First, a few kind words about Neil Young.
I like some of his music, if not so much his singing. He hasn’t been afraid to write politically aware songs, which is so refreshing in a world where 90 per cent of songs are silly love songs. I even have some admiration for celebrities who take a stand, except when they are wrong or just plain stupid. (Example: Jenny McCarthy, minor league celebrity, blaming vaccines for causing autism. A damaging dumbass.)
But Neil, you’ve lost it with the oil sands protest.
As you’ve no doubt heard, Young has launched a full-frontal attack on the oil (or tar, depending on your point of view) sands. He has organized a series of concerts, where all the money will go to towards the Athabasca Chipeyan First Nation Legal Fund. (Also on the tour with him is sultry Canadian jazz singer Diana Krall. Talk about mixing oil and water.)
At a media event Sunday, Young had this to say about Stephen Harper:
“Canada is trading integrity for money. That’s what’s happening under the current leadership in Canada, which is a very poor imitation of the George Bush administration in the United States and is lagging behind on the world stage. It’s an embarrassment to any Canadians.”
Right on, brother. A little overstated, but not by much.
But Young stood by his earlier comments about Fort McMurray, where he said:
“The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima. Fort McMurray is a wasteland.”
Neil, Neil, Neil. All it takes is one really stupid exaggeration to wreck your credibility.
Of course, Fort McMurray doesn’t look anything like Hiroshima, either before or after the nuclear bomb. Young’s colossally stupid comment was made because either he knew that the Fort Mac/Hiroshima comparison would make the headlines (which it did), or because he is colossally stupid. I’m leaning towards Young being smart enough to say something stupid.
In an interview with CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi — where the normally astute interviewer seemed to be so in awe of Young he didn’t challenge him at all — Young stood by his comments, but he called it a “metaphor”.
I’m no grammarian, but I believe a metaphor is “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable”. Since he is comparing one city to another, the Fort Mac/Hiroshima comparison is literal, not metaphorical.
Young also said that the oilsands spew C02 into the atmosphere at a rate equal to every car in Canada every day (I can’t find any reference to this claim anywhere), and that you can smell fuel in the air in Fort Mac (I’ve been there twice, and never noticed a fuel stench, but maybe Young’s sense of smell is more acute than mine). He said Fort Mac is a town “occupied” by Big Oil, when in reality it exists entirely because of Big Oil.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m no fan of the oil industry. I’ve felt for years that Alberta is a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Oil, and I’ve always found Alberta’s pride in the oil industry to be misplaced, if not insufferable. Young has a point about the oilsands, but his credibility vanished with his Fort Mac/Hiroshima comparison.