How Canada's corporate media framed the Occupy movement
The following week Mason interviewed Kalle Lasn and concluded that unless the movement could produce a political manifesto, “right now, for all its good intentions, this protest campaign is in danger of fizzling out” (Nov 3). Four days later, after the drug-overdose death of Ashlie Gough, Mason noticed that the camp had become “a rabble of homeless youth and others drawn to the free accommodation, food, clothing and other supplies that can be enjoyed at the site. People presenting with serious mental illnesses are also said to be arriving at the grounds of the Vancouver Art Gallery” (Nov 7). This can’t be good.
And three days after that, Mason bemoaned the “crumbling” Occupy movement. “The noble sentiments that brought Occupy to the fore, the ones that had many of us nodding silently in agreement, have long since been forgotten” (Nov 10). If Mason did agree though, it was certainly in silence, since he wrote no words of support.
Margaret Wente tried three different blame strategies to undermine Occupy. First she blamed the media: they “have overblown the occupier story because they're desperately afraid of missing something big” (Oct 18). Next she blamed, not the greedy bankers, but the “virtueocracy—the class of people who expect to find self-fulfillment (and a comfortable living) in non-profit or government work, by saving the planet, rescuing the poor and regulating the rest of us” (Nov 5). Expanding on her message that “the biggest economic challenge we face today is not income inequality, greedy corporations, Wall Street corruption or the concentration of wealth among the top 1 per cent,” Wente placed the mantle of blame squarely on “the increasing failure of young men with high-school degrees or less to latch on to the world of work” (Nov 10). In a final kick at the can, Wente once again chastised the media for giving more coverage to Occupy than to Egyptian protests in Tahrir Square, even though many more people were dying in Egypt (Nov 24), as if that was her calculus for coverage.
Blame the media, the virtueocracy or high-school dropouts, Wente urged, but not the one percent.
Globe lifestyle columnists also ganged up on Occupy. European arts correspondent Elizabeth Renzetti was agitated by the prospect of the “uber-rich” supporting the movement. “You know you're in trouble when it's chic for the rich to diss the rich.” But she consoled herself with the prospect that “at some point, the tents will be gone, although the issues will remain. The lights will shut off, the cameras will disappear and celebrities will find there's a cozy hospitality suite where they'd rather be,” she predicted (Nov 12).
Feature writer Leah McLaren bizarrely assailed Occupy supporter Margaret Atwood for her role as a literary mentor in the 2012 Rolex Mentor and Protegé Arts Initiative. The problem as McLaren saw it was that while Atwood backs Occupy and its critique of bankers, most bankers—with hairy wrists, McLaren revealed, as if from personal experience—wear Rolex watches (Nov 19).
The Globe editorialized obsessively about the act of protest. In one piece the paper claimed that “the protesters have had time to make their points. Perhaps some larger point can be made only in the act of occupying. But if that is the case, cities will have to move, sooner or later, to assert the law” (Nov 8). In another editorial the paper argued that “the Occupiers are occupying other people's space. And they have no right to it” (Nov 19).
Like the National Post, the Globe did publish one or two pieces supportive of Occupy. Robert Matas’ thoughtful column admitted that “the increasingly acrimonious debate over when and how to end the Occupy Vancouver protest threatens to overshadow the ideas that first brought hundreds of people to the plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
“However, regardless of what anyone thinks about the demonstrators' tactics, Occupy Vancouver is onto something more than imitating a New York moment, Matas wrote. The group is on solid ground with its claim that income inequality is growing in Canada and especially in B.C.” (Oct 27).