I sometimes wonder why Canadian news media report on the reporting of things. So often the CBC or major papers go out and find out what person X thinks about or can explain about what happened to person Y. There is a level of abstraction that isn’t the case elsewhere. As you likely know, I watch local Watertown NY news in the morning – initially for a better sense of the weather and now for all those fun police reports. It’s amazing how much pre-conviction detail is set out for the public, servicing as both information about the workings of the court justice system as well as a conduit for that oft stated goal of justice, general deterrence.
The arrest of Barenaked Ladies singer Stephen Page in nearby Fayetteville, NY, an easter suburb of Syracuse, is a good case in point. The Globe and Mail include excerpts from the statement given by Page’s girlfriend’s roommate while The Star gives only a summary. Syracuse’s Post Standard, however, has a far fuller and more detailed account:
Ford’s statement to police provides the following account: The two women walked to the bar about 10 p.m. About 11 p.m., Page showed up. “After about 30 minutes, Steven and Christine got into a huge fight because Christine was flirting with another guy. Steven left the bar and I followed him back to the apartment,” Ford told police. Page said that he was going back to Canada, but Ford was concerned because Page had been drinking. Back at the apartment, Page lay down on the grass and Ford sat on him so he couldn’t drive away. “While we were on the front lawn, Christine showed up and started yelling at me not to take Steven’s side. I’m not sure how it happened but Christine ended up with Steven’s keys and drove away in his car leaving hers in the middle of the driveway,” Ford said. Page and Ford went inside the home. Eventually, Ford found Page at the kitchen table with a bottle that said “calcium” and contained capsules with white powder, but the rest of the label was in French. “There was a pile of white powdery substance on the table, near one of the capsules,” Ford said. “There was a Canadian bill on the table which Steven rolled up and we used it to snort the white powder. “We never discussed what the white powder was but I thought it was cocaine,” she said.
What have we learned? The abstraction of celebrity and perhaps a measure of national embarrassment, things I think may be fueling the abstraction in the Canadian press, are not there. But neither is the unspoken menace. It’s a pretty banal scene and the participants appear co-operative. People are trying to do the right thing, keeping the incapable off the road, while doing the wrong thing. The comments to the Syracuse news article are interesting as well.
This may well be a more serious matter than we are learning about in Canada. The are articles about how the business of the band will be affected, a matter Canadian media is somewhat invested in given all the spin-off radio and TV shows the band have generated. Is that projecting an actual Canadian cultural point of view? The view from Fayetteville Village Court is likely less engaged in that respect. And look at this opinion piece from 2007 about sentencing inequality in New York – a ten gram possession appears to attract years of incarceration, though this snippet may indicate months. This may be a far more serious matter than we are being told.