Self-professed Shame Wizard Jesse Brown fired another shot into his own foot last week. Then, as he usually does, reloaded and shot the other one.
On the May 2 edition of Canadaland Short Cuts, Brown smears Newfoundlanders for taking offence at being labeled ‘Newfies’, calling them overly-sensitive white people, and claiming they “want Newfoundland to be an ethno state”.
Brown went off after The Simpsons ran an episode on April 28 about the cartoon family’s visit to Canada. A snippet of the show showed an obviously dim Ralph Wiggums, who said he was a “Newfie”, clubbing a toy seal to bits with a hockey stick. It wasn’t a just joke that misfired. The Simpsons writers were getting a dig in at the province because sealers refused an offer from one of the series’ creators to take his money as an incentive for stopping the seal hunt. I’m not a fan of the seal hunt, but I can see why Newfoundlanders, most of whom have nothing to do with it, are sick of the lame stereotype.
The Simpsons jumped the shark years ago, but some Newfoundlanders watched the episode and complained about the cheap shot.
That should have been the end of it, but Brown, always the Toronto hipster, told the Newfoundlanders to suck it up:
“I’m sorry you don’t get into the club of like super offensive epithets. Newfie does not have a place on that list…I don’t accept that this word is some sacred word that should never be spoken.”
“Who has the right to call themselves a Newfie? Like, I think you probably have to white. You probably have to have some sort of Celtic. Like you have to be a third or fourth generation. The sanctity of the term Newfie is propagated by people who want Newfoundland to be an ethno state. I said it.”
Yup, he certainly did. And then spent the next four days (and counting) boldly defending his absurd statements while disparaging Newfoundlanders and his other critics on Twitter.
This did not go well for Canada’s richest podcaster.
James McLeod, a Financial Post reporter and 10-year resident of Newfoundland, went on Twitter to explain to Brown why his comments about Newfoundland are so insulting. It didn’t sink in. Brown argued that while some may find the term Newfie offensive, it’s not really a group slur.
McLeod couldn’t understand Brown’s weird argument and responded:
“This stance makes … no sense. You’ve already acknowledged that it is an offensive slur (although definitely not on the podcast.) But it’s not a slur “of the first order” because that’s a meaningful distinction? (How many tiers of slur are there?).”
Despite being outwitted by McLeod and others, Brown would not back down, and mocked those opposing him as being “almost affectionate” in their protests.
So McLeod wrote an article for Medium, saying “Jesse Brown laughed off the outrage and said some deeply offensive stuff.”
In the piece, McLeod artfully explains the history of the land, and why it is far past time to put an end to decades of degrading Newfoundlanders.
“Many of my friends in N.L. remember being told to practice speaking without an accent because being a Newfoundlander was something to disguise. For older Newfoundlanders and Labradorians goes back even further. It’s a persistent sense that the rest of Canada looks down on N.L., condescends to them, and sees the province as some kind of outcast, an inferior partner of Confederation.”
Newfoundlanders are proud and hardworking people, known around the country for the easy-going and welcoming nature. They paid heavily in the two world wars – the attack on Beaumont Hamel during the 1916 Somme campaign took many men of the outports, and McLeod noted Newfoundland was the only place in Canada whose shore was attacked in the Second World War. (U-boats blew apart the docks at the iron mine at Bell Island in Conception Bay, and the Newfoundland ferry was sunk with heavy loss of civilians).
Newfoundland had been a semi-independent Dominion until the Great Depression, but went bankrupt, largely because of its war contribution. There are still a lot of people in the province who believe it was manipulated into Confederation, and its economy destroyed by bad deals with Quebec and terrible decisions by Ottawa. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador hardly need more kicks in the head from Hollywood or downtown Toronto.
So cheap shots from a Toronto millionaire whose knowledge of the country seems negligible just didn’t go over well.
And contrary to Brown’s deeply insulting comment about “people who want Newfoundland to be an ethno state”, the province has proven itself to be exceedingly kind in welcoming new Canadians, especially Syrian refugees, according to a recent study by Memorial University. Painting Newfoundlanders as anything other than warm and welcoming says more about Jesse Brown than Newfoundlanders.
But for decades, Newfoundlanders have been forced to travel around the country to find work – often blue collar jobs – due to chronic economic problems on the island. Their poverty, generosity of spirit and accent has made them easy targets for hipsters like Brown to mock.
It reeks of Toronto elitism to propagate the myth that they are slack-jawed simpletons, and then ridicule them for being offended. And double down when called out about it.
This is classic Jesse Brown: refusing to admit when he’s wrong, refusing to apologize, and digging-in his heels to fight back on twitter, intimidate critics, and twist the truth to his narrative. Whether it’s Jesse Brown refusing to apologize when it was proven Brown faked content working at the CBC, or him refusing to correct after causing immense personal damage to Amanda Lang with false accusations (Lang was exonerated by the CBC after a full investigation, yet Brown doubled-down saying the findings were “horseshit”). A previous FairPress blogpost outlines many other examples of Brown harm and refusing to correct in the face of overwhelming evidence.
He wants to be taken seriously as a journalist? Then he needs to act like one.
Jesse Brown needs to stop smearing and looking down on people who aren’t a downtown Toronto phenom like himself. In the Shortcuts podcast, he couldn’t help to take a pointless dig at Newfoundland comedian and actor Mark Critch, who also publicly objected to the “Newfie” term being used on the Simpsons. Brown smeared him as “alleged comedian Mark Critch”. Mark Critch is a more legitimate comedian than Jesse Brown is a journalist.
Brown admits he’s never been to Newfoundland but feels free to tell locals how they should feel about a slur against them.
CBC reporters and native Newfoundlander David Cochrane put it perfectly in a Tweet to Brown:
“…you don’t get to tell people what terms they find offensive or not. Especially when you’ve never been to the place and clearly have no clue what this term means to people. Stop Brownsplaining.”
Jesse Brown, it’s time do something that you’re never willing to do: apologize and admit that you’re wrong.
As for the rest of us, let’s keeping mocking him on this one. Feel free to copy and paste this cod on his Twitter feed @JesseBrown.