How Canada's corporate media framed the Occupy movement

Photo by Ewa Chrusciska

The Occupy movement occupied two parallel, rarely intersecting universes in the corporate media. In one, described frequently in the Toronto Star, occasionally in the Vancouver Sun and Globe and Mail and only once in the National Post, Occupy is a worldwide movement created in response to the growing gap between the one percent at the top of the income-and-asset pyramid and the 99 percent below.

 In the Occupy universe largely described by the other papers, Occupy is little more than a rag-tag bunch of ne’er-do-wells with vague—but nevertheless invalid—goals who need to get a job. Such a characterization may not be surprising given that almost all newspapers are owned by card-carrying members of the one percent.

 A review of opinion pieces and editorials in these newspapers over five weeks suggests that if any journalist should receive an award for the most sympathetic and accurate coverage of the Occupy movement, it’s Pete McMartin of the Vancouver Sun, who persisted in focusing on growing income inequality, the real threat to democracy. He could be joined on the podium by the Toronto Star’s Joe Fiorito and many of Fiorito’s colleagues.

 As for the most negative and hostile coverage, first place undoubtedly goes to the National Post thought collective, with Gary Mason and Margaret Wente at the Globe, and the Sun’s Craig McInnes following behind.

 The study did not look at alternative media. Through first-hand account by participants, reports by on-the-scene observers such as David Ball (now a staff reporter for the Vancouver Observer) and others, and numerous blog postings and YouTube videos, readers and viewers of alternative media—rabble.ca, Vancouver Observer, Georgia Straight, The Tyee—received a more accurate and nuanced picture of the movement, the social and economic ills that led to its birth, and its aims and challenges.

 Both the Globe and National Post—Canada’s national dailies—had little patience for Occupy. The Post seemed to operate on the principle that what you believe about an issue is more important than the facts in the matter. To prepare its readers for the Canadian Occupy movement, the Post offered five negative opinion pieces about Occupy Wall Street over the days around October 15.

 Financial Post editor and resident libertarian Terence Corcoran advised readers that the entire Occupy initiative was started by the “anarcho-crazy” Vancouver magazine Adbusters, whose “global objective is to bring down the political system, bring down the corporations,” combining at one fell swoop name-calling and conspiracy theories (Oct 15).

 Fellow libertarian Lorne Gunter argued that OWS is mistaken to go after the bankers because the real villains are greedy politicians. Worse, he proclaimed, “the protesters main point is obscured by all the lefty, social justice, union-financed trash they have heaped on it” (Oct 14).

 And libertarian—get the idea the National Post has lots of libertarians?—Tasha Kheiriddin claimed the 99 percent are just as greedy as the one percent because they live beyond their means. Listen up 99 percenters, “you reap what you sow!” Kheiriddin knows that 99 percenters are responsible for the crisis because she watches Gail Vaz-Oxylade’s new TV show “Princess” about heavily indebted young women. Kheiriddin looked after her own debt responsibly; we should too. After all, no bank held a gun to our head (Oct 18).

 The Post topped up its orientation to Occupy with two offerings from leading American conservatives. George Will contrasted the “Tea Party's splendid successes, which have altered the nation's political vocabulary and agenda,” with the vague and amorphous OWS. “OWS is to the Tea Party,” Will harrumphed, “as Lady Gaga is to Lord Chesterfield,” although the meaning of this comparison is far from clear (Oct 13).

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