Media File

Breaking down the trends and rebels of today’s media landscape in Montreal and beyond.

  • Interpreting Marco Rubio at GOP Debates: What He Really Means

    • Graphic Madeleine Gendreau

    Of all the words Senator Marco Rubio could have used to open the second round of the second Republican debate, “aware” was probably the worst.

    “I’m aware,” said Rubio, revealing a tiny plastic bottle behind his pulpit, “that California has a drought right now. That’s why I made sure I brought my own water.” The Californian audience did not laugh; apparently, Rubio was not aware.

    Later, when asked whether he would institute an “insurance policy” for the economy, just like Reagan did, just in case climate change was real, Rubio blew off the idea.

    “We’re not going to destroy our economy,” said Rubio.

    “[These policies] will not stop the rise of the sea. They will not cure the drought here in California. What they will do is make America a more expensive place to create jobs. And today, with millions of people struggling pay cheque-to-pay cheque, I am not in favour of anything that is going to make it harder for them to raise their families.”

    This from someone who said—just over an hour earlier—that America must engage with the world, that isolationism was dangerous. “Protecting Americans is the #1 priority of the President,” he said.

    At the risk of sounding petulant, jobs don’t exist without food. Economies don’t exist without roads, cities, or land. Building infrastructure to protect Americans from rising sea levels won’t hurt Americans, yo. How exactly would ending a drought make job creation in California more expensive? Rubio wants to help pay cheque-to-pay cheque Americans? I guess he means the pay cheque-to-pay cheque Americans who won’t find it harder to raise their families when their homes are destroyed. That’s not hyperbole. Hurricane Sandy cost $75 billion, Hurricane Katrina $108 billion. As a Senator from Florida—a state with everything to lose—you’d think Rubio would be more aware.

    I can’t make sense of the man. He’s running on a platform of responsible leadership but thinks that if America can’t solve a problem alone, the problem can’t be solved. If “America is a country, not a planet,” then America is just another soldier in the war on climate change. But these Republicans who abhor freeloading are content to let the rest of the world fight for them, apparently. Cut the shit and pick up your rifle, Marco.

    You know, this was supposed to be fun. I was going to explain some silly quotes and have a laugh. When Trump said, “I’ve seen a beautiful child; [he] went to have the vaccine. A week later got a tremendous fever, got very very sick, now he’s autistic,” I was going to write what he really meant: “Smiling Poo Emoji.”

    Or how Trump’s “I’ll take care of women. I respect women… I would like to get back to the Iran situation,” actually meant: “Please don’t remember when I was accused of marital rape. Now back to discussing uranium RODS and nuclear MISSILES and wrinkly white PENISES.”

    But then I found my Rubio notes.

    I can laugh about the stupidity, recklessness, and cruelty, because I have the privilege of distance, because policy fuckups can always be fixed later. But the environment is permanent. It’s not getting fixed. We’re stuck with it.

    I want my future children to have same luxuries that I have: spending six straight hours watching a nauseating debate, twice, until 3:30 a.m. For that to happen, we need to take things a little more seriously. We need to elect people who respect us enough to make sense. We need to elect people who are aware. It’s a shame there are so few.

  • The Greek media’s pre-referendum propaganda and why it failed

    The way several major Greek television stations covered the days preceding Greece’s referendum on July 5 is now under scrutiny of the law.

    The District Attorney of Athens has begun conducting preliminary investigations following the public placement of SYRIZA, a Greek left wing political party. Several private complaints denounce the way the media handled the referendum issue citing violations of the electoral legislation.

    After these incidents, the Crown prosecutor is obliged to investigate the complaints, namely whether the way these television stations covered last week’s developments violated election laws.

    On top of that, after receiving numerous complaints from viewers, the Greek National Council for Radio and Television is examining all facts before proceeding to any legal action.

    Nine journalists will be at the disciplinary board of the Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers to have their ethics and journalistic code of conduct studied in light of their pre-referendum reporting. In addition, the board will also investigate a new case opened by the founder of the party “Independent Greeks,” Panos Kammenos. He presented a list of journalists who received immense amounts of money in the past five years, questioning whether it was intended for bribery or commercial purposes.

    The referendum question posed by Greece’s prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, was, “Do you accept the outline of the agreement submitted by the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund at the Eurogroup meeting on June 25?” In simpler words, “Do you accept the proposals of Greece’s creditors, which the government has rejected, yes or no?’

    If voters accepted the terms (NAI), new austerity measures would be imposed, such as heavier taxes, more cutbacks in pensions and salaries etc. If they rejected the creditors’ terms (OXI), the government would have to renegotiate its debt and seek new solutions to heal Greece’s bleeding economy.

    In theory, the referendum question didn’t sound so complicated. So why was the majority of the population confused as to what a “yes” or “no” vote represented? That’s where the media’s confusing role began.

    Several moments after Tsipras announced the referendum late at night on June 26, it was as if the world stopped and nothing else mattered for the Greek media. The only issue on television newscasts, was the referendum of July 5.

    One would think it is normal for a matter of such national importance to consume the majority of television time. People would have to understand what they were voting for and what to expect depending on their choice. Here’s the trick though: what happens when the media, instead of simplifying a decisive question like this, makes it even more complicated – not to mention misleading?

    The proposals made to the Greek government and rejected afterwards, were available online through the official site of the referendum. Internet access however, does not imply an understanding of the terms in order to make a wise choice between “yes” or “no”.

    Not everyone has the education to understand such technical documents not to mention the time or accessibility. What about the people who live in rural villages or the elderly?

    Until the day of the referendum, the major privately-owned Greek television stations gave a recital of terror. Exaggerated scenarios of the aftermath of a “No” vote prevailed, including an exit from the euro and therefore exit from the Eurozone, which would result in deeper poverty. The “experts” who appeared in newscasts and verified such scenarios were politicians of the two major parties—Nea Democratia (right wing party) and PASOK (socialist party). They had governed Greece in the past seven years and had made agreements with the IMF that led to today’s enormous debt.

    The referendum question was translated and perceived as “Do you want to remain in the Eurozone, yes or no?” Even the gatherings that favorite the “Yes” vote, bore the name We remain in Europe.

    Within the first days of the announcement of the referendum, people rushed to the ATMs to withdraw their money in fear they would lose it all in case Greece got kicked out of the Eurozone. The frenzy was so intense that the Capital Controls system had to be imposed to prevent the global market from crashing.

    The long lines of people in front of the ATMs waiting to withdraw the €60 limit that was allowed, were a gift for the media—it was constantly shown in every newscast. To enhance the scenario of poverty and to imprint in the viewer’s mind that a “No” would be disastrous, the news showed images of people lining in super markets and gas stations in order to stock up, as if they were preparing for war.

    As the date of the referendum approached, polls showed a tight battle between the “yes” and “no” sides. Still, halfway through the vote count on July 5, the results of the referendum showed a clear victory for “no.”

    With 62.5 percent of Greece’s population rushing to the ballots, 61.31 percent voted “no” and 38.69 percent voted “yes”. Soon after the results, Greece’s former prime minister, Antonis Samaras, resigned as leader of the Nea Democratia party that had campaigned for the “yes” vote.

    There are several reasons why the propaganda aired by Greek television stations failed to recruit more voters for the “yes” campaign. A close look on voter demographics of the “no” vote show that the average age was between 18 and 24 years old—most of them students.

    With the Greek youth facing an unclear future—and with the majority of them fleeing abroad in pursuit of better living conditions—they were expected to participate in an immediate decision that would define their lives.

    New age groups bring new tendencies—that was obvious in Greece’s most recent national elections when the SYRIZA left-wing government came to power.

    Another look at these demographics show that the majority of the “no” voters are unemployed and face financial difficulty. By accepting the new austerity measures, these social groups would be the ones to suffer immediately. By rejecting the terms and proceeding to new discussions, no one knows what the outcome would be.

    Fear did not work in this case, and these social groups played by the motto “When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.” In addition, more than 90 percent of the “no” voters welcomed the referendum as a process, perceiving it as an immediate democratic decision where their voice would be heard.

    Social media also played a crucial role before and during the referendum voting. Since the majority of the voters were young, the next, if not the first news source after television is the internet. Using hashtags such #Greferendum, #Greecereferendum, #OXI and so on, the audience had accessibility in any post, tweet, video and photo from any corner of the world regarding the referendum.

    A good example is a recent video from RT, which shows how the #OXI (“no”) vote exploded on the Twittersphere. Citizen journalism took over. People on social media denounced major Greek media when they cut off the air any opposing position to the “yes” vote and gave more coverage time to their rallies.

    For instance, a video shows a reporter gently pushing a pensioner away from the camera who was in an ATM line while saying, “This country has some people who are fighting to put a stop to the suicide rates and the devastation.”

    Other examples include a particular media station using an archive image of 2012 from South Africa, presenting it as a visual from an ATM line in Greece after the Capital Controls system was imposed.

    Another newspaper photoshopped in its front-page an image of an old man from an earthquake in 1999 in Turkey. The caption read, “Agony for a few euro: they are gambling with the anguish of the pensioners,” under the headline, “Survival guide during Capital Control.”

    As the situation develops in Greece, more and more hashtags emerge to help connect the information and spread it across the globe. The most recent, #ThisACoup, became the second trending hashtag globally along with #TsiprasLeaveEUSummit, in order to protest the unfair treatment and negotiations the European Summit is forcing the Tsipras government to adopt.

  • Francine on Feminism: Journalist Analyzes Polytechnique Shooting

    It’s been just over 25 years since the massacre that shook Quebec to its core. The shooting at Ecole Polytechnique, which left 14 women dead, raised urgent questions about the state of feminism. Two and a half decades after this volatile act of violence against women, how much progress has been made?

    The question was addressed at this year’s Readers Digest Lecture, “Breaking the Silence After École Polytechnique: Women, Violence, and Media.” The talk was held at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business on Friday.

    The keynote speaker was Francine Pelletier, a Montreal-based journalist who co-founded the feminist newspaper, La Vie En Rose.

    The Polytechnique shooting, carried out by Marc Lepine, occurred on Dec. 6, 1989. The day represents a milestone for feminism, according to Pelletier. The event brought to light the issue of violence against women in the most extreme fashion.

    “Nothing this horrible had ever happened here before, and never before, in the long history of mass killings, had women been singled out,” Pelletier said. “And I stress, singled out.”

    In one of the day’s most brutal moments, Lepine entered a classroom, told all the men to leave, and then proceeded to gun down nine female students, six of whom died. Before he opened fire, he explicitly told them he “hates feminists.”

    Equally disturbing was the media coverage of the shooting, and the hesitancy among some news outlets to label the massacre as violence against women.

    “The essence of what happened that night, the fact that women were being murdered because they were women, was ignored and obscured,” Pelletier said. “The closer you were to the event, the greater the denial. But denial there was.”

    According to Pelletier, there was a very noticeable difference between French and English media coverage. She mentioned that a Quebec City publication, Le Soleil, didn’t just ignore the sexist motivation behind the massacre, but stated that the killings “had nothing to do with women.”

    It took 10 years for the city of Montreal to build a commemorative space for the 14 women, she said.

    “And 25 years before there was a collective reckoning, before we all agreed, from the police chief down, that this indeed had been a crime against women,” she continued.

    “The fact that it took such a long time to admit the obvious is a sign, I think, that despite visible progress, the last 25 years have not been that kind to women,” she said.

    Pelletier brought into question many other issues pertaining to gender inequality. She asked why, despite soaring academic success, women still make less money in the professional world than men?

    She attributed this to two major obstacles: violence and hypersexualization. Both of these issues contribute to worldwide sexism, which reinforces the wage gap phenomenon.

    The Jian Ghomeshi affair “blew the lid” open concerning violence against women, according to Pelletier. More and more people have chosen to come forward about their experiences with violent sexual abuse since the former “Q” host’s exposure.

    While the Ghomeshi scandal unfolded, Sue Montgomery, a former reporter at the Montreal Gazette, along with Antonia Zerbisias from the Toronto Star, created the hashtag, “#BeenRapedNeverReported.” Within 48 hours of its creation, there were over 8 million tweets that acted as “mini confessions of sexual abuse.”

    In regards to hypersexualization, Pelletier cited a Princeton study that discovered that anyone, be it man or woman, that is exposed to a naked person will automatically perceive that person to be less “human.”

    “The more naked the person, the less we perceive that person as having emotions, intelligence and ethics,” she said.

    Hypersexualization is partly due to second wave feminism, according to Pelletier.

    She conducted her own study on the subject, where she discovered that most women believe that being sexually assertive contributes to feminism. Results of the same study concluded that men disagree with that notion and do not think that hypersexualization is liberating.

    Despite some discouraging facts, Pelletier is still content that feminism is back on the rise.

    “It’s acknowledging that we’re not there yet, much more has to be done, and hell yes,” she said, “we’re ready to go the extra mile.”

  • From the March to the Kettle: An Inside Perspective of the Anti-Police Brutality Protest

    Around 150 protesters came together outside of Berri-UQAM Metro to protest against the lack of police accountability on Sunday.

    They carried large banners and signs sporting familiar slogans. In many ways, the protesters were entirely average: mainly white locals, students, some older folks and a ton of press. The thing that set this protest apart from your average Montreal peaceful demonstration was the police.

    They were everywhere. On horseback, in riot gear, wearing black aviators behind their riot masks, clutching their shields and huge teargas blasters as they marched in lockstep and lined the streets. Dozens of cruisers circled the block and barricaded exits. Two choppers, emblazoned with the SPVM logo, hovered just above them.

    This was the Anti-Police Brutality March, and the entire city seemed to have been waiting for it. In the looming shadow of the student strike, which brought the city to a grinding halt just three years ago, tension has only been growing between civilians and the police in recent months, seemingly coming to a head with Friday night’s discovery of a pig’s decapitated head in the centre of a pentagram on the front steps of the SPVM. With Sunday’s showing of police might (at least six armored cars circled the protest), Montreal’s force were prepared for the worst.

    What they got, though, was nowhere near the worst. The entire protest began with a stern warning from police loudspeakers, reminding everyone that the protest had not chosen a route and, therefore, the protesters would be subject to arrest if they began to march. Of course, this is exactly what they did, immediately starting down Ontario, only to be turned around by a wall of riot shields.

    The small group quickly shifted around, made a quick left on Berri and began to rush up the street. Before they even made it under the bridge, more police shields and riot armor appeared. Less than half an hour after the demonstration began the protesters were kettled and remained there, exposed to the elements without food or water, for over two hours.

    Despite both the weather and the fact that they were each staring down the barrel of a $500-plus ticket, the newly kettled dissidents kept their spirits up. Around them, sympathizers shouted encouragement and threw candy down, much to the protesters’ delight. The riot police remained stoic, only breaking their silence to usher out news media, which they did frantically, as though they had been coached.

    Eventually the fateful STM buses rerouted to “Special” arrived, and the protesters, including any independent media, like The Link, unlucky enough to have an unconvincing press pass, were herded aboard their chariots to be processed. Before he was herded away, a student protester named Paul Thibodeau informed the crowd that this wasn’t his first rodeo.

    “[I’ve been in a kettle] like 30 times!” He and a friend laughed like they’ve said it before. “We will be arrested; it’s the point. It’s exactly what happens every year. Every year, it’s the same. We’re doing nothing; we get arrested. We’re not dangerous people. The cops don’t care at all. They’re almighty, and that’s why we can’t do anything. The media will say that this year’s a good year because no property was damaged.” He and his friend laughed again, gazing around at the police blocking them in on both sides. The choppers buzzed overhead.

  • Breaking Down Islamophobia One Talk at a Time

    • Photo Students’ Society of McGill University

    • Logo of Students’ Society of McGill University’s Equity Committee. Graphic Aquil Virani

    The rise of The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a theme that dominated headlines this year. The acronym evokes images of heinous crimes, but the influence of ISIS, and of other groups like it, has not solely been of a violent nature.

    These extremists’ actions have widely affected the Western world’s perception of those who practice the Islamic faith. Sweeping generalizations have become the norm, sometimes in mainstream media.

    At a discussion hosted by the Students’ Society of McGill University’s Equity Committee, a group of about 30 students sat down and had an open dialogue concerning Islam, and Islamophobia. Facilitated by Sta Kuzviwanza, Dina el-Baradie and Aishwarya Singh from SSMU, the goal of the session was purely intellectual. It welcomed debate and encouraged critical thinking.

    The Link was asked not to mention anyone by name so that participants would feel more secure about vocalizing their opinions. “The content that we’re discussing is complex, and the priority is that everyone feels safe speaking and is heard,” Singh said in an opening statement.

    The roots of Islamophobia go deep, but it wasn’t until the attacks of September 11th, 2001 that the distrust of Muslims swelled, and began to manifest into hatred and violence. Citing a FBI statistic, there was a 1700 percent increase in the hate crimes against Muslim Americans between 2000 and 2001,” a student said.

    The Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights is clear about the fact that while “the number of hate crimes against Arab Americans, Muslims and Sikhs has declined from the peak of 2001, it remains substantially above pre-2001 levels.”

    According to a 2008 poll by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center on the state of Muslim-West relations, 26 per cent of Americans and Canadians believe that culture is the root cause of tensions. 36 per cent of the same demographic believe that the root cause is religion compared to 35 per cent believe the cause to be political.

    Also discussed was the role of the media in propagating fear towards Muslim communities. “It’s very easy for the media to focus on certain things, and not others, and then you get a very skewed picture,” one person pointed out.

    He provided the example of a white supremacist who attempted to ram a car full of explosives into a Boston mosque. According to him, the story, which was reported a few years ago, was only covered by one media outlet: Russia Today.

    The recent Chapel Hill shooting, where a self-proclaimed “gun-toting atheist” executed three Muslim students, also reignited the debate about bias in media coverage.

    “Hard statistics saw that cases of non-Muslim terrorism are far greater, and far higher in number, even within the U.S,” he said. Backing his claim is the Centre for Research on Globalization, which has cited an FBI study showing that in between 1980 and 2005, only six percent of terrorist attacks carried out on U.S soil were perpetrated by Islamic Extremists.

    Problems within the Islamic world were also addressed, including the breakdown of religious authority. “In the pre-modern context, in order to be a scholar of Islam, you had to study over about 10 years. You had to study logic, you had to study rhetoric, and you had to study grammar. You had to study all these different fields before you were qualified to speak on behalf of the religion,” said another participant.

    The “purist movements”, which have always existed in Islam, get the most coverage by the media, and they exclude the “very large, traditional body of Muslim scholarship” that is moderated and provides reasoned arguments,” he continued.

    Another problem that he brought up was the “crisis in Islamic authority.” He talked about the current transformations that are taking place in the Muslim world, and the dictatorships that were “propped by the West for decades.”

    “If you live in a culture that is a dictatorship, it tends to corrupt a society from the very top to the very bottom, and that is what’s happening,” he said. “This extremist way of reacting to things, a lot of times could be attributed to this aspect, and many others.”

    Constructive dialogue and debate was welcomed and encouraged, but the majority of participants were in agreement that most critics of the faith are simply not educated enough on the topic to have a legitimate discussion. “I think there are aspects of Islam that need to be looked at, both as Muslims and as non-Muslims,” a student said. “I think knowledge has to be the first prerequisite before you want to start having a discussion about Islam.”