National Grieving or Unveiling of Police State Canada?
Who Will Benefit and Who Will Lose From the Way the Triple Loss of RCMP Lives is Being Spun?
On June 10 a huge regimental funeral hosting about 7,000 officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police took place in Moncton New Brunswick. Its public purpose was to mourn the three fallen RCMP officers who emerged dead from an alleged shooting rampage widely reported to have been carried out by lone gunman, 24 year old Justin Bourque. Mr. Bourque has been widely reported to have walked fully armed through the Moncton trailer park where he lived. At least three residents of the trailer park have gone on camera to explain what they saw.
Each of the three commentators came up apparently independently with the same observation that Mr. Bourque had a look in his face that announced he was “on a mission.” It has been widely reported that Mr. Bourque was a cadet in the Canadian Armed Forces and was well known as a hunter and expert marksman.
Later in the evening reports flooded into the Canadian media that three RCMP police officers had been shot dead by the alleged shooter and that two or three Mounties had been wounded. Mr Bourque was reported to have eluded police all day Thursday. He was apprehended at 12:10 am on Friday June 6. Some reports say he gave himself up. The media’s main witness of the arrest is Michelle Thibodeau, a trained professional actress.
Mr. Bourque was taken taken to the RCMP detachment in nearby Sackville. Days before the lethal event an emergency exercise or drill had taken place in Sackville including possible responses to a hypothetical shooter or to shooters. When I first reported this drill in my earlier article, “A Canadian Rambo,” one commentator from New Brunswick indicated to me that such drills take place every month in Sackville.
Of course course this episode has generated huge media coverage in Canada as well as numerous reports in the United States and throughout the world. I have chosen to focus particularly on the profile done by a veteran reporter of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Adrienne Arsenault.
Ms. Arsenault’s CBC report encapsulates much of the tone and content of the sensationalistic reportage that has flooded into the airwaves and print media of Canada. Ms. Arsenault’s CBC report was first broadcast on June 5, the day Justin Bourque is reported to have eluded RCMP capture in the small city of Moncton. Mr. Bourque’s elusiveness caused him to be dubbed the Canadian Rambo.
Adrienne Arsenault’s CBC profile of Justin Bourque
Ms. Arsenault’s CBC report was researched, filmed, edited, broadcasted, and posted on You Tube on June 5, the day after the RCMP officers were reported dead but before the alleged shooter was apprehended in the early minutes of June 6. This feat of TV reporting is truly an example of lightening fast journalistic work on a very serious subject. The comment section on the You Tube was disabled by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation..
Adrienne Arsenault included in her profile the information that Justin Bourque had stayed one up one night drinking with fellow Wal*Mart employees.
As the images above indicate, Ms. Arsenault’s report associated Mr. Bourque’s alleged crimes with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995. Timothy McVeigh was convicted of being the bomber. Ms. Arsenault also associated the allegations against Mr. Bourque with the mass murder in 2011 of 77 victims including a large part of the youth leadership of Norway’s main social democratic party. Anders Behring Breivik was found guilty of this appalling and many-faceted crime.
In her report Ms. Arsenault bases these associations on the conclusions of so-called “experts” in a field she identifies simply as “extremism.” This use of anonymous expert opinion, completely without even a hint of specific attribution and citation, constitutes highly unethical and unprofessional journalistic conduct. This gross lapse of journalistic judgment is especially striking in a story where politically-loaded accusations are being directed against an accused individual who has no opportunity to speak on his own behalf or through a legal representative.
This kind of journalistic misconduct epitomizes the main motifs of trial by media, unfortunately a ubiquitous hallmark of mainstream media venues these days. The trend extends to publicly-funded Crown broadcasters including the CBC, BBC, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The extension by the CBC and many other media venues of the techniques of yellow journalism and Red-Scare journalism to this blood-soaked case eliminates the possibility that the accused can get a fair trial with a neutral judge and an unbiased jury. Perhaps this outcome is intentional rather than inadvertent.
Justin Bourque and the Death of Daniel Levesque While in RCMP Custody in 2013
Adrienne Arsenalt’s report is representative of the growing resort to pseudo-psychology by media and police in an invented professional field as nefarious as “extremism” or “conspiracy theories.” As Ms. Arsenault’s report well illustrates, this approach is a politically-driven replacement for genuine and honest investigative reporting in this post-9/11 era of the so-called Global War on Terror.
Rather than resorting to this kind of dubious methodology in the construction of her media case against Mr. Bourque, the veteran CBC reporter would have been on much better served to have considered explicitly the possible effects on thew alleged shooter of the death of his friend, a 30-year-old Moncton man named Daniel Levesque. In 2013 Mr. Levesque was stabbed in the course of an event that was described by police as an attempt to rob a car. When he was delivered dead to the hospital and then the coroner, Mr. Levesque had four gunshot wounds from RCMP fire.
The two Moncton RCMP officers involved in the case were removed from active service until members of Fredericton police force completed an investigation. On May 23 the verdict was delivered. The Fredericton police investigators ruled that the RCMP shooters of Mr. Levesque were guilty of no wrongdoing because the deceased man was already dead when he was pumped with police bullets.
Adrienne Arsenault was clearly aware of these facts when she did her June 5 CBC profile of Justin Bourque. Ms. Arsenault indicated that Mr. Bourque’s attitude changed radically– that he developed “a fury about police”– a year before his day of infamy. In other words, Mr. Bouque’s distrust of the criminal justice system became quite intense around the time his friend, Mr. Levesque, died while being apprehended by the RCMP.
Before launching into the section in her CBC profile where her anonymous experts present their psychological theories about the similarities linking Justin Bourque’s alleged lethal actions to the crimes for which Timothy McVeigh and Anders Breivik have been found guilty, Ms. Arsenault tried to cover herself. She indicated that some unnamed Moncton RCMP officers had been “cleared two weeks ago” of any “wrongdoing” after being involved in a “very high profile and controversial shooting’ that “may or may not” have been a factor in “what’s been happening.”
These phrases could be interpreted as weasel words meant to provide legal protection for Ms. Arsenault and the CBC, not meaningful explanations of the most plausible single explanation for Mr. Bourque’s alleged actions. Of course these alleged actions must be roundly condemned if and when it is proven beyond a reasonable measure of doubt that the accused man actually did the acts of which he now stands accused by the Crown.
In Ms. Arsenault’s report there was no explicit mention of Mr. Levesque and the precise circumstances of his death, no mention of the friendship between Mr. Bourque and Mr. Levesque, and no mention of the controversy surrounding not only the police bullets pumped into Mr. Levesque but the even larger controversy surrounding the finding of “no wrongdoing” by one group of New Brunswick RCMP investigating another group of New Brunswick RCMP.
Withholding Vital Information
This huge and telling gap in the media coverage of the alleged shooter accused of killing and wounding five RCMP officers is understandably creating consternation in some circles. Robert Brook, for instance, posted on Facebook that “a friend of Justin was killed in an encounter with the RCMP last year.” He added, “We’re not seeing a lot of media coverage of this connection.” Jasper Stam, whose case will be considered in more detail below, is reported to have made a similar posting indicating “I’m sorry for the lack of mercy that people are displaying for him [Mr. Bourque] and for the friend he lost and for the the lack of justice in this world.”
While any serious consideration in the mainstream media of the relationship of Levesque’s death to the Moncton shooter story has been muted, ill-explained, or absent altogether, the same is not true of some alternative media venues. For instance on June 6 Daniel Johnson of the Media Coop, a Canadian based, reader-supported venue whose “contributers want to cover stories free from the constraints of the corporate press,” addressed the tragedy in Moncton. Johnson wrote, “As the media wolves circle around Justin Bourque and fabricate the least sympathetic motives they can come up with to project onto his actions, a handful of news commenters have posted and re-posted stories about the murder of Daniel Levesque, who may have been a close friend of Justin Bourque, on July 13, 2013 by Moncton RCMP, and the subsequent ‘investigation’ that, like virtually every other time police investigate other police, found the officers did nothing wrong.”
Johnson equated the death of Daniel Levesque to the similar circumstances he saw in the death of Ian Bush in British Columbia. In both instances, Johnson alleges, “the victim was kneeling when he was shot in the back of the head.” The Media Coop writer continues, “We see all the pictures of the crying families of RCMP every time one of them dies, but when the RCMP kill someone we rarely see pictures of their families in the days after. No publicly funded memorials for Daniel Levesque and Ian Bush, no moral prattling by Conservatives about the value of human life when they were killed in cold blood by ‘public servants’.”