Tuned In

WikiLeaks and the Canadian-TV Menace

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Grace Park in THE BORDER, cited by the State Department for bad-neighborliness. / CBC

I am starting to develop the theory that the WikiLeaks document dump will produce a rush of applications for State Department jobs. Security concerns aside, the juicy revelations have the effect of making career-diplomat work seem awesome: who knew that the U.S. had a cadre of professionals writing wry, snarky cables from the four corners of the globe? It’s like blogging, with job security and benefits!

For instance: apparently there was an employee tasked with watching Canadian TV and reporting on the sentiments it expressed about America. Turns out: Canadians? Not so crazy about us!

Now, I know what the Yanks in the audience are thinking: What Canadian TV? Are they sneaking anti-American messages into DeGrassi and Flashpoint? Is Candice Olson talking crap about us?! In fact, the cable in question reveals a trove of original Canadian television in which, to hear tell of it, Canada’s bossy neighbor to the south does not come off well.

For instance, in the erstwhile CBC drama The Border—described delightfully in the cable as “CANADA’S ANSWER TO 24, W/O THAT SUTHERLAND GUY”—is said to depict U.S. Homeland Security officials as arrogant, to show the U.S. planning to bomb Quebec[!] to nail a terrorist and to have storylines including the U.S. government framing a Canadian informant for murder and plotting to steal water from Canada. (Bonus unmentioned in the cable: It starred Battlestar Galactica and Hawaii Five-0’s Grace Park.)

The theft of water is apparently a significant territorial concern, having surfaced as well in the 2004 miniseries H2O.* (I’m guessing that would be the “glacier fresh” water used to brew Kokanee beer.) In a planned (at the time) sequel, the U.S. attempts to annex Canada through a manipulative ballot measure. Even Little Mosque on the Prairie, a comedy about a Muslim community in Saskatchewan, is cited for storylines involving U.S. border and consular officials hassling its characters.

* Update: Further research, by the way, reveals that the miniseries’ story begins with the Prime Minister of Canada dying in a mysterious canoeing accident. I think that pretty much sums up the difference between U.S. and Canadian TV right there.

All this going on right under our noses—or rather, just to the north of our noses! The cable’s author summarizes the report by expressing concern at how “Canadian broadcast entities, including those financed by Canadian tax dollars, twist current events to feed long-standing negative images of
the U.S.” (This from someone being financed by U.S. tax dollars to recap Canadian TV shows.) It’s enough to make me want to revisit my childhood, a half-hour’s drive from Windsor, Ontario, and see what anti-American-imperialist messages I was unknowingly receiving from Polkaroo and Mister Dressup.

In any case, I really suggest you read the full cable, which is full of arch descriptions and asides. (“[The U.S.-Canadian border], which most Americans associate with snow blowing back and forth across an imaginary line, has for the past three weeks been for Canadian viewers the site of downed rendition flights, F-16 bombing runs, and terrorist suspects being whisked away to Middle Eastern torture facilities.”) And I’m going to polish my resume to send to the State Department. America’s security demands TV criticism!