Sunday, June 27, 2010

A critique of media sensationalism

After more than 35 hours on the streets of downtown Toronto this weekend, I've gained a new appreciation for non-violent protest as a critical component of a functional democratic process. The G20 protests have left me more informed, and feeling more secure, about the ability of real, conscientious citizens to express dissent in a powerful and positive way.

Source: BlogTO, 2010

Whenever 10,000 people gather in downtown Toronto to voice opposition to a governance forum of questionable legitimacy (i.e. the G-20), that is first-page news: a hundred banners, thousands of signs, symbols and slogans expressing a common disapproval for the way our democratically-elected leaders make decisions affecting Human Rights, the Environment, and Gender Equality. So Starbucks and a few other stores had windows smashed, after the official protest was over, and by a handful of young men with their own axe to grind. That is second-page news.

Blazing police cars is an eye-catching image, understandably disturbing to many TV viewers without proper context or a perception of the miniscule scale of these acts in relation to the countless acts of peaceful free speech and collective-expression that took place over three days.

It is unsurprising that corporately-owned news agencies would lead their coverage with footage of violence and property destruction, appealing to their viewers' baser natures in a short-sighted clutch for ratings (=> advertising => profits). The corporately-owned news media, those owned (and influenced) by large corporate interests, do not, CAN not be considered independent media, the Free Press which has been a pillar of functional democracies for hundreds of years. Public news agencies, such as CBC News, are governed by a Board of Directors, who are appointed by government (CBC, 2010). In a political climate such as the one we currently have nationally, CBC loses some legitimacy as its direction comes from a government with a weakly held mandate (oh proroguement...)

Far more disturbing than the burning of police cars and smashed storefronts, are the low standards for national media reporting on the protests. Canadians deserve better; we need better if we're to have a truthful understanding of the issues, if we're to be truly politically engaged and continue to enjoy the benefits of a fair and representative democracy.

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