Maybe it's because Jean Charest knows that a lot of Quebecers blame him rather than Maclean's for the magazine's cover story calling Quebec "the most corrupt province in Canada." But his letter to the magazine demanding an apology is a half-hearted gesture.
His office didn't even mention the letter until yesterday, three days after it was sent, and then only when journalists asked whether one had been sent.
The belated publication of Charest's letter makes him the last to join -chorus of federal and provincial politicians publicly blaming Maclean's for "Quebec-bashing."
The phrase doesn't appear in the text of his letter, but
his deputy premier, Nathalie Normandeau, is among those who have used it to describe the magazine's cover story on Quebec.
The phrase "Quebec-bashing" has been used since the late 1980s to describe attacks on this province and its people such as the one in Maclean's.
Reflecting its own biases, ideological and otherwise,
the magazine blames recent allegations of scandal here (mostly still unproven) on the sovereignty movement, interventionist government, and culture.
Its case was reminiscent of the one made in pseudo-"studies" on the decline of French in Quebec in which the conclusions are reached first, followed by the research, which ignores evidence to the contrary.
But the charge of "Quebecbashing" relieves the ignorant or the intellectually lazy of the need to address the substance of criticism. It is enough to utter the phrase to end debate.
And just as Samuel Johnson said of patriotism, in Quebec it has become the last refuge of the scoundrel.
The accusation can be used by politicians on the defensive to counterattack and to intimidate critics into silence.
When Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois used it recently against the National Post after it criticized PQ MNA Pierre Curzi for his conspiracy theory about the Montreal Canadiens, the implication was that further criticism from within Quebec would be disloyal.
Usually, the charge of "Quebec-bashing" is used to dismiss criticism from "outsiders" -that is, people outside of French Quebec. It was recently aimed at film director Jacob Tierney, a bilingual Montreal anglophone, after he said Quebec cinema does not reflect the province's diversity, a statement with which few of his attackers disagreed.
The accusation can also be used, however, to discredit the opinions of even Frenchspeaking Quebecers by, in effect, declaring them to be outsiders.
The president of the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal used it two years ago against the chairmen of the Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accommodation to dismiss their report.
And Finance Minister Raymond Bachand used it last April against Conservative MP Maxime Bernier to reject his criticism of the Quebec government's policies.
Although the charge of "Quebec-bashing" is used by federalists, it has mostly benefited sovereignists when criticism of them by English-Canadians have been interpreted as an attack on French Quebec as a whole.
When the province's media described criticism of the Bloc Quebecois-supported federal coalition as "Quebecbashing" during the 2008 provincial election campaign, it helped the PQ get out its vote and almost win the election.
And if the English-language mainstream media won't provide material in their stories, the bigotry in the unmoderated comments sections of their websites will do.
That's what Marois used for the basis of an accusation of "Quebec-bashing" last February during the controversy over the lack of French in the Vancouver Olympics opening ceremony.
"Give me a half-dozen Ontarians who put their feet to the Quebec flag, and I've got it," said Jacques Parizeau before the 1995 referendum.
From their near-defeat in that vote, federalist politicians learned not to risk disappointing Quebec by going all-in at the constitutional poker table again.
But the free press isn't so disciplined. And that's where sovereignists are looking now for new "humiliations" of Quebec.
dmacpherson d3C montrealgazette.com
The charge of 'Quebec-bashing' has a long history
Politicians often use it as a ploy to dismiss criticism from non-Quebecers