How Canada's corporate media framed the Occupy movement
This message emanated more frequently from the Toronto Star. In fact, the Star’s views of Occupy were almost the mirror image of the Globe and Post.
If the Star tried at all to frame Occupy before the movement settled into its St. James Park camp, it was as a necessary development to resist the move towards an increasingly unjust society. Columnist Joe Fiorito noticed a bust of Robert Gourlay next to the Occupy camp in the park. Gourlay was the first person to stand up to the Family Compact, Fiorito noted. “Gourlay's protests eventually led to the Upper Canada Rebellion. I hope the Occupy Toronto movement will lead to similar reforms” (Oct 17).
More than a dozen Star columnists and op-ed writers penned pieces supporting Occupy, some more vigorously than others. Fiorito wrote two more pieces about Occupy. In one he featured protester Cory Bartlett, who owns a designer toy store, giving the lie to corporate media claims protesters were homeless and jobless (Oct 31). But Fiorito criticized Occupy Toronto for a tactical error in marching up Yonge Street in support of a general strike in Oakland, California. Like other Star columnists, he advised Occupy Toronto to remain local (Nov 4).
Richard Gwyn quoted the Financial Times that "The [American Dream] has been shattered by a crisis brought about by financial excess and political cynicism." The result, Gwyn repeated, “has been growing inequality, rising poverty and sacrifice by those least able to bear it” (Oct 18).
Gwyn criticized Occupy’s tactics in a second column, but argued that “on the core issue raised by the Occupy movement of a deeply rooted unfairness in the existing system, the evidence keeps accumulating that it's onto something fundamental” (Nov 15).
Thomas Walkom was more tentative in his support. He lauded the protesters for being respectful and tidy, but chastised them for not paying more attention to important Canadian issues, like the banning of Air Canada strikes, contracting out of Toronto garbage collection, minimum wage and income tax rates. Focus more on Canada, he urged (Oct 19). Walkom next argued the rich need to be taxed much more heavily, but wondered if they are solely responsible for the country’s predicament, as Occupy argues (Oct 26). And in a third piece, Walkom criticized Occupy for not having more specific goals against which they can measure success. That may not matter, though, because the forced evictions of most Occupy camps gave the movement a convenient escape during which it could plan its next actions (Nov 17).
Heather Mallick responded to this criticism, that Occupy has no goals, by helpfully providing 13 possible goals (Oct 29). She also celebrated Susan Ursel, the lawyer making the case for the Occupy Toronto protesters. Ursel, Mallick argued, is “a star in the making” (Nov 19).
Rick Salutin saw union solidarity and democracy as a precursor to Occupy (Oct 28). In a second column he urged Occupy not to become irrelevant, which it could accomplish by following the Spanish experience where protesters disbanded their camp and fanned out into neighbourhoods to widen the political landscape (Nov 18).
David Olive bemoaned the fact that the movement itself, rather than the “yawning gap between rich and poor, and all the social evils arising from that” had become the target of attacks (Nov 11). But Linda McQuaig countered that “the occupiers have made an economic system that has dominated for the past 30 years—based on unbridled greed at the top and indifference to the well-being of the bottom 99 per cent—suddenly the focus of attention” (Oct 25).
Chantal Hebert seemed to miss the point of Occupy—that most politicians are in bed with big finance and big business—by arguing that protesters would no longer need to protest if they merely voted in elections and joined political parties (Oct 18).
The single, all-out hostile column in the Star was penned by Rosie DiManno, who condemned Occupy as “another one-way diatribe co-opted by special interest agendas” (Nov 21).