Panel tonight focuses on the media, the military and the public

How have public perceptions of the military in general and the Canadian Forces in particular changed since 9-11 and what role have the media and popular culture played in this? Experts in fields ranging from the military to foreign reporting to pop culture will debate those questions today in a panel discussion organized by the York Centre for International & Security Studies (YCISS).

The discussion will be chaired by Martin Shadwick, course director in the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York University.

Participating in the panel discussion are:

Jeff Sallot (right), formerly a Globe and Mail reporter and now instructor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism & Communication, will present “The Road to Kandahar”. Sallot will talk about the 1993 torture and killing of Somalian teenager Shidane Arone by members of the Canadian Forces. The murder led to a full-blown public commission of inquiry into what is one of the greatest scandals in the history of the Canadian military. Their image rehabilitated, members of the Canadian Forces are now serving on a dangerous mission in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.   

Greg Nelson (left), co-creator and head writer for the CBC Radio drama “Afghanada”, will talk about the about the challenges of presenting military characters and stories to the public – how the creators strove to step away from the public policy debate and grapple instead with what the reality is for Canadian soldiers on the ground in Kandahar Province. The CBC Radio drama series “Afghanada” has run for over 50 episodes and continues this fall. Nelson is currently a writer and producer for the CBC television series “The Border”.

Professor Steve Lukits (right), head of the Department of English at the Royal Military College of Canada, will present “Their’s but to do and die: Victorian Origins of Public Sympathy for the Combat Soldier in the News and Popular Culture”. In his presentation, Lukits will discuss the disastrous charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War, the journalistic commentary and report of the event, Alfred Tennyson’s poetic response to the event and how all combine in a paradigmatic manner to define news coverage and mass media representation of the military. 

Contributing to the discussion is Wendy Cukier, associate dean of the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University and an international expert on armed violence, and Lieutenant-Commander John Williston, senior adviser of strategic planning to the assistant deputy minister of public affairs, Department of National Defence.

Also participating is Professor Christopher Dornan, the associate dean of the Faculty of Public Affairs and director of the Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs at Carleton University. His presentation, “Unknown Soldiers: The Relative Absence of the Military in Canadian Popular Culture”, examines why Canadian popular culture all but ignores the military as a dramatic tope,  in contrast to the US, where the armed forces are a prominent subject for prime-time television and feature films.

This event takes place tonight from 6 to 8pm at the Toronto Downtown Marriot Hotel, Eaton Centre. Seating is limited. For more information on this panel and other events, visit the York Centre for International & Security Studies Web site.