is why Hamilton has had the dubious honour of having specialized organizations to battle this social evil.

Most immigrants in Hamilton have had to develop their own frame of reference from receiving years of hard knocks.

If it was not for their ability to verbalize such incidents, many more immigrants would have left by now. Having the courage to verbalize such incidents is the only way that we can collectively get rid of this most insidious of all crimes.

In the course of verbalizing such incidents, there occurs what scholars call - a strategy of defense which presupposes explicit or implicit accusations.

In such strategies (as seen here), there is a reversal that creeps in – where the victim of discrimination is made to face accusations of having used the “R” word - when non was used explicitly.

Your journalist and your paper have violated my human rights, by a direct act of discrimination committed in the most public manner. Rights which are clearly protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights, Canadian Human Rights Act, and Ontario's Human Rights Code.

The patent act of discrimination against me is: Your journalist in his columns of May 14, 2010, titled: “Di Ianni ponders run to reclaim mayor's seat”, consciously and in a pre-meditated act, demeaned my mayoral candidacy by publicly misrepresenting my work and background; and by his very sly use of wordings, connected me to another mayoral candidate in the same sentence, whom he chose to call a “Pot Advocate”.

Further, without offering a single shred of logical argument – in the same sentence, he announced to his nearly 225,000 readers, that this: “virtually gift-wraps a second four-year term” for the incumbent.

Through the deliberate choice of words and misleading association by proximity, your journalist directly attempted to marginalize my candidacy; and in my opinion did so to cause my candidacy harm and thereby unduly influence the outcome of this mayoral election.

He was clearly not interested in offering the residents of Hamilton an honest look into my candidacy, my background, my achievements or my platform – Even after having interviewed me personally over the phone, he consciously choose to not publish any facts about me.

Why did he choose to not publish the facts on me that he already had at hand? Why did he not entirely drop any reference to me, after he claimed that he had to change the story upon experiencing some breaking news, which had nothing to do with me directly?

The answers to any claims of being disparaged by me - lies somewhere in between your willful acts of discrimination against me – and my honest personal opinion of your journalist that was based on two -direct experiences- of his inexplicable behavior towards me – which was further reinforced by his most illogical and vicious attack on my character, in his most discriminatory article of June 3, 2010 – ostensibly claiming an affront for being accused as a racist – when no such explicit accusations were yet proven at the time of this being published.

If sufficient proof did not exist that he was trying to damage my candidacy in his first article – his second article slandering me clearly lays bare very publicly his direct intent of damaging my candidacy.

This second article too, completely fails to highlight my background and contributions to the city’s rebuilding efforts, instead he choose to boldly character assassinate me personally on the basis of a yet unproven purported affront.

The result of this most bizarre and unfair public marginalization is that my mayoral campaign now has to bear the consequences of the irreparable damage that has been done to my reputation among over 225,000 Hamilton residents not once, but twice.

The false and clearly negative impression of me, as presented by your journalist – will directly have an impact on the voting outcome of the mayoral election.

So, Howard – being the respectable and reasonable journalist that you are, where do you suggest we go from here?

1) You continue to use your newspaper to drum support around the bogey of 'Racist accusations', which you and your journalist have raised – in order to coverup your original act of discrimination and subsequent slander committed against me.

And you continue to intimidated the emerging new media in our city, with dire legal consequences in order to force them to remove the original evidence of my email message from the public eye – while you slandered me in your paper – freely referencing the original evidence, but clearly failing to show your readers in the same article, this evidence on which you claim to have built your arguments.

2) I pursue the biggest law suit that this country has ever seen against you and your journalist to defend my legal rights for being viciously slandered and publicly discriminated against in a mayoral campaign – and further seek legal redress for your willful interference in a municipal election process to manipulate its outcome – by your direct actions in marginalizing a registered mayoral candidate.

3) You publicly make a commitment to henceforth, never ever again damage a candidate’s reputation in any municipal election, without presenting incontrovertible facts to the public – and further, committing to never again using your newspaper to dabble in political jockeying of candidates. And henceforth committing your resources to showcase all candidates in this municipal election in a fair and equitable manner, with respect for their backgrounds whatever they may be – in order that the citizens of Hamilton can clearly and with good conscience make their own choices on Election Day.

4) You make a very serious attempt to rectify the deep damage that you have caused me personally and my candidacy in this municipal election.

Howard – 'threats' just as 'allusions' are double-edged swords.

If you are indeed interested in rebuilding this city with dignity and honour, you do need to restrain the use of these swords, and offer respect to all kinds and classes of people who collectively make our economy happen – which in the end enables newspapers to be bought every day, from which jobs are created, upon which careers are built and families raised.

Misuse of the power that these swords offer, is the result why MSM has got the reputation that it has.

What the new media in Hamilton offers is the self-correction of this unbridled power. You do realize that your actions almost damaged this ability.

Your media and even your new media enterprise (Hallmarks) continue to bear the fingerprints of the misuse of this power - with no self-correction mechanism in place. Is it any wonder that Fred’s reputation received such a low hit recently? Did he really deserve this? Did our city deserve this? Could the question have been framed differently?

Well Howard, I am really glad that you are here tonight. It is unfortunate that this incident brought you here, and hopefully you don’t become a stranger here.

Much good for the rebuilding of this city can come out of this "crossing of the line" between the old and the new media. This is a great night for Hamilton!

PS: You may want to read the copy of the email I sent Andrew Dreschel on Thu, Jun 3, 2010 at 4:29 pm, which clearly explains to him as to what kind of a person I actually am. (This is just so that you do not spend a sleepless night or spoil your weekend on account of the various options presented above. They are mere allusions. We do have a city to rebuild.)

However, I do hope that you spend the weekend reading this (below), and passing it on to your journalists:


Extract from the "The concept of Marginalization" by Aditya Anupkumar

The term “Marginalization” generally describes the overt actions or tendencies of human societies whereby those perceived as being without desirability or function are removed or excluded (i.e., are "marginalized"…) from the prevalent systems of protection and integration, so limiting their opportunities and means for survival.

The problem of how the media represents news and propagates views today is described by Jean Baudrillard in his essay, “Simulacra and Simulations”; conceptualizing the relation between perception and reality.

It would note, that the Media generally follows a pattern such as this:

“Whereas representation tries to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation as itself a simulacrum.

These would be the successive phases of the image:

1) It is the reflection of a basic reality.

2) It masks and perverts a basic reality.

3) It masks the absence of a basic reality.

4) It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum.

In the first case, the image is a good appearance: the representation is of the order of sacrament (The “real” story).

In the second, it is an evil appearance: of the order of malefice (somewhat changed).

In the third, it plays at being an appearance (the story that is published): it is of the order of sorcery.

In the fourth, it is no longer in the order of appearance at all, but of simulation. (rumors, and “taught views”, as well as general misconceptions formed in the mind of the viewer)”

This sums up the progression of any story within the Media, and also shows how marginalization is increased (and its ebb or flow is consequently dependent upon its portrayal in the world of the Media)

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2010-06-05 00:51:38

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted June 05, 2010 at 06:27:35

Good Morning Howard,

Here is some required reading for you for the coming week!

This is for allowing your journalist to come into your office with his grievance, and acting on his words - without bothering to invite the person that he accused of giving him grief - to get a complete picture of the story.

Reproducing Racism: The Role of the Press.

Racism, the press and freedom of expression: A summary of ten theses.

New(s) Racism: A discourse analytical approach.

Political discourse and racism.

PS: This does have a lot of EU references which can be contextualized easily.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 05, 2010 at 08:29:35

The people you find on this site are natural fans and supporters of newspapers. We're highly interested in civic affairs, we're news junkies, we're policy nerds, we love and support and esteem the noble project of journalism - Ryan

Let's not confuse newspapers with journalism... they are two completely different things. I am a fan of journalism (when I can find it anymore), but newspapers are corporate controlled propaganda machines with enough additional content to fool some in to thinking they are not. Southam/Torstar papers stopped being relevant when they did their "cleansing" in the early to mid 1990s.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 05, 2010 at 09:30:19

I can only speak for myself, but something changed after Kirk Lapointe left.
It used to take me multiple readings to get through a Saturday paper back then. I cancelled my subscription after many months of literally taking 3-4 minutes to skim through the paper every day. It wasn't anger, or some statement. I simply felt that I wasn't getting my money's worth anymore. I debated getting a Star subscription largely due to (at that time) their urban focus and great ideas....even they've started to get watered down lately.

to the fellow posting behind a screen-name: Terry Cooke was never the spokesperson for two-way streets, getting trucks out of downtown, curbing sprawl and developing the inner core like he is today. That's why I've become a fan.

I'll admit I'm having a hard time with this line of thinking:

I can assure you, we never had any intent of taking legal action against you.

All we ever hoped for, or asked, was that the allegation of racism be removed.

From my point of view, Mahesh's suggestion of racial discrimination was just as overt or veiled as Andrew's threat of legal action. Howard stating 'we had no intent of taking legal action' is no different than Mahesh saying I didn't intent to call him a racist.

Most commenters here have agreed that both - Mahesh's race statement and Andrews legal threat - were inappropriate.
I agree

Comment edited by jason on 2010-06-05 08:30:46

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By CalWhyDidYouKowTow (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2010 at 16:10:09

Cal's fawning statement grovelling to the Spec in which he condescends and claims he has learned something from this episode is a result of the fear of legal action that they have inspired.
Great way to muzzle everyone.
Cal, you have taken the Hamiltonian a few steps back. You don't have the mettle for the Mayorship.
But RTH? I cannot say enough good things for explaining in full your position and for not being a doormat. Well done.
Cal, please don't equate RTH with the Hamiltonian. The latter is not in the same league.

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By George (registered) | Posted June 05, 2010 at 16:14:23

Ryan I was very disappointed in how easily you caved in to the veiled threats that were made to you by a local "Rag"!. I do not think their was "A Snowballs Chance In Hell" that they would have risked the "Adverse" publicity it would have brought them,but that was your judgmental call to make. However after that you became very ingratiating to the "Bully" who threatened you with your "Yes Sir,No Sir, Three Bags Full Sir" servile attitude that I have wondered whether you are considering "Selling Out" your past principles to them or angling for employment with them? Regarding MR Butani's comments to a so called local scribe,we all know, but few want to admit that Racism can be conveyed covertly in many ways (Read The Ontario Human Rights Act) as even some of your blogger's "Are" by attacking him for his perception, which is based upon many past experiences. I was a Director of a "Cultural" Board in this City a few years ago and Mahesh was President of it and he personally brought many diverse Ethnic Groups here to entertain the public and enrich our arts.However certain members of the board whist mouthing positive platitudes to him were also in his absence racially denigrating him in a most uncouth manner.These individuals were from the Cities "Elite" and comprised a Lawyer,a Realtor,a local Liberal Party President and a member of the family of the Cities Educational Elite.I saved many E-Mails that they circulated to the "White" members of the Board who they in their arrogance thought would subscribe to their view that we cannot have these "Uppity" Coloreds getting ideas above the Station they had designated for them.He eventually became dispirited and they picked a night when their was not enough of his supporters present to call a vote of confidence and "Can" him.I and others resigned in protest even though I was "Offered" as a way to buy me off the Presidency. Mahesh is aware that I have the "Evidence" but has never asked for it, as he see's his Mission in this City as helping Hamilton to rise above it's past attitudes and look to a more humane and productive future, unlike some on local so called "Inclusive" groups who want to magnify any slight that justifies their agenda. An individual like him is a "Gift" to this city as he has spent much of his money and an inordinate amount of time trying to improve this Blighted City. In closing let me say that in a perfect society we would not need "A Human Rights Code" and we should all work to make it obsolete.

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By MediaWatch (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2010 at 16:32:18

My, my my, I do believe that Mahesh just made matters worse with his last couple of posts. I did not think it possible that he could have sunk any lower, but he did. Those of you who are excusing him are not doing any favours at all but enabling a poor, lost soul whose claim to fame will be the self-destruction of a political ambition gone amok! Too bad. He could have been interesting to watch. Now he is a shell of what might have been.

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By rrrandy (registered) - website | Posted June 05, 2010 at 16:33:54

"which your own adherents at RTH seem to agree hapend (sic) here"

I wonder if mr E would refer to the Spec's readers as "adherents". A little bit condescending, don't you think?

Comment edited by rrrandy on 2010-06-05 15:34:54

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By the truth (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2010 at 20:08:41

Yes. That will teach the Spec editor to get involved in a talk that actually means something. Elliot would be wise to stay away or get more of what he has so far.

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By Critic (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2010 at 09:42:39

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 06, 2010 at 13:21:04

/thread. :P

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 06, 2010 at 17:25:28

Well at least Mr. Butani has the ability to call a spade a spade.

Others seem overly concerned with remaining civil and some even begin to lean toward fanboy worship of false idols.

MSM is not your friend folks.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 06, 2010 at 19:29:07

It may not be our friend now, but I live in hope that it can be in the future. Mahesh has the courage to continue to engage the MSM. We could do worse than to follow his lead.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 06, 2010 at 21:06:09

You can be civil and still get your point across.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 07, 2010 at 10:07:36

Excerpt from a Paul Wellstone speech at Inver hills Community College, 3/9/1992:

"The media. Let me make a couple of points at the beginning. First of all, let me just simply make what is not such an obvious point, but should be an obvious point. All of us that are here today at this gathering have kind of a limited capacity to sample the world. We can't see everything and see everybody all around the world. We can't do it. And therefore, the media becomes very important to us because the media tends to define reality. I mean, much of what we think we know about the world that we live in is mediated by what we see on TV or listen to on radio or what we read in the paper because we cannot directly experience it. So therefore, the media has awesome responsibility and also awesome power. That's the first point.

Second point, the media broadly defined is the only institution, the only institution privately enterprise in the United States of America, with first amendment protection. That's a real important point. One more time, the media is the only private enterprise in the United States with first amendment protection. Freedom of speech, freedom of press and there is a reason for that. We knew from the very beginning that the media was key to an informed public and an informed public was to a functioning, successful democracy. So, again, an awesome responsibility. Do I think the media has lived up to that responsibility? No. Do I think that there is a lot of room for improvement? Yes, of course. Do I think that everybody in the media does a terrible job? Of course not. There are some people who do a very good job and some people that don't do as good a job, but I'm trying to represent a more institutional analysis.

Barry Commoner. Anybody know that name? How many of you've heard that name Barry Commoner? Very few, which is sort of going to prove my point. Barry Commoner is a well-known professor at the University of Washington, St. Louis. He has done a lot of work on energy policy. Very strong environmentalist, very well known, ran for president in 1980, as the citizen's party candidate, third party. From the word go, he was essentially written off by the by the media, broadly defined. Marginalized.

And he wrote an article called ‘Talking to the Mule,' which had an interesting point. Commoner said, which I like because I have a teaching background, "When I was professor, I was writing articles and writing books and I would get interviews on the Today show, I would get interviewed in major newspapers, The Washington Post, the New York Times, you name it. So I thought I would run for president in 1980. I knew I wouldn't win, but I thought I would have an opportunity to introduce some new political perspectives into the dialogue of the country. But it was like talking to a mule. I would go to Detroit, hard hit, automobile industry closing down, terrible poverty in the city and I would present an Economic Conversion Plan. Economic conversion is important for us to think about right now in our country, and I would talk about how auto workers...could be involved in making a new...rail system for our country. And I would talk about what could be done in the city. I would have a whole economic conversion plan that would be good for Detroit, that would be good for the country, the shifts we need to make in our economy and then I would talk about the issues. No one would show up, it's like talking to the mule." So what Commoner found out what was between him and the people was the media. Very frustrating. "

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted June 07, 2010 at 11:24:26

I wrote this on Nov, 06, 2007, back when we had a new mayor and there was hope for a new Hamilton. They chose to call this hope - 'Hamilton Next'.

Looking for solutions in all the wrong places:

"We all have traveled to places in our lives that are sweet and dandy, and near perfect – until we encounter the attitude of people there, and then our whole world turns upside down. And we all have visited places which lack even the basic necessities of modern living, and yet that place is brimming with vitality and flourishing with trade, commerce and arts."

This is about that 'one thing', among many - which continues to hold our city back in time.

Chronological citation of that -one thing- among many that afflicts us:


Article: "Di Ianni ponders run to reclaim mayor's seat"

May 14, 2010 - in Opinion, by A. Dreschel, Hamilton Spectator (Print + on line version)


Email: Response no:1, to A. Dreschel & Otrs.

May 14, 2010 - from Mahesh P. Butani's to A. Dreschel & others. --(Published on RTH and The Hamiltonian as opinion article: "Thank you Andrew")--

Email: Replies to Mahesh P. Butani to above response.

May 14, 2010 - from A. Dreschel and Howard Elliot to Mahesh P. Butani

Email: Response no: 2, to A. Dreschel & Howard Elliot

May 14, 2010 - from Mahesh P. Butani's to A. Dreschel & others. --(Not published on line by RTH and The Hamiltonian. Available upon request)--

Email: Reply to Mahesh P. Butani

May 14, 2010 - from Howard Elliot to Mahesh P. Butani


Article: "Thank You Andrew"

May 14, 2010 - in Opinion, by Mahesh P. Butani, RTH + The Hamiltonian --(originally published on May 14th - but removed by RTH & The Hamiltonian on June 2nd)--

Article: "Bloggers and the Boutique Generation"

May 17, 2010 - in Opinion, by Mahesh P. Butani, RTH

Blog: "Will the real Larry please stand up?"

May 31, 2010 - in Media, by Mahesh P. Butani, RTH

Article: "Tossing around racism crosses the line"

June 2, 2010 - in Opinion, A. Dreschel, Hamilton Spectator --(Print only + No on line version found to date)--


Blog: "RTH Removes Letter"

June 02, 2010 - in Media, Editor, RTH

Email: Response to A. Dreschel in connection to his article of June 2nd.

Jun 3, 2010 - Mahesh P. Butani's personal email response to A. Dreschel --(available for review upon request)--


Blog: "RTH Removes Letter"

June 04, 2010 - Howard Elliot's on line comments: Comment-1, Comment-2, Comment-3.

Blog: "RTH Removes Letter"

June 05, 2010 - Mahesh P. Butani's on line response: Comment-1, Comment-2.


Letter: "Good luck to all mayoral candidates..."

June 05, 2010 - Published in 'Letter to the Editor', Hamilton Spectator --(Print + on line version)--


Documents and references referred to in my last public response:

Discourse and the Denial of Racism + Discourse in Society

Uprooting Racism

Reproducing Racism: The Role of the Press

Racism, the press and freedom of expression

New(s) Racism: A discourse analytical approach

Political discourse and racism

Canadian Charter of Rights

Canadian Human Rights Act + (c33, s5)

Ontario's Human Rights Code

Municipal Election Act, 1996


Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2010-06-07 10:39:51

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted June 07, 2010 at 13:28:31

Bloggers' Rights / USA

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

EFF is the leading civil liberties group defending rights in the digital world.

"One of EFF's goals is to give you a basic roadmap to the legal issues you may confront as a blogger, to let you know you have rights, and to encourage you to blog freely with the knowledge that your legitimate speech is protected."

"To that end, EFF has created the Legal Guide for Bloggers, a collection of blogger-specific FAQs addressing everything from fair use to defamation law to workplace whistle-blowing."

"If you'd like to spread the word about EFF's work, consider adding an EFF Bloggers' Rights Badge to your blog or website."

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2010-06-07 12:29:34

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 07, 2010 at 13:36:01

Canadian Law != USA Law.

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By M_P_B (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2010 at 15:39:52

Re: earlier post:

http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/62/128/

Dr. Michael Geist is a law professor at the University of Ottawa where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law.

Dr. Geist serves on the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's Expert Advisory Board, on the Canadian Digital Information Strategy's Review Panel, and on the Information Program Sub-Board of the Open Society Institute. He has received numerous awards for his work including the Les Fowlie Award for Intellectual Freedom from the Ontario Library Association in 2009, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer Award in 2008, Canarie's IWAY Public Leadership Award for his contribution to the development of the Internet in Canada and he was named one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40 in 2003.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 07, 2010 at 16:46:22

You can be civil and still get your point across. - z jones

No doubt Z, but I also believe there's a time to drop the gloves as well. We all have our own "line in the sand" so to speak.

The Spec has crossed mine... but when you're the old school media, you don't have to go to far to cross mine : )

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 07, 2010 at 20:16:00

It's funny you write that, Kiely, because it was after reading your well-placed comment on building common ground that I decided to commit more universally to maintaining a civil, respectful tone in my comments.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2010 at 21:04:47

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 11:41:42

It's funny you write that, Kiely, because it was after reading your well-placed comment on building common ground that I decided to commit more universally to maintaining a civil, respectful tone in my comments. - Ryan

Sure Ryan, I should expect to be called out on that one. But there's also a time and place for different approaches. Remaining civil in a debate between posters about ideas/opinions is one thing. Remaining civil in the face of yellow journalism and missing an opportunity to criticize, demand explanation and expose it for what it is because you're overly concerned about being civil with their representatives is another.

I think my posts in this thread demonstrate pretty clearly what I believe. I am no fan of MSM and especially not corporate controlled "local" newspapers and I have good reason to feel this way... I was taught to by a journalist (in the true sense of the word) who spent 20+ years swimming with the sharks that run and control the media.

Mr. Butani may have been out of line saying what he did, but what the Spec and Mr. Dreschel have done is insidious, purposeful and consistent with an on-going pattern of MSM seeking to be the gate-keepers to "legitimate" discussion... especially political. No explanation has been provided as to why Mr. Dreschel cast Mr. Butani in the light he did, (i.e., fringe candidate, not real competition). What they have done is sensationalize the issue (screaming racism usually has that effect), continue to cast Mr. Butani in a negative light and threaten legal action against the "little guys"... which was very bush-league in my opinion.

MSM is dying, (some would say it has been dead for a while and is being kept on life support). In most cities newspapers are struggling to remain relevant, profitable, or both. They fear the new media, the Spec fears RTH, (Why else would they make such a big issue of a letter published only in the new media? Why else would they hint at the possibility of a lawsuit?). The new media has their foot on the throat of MSM (especially newspapers). If you view the MSM as I do (and I can appreciate the fact you may not) it is not the time to seek closer relations with them, it is time to seize every opportunity to expose the way they operate, to demand changes to the way they operate or failing that... to simply usurp them. But this is your forum Ryan and obviously you will do what you feel is right. I respect how you have handled this, but to me you are missing an opportunity to expose something for what it is.

So to succinctly clarify my position on what you have rightfully thrown back in my face... while I have a strong belief in remaining civil amongst us plebs, I have no problem taking the representatives of elitist institutions to the proverbial woodshed for a verbal beat-down now and then.

I'm ready for my dose of down votes now : )

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2010 at 11:59:21

Hi Kiely, I think I understand where you're coming from. I have my issues with the traditional media and I've written about them fairly extensively here.

Newspapers are still an important part of the media landscape - and hence an important part of the political process. While I'm not persuaded that the content model of the traditional media is dead, it's clear that their revenue model has run its course.

Former editor-in-chief David Estok announced earlier this year that the Spec now makes more money from sales and subscriptions than from ads. As I wrote to Howard Elliott above, that seems to me to be a great opportunity for the Spec to trade its current, vaguely offensive business model - selling middle-class accoutrements to affluent women age 35-50 - for a business model based around producing rich, high quality content in cooperation with readers, rather than padding the ads for new houses and consumer appliances in the GO section.

Raise the Hammer is not a commercial endeavour and I'm not worried about market share or ad revenue or eyeballs or whatever. My interest is not in competition but only in fostering participatory, constructive, evidence-based dialogue that results in a better political process for the city as a whole.

As for my tone, I try hard to follow the advice: Never write what you would not say to someone's face.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-06-08 11:10:54

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 12:53:38

Never write what you would not say to someone's face. - Ryan

Good motto Ryan.

I'm actually more outspoken in person than I am in print. I try to stay on the side of civility in writing, after all much can be misconstrued on the old interwebs. In person you are more likely to get a "heated" debate out of me... I've never been known to have a problem saying things to someone's face.

...for a business model based around producing rich, high quality content in cooperation with readers... - Ryan

You're wanting them to go back in time : )

Comment edited by Kiely on 2010-06-08 11:54:39

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By moving forward?? (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 12:53:45

On the bright side, Dreshel's reaction shows he cares what is printed at RTH which only gives it greater weight among his readers and increasing your profile is a good thing.

Regarding the letter, while I believe I read it, I do not remember most of it (and neither do many probably) so if it had been left alone it would have been fine. by answering it in such a manner, Dreschel gave it far more life than it would have had otherwise.

As for the legal threat, I strongly believe no legal action would have been taken, it is an editorial decision which I think Ryan made with due consideration.

However, I also think that Spectator Collumnists should not be immune to critisism and if the Spectator will not give sufficient voice to reactions from the words of their collunmists and reporters,other media are well within their rights to allow alternative views be voiced.

Talk of racism is a sensitive subject and I think attacking a writers words is better than attacking the person themselves as for the most part you cannot truly know how a person truly feels on sensitive matters as these unless they are voiced directly which they were not. I think Dreschel dismissed the other candidates because he likely has not heard much about them and therefore perhaps does not see them as a sufficient threat to an establisherd politian especially in Hamilton as we know incumbants are really hard to dislodge from office given relatively low interest in local politics by many hamiltonians.

What I would sugggest for an enterprising writer(s) for RTH is one of the following:

1. Interview Mr. Mahesh to allow his concerns to be have a voice (something the Spec perhaps should have done) while at the same time having the interviewer being able to skirt this libel issue.

2. Put a series of relevant questions to both Dreschel and Mahesh and publish their respective responses on the matter.

3. Do a series of questions to all current mayoral candidates and help people get to know all the candidates regardless of public profile or experience.

I do not think a threat should stifle discussion but if one's comments are "too controversial" there is still many ways to grow this dispute into a more equitable discussion which could help inform the peaople of Hamilton.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 12:57:29

as for #2, why put relevant questions to Dreschel?? He's not running for office or anything is he?

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 13:14:54

in Hamilton as we know incumbants are really hard to dislodge from office given relatively low interest in local politics by many hamiltonians. - moving foward?

Good post moving forward!

I just want to point out that when political interest is low is exactly when change can be made. Lack of political interest should be viewed as an opportunity for the grassroots, not an obstacle. It signals there may be people who are effectively disenfranchised and feel that the current batch of representatives don't speak to or for them.

Also, the fewer people that vote, the fewer people it requires to make change happen.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 13:18:27

as for #2, why put relevant questions to Dreschel?? He's not running for office or anything is he? - jason

That would "virtually gift-wrap" a victory for the incumbent.

; )

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2010 at 15:56:00

"Also, the fewer people that vote, the fewer people it requires to make change happen." I believe that when only a few people vote, the incumbent usually gets in (that's what I remember from my campaign volunteer days anyway). In order to affect change you need to get new voters out.

There's an interesting aspect to this discussion. The very fact that RTH was able to remove the 'offending' article highlights one of many advantages on-line media has over print media. H.E said it himself when he commented about the on-going risk newspapers have of being sued. Surely this risk - and the associated editorial and business expense - is diminished for blogs who can simply remove the contentious text and move on. As has been said many times before, the web is self correcting. Newspapers alas, operate in a lonely little bubble.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2010 at 16:57:35

There is a thin line between standing up for what is right and confrontation.

When this line is tested by insidious events, it is better to err on the side of what is right and be accused of confrontation, than to appeal to 'peoples' finer ideals and miss a real opportunity to bring change.

There is always ample time after the dust settles, to analyze who did what wrong, to whom and why.

The Hamilton MSM is incapable of being 'peoples' friend - not because of the success or failure of its business model, but on account of its moral and ethical failure - which arises from its perceived business need to be "embedded" with what it considers to be the power structure.

The power structure had already shifted - to the 'people', much before the new-media was born - back when the Bastille was stormed. All the hard pulling was already done. French journalism has been acutely cognizant of this power shift for generations. Therein springs its youthfulness, vitality and relevance.

Our local MSM, unfortunately are the prisoners of their own device - with not many on the outside clamoring to storm the fortress.

The resulting irony is that even when events conspire to give the 'people' legitimately reasons to --save the prisoners from themselves-- the 'people' are afraid to cross the line, and choose to walk away, least they look un-mayoral.

Perpetually trapped in a world of solipsism – destiny is indeed cruel to the MSM.

Below is another conclusive proof of why Hamilton's MSM continues to be prisoners of their own device:

"Why don’t these people try and learn from journalists abroad before they go straight into practicing their craft on our community? Now... I don't mean to make light of those who seek to indulge in journalism locally. I’ve always said if you’ve got it, roll (with) it." ~ Sincere apologies to the author below, for borrowing his lines - least I be accused of plagiarism.


From: Mahesh P. Butani, Sun, May 30, 2010 at 9:53 PM,

To: Mark Cripps, Managing Editor, Hamilton Community News

Hello Mark,

This is in connection to your opinion piece: "If you smoke weed, run for mayor".

I am frankly astounded that you have chosen to use words in reference to me - such as: "He is described as a teacher and architect by training. Not much else to tell you." !!
to describe my mayoral candidacy.

The description above which I found today to have been lifted off straight from a new Wikipedia page on the Hamilton Election!!

It is more surprising that this approach to journalism comes from someone who was the past chair of Hamilton Media Advisory - an organization whose express goals are:

"The council seeks to act as a bridge between local media and the community for issues surrounding diversity and race".

Keeping aside your moral responsibilities as the past chair of the Media Advisory -- just as the Managing Editor of a respectable community newspaper -- would it have been asking too much of you to have done some first hand verification of the background of a mayoral candidate that you were not familiar with?

Could not a personal call have been made by you to my phone number listed on the city election web site - in order to find out more about me - so you would not have to resort to using such a banal phrase such as: Not much else to tell you !!!!

Below is the email exchange with your very own journalist Kevin Werner - who only four weeks before your above article spent an hour and a half interviewing me on my mayoral candidacy - and who even shot a photograph of me after the interview.

So if you had shown any curiosity to get to know my political position or get more information about me -- you did not even have to call me. You could have just asked your own reporter in your office - and he would have easily provided you with the hour an half worth of notes on his discussions with me about my campaign.

If you are indeed a tool of the proverbial silent masters who has hired you for some money to parrot their political views with a journalistic flourish - then that is perfectly all right, as this too happens in society!!

But if for some reasons you do believe yourself to be a serious alternative to the mainstream press - with commitment to bringing unbiased truths to the community through your weekly paper -- then you do have a very serious legitimacy problem in light of your recent utterances below:

"As the media, we all need to do a better job in engaging the citizenry." ~ Mark Cripps

"People are generally cynical when it comes to politicians. However, having said that, how many people are willing to stand up and try and change the system by running for political office. People are generally lazy and the disconnect with politics has never been more apparent." ~ Mark Cripps

"I believe the future is ours. That is the theme I would suggest best identifies Hamilton. Also this is a welcoming city. Immigrants and newcomers are the best resource we can attract to live in this area. We should always pitch Hamilton as the place that welcomes diversity." ~ Mark Cripps

I am not seeking an explanation on how you form your opinions -- all I am hoping for from you is some reflection on the role you think you are playing in this community as a journalist.

It would be interesting to see how you propose to bring to reality your above utterances from here on!

Best,

Mahesh P. Butani

PS: You may want to check this out -- I have a reference to your article here - which you might find funny.

ALSO: if you ever develop a curiosity to get to know me better, but are afraid to do so -- I am including a brief background* which is more than six words !!


*Brief Background - more that -six- words:!!

Mahesh P. Butani grew up in Bombay, in a third generation family of contractors & developers, and trained as an Architect in the late seventies, and subsequently taught architecture and environmental design. He traveled to New York city in the early eighties to pursue his Masters in Arts Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

He moved to downtown Hamilton in the mid nineties and attempted to pursue his career in architecture, but instead got involved in renovating old buildings in the core, as his foreign education and decades of international work experience was not recognized to be relevant in Ontario.

His personal efforts and determination in having foreign experience and qualifications recognized by professional organizations in Ontario, resulted in significant reform at the Ontario Association of Architects in 2003, with the unconditional removal of the discriminatory term "Canadian Experience" from all architects job listings - a terminology that was being until then freely used by the association for over three decades to blatantly exclude some of the best internationally experienced architects in Ontario from access to their profession and careers.

He has over the last fourteen years lived in Hamilton and worked on many revitalization projects in downtown Hamilton, and was the founder, director of the Downtown Arts Centre, and played a central role in securing private construction financing commitments for the Music Hall of Fame bid on Pier 8 based on a unique architectural design and site plan for the eight hectare land parcel on the waterfront. A design scheme and efforts that continues to be not acknowledged in public by the local media. He was also directly responsible for the re-branding of the former Spectator printing press building located in the downtown core into the FilmWorks Lofts project.

Butani continues to be passionately involved in many private sector initiatives that are working to rebuild the downtown core; and over the years has volunteered many hours of his time as a Director on the Boards of various organization such as the Threshold School of Building and Arts Hamilton; besides actively mentoring many professionals who moved to Hamilton over the years.

Butani understands and deeply appreciates the collaborative leadership skills that are required to continue rebuilding and maintaining vibrant, safe and healthy communities in Hamilton, and in his efforts to promote innovative collaborative approaches in our city, he has developed an on-line social network called Metropolitan Hamilton.

Mahesh P.Butani has also been a frequent contributor on local blogs: The Hamiltonian, and Raise the Hammer - where he writes about urban development, urban issues, city politics, the role of the local media, and the importance of Hamilton becoming a Learning City.


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By bored (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 17:28:27

tl;dr

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 18:20:06

And why was the Bastille stormed, was it because the needs of the people were not being met, thus they revolted.

Mahesh is right, there is a thin line for standing up for what is right and confrontation.

In our current worldy view, it is a given that those who stand up and speak out are being viewed or deemed as troublemakers, how dare they step out of line.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2010 at 23:53:16

You're wanting them to go back in time : )

Indeed. I just read a post by Bill Dunphy that makes a similar argument:

In his talk, [Kenneth] Whyte pointed out that back in Hearst's time, when he took on Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, newspapers were funded by readers - they lived and died on their circulation revenue, on the pennies and nickels of a vast and fickle readership.

Newspapers did not cloak themselves in objectivity, but rather wore their partisanship proudly.

They fought for their readers daily, chasing scoops and pushing out extra editions in a frantic effort to catch the readers eye. If they succeeded it was because they gave voice to their reader's fears and foibles, because they championed them and cared for them.

Because they served them.

The rise of mass market advertising, however, supplanted this model with newspapers that strove, not to grab readers by the throat, or to be their voice, but rather to speak blandly to the greatest number of readers, so they could deliver the largest possible market for their advertisers.

Whyte appeared to be saying that the 'modern' journalist's embracing of objectivity is nothing more than making a virtue of a vice.

The dismantling of the advertising driven model - or at least the version we've been familiar with for the past several decades - is leading us closer to that earlier model, when newspapers had to serve readers first in order to earn their pennies.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 14:06:21

In his talk, [Kenneth] Whyte pointed out that back in Hearst's time, when he took on Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, newspapers were funded by readers - they lived and died on their circulation revenue, on the pennies and nickels of a vast and fickle readership.

Newspapers did not cloak themselves in objectivity, but rather wore their partisanship proudly.

They fought for their readers daily, chasing scoops and pushing out extra editions in a frantic effort to catch the readers eye. If they succeeded it was because they gave voice to their reader's fears and foibles, because they championed them and cared for them.

Because they served them.

Beautiful Ryan!

It is important to point out that the partisanship wasn't necessarily one of top down editorial partisanship either. It was often the individual partisanship of the journalist. They were allowed to write what they believed to be true, right and just.

Comment edited by Kiely on 2010-06-09 13:10:56

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 14:22:42

"Also, the fewer people that vote, the fewer people it requires to make change happen." I believe that when only a few people vote, the incumbent usually gets in (that's what I remember from my campaign volunteer days anyway). In order to affect change you need to get new voters out. - Rusty

True, you do need new voters, but what I'm saying is you need to get fewer of them out.

As a grassroots movement a large group of apathetic voters unhappy with the incumbent and a small group of voters supporting the incumbent would be preferable to the other way around. Would it not?

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted June 10, 2010 at 18:26:47

Larry or not..Here he Comes. (from this week's Ancaster, Dundas etc. News)

Mark Cripps gets the scoop on Larry D.'s possible mayoralty run, & at the same time smooths over some scandal, & slings a little 'stuff' in Mayor Fred's direction.
*********************************************************************************

It’s been said before, I know. It probably almost sounds redundant. But in Hamilton, every municipal election is the most important ever for the city.

The problem is, as it stands today, the race for mayor is boiling down to a thoroughbred versus a pack of 100-1 underdogs.

With all due respect to the fine, but relatively unknown citizens who have put their names forward as candidates for mayor, Fred Eisenberger is the clear favourite to win a second term.

I believe the race could become a fair contest, if, as rumoured, former Mayor Larry Di Ianni throws his name into the mix.

I spoke with Di Ianni this week, and he confirmed serious discussions are taking place on whether he will challenge Eisenberger in the municipal election October 25.

“I’m looking at it,” he said. “I haven’t made a final decision, but there appears to be good support out there. I’d like to give it another shot if there is winnability.”

Crucial for Di Ianni, he said, are the following components for his final decision –desire, message, team and financing. He already has strong name recognition. He also has a proven track record of success.

“As soon as I get enough data back, I will make a decision. I expect that to happen sooner rather than later.”

The fact that I am encouraging Di Ianni to run is not a reflection of any specific opinion of Eisenberger’s tenure. Our current mayor is an extremely likeable guy.

I just believe a good race will help flush out the critical issues that need to be discussed and debated in an election campaign.

Eisenberger has been a visionary on the environmental front, bringing forth important initiatives like the green and clean city and energy efficiency. He is also responsible for establishing the code of conduct for councillors and the implementation of an integrity commissioner.

During Di Ianni’s tenure, the city realized the completion of the much-needed Red Hill Valley Parkway. He was also a key driver in the Lister Block redevelopment, city hall renovations, new farmers market and the development of airport lands.

A big difference between the two men, however, is highlighted by how they deal with council. Di Ianni was a strong consensus builder, and a person who values advice. Eisenberger is a visionary bulldozer. A case can be made that both tactics can be effective, however, I would suggest consensus building is critical when you have a council make-up like the one we have in Hamilton.

During the last campaign, too much, in my opinion, was made of a campaign financing error by Di Ianni. A group of citizens, many of which opposed the Red Hill Valley Parkway, hammered relentlessly on Di Ianni over the fact he was charged under the Municipal Act.

Catch a break Di Ianni, while admitting his mistake and atoning for the error, couldn’t seem to catch a break for his penance.

Now that he has served a four-year sentence away from politics, I believe most fair-minded citizens would be willing to forgive and forget. I’m sure there are still those who want another pound of flesh. You have to question their true motives beyond the veil of accountability.

Dysfunction and integrity breaches have not escaped Eisenberger. He was reprimanded for having an off-the-record conversation about a personnel matter with a local reporter. He had a falling out with his campaign manager and chief of staff. He is still facing potential ramifications over a wrongful dismissal suit involving another former staffer.

The Pan Am Games fiasco could prove to be the biggest failure of Eisenberger’s tenure. He also flip-flopped on a promise to protect area rating, and judging by the cat calls aimed in his direction from citizens lined up to watch the recent Flag Day parade in Stoney Creek, the meter issue could haunt the mayor more than he appreciates. I hope those loonies are worth it.

I want a good race for mayor. I’m not placing any bets, but may the best horse win.

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