Alberta Politics
The New York Times, still standing on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan despite the complaints of Donald Trump and the Alberta Energy War Room (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Alberta War Room finally lets loose a salvo … then hastily retreats

Posted on February 13, 2020, 1:32 am
8 mins

For a moment yesterday, it almost seemed as if Alberta’s $30-million-a-year Energy War Room was finally going to live up to its pugnacious nickname and make war on the “enemies of Alberta” and their campaign of “lies and disinformation” about the cleanest, most rule-of-law-abiding, most democratic oil in the whole wide world.

Instead of the bland puff features about happy herds of bison grazing atop reclaimed oil sands mines and the wonderful things like medical instruments that can be made with a little help from some bitumen that have lately graced its website, someone at the Canadian Energy Centre launched a spirited Twitter attack yesterday on a U.S. newspaper that had the temerity to call Alberta “home to one of the world’s most extensive, and also dirtiest, oil reserves.”

War Room commandant Tom Olson 20 years ago, but as he also must have felt yesterday morning (Photo: CEP Local 115A Archive).

Well, obviously that could not go unchallenged!

So with a gung-ho spirit that finally seemed to live up to Premier Jason Kenney’s election campaign promise his War Room would take the fight to any media that didn’t tell the story of the oilsands the way the Alberta Government wants it told, someone at the Canadian Energy Centre fired off some vicious tweets assailing the newspaper for being “called out for anti-Semitism countless times,” having a “dodgy” track record, being “routinely accused of bias.”

Look upon my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

So, do you think someone in the War Room simply didn’t understand what the New York Times — yeah, that New York Times — is? Like, maybe they confused it with, say, the Medicine Hat News? You know, a newspaper that would kindly print your lame press release if you called it a rebuttal and accused it of not asking for your comments?

Or do you think some hapless War Roomer was off the day they got the memo from the premier’s issues management commissar about the government’s unconvincingly sudden pivot to social license just after the boss got back from Washington D.C., where he is reputed to have been bluntly told climate belligerence no longer sells in the halls of finance?

Or has someone on the War Room’s staff been reading too many pro-Trump websites complaining about the Times not merely being “not the most dependable source” — a view also shared by Sputnik News, by the way — but a purveyor of outright “fake news”?

Or did someone simply take offence at the offending article’s observation about the War Room itself that “one of its first items, which are designed to look like online news articles, attacked a non-profit group that teaches schoolchildren about climate change and criticized school administrators for letting the group talk to Alberta students”?

I suppose that at this late hour I won’t be the one bearing the bad news if I mention the New York Times actually has the reputation of being a pretty reliable newspaper? Indeed, for all its flaws, it is the gold standard against which other newspapers continue to are measured? (Full disclosure, which will shock some readers: Your blogger has a paid subscription!)

Carleton University Journalism Professor Klaus Pohle, once the editor of “the New York Times of the Prairies” in Lethbridge (Photo: Carleton University).

It wasn’t an insult, in other words, back in the 1970s when Klausie Pohle was still managing editor of the Lethbridge Herald, that people in the then-thriving newspaper business called that small Alberta daily “the New York Times of the Prairies.”

So, calling the Times anti-Semitic, of all bizarre things, probably isn’t going to do a lot for whatever credibility still clings to the accident-prone War Room after its much-publicized misadventures with plagiarized logos and staffers pretending to be journalists.

Whoever did the face palm when the tweets started appearing yesterday morning, they were quickly yanked down — but not soon enough to block the inevitable screen shot or keep the escapade from turning into a national news story and spawning, on Twitter, the Mother of All Ratios.

Perhaps sensing the prospect of a return to a previous career in country rock, ex-Postmedia-journalist and United Conservative Party candidate Tom Olson, the War Room’s hapless commandant, put forth a grovelling, punctuation free apology on his personal a Twitter account yesterday afternoon.

“I apologize for some of the tweets in @CDNEnergyCentre Twitter thread this am,” he wrote. “The tone did not meet CEC’s standard for public discourse This issue has been dealt with internally”.

A screenshot said to be of one of the offending tweets, since deleted (Image: Twitter).

“There will be a substantive response to the NYT article w/in our mandate of challenging inaccuracies,” the tweet concluded defiantly.

Whether or not the Times bothers to print that remains to be seen, although the War Room published a response on its website at dinnertime last night.

It calls the Times’ accurate statement that “financial institutions worldwide are coming under growing pressure from shareholders to pull money from high-emitting industries” misleading, because, says the War Room, “investors should look holistically at overall environmental, social and governance performance.”

That is an opinion, of course, not a refutation. I’ll leave it to readers to work their way through the rest of the dreary piece.

Meanwhile, the Times is standing by its story.

“All the News That’s Fit to Print” remains on the Gray Lady’s masthead. The lights are still on in its headquarters on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. There’s no correction at the bottom of the story, which still states, “some of the world’s largest financial institutions have stopped putting their money behind oil production in the Canadian province of Alberta.”

And the headline still reads, “Global Financial Giants Swear Off Funding an Especially Dirty Fuel.”

Because, of course, that’s still true.

16 Comments to: Alberta War Room finally lets loose a salvo … then hastily retreats

  1. Dave

    February 13th, 2020

    Oh boy, just when things were looking up for the war room. They seemed to have managed a week or two without being the focus of ridicule, derision and self inflicted damage and now this.

    Challenging the New York Times about its take on global financial trends is sort of like amateur hockey dad challenging Gretzky to a shoot out. New York is a bit more of an international financial centre than here. The War Room is way out of its league here and that is even before the embarassing, cringe worthy anti semitism comment.

    Whoever at the war room thought they could intimidate and smear one of the world’s leading newspapers into submission was suffering from very bad judgement and sadly mistaken. They ought to have learned their lesson when that tactic did not work so well even against a smaller Alberta newspaper.

    I suspect the war room will continue to lurch on from one self inflicted crisis to another until the government realizes it needs to somehow put an end to it. Maybe in the upcoming budget they will declare victory and retreat.

    Whose great idea was having the war room anyways? Premier Kenney’s, apparently. By now, he must realize this whole debacle is starting to further call into question his own judgement.

    Reply
    • lost in the colonies

      February 14th, 2020

      and all this Kenney/UCP excellence for only 30 million bucks

      shear effing genius !

      siGh

      Reply
  2. Just Me

    February 13th, 2020

    Wow. That missive was positively Trump-ian in its style and thrust.

    But the CEC seems to have discovered the power of Twitter to misinform and obfuscate has furiously as POTUS_45.

    I am not sure what this says about the quality of the journalism practiced at the CEC, but when a tweet that can be called crazy is posted, and then immediately retracted for presenting content that borders on Infowars, you have to wonder what’s going on.

    Maybe it takes more guts and dementia to be like Alex Jones than thought? Or maybe Tom Olson just couldn’t bring himself to release something that was from higher up and too bizarre to be acceptable in civilized discourse?

    It appears that the CEC is falling apart under the weight of its own crazy. $30M well wasted.

    Reply
  3. John T

    February 13th, 2020

    These guys remind me of rank amateurs when it comes to running any organization let alone a province. Their antics are cringe worthy.

    Reply
  4. Magda

    February 13th, 2020

    The best thing that ever happened to the environmental movement in Alberta and, to a lesser extent, Canada, is the election of the Jason Kenney government. This is It, oil folks, this is as good as it’s ever going to get in terms of a government that is sympathetic to your concerns. And what’s the result?

    It’s made you all look like whiny, know-nothing, immature losers. Congratulations on a fight well fought! If you’re not in retraining by now or exploring temporary work permits in other locations, there is no hope for you at all. Deal with it.

    Reply
  5. tom in ontario

    February 13th, 2020

    ….because, says the War Room, “investors should look holistically at overall environmental, social and governance performance.”
    As one not versed in Jason Kenney inspired communication, can the blogger or any of his readers enlighten me as to what this means?

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      February 13th, 2020

      It means that now that we can’t pretend global warning is a Rockfeller plot any more, no matter how hard we spin it there’s no way on God’s not-so-green earth the carbon output estimates for the tar sands can be seen as anything but a total catastrophe, so let’s come up with a completely different metric that sidesteps that whole problem. DJC

      Reply
      • Sam Ohio

        February 14th, 2020

        In other words, the problem is that the metrics that measured those facts, was wrong to begin. And we’re imagining that the summers and winters are both heating up.

        Reply
    • Carlos Beca

      February 14th, 2020

      It means that we just cannot stop displaying our lack of intelligence to the world. The UCP cannot run a 30 million dollars waste of money, never mind the province.

      Reply
  6. e.a.f.

    February 13th, 2020

    the tweet storm made me laugh. deflection is not going to work. even if what the tweeters said was true, it doesn’t make what the NYT said untrue. You can still be a nasty piece of business and be telling the truth.

    for this they used $30M. omg, must be nice to have that much money rolling around they can use if for this type of shit. sort of reminds me of the trumpsters and other dictatorships. Jason, can only dream. He has to contend with Trudeau, the courts of Canada, and the other provinces……….poor, poor Jason, what will he do when all fails.

    being the good Christians they purport to be you’d think they might use the $30M to house and feed the poor, especially the children. oh, not that religious after all?

    Reply
  7. Keith McClary

    February 13th, 2020

    In their response they again dredge up “A 2014 study by IHS Markit using 2012 data”.

    Funny, they claim great improvements over the last few years, so why do they prefer this old data?

    Reply
  8. Murphy

    February 13th, 2020

    Somebody must have mis-collated the talking-point flash-cards. Right-wing duds seem to freely share the paltry deck from Ulster to Capetown to Caroline, but only in Alberta could they misplay the antisemitism wild card with such ineptitude. I wouldn’t use the New York Times for much beyond bird-cage liner or fish wrap due to it’s role in the promulgation of the heavy-duty propaganda of Imperial foreign policy, particularly as it relates to drugs, oil and war. The Times destroyed Gary Webb, who was absolutely spot-on about CIA dope-running. The Times sold the illegal conquest of Iraq in 2003. Previously the Times sold the Sandinista armada of Migs lie, and the lie about Sandinista cocaine trafficking. The times provided people like Leslie Gelb, Thomas Friedman and of course, Mossad asset Judith Miller, sinecures that would seem to rubbish the accusation of anti-semitism.
    https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/new-york-times-wants-gary-webb-stay-dead/
    https://fair.org/article/the-return-of-otto-reich/
    https://billmoyers.com/2014/06/27/the-first-iraq-war-was-also-sold-to-the-public-based-on-a-pack-of-lies/
    https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/Backchannels/2013/0318/Thomas-Friedman-Iraq-war-booster
    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2005/7/8/128888/-
    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2005/12/judith-miller-interrogator.html

    Reply
  9. Abs

    February 13th, 2020

    Perhaps Jason Nixon could put the War Room out of its misery. He’s somewhat of an expert in such matters, but he was busy yesterday, too, insulting First Nations leaders.

    As if to distract from the Tomfoolery, the other guy named Jason made his pixie dust and unicorn-bottom-belch remark yesterday. Because if calling out the New York Times doesn’t convince Wall Street to come to its senses, the gaiety and levity of fairy tales surely will. I would have preferred sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, but that’s just me.

    Reply
  10. Carlos Beca

    February 14th, 2020

    This government is an embarrassment and unfortunately a true reflection of part of our redneck population that seems to enjoy bullying and cheating as of a way to lead the province. The results are obvious and one wonders how far they are evangelically take this circus. In a time of crisis we are gambling with peoples lives and even the survival of future generations. Jason Kenney is deliberately taking the province into the 14th century evangelical paradise good only for the UCP elites. What a disturbing state of affairs

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    February 14th, 2020

    Well, I can keep this as succinct as possible here. The UCP’s War Room has outlived its uselessness, and is a $120 million disaster. Tom Olsen gets paid $195,000 per year, and for doing what? Things like this? For Albertans who (supposedly, based on the questions surrounding how the UCP got into power) voted for the UCP, you get what you deserve, and you deserve what you get!

    Reply

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