Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Christie Blatchford on Jack Layton's death: Really a Spectacle?

Yesterday, famous Canadian columnist Christie Blatchford wrote an article in the National Post about NDP leader Jack Layton's death that has caused a furor on Twitter and in the comment section of the article.

She argued that the outpouring of remorse was a "spectacle" and questioned the sincerity of many public figures and Canadian citizens who have publicly grieved.

I agree with her that the coverage shouldn't have swallowed other newsworthy events. I also agree that the death of a public figure tends to become somewhat of a bandwagon to jump on -- meaning many people show more interest and care in a person's life after he/she dies than when alive.

But I don't think Jack Layton's death was a bandwagon. And I do think much, if not most of the public grief is genuine. Jack Layton was moving in a political direction that many people were passionate about, so they voted for him. Why wouldn't his supporters mourn for him? Why wouldn't news outlets and opposing politicians show their respect? I disagree with Blatchford's suggestion that people have little reason to mourn people they haven't met and that comments on his life, politics and death were over-the-top.

And another thing: the man just died yesterday. Couldn't Blatchford have saved her criticism of his mourners for later?


  1. Blatchford came down hard on Layton's handlers, the ones who couldn't stop spinning even at his death. The crafted anouncement was especially crass.

    Public mourning is another matter entirely we have lost some of our dignity by forgetting that grief is a private sorrow.

  2. Nothing is sacred in the arena of politics or big business, or Hollywood, for that matter. Every one seems to exploit the event to their own self-gratifying end.

  3. very well said, Blazing Cat Fur ! so much so, i posted it on my twitter stream.. linked to this column/blog!



  4. Hey, Furball: what are you & Blatch, social engineers? thought and manners police? "Grief is a private matter" -- so, what, we should ban funerals and wakes? People can, do, and should be able to express such things in a wide variety of ways. And so what if he had help crafting that letter, which was finished just a day or two before he died? Harper plagiarized a whole speech! Take your cue from Mike Duffy, of all people: who sees it as a brilliant letter, and wished we'd all take the high road. But that'd render you mute.


  5. Blazing - I disagree that grief should be a "private sorrow." Grief is a collective experience. Many seek comfort from communicating with fellow mourners. I don't see a problem with that.

    Mythopolis - It does seem like Blatchford was using Layton's death to push her own partisan agenda.

    DDS North - I hope Blazing saw your comment. Thanks for sharing my work. Great point that many socially acceptable, required moves of grieving are public.

    Anonymous - Yes, Blatchford pushed her political agenda and also her public decorum rules.