The King is Dead…

Rex Murphy took the dull, simple aria of white male grievance and turned it into operatic psychodrama.

It’s been SO LONG since I posted here—I thought I would take a mental health break, but ultimately decided to run with the crazy—I’m anxious, completely disoriented, and basically behaving like my IQ is in single digits.

I’m hunting and pecking at my laptop like I’m one of the billion monkeys who’s maybe randomly going to produce the works of Shakespeare or is maybe not going to. (When my morning banana break comes up, can I pick through your scalp hair? Feeling extra “snacky.”)

Seriously, it’s been since July 2023, and I can only imagine your mystified response to my alert email. “Oh, him? I thought he was dead!”

Now, don’t mistake me, will you, for the cold, stiff remains of Rex Murphy (Canada’s crushed up, diluted microdose of Tucker Carlson, by way of explanation), who died in Toronto on the 9th of May. And I want to reassure you about my good intentions here, which should last at least to the end of this paragraph.

I know that deep down, Rex, like you and I, was a human being, full of hopes and dreams, entitlement and rage. And I’m not one to speak ill of the dead, to visit calumny on a man’s personal legacy. Heavens to Betsy, that you could think otherwise!

The announcement of his passing was terse, mentioning just “cancer” as the cause. I imagine he may have suffered pain, and that is terrible. His family and friends will be in mourning, and on a personal level, I send my condolences. It is awful to lose a beloved family member or friend.

But, having sustained my good intentions this far, and thank god that bit’s out of the way, I’m not here to offer warm, fuzzy tales of Rex the Man. My stance on his journalistic, public persona as one of Canada’s best-known, though scarcely loved, political commentators—whose statements and avowed beliefs became increasingly reprehensible, misleading and toxic—is positively bristling with ill will and calumny.

Why? Because, like Rex, I’m old and tired and, unlike Rex, I’m sick of cutting great big sides of slack for men with platforms who wield even that little power to stir the pot, to hold out their prejudice and hate as shining examples to be emulated.

Their reckless opinions, read in mainstream publications, assume the mantle of veracity; their contempt for any life story that doesn’t mirror theirs makes life harder and more dangerous for those of us who haven’t had the life-long benefit of society’s red carpet, the soft huggy blanket and the puréed carrots. We live the truth these people lie about.

When the day arrives when someone like Rex Murphy comes up to me, puts a gentle-but-manly hand on my arm and asks, “Are you OK?”, then that will be the day I tone it down.

Hell, it might be the day I get married!

Moving along.

Rex Murphy, who hailed from Newfoundland, was in the public eye much of his life, starting with various radio gigs as a young man (so, actually, and I stand corrected, public ear), then as a conservative political candidate and even as a liberal for a couple of outings. Eventually he ended up becoming a fairly respected celebrity pundit at the CBC, which is Canadian for “consigned to oblivion”, and wrote a regular column for The Globe and Mail, our centre-right national mainstream paper.

All very buttoned-down stuff. But Rex, in his deepest soul, was not centre-right. He was right-right, and, as his career progressed, if that’s the word for plunging into the sea after your wings melt, right-off-the-map right.

True to his quirky Newfoundland roots, Rex had a colorful way of telling a story, and had always been renowned for his high-falutin’ vocabulary, for which I blame his time at Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. At its extremes this vocabulary rendered him unintelligible to your regular Joes, who, like unlettered serfs meeting their feudal lord of old, would bow and scrape, shake his hand, tip their caps, and marvel at how edifying it was to have had not at any time even an inkling of what he was talking about.

Murphy was one of those educated, socially conservative men whose conservatism dulls the edge of their intellect. (You can find them by the bus load in England.) They have little tolerance for change or what-ifs. Their brains, encountering radical ideas (gender fluidity, climate change) shut down instantly. Their reactions are utterly predictable.

It’s a strangely calcified, incurious attitude for a writer, more about validating your readers and stirring up moral panic than offering something new and thought-provoking.

Rex, like so many others of his demographic and time, believed what he needed to believe. The clash of those beliefs with new, emerging realities produced outrage. The ankle chains of his idiocy, his refusal to accept what he could not allow to be true, weighed down on his career, though he was never without a soapbox.

At one point, Murphy was on public broadcaster CBC’s “The National” (TV news) as a “freelancer”, allowed to make comments on current events however he liked, and simultaneously—one might say, schizophrenically—on CBC Radio One as a call-in host for “Cross Country CheckUp.” In that version of Rex, as an employee of the CBC, he was obliged to abide by CBC’s broadcast standards, which meant no opinions offered, strict impartiality, no appearance of conflict of interest, and staying out of public controversies.

Staying out of public controversies, however, was not the top skill on Murphy’s CV. For Rex, a rabid anti-environmentalist and climate change denier, was also a shill for the oil industry, commanding cushy fees for private engagements as fawning keynote speaker at oil, gas and mining industry events. Think SunCor, Esso, Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips, BP, Chevron.

Meanwhile, caught in a glaring conflict of interest that became increasingly untenable, Murphy was reporting favorably, on the CBC, about, for example, the economic benefits of the Alberta Oil Sands (fun fact: there aren’t any).

Having been let go by the Globe, he began writing regular columns for The National Post, which in terms of relative prestige was like being kicked out of a swanky bar at the Fairmont Royal York and having to continue your conversation with whoever’s in the parking lot.

Everyone breaking into a cold sweat and struggling for something nice to say about Rex during the last couple of days agrees on one thing: That Rex brought to the table a “gift of language”.

Once firmly ensconced at The National Post, post-CBC and post-Globe, Murphy’s gift of language brought forth a reliable stream of jeremiads passing for for political analysis; and rancorous temper tantrums substituting for wit.

The originality and intellectual rigor of these pot-boilers might bring to mind Uncle Herb at Christmas dinner, who rages that the gays have made everyone vegan and will soon be coming for your guns, once they’ve finished forcing vaccines on you and marrying their dogs.

(Just to put this puppy to bed once and for all: I know at most one or two gay friends who want to marry their dogs. And frankly, slippery slope or not, and it totally is, I don’t see the problem. If you think it’s wrong to marry a dog—then don’t marry a dog, Murgatroyd McGraw!)

Life for Rex, then, was pretty OK. Then that thing that happened in 2015 to every red-blooded, plaid-shirted, Real Canadian Man, white and hairless and heterosexual down to his toes, happened to Rex. He took one horrified look at newly-elected Justin Trudeau and knew in his heart that this could never, ever be.

Trudeau was not only pretty, and feminist—hard enough to take in a woman, utterly indefensible in a man — but popular (well, obviously, won the election) on account of his actual, practising liberalism-(ish), regular, comprehensible vocabulary, famous, beloved/hated father, and tendency to maintain a calm demeanour while working for things like gender parity and carbon offsets and nationwide survival of a pandemic.

(Please note: when I identify someone or something Canadian as “famous” I am using Mordecai Richler’s definition: “world famous in Canada.”)

Rex lost his cookies for good, and, with Trudeau-baiting now added to ice fishing and hockey as national pastimes, doubled down on the anti-Justin, “useless girly-man when he doesn’t do that thing, evil socialist dictator when he does do that thing” boondoggle.

Thus, like a life-long celibate whose tightly-closed buds suddenly explode under the grow-light of true love, another, newish Rex Murphy was born: one more disgruntled, aggrieved white guy, complaining that “nobody can say nuttin’ anymore”, “everyone’s been cancelled”, “I can’t define woke but I know it when I see it” and desperate to the point of self parody. Because surely we could never have enough of those!

Have a taste of one of his columns, written for the execrable Epoch Times (who must have wet their collective pants at all the three-syllable words), where he is describing his understanding of the word “elite” as it applies to progressives:

“… the self-assured, obediently conformist, and at best strivingly mediocre social activists and politicians who rabbit on about picnic forks and cricket sandwiches, and how men are women, the multiple “deaths” of the Great Barrier Reef (it is nature’s Lazarus), and who glue their stupid hands to the world’s art treasures, listen without permanent trauma to Rachel Maddow, and be-blossom their twitter feeds with a train of unheard-of, clatter-to-the-ear of “my pronouns are” unpronounceable and hideous neologisms. “Zir, I resent your cisheteronormative presence in my safe space and your erasing of my blue-haired non-binary occasionally pansexual self.” You’ve heard them. They are also, to a man-woman of them, very staunch on bike lanes in big cities-a sure sign of cognitive difficulty. …”

Be-blossom my butt cheeks! If this is political commentary, then I’m twenty-five Liza Minnelli’s, before rehab. (He writes, in fact, like a dry alcoholic, which is what he was, having given up drinking through a pact with a friend.)

You know, and can I just say, seriously. What an incoherent, rambling crock pot of cliché conservative talking points. It’s all there: the pretense of incomprehension of something that doesn’t exist, “picnic forks and cricket sandwiches”, whatever that means; the absolute disdain for any gender expression that’s not strictly binary, the scoffing at and minimizing of climate change and global warming science; a quick impulse purchase at the misogyny concession—you could have predicted it would be Rachel Maddow—an extra helping of gender ridicule, and finally—the Bike Lanes Thing. WTF?

Seriously. Conservatives could be waging nuclear war on Toronto while beheading trans people on Parliament Hill, and they’d still find the time to work in something about bike lanes. Catering to bicycles proves, I guess, how wokeness has infiltrated society at a well-nigh molecular level. It’s the cherry and sprinkles on top of the outrage sundae of woke.

And the harping on “man-woman”! He just can’t get over it! This is not an original POV; in fact it’s standard issue conservative—and he calls liberals conformist!

Conservatives are so deeply, inexplicably offended by trans persons, it almost frustrates me that I contentedly identify as a gay male, so terribly do I wish I could transition to female, opting out of bottom surgery—a decision which I would discuss publicly—announce I was Lesbian, just to annoy the living crap out of them, then take pictures of the look on their faces.

(In the absurd scenario assumed by transphobic right-wingers, I would “just wake up one morning and decide I’m a woman”. This bone-headed description of gender dysphoria, however, is not actually what happens, in case you were wondering.)

Racism, too, evoked just the reactions you would expect from Rex. He was offended by the idea that Canada’s systematic erasure plus torture of our First Nations people from 1867 onwards was anything like genocide. (What was it, then, Rex? Thanksgiving?) And we couldn’t be getting on with business as usual without at least one white man telling everyone that Black people have it just fine in Canada—and I ask you, who would be better equipped to know?

After the sickening, publicly broadcast murder of George Floyd, and with Rex searching frantically for a way to put his pants on over his head, he publicly scoffed at allusions to anti-Black racism in Canada, a position so appallingly insensitive and out of tune that The National Post (!) felt compelled to preface the column with a notice that it did not meet Post standards. (And surprised as anyone, here, to learn that the National Post has standards.)

This is like the National Enquirer apologizing for saying two-headed Hillary was enjoying intercourse with space aliens because it was unfair to space aliens.

Rex Murphy, once he’d drunk the entire pitcher of right-wing-nut-job-ism Kool-Aid, marched proudly with the hand-wringing, “anti-wokeism” brigade, which made his public man-crushes on guys like Pierre Poilievre and Jordan Peterson less staid and professional, more “I’m just here for the blow-jobs” chummy.

It’s not nothing, to have had a national platform, to have been associated with the CBC and the Globe and Mail, which gave undeserved authority to his bilious, fact-free diatribes, opinions masquerading as truth. Taking policies he disagreed with as an existential affront, charging into the manosphere, he fueled the engine of misinformation, surfacing the anger and divisiveness which flourishes like zebra mussels in that dank eco-system.

It surely is unnecessary to confirm, but I will anyway, that the mere mention of Justin Trudeau set Murphy off like a fire alarm; set him reeling and writhing and fainting in coils—and yes, Lewis Carroll gave me permission—in operatic spasms of projected self-loathing in which he sought to redistribute the harm on the body politic that he himself caused, an intense, syntactic rewiring of blame:

“…[Trudeau] has no moral force to exert, he has no high presence in the world’s leadership, his flighty antics and frequent displays of incompetence have left him an isolate on the world platform. Essentially, his sad record internationally, his unintellectuality (his mind is not overclouded with ideas) and the obsessional tie to global warming fantasies (serious leaders may mouth the words these days, but the global warming juggernaut is bogged down) have combined to place him outside the adults who do rule the nations of the world. He is no one’s wise man…”

Poor, gormless Rex.

Messages of condolence had colleagues tip-toeing around Murphy’s mind-numbing logorrhea and wearying vitriol in an effort to sound positive:

“When Rex had something to say, he knew exactly what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it…”

“(His) quick wit and mastery of words were unmatched, and his presence was significant — whether or not everyone always agreed…”

“You might not agree with what Rex had to say, but oh, boy, could he ever say it…”

It’s like when you go to see your best friend in her first community theatre production, then dutifully go backstage to say, “Well, Doreen, how about that, eh? I never knew you had it in ya!”

Still. Which of us poor frail humans will do better? Let’s just say goodbye:

“Rex! Rex!! Listen to me: You’re dead! St Peter’s looking fabulous in full hair and make-up, and all the angelic company of murdered trans women are waiting to — don’t worry, Rex, it’s all love from here on in! All love, baby. Now, follow the light, and don’t look back…!”



Tell us what you think. Keep it civil, yet interesting.