Christie Blatchford has always had somewhat of a mean streak in her. When she wrote for the Globe and Mail, she focused her energy on the high-profile crimes, the war overseas, and got a reputation somewhere in the last 20 years for being a "hard hitting reporter" on her good days and "a total shrewish bitch" on her bad days.
She may have reached a new low when, earlier this week, she wrote a scathing article about Jack Layton mere hours after he died. She pummeled him for his politician's nature, for the outpouring of grief that came on the news of his death, for the so-called "Dianaization" of his death when Canadians, moved to action in their loss, memorialed him the man in Nathan Phillips Square. She scoffed at the news coverage and at his thoughtful deathbed letter.
Blatchford has often seemed to pride herself on her contrarian nature, but the commentary on her article has proved that perhaps the people whom she prides herself on speaking for aren't going to back her on this one. There are lots of people who have reacted with a "You tell 'em, Christie!" but many, many more who decried her as being thoughtless, for focusing on superficial elements rather than the larger issues - she scoffs at Layton's "energy retrofitted house," as though somehow living out one's political values is ridiculous - and fails to mention that Jack Layton, in recent months, had become something of a folk hero to Canadians. He had taken on the nation-imperiling Bloc and won, he had swept aside personal and political scandals as non-starters, he had led his party to unprecedented heights and genuinely had the support of Canadians behind him.
When he died, he released a letter that Blatchford dismissed as vainglorious pap; it was a letter that made me cry. Layton was a politician, and the letter was a political move. But it was also a thoughtful expression of his love for his life's work. He loved being a politician: leading people, changing their minds, engaging them in the political process. He was very good at it. Her dismissal of Layton's urging Canadians to work together and have faith in their country was callous and cold.
If you find yourself on Blatchford's side of things in this narrative, imagine for a moment that her article wasn't about Layton. Imagine that she was memorializing, in this dismissive, repulsive way, a favourite pastor of yours. A brother-in-law. A admired employer. Or even someone you met once and liked, because he was affable and likeable, even though part of you knew he was working on you - a politician, in other words. Now her reaction to his death looks even more appalling.
In the tradition of Dan Savage, who took Rick Santorum's name and make it into a filthy noun (Google "santorum" if you're scatologically bent), my friend Liz proposed that we take Blatchford's name and similarly defile it. Refashion her moniker into a work that means something vile, because on a sad day, she was vile. I would guess that, over time, "she's a real blatchford" might come to mean some heinous blend of callousness, "too-soon?" collar-tugging, self-aggrandizement, and plain old meanness. "To blatch" might mean to misread the tone of an event so supremely as to become a lightning rod for rage. I'm not calling for her head or her job, but I do think she should be embarrassed, and that The National Post might want to reconsider her high-profile writing, as it seems to piss off a majority of their readers.
I doubt she would, but I hope C.Blatch feels a pang of shame when she realized that Layton wasn't the smarmy a-hole she had painted him as; the tributes to him from regular, non-Post-affiliated folks attests to that. What kind of memorial will you inspire, Christie?