>Watching TV

>So it’s been 5 days since the G20 summit wrapped up in Toronto. Does anyone remember what that was all about?

Last Saturday I switched on my television to be greeted by a live image I had never thought possible on the streets of my city. “Toronto the Good”, as the city likes to think of itself is known for its tolerance and multiculturalism. But last week I watched in horror and disbelief while a group of self-described anarchists ran wild and largely unchecked through the financial district, smashing windows at the nation’s top banks while a police car, parked in the middle of the intersection burned out of control. The images were streamed live over the internet and reprinted the next day on the front page of every major newspaper from New York to Mumbai.

Canadians often lament that the world ignores us tucked away up here on top of the giant and much more influential United States. Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once described our relationship to our neighbours as that of a mouse in bed with an elephant. To be honest, most of us like it that way. We’re quiet and unassuming by nature which makes those moments when the world does take notice all the more meaningful. Remember the Vancouver Olympics? But when the attention is negative, as it was last week the national embarrassment can be palpable.

For the last 5 days the story of the G20 has been all about that burning car. While world leaders were meeting just a few blocks away, making deals and pronouncements about such weighty issues as economic growth, international security and the health and welfare of women and children living in poverty the only story that seemed important (sensational?) enough to be shown on television was the fact that a few thugs decided to take over our streets in protest.

What should have been a story of Canada’s arrival on the world stage, while we brokered deals on deficit reduction and banking laws and committed billions of dollars to aid maternal health in Africa, is now a story about police brutality and the stifling of free speech. What exactly where the protests all about? Nobody knows. At least nobody is saying. To hear the media tell it, and the images on my television screen seem to back it up, the entire story is about the conduct of police.

In his 1973 novel, “Gravity’s Rainbow” author Thomas Pynchon wrote; “If they get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.” While I’m sure the quote is out of context this is pretty much how I feel about the media, the riots and the recent G20 meetings. Not only are we asking the wrong questions, nobody seems to care about the answers.

It used to be media’s job not only to show us what was happening but to explain what it meant. Today, in our culture of near limitless choice and competing platforms, media has abdicated that responsibility in favour of sensationalism designed to grab and hold our attention for as long as possible, or at least until the next commercial break. Gone are the days of long and detailed editorials that can engage the public’s thinking and affect real change.

At one point, while watching the riots un-fold I saw a banner in the crowd, which stated simply “Capitalism Sucks!” Really? Did you grow and weave the cotton for that bed sheet yourself? It was at that point that I knew the opportunity for intelligent discourse was lost, even if the author of that banner understood the real issues they didn’t have the ability to express themselves beyond a banal and meaningless invective. I found myself wondering aloud to my empty living room “where have all the smart people gone?” They certainly weren’t on my television that day.

This is the Art of Re-direction at its best or worst depending on how you look at it. David Copperfield beware, you’ve got nothing on the news media. The politicians know this and they count on it. How many of the protesters realize that they were actually playing right into everyone’s hands?

Torch a police car and suddenly nothing else matters. The politicians can make all the back room, closed door deals they want while the people are mesmerized watching the fire.


  1. >"Torch a police car and suddenly nothing else matters. The politicians can make all the back room, closed door deals they want while the people are mesmerized watching the fire."Ok, so you don't think lighting cop cars on fire is intelligent. How do you feel about non-violent protesters, journalists and citizens being (randomly) grabbed, beaten and/or detained?

  2. >I admire people that feel that strong about anything. However, when they resort to ridiculously violent behavior, they steal the show away from the thousands of peaceful protesters that were quietly exercising their freedom to protest.If those violent people feel so strongly about issues, I would hope that they would go find another country to live in.I also am fed up with the news media that plays up to these idiots. They are supposed to be reporting the news, not who can protest the most violently. This style of reporting encourages more violent behaviour, as they, the perps, know they can get national attention.Ignore them. Jail them. Deport them (if possible), but don't encourage them.

  3. >The ironic part about those G20 protestors is that they claim to be anarchists (no government) but are really communist agitants. They adhere to the belief that you have to bring down a developed capitalist economy in order for communism to be successful. The G8 and G20 nations are the preferred choices for such a revolution to have the most impact.

  4. >Most of the people who protest against G8, G20 and similar meetings have valid points to make, but then some of them commit violent acts, promoting an anti-capitalist, pro socialist agenda, the police responds with misdirected repression, and all the good the serious protesters wanted to do goes to waste.I am sure at the G20 meeting there were valid issues being discussed. Likewise I heard in Democracy Now a speech from a counter meeting in which a lady presented valid, thought provoking ideas, yet the attention of the world was on the violent acts. Of course, those who are in power, or better yet, behind those in power (the puppeteers) like it that way. The violence grabs the attention of the people and they get away with murder…

  5. >Don't take it too personally Lauren. I can't remember the last G8 or G20 that didn't have some nutty protesters. Canada didn't really do that bad of a job controlling it given the circumstances.I can't condone the violence and anarchy, but in part I think I understand it. Just ask the right questions.How did it get this crazy? Intense frustration. Unhappiness. A feeling of powerlessness. A feeling that nothing is changing, or it's only getting worse. A feeling like no one is listening, and no one cares. No one of significance anyway. Enter the G20, a global news media bonanza. A way to be heard. But there are so many other protesters there too, and with different messages. The message is drown out among the other cries. Suddenly all that matters is being heard. And to be heard, you've got to make some noise. The message gets down out in all of the noise, but the adrenalin is flowing and the cameras are rolling. You are being heard. Should they even bother covering the protesters in the media? It does suck to have 5 days of coverage of a burning car, and there is no doubt that it distracts from the progress (or lack thereof) of the actual meeting, as you and others have suggested. However, I don't think that it is completely without benefit for a few reasons.First, it is somewhat a measure of the general state of happiness of the people, although it could easily be argued that these guys are on the extreme ends of the Bell curve.Second, it is a reminder that even on the more tedious of government policies, there are passionate voices.Third, it is a grim reminder of how passionately held beliefs mixed with desperate situations yield volatile consequences. In the interest of everyone's safety, that is a lesson which we cannot afford to forget.But I must say that 5 days of a burning car is really excessive. 🙂

  6. >I tend not to take things personally WF. As a pacifist I abhore violence of all kinds. My point is that all this is nothing but noise and the message is NOT getting out. All we are seeing is violent protest with nothing of real substance. In order to get your message out you have to speak it. But this kind of violent protest is a kin to child's temper tantrum. As my sister, the former nursery school teacher used to say, "use your words".

  7. >Just as ironic as the anarchists being communists is the fact that the socialist hubs of the last century have enjoyed a free ride off of capitalist allies. Could Europe or S.America or to a lesser extent Canada afford to have gone off the deep end without the USA paying for their defense? Now that America has run out of money and has started withdrawing it's defensive capabilities from Europe, "austerity" measures are needed. I don't like the "croney" capitalism that favors big corporations over small businesses that the las 4 US administrations have favored. However, socialism is the ultimate end of croney capitalism where the government is the have all, end all and be all of life. The nanny government decides what businesses live or die. Ultimately, every time socialist states get cast off on it's own (like Nazi Germany, Russia and more recently the EU), it collapses. America is now in decline because (ultimately) religious and (resultingly) economic freedom freedom has been cast aside.

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