By Frank Moher
It’s not at all a bad thing that CBC loudmouths Don Cherry and Kevin O’Leary have agitated some viewers lately, Cherry with his rant against former NHL enforcers who have come out against violence in hockey, and O’Leary with his interview of American journalist Chris Hedges, in which he told the Pulitzer Prize-winner “you sound like a left-wing nutbar” (to which Hedges replied “I don’t usually go on shows where people descend to character assassination”). The CBC has been at pains for some time now — roughly since Stephen Harper came to power — to demonstrate that it can dish-up right-wing opinion with just as much zeal as Fox News, and, servile as that may be, it has at least resulted in a welcome new pithiness at the MotherCorp.
However, while Cherry’s a clown, O’Leary’s just a clown act. You can tell that Grapes, for all his showboating and blowing of somebody’s budget on rococo suits (does the CBC pay for those things? Maybe we should shut it down), is genuine in his celebration of violence, whether from players on the ice or soldiers in Afghanistan. O’Leary, on the other hand, seems to be engaged in a branding exercise. His tired “greed-is-good” routine, which he trots out on both “Dragon’s Den” and, as with the Hedges incident, “The Lang and O’Leary Exchange,” is so calculated to offend stolid Canadian values that the CBC ought to add a glint to his smile and give him a moustache to twirl. It’s plain he thinks he’s remaking Canada in his own, Michael Douglas-without-a-toupee style, one rube at a time.
Both men are pursuing agendas with the potential to do harm. Indeed, decades of hockey violence have already left a lot of players brain-damaged, as a very good segment of “The National” demonstrated the other night. And the current Occupy Wall Street movement, not to mention the entire American economy, shows you where greed gets you. But that’s free speech for you; even dimbulbs have a right to it.
But while Cherry’s an institution, and thus untouchable, O’Leary’s preaching to a rapidly diminishing cohort. The CBC ought to get rid of him, not because his views offend some people, but because they’re so painfully stale-dated, and he delivers them about as convincingly as an informercial. If we want to wallow in ’80s nostalgia, we can always download a copy of Wall Street.