The Gazette vs. Red Square

…this time it’s personal!

For reasons I can’t explain, the first article my sleepy finger chose to click on this morning was the latest spilled-ink by The Gazette’s Don Macpherson. I’d been following Mr. Macpherson on Twitter, intrigued by his recent dust-ups with fellow media personalities, and I suppose I wanted to see who or what he was fighting with today.

Whatever the reason, there I was laying in bed stumbling through the latest in a series of anti-student strike screeds by Montreal’s most put-upon victim of Francophone oppression, Mr. Don Macpherson.

I’m sorry, that should have read, “the latest anti student ‘strike’ screed”. Mr. Macpherson insists on putting quotes around the word strike, I suppose in an effort to create some doubt around the credibility of the student action. Sure, it’s a strike, but it’s a real strike? I mean, c’mon, there are strikes and then there are “strikes”. Am I right?

Anyway. There are two things you can glean from any of Mr. Macpherson’s recent articles on the strike. First, the strike is becoming increasingly violent. It’s counter-intuitive (read: false) statement, but it’s working for him despite the weeks of peaceful actions attended by hundreds of thousands of peaceful participants. But hey, man…someone thinks they might have maybe seen a red square of the jacket of the person who might have thrown that smoke bomb last week that may or may not have had anything to do with anything. Case Closed.

Secondly, you’ll learn that Mr. Macpherson isn’t too happy with the closure of Montreal streets caused by student action. A complaint which begs the question, does Mr. Macpherson live Montreal? I know I’ve only been here for a couple of years, but as far as I can tell, Montreal is the global capital of closing off streets. Whether it be for street festivals, marathons, construction, concerts, national celebrations, and yes, protests, this city of festival doesn’t seem to have an overwhelming issue with the concept of the “detour”.

Then again, when road closures are in support of a movement the Gazette would like to see ended, blocking a thoroughfare becomes a big problem.

It’s worth taking a moment for a quick aside to mention that to the best of my knowledge, no violence has been committed by anyone related directly or indirectly to the student strike. While it’s true that some mischief has been committed and some of that mischief may have been committed by members of groups associated with the strike, mischief is not violence. Some might see that as an insignificant legal distinction, but it’s really not. Mischief is breaking a window, or throwing a smoke bomb, or even tipping a police car when the Habs lose a playoff game. Violence is beating or pepper-spraying protestors (or even Habs fans) in the streets. Mischief is an act against property. Violence is an act against another person. Neither is socially acceptible (unless the police to it to those damned hippie kids, am I right??), but the distinction is nonetheless important.

Moving on…

If Don Macpherson were to read this far into the piece, he’d probably be saying something like, “I never implicitly said that Red Square protestors or student strikers had anything to do with the smoke bomb. In fact, I said that because of the non-verbal nature of the red square patch as a symbol, it might be easy to assume a supporter of the strike was involved and that by extension, anyone wearing the square might be seen to support that action.”

If you pay attention to Mr. Macpherson, you quickly learn that this kind of passive language is the cornerstone of his writing. And to back up his passive accusations, Mr. Macpherson has been citing a recent Leger poll, originally printed in the Journal de Montreal, (a paper you’d think the self-described #BadAnglo would avoid) which conveniently provided him with the following bon mot: “The Québécois don’t like disputes, so seeing a movement become more radical risks displeasing them…”

The Quebecois don’t like disputes? The Quebecois…don’t like…DISPUTES?!?

I guess that’s why every July 1st the Quebecois have a big Canada Day parade through the centre of Quebec City, because they don’t have a taste for conflict or resistance. Those two referendums were really about national sovereignty, they were about declaring the positive, beneficial and overall super-awesomeness of Canadian federalism!!

What fatuous nonsense. Whether you agree with the nationalist movement in Quebec or not, you have to admit that for the last fifty years or so, the Quebecois haven’t been afraid of a little dispute. Or a big dispute, for that matter.

As for the supposed radicalization of the student strikes. Hell, the Quebecois might not like a dispute (*cough*), but they don’t seem to have a problem with broad generalizations and false assumptions.

While using a poll as silly as that one undermines Mr. Macpherson’s point (not to mention his #BadAnglo credibility), it does serve to expose his motivations for opposing the strike, even if he’s only implying that he opposes the strike. Or implying that he’s implying…whatever…

It doesn’t take a cartographer to map this all back to his feeling of victimization as anglo in Montreal and his deep fear that a PQ government would have him lined up against a wall and pelted with cheese curds until he can sing the Top 10 Francophone pop songs while standing on his head. Mr. Macpherson, and the Gazette in general, don’t oppose the strike because they really believe an affordable education is a ridiculous request. Rather, they oppose the strike because they fear the harm it can do to Premier Jean Charest and that any further damage to the embattled Liberal will surely lead to a PQ government.

They’re not stumping against students, they’re stumping against sovereigntists.

And that exposes the real problem with the Gazette in general and their mouthpiece-of-the-moment, Mr. Macpherson. On the issue of the strike, or the Charest government, or his fear of the PQ, Mr. Macpherson doesn’t seem to have the courage to come out and say how he really feels. Instead he hides behind bullcrap polling numbers and oft-repeated innuendo about who might or might not have been responsible for recent mischief in the city, all the while defending his fearful, thinly-veiled drivel as “Journo 101” (a term he used frequently in his recently argument with Mr. Ghomeshi).

It’s no secret newspapers use columnists to push their political agenda. Sure, the paper will tell you columnists are there to provide contrasting viewpoints and to expose the meat of any particular matter. They’ll even trumpet their bravery when hiring columnists from opposite ends of the political spectrum to offer more well-rounded coverage, as Quebecor often does with Warren Kinsella. But it’s all nonsense. When you really read what these folks are writing, you realize they’re all cogs in the influence machine. The Gazette does not want to see an end to the Liberal government in Quebec City and writers like Don Macpherson are dutifully pushing that agenda.

(Every once in a while, for cover, a columnist write a piece with an opinion contrary to the paper’s agenda, just in case someone has the temerity to point out their crap. Then the columnist can self-righteously say, “You must not read my column regularly, or you’d know…blah blah blah.”)

Whatever the piece, be it the oppression of anglophones or the supposed dissolution of the student strike into “violence”, you can bet it’s all about making the next election harder for the PQ. And if you have to spread a bit of innuendo or suspicion or make broad assumptions in the name of the cause, what’s the big deal, right? It’s just a column, and like this one you’re reading now, it’ll be relevant today and old junk tomorrow.

The point is not to know when you’re being led (always), but where you’re being led. The media’s job is to make the path to the cliff as attractive as possible. It’s that last step they don’t talk about that’s the real doozy.

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