On Tackling the Substance of an Argument

By Ben Bull
Published August 16, 2007

I am an unabashed fan of Andy Barrie, and after his early morning admission that he uses Google News Alerts to read all the online articles featuring his name, I thought I'd clutter up his inbox with this one. :)

Barrie's interview on Tuesday morning featured amateur documentary filmmaker Arshad Khan's take on last year's Canadian terrorist takedown, codenamed Project Thread.

Remember that one? The blazing headlines and stories of militant Muslims running through the countryside with homemade weapons and maps of Canadian nuclear facilities?

It was all very exciting, but apparently the whole thing is now fizzling out with most of the alleged plotters having been deported. No charges have been laid.

Like many of the news items Barrie deals with, this one was controversial. But Barrie's approach to the subject was typically adroit (nice word eh? I told you I listed to CBC).

Khan proved himself an able defender of his point of view - he felt strongly that the charges and treatment of the detainees was undemocratic - but Barrie maintained his neutrality and kept his subject in check.

Take this exchange, for example.

Khan: "The War on Terror is Bogus."

Barrie: "What do you mean the war on terror is bogus? You'll need to expand on that."

And so he did.

It's a real – and rare – treat to witness a good debate. There are times when I feel the art of it is all but lost.

When I watch the US news channels or even as I check out the odd obtrusive comment on RTH, it seems that many of us are forgetting what it takes to tackle the substance of the argument rather than the emotion of the debate.

RTH's Ryan McGreal is another debater I admire. I like how he references direct quotations from previous posts and tackles each point, line by line (He's a clever bloke that Ryan...). [Flatter me all you want, Ben, but I'm not boosting your expense account -Ed.]

It's hard to fathom the truth sometimes. When Project Thread hit the wire it was all we – and our salivating media - could do to contain our excitement.

There was an assumption of guilt, of partial guilt, of - well come on, they had to have done something – right? – even as the news reports were carefully outlining the presumption of innocence.

But God forbid we should have seen a composed debate on the matter or that we should see the same intensity of reporting when it comes to updating the status of the accused, four years on.

The only reason we are hearing about it now is because of the fourth year anniversary of the arrests (we all know how the media love their anniversaries).

At least we have the CBC. At least we have Andy Barrie. In a world where news is entertainment, it's good to have solid sorts like Barrie around.

And I'm not just saying that because he'll get this is his inbox tomorrow :) (Hi Andy!)

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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