Re: “A Different Kind of Journalism,” by Paul Knox

The passage from Matthew Halton’s CBC broadcast on preparations for the 1942 battle of Alamein, which is analyzed in rhetorical terms by Paul Knox in his review of Dispatches from the Front: Matthew Halton, Canada’s Voice at War, David Halton’s brilliant biography of his father, also illustrates the fluidity of identity for at least some English Canadians up to the 1960s. There were no Canadian troops in North Africa, although in the British army were units from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Thus when Halton said “we may smash” the Germans or “we may lose, and see the destruction of our army and our power in the Middle East,” he was speaking of Britain and the British Empire, with which he assumed that his listeners associated.

Halton makes clear that Matthew Halton was not only a great anglophile but a left-wing believer in the imperial dream of a united commonwealth and empire as a force for good in the world. Whether or not he would eventually have returned to Canada after more than two decades in Britain is impossible to say, although his widow did 20 years after his death, as did their friend from the University of Alberta, Lovat Dickson, after spending over 30 years as a publisher in London.

Certainly Halton was well integrated into the journalistic and social life of London and earning a huge income from the BBC and British newspapers as well as the CBC and the Toronto Star. He was spared the necessity of resolving the contradictions of identity or lamenting the end of a British world by his early death during the 1956 Suez crisis, which precipitated the scramble for decolonization, British overtures to join Europe and the end of any chance of the commonwealth being a real international entity.

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