Rafe Mair Apologizes to Chris Shaw in The Tyee; Is Jim Green Next?
Tyee columnist Rafe Mair apologized to Chris Shaw yesterday in an article in The Tyee. He said he had disagreed with Shaw's anti-Olympics position for years, but had now changed his mind. "In my encounter with him on air a few years back I didn't support him," Mair writes, but... "Chris has been proven to be right. One point of his correctness I wish to deal with today is the security issue -- specifically, I'd like to address the billion dollars being spent on it and the raw theft of our civil liberties."
It's great to see Mair acknowledging Chris's credibility to the Tyee's substantial audience, because Chris is credible. He’s a scientist — a reasoned, research-based academic — who has opinions. He's a serious researcher and an ethical thinker. In a video interview with Chris and VO reporter Megan Stewart, he explained where he is coming from as a writer and citizen:
"My philosophy as a citizen is the same philosophy I take to camping: I want to leave it better than I found it. I also feel like I have an obligation to my children to make this a better country than I found it. There's that old statement from Rabbi Hillel: justice always justice. And that's what I believe.
"One thing the Olympics has shown me is that the citizens of this city and province did not have all the facts at their disposal when they went in. What we lacked in the plebiscite and what has been lacking up until now from a lot of the media has been the balance of showing a lot of sides of the story. They've shown the corporate side, the sporting side, the atheletes side, but up until lately they have not shown much of the negative impacts. The fact that the Observer also allows the happy side is fine as long as the other part comes out too. So I think the Observer and other papers are doing a better job now of giving more of a rounded perspective. At least people who read the Observer can see both perspectives at once."
Chris's persistence on issues that I and the staff at the Vancouver Observer and many Vancouverites feel are important--- but weren't being raised in the public discourse--- was exceptional. He withstood being slammed by Jim Green for following up on a conversation Mr. Green had in Chicago with a Huffington Post reporter in which Mr. Green detailed how he essentially bartered his vote for the Games in return for social housing units. He turned up the story we ran on chlorine traveling the rails through Vancouver and the fact that the plant that makes it is closing for the Olympics, but then re-opening again. He hammered away at the city's free speech issue and finally filed a lawsuit that the BCCLA is representing him on. And he kept hammering away on what he saw as unjust, even after security agents pulled him aside on a few occasions and questioned him as if he were a criminal. That's not all, but you have to follow Chris's column to keep up with everything else there is.
Back to Mair, Megan Stewart, a UBC journalism graduate student, who has worked closely with Chris on a number of stories for VO, applauded Mair's transparency. "I think his honesty is fantastic," she wrote in an email today. "Imagine, a columnist paid to have opinions admitting his opinions were wrong. Why? Because others held their opinions and he took the time (five years, but yes, he took the time) to listen."
Chris said he wished Mair had come around sooner. Whether you like the Olympics or love the Olympics, Chris does a great job of showing the other side. If you hate them, he's your man.