Occupy What? — Occupy Toronto Media Portrayal

Through analyzing mainstream media news reports covering the Occupy Toronto movement, I have found that there is a large tendency for these news reports to use frames of disruption, ignorance, and amalgam of grievances to achieve their goals of downplaying the significance of the movement. The three frames that have been used in the news reports that I have gathered are mentioned in Jules Boykoff’s article “Mass Media Deprecation” (2007). It is through these three frames that discredit the movement and damage the movement’s significance and impact to readers and potential protestors. The media reports have also used other news tactics such as false balance and enthymematic arguments to implement their representation of the movement (Boykoff 2007: 225).

There were eight articles analyzed and examined for this media analysis, including articles from the Toronto Star, the Toronto Sun, CBC, and the Wall Street Journal. All of the articles and the news reports are interested in the conflict and the struggle of the protestors. These articles are qualitative and quantitative because there are descriptions as well as statistics used regarding the movement. From the eight articles, I have found that four articles used frames of disruption, five had used frames of amalgam of grievances, and seven had used frames of ignorance. But most interestingly, the frames deployed have helped to reinforce concepts such as “othering” and nation building.

Othering is achieved because protestors are represented as the minority, naive, young, and unemployed with nothing better to do. The article by Simon Kent for the Toronto Sun is a good example because he writes that the protestor “rubbed the sleep from its eyes and then mumbled from beneath an Abercrombie hoodie: whuddup?'”. He continues his depiction by saying that the protestor “proceeded to sulk” stomp his foot and gave “sourpuss stares” (Kent 2012). The first part may not be so explicit but a protestor in an Abercrombie hoodie saying “Whuddup” fits the stereotype of a middle-class teenager or young adult, probably a student. This depiction is then reinforced by actions such as sulking, stomping their feet and giving child-like stares, which are often characterized as actions done by a child.

The ignorance frame is the most popular frame used within the eight articles, and it has also contributed the most to labelling the other and nation building. Aside from the example just mentioned, other articles often argued that the protestors of the movement did not have any explicit desires (Goar 2012), that they oppose everything (Gallinger 2011), and that they do not fully understand the economic standings in Canada, which according to the articles, are vastly different and better than that of the United States (Goldstein 2011; Johnson & Van Hasselt 2011; CBC News 2011). By making these differences of the U.S. and Canada apparent to the readers, it helps to induce ideas that the problems being faced by the U.S. are not problems that we as Canadians are facing. This helps with nation-building because even though the U.S. is our closest neighbour, and in fact does affect us in many aspects, the distinction shows that Canada is independent and that Canada can, and is doing better than the U.S.

Second, the amalgam of grievances frames show up in five out of the eight articles analyzed. The five articles argue that the movement was opposed to almost everything (Gallinger 2011) and that there were many suggestions to what the movement wanted to achieve (Goar 2012). But again, because of the many differences within the movement, the media relates back to the ignorance frame and argue that the movement was oblivious and insensible to reality and what was really going on. The reason that they were arguing for so many different things was because they were “not sure” (Kent 2012) what the main goal was since they had no definite leader, and so everyone just said what they believed they were fighting for. Even though the protestors stayed at St. James Park for 40 days, the protest remained “muddy and messy” (CBC News 2011), and protestors were still not able to “make their point” (Toronto Sun 2011) which made the whole movement seem unclear and annoying to some (CBC News 2011).

Out of the eight articles, there were four articles that mention the disruption that the movement caused. The disruption ranged from affecting local businesses (Johnson 2011), 5-year-old Sarah’s playtime at the park (Gallinger 2011), traffic and business meetings at Bay and King (Toronto Sun 2011), and merchants around the area of St. James Park (CBC News 2011). Each article aimed at showing the insignificance and problems of the movement and the protestors, which were often labelled as “those people” (Gallinger 2011), that were causing hitches for the daily routines of the normal Canadian citizen. This frame helps to contribute to the concept of othering and nation-building since it divides protestors from the readers due to labelling the protestors as “those people.” It also does not make situations any better for the movement when it is made aware to the public that it costs taxpayers $714,000 to assist and repair damages made to St. James Park by the occupation (Findlay 2011).

Furthermore, the articles have tried to have a false balance within their representation of the movement. However, most often the articles tried to show how the movement could have been beneficial but ended up stating that the movement was disruptive to the majority of the population with its ignorance and unclear goals (Gallinger 2011; Goar 2011; Goldstein 2011; Kent 2012; Toronto Sun 2011; CBC News 2011). An enthymematic argument is also used in Johnson’s article stating that “while we’re not expecting disruptions to service at this time, we are prepared to close branches or offices if there are concerns of safety” (2011). The article does not explicitly say that there are safety and security issues but lead the readers to expect that there can and will be such issues. Issues of security and the need for the movement to be controlled are due to its ignorance and depicted “child-like” behaviours lingering in almost all the articles analyzed. With these frames and use of media techniques, the media has been able to represent and downplay the Occupy Toronto movement as a movement that is ignorant and unaware of real world issues in coming up with real world demands and goals. Overall, the frames and techniques have successfully been used to delegitimize and downplay the significance of the movement, rending the movement simply as a waste of taxpayer money, and a disruption to the ordinary Canadian citizen.

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References

Boykoff, Jules. 2007. “Mass Media Deprecation.” Pp. 216-247 in Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States. Oakland: AK Press.

CBC News. 2011. “Opinions on Occupy: Protestors, Pundits Weigh in on Group’s Direction.” CBC News, November 16. Retrieved December 5, 2012 (www.cbc.ca).

Findlay, Stephanie. 2011. “Occupy Toronto Costs Taxpayers $714,000.” Toronto Star, December 24, pp. GT8. (Retrieved from ProQuest on December 5, 2012.)

Gallinger, Ken. 2011. “Is Occupy Toronto Eviction Ethical?” Toronto Star, November 22, pp. E1. (Retrieved from ProQuest on December 5, 2012.)

Goar, Carol. 2012. “Is the Occupy Toronto Movement a Spent Force?” Toronto Star, February 12. Retrieved December 5, 2012 (www.thestar.com).

Goldstein, Lorrie. 2011. “Where the “Occupy” Movement is Wrong – and Right.” Toronto Sun, October 15. Retrieved December 5, 2012 (www.torontosun.com).

Johnson, Karen and Caroline Van Hasselt. 2011. “Toronto Braces for ‘Occupy’ Protests.” Wall Street Journal. pp. WN. (Retrieved from ProQuest on December 5, 2012.)

Kent, Simon. 2012. “Occupy Toronto Movement Achieved Nothing.” Toronto Sun, October 15. Retrieved December 5, 2012 (www.torontosun.com).

Toronto Sun. 2011. “Time to go, Occupy Toronto.” Toronto Sun, October 27. Retrieved December 5, 2012 (www.torontosun.com).

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3 comments

  1. I think that the protesters were constructed as anarchist in the sense that they defied normal conventions of our society – such as living in a home, going to work/school and contributing to the society. They are anarchist because they oppose the dominant ideology the state has imposed – which is a capitalistic order. Which overall creates a divide among those who are willing to live in the state imposed order and those who are challenging it. Nation building is used in the articles when comparing the conditions of Canada with the U.S., which is suppose to be much better. By reinforcing the idea that Canada’s economy is a good one, it sways readers to believe that the protesters are ignorant to the real statistics and facts which adds to the gap, further othering those who do not believe in the dominant ideology, and further delegitimizes the movement overall.

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  2. Very well written, organized, and structured piece! I found it very easy to read and to follow your analysis of media representations of Occupy Toronto protesters. I found your choice of media frames was also very appropriate for this topic.

    A question that remains for me after reading your analysis is how has the construction of protesters as anarchists affected the process of nation building and othering present in the articles? Answering this question would provide a deeper analysis into the relationship between the construction of protesters as anarchists and the process of nation building and othering.

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    1. I have a reply for your comment but accidentally left it as a comment on my blog instead of as a reply. I hope you take a look at it and that it has answered your question. Also, I am open for further discussion if needed!

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