Occupying Toronto Within State Set Boundaries

In the previous media analysis post, eight different news articles were examined and each used frames that delegitimized and downplayed the significance of the movement. The eight articles mentioned, provide a false balance within their representation of the movement. In the articles, they tried to show the movement in a positive light but concluded by stating that the movement overall was disruptive and ignorant to the majority of other citizens. This analysis is crucial because it takes a deeper look into how the media and its portrayal techniques have helped with criminalizing, delegitimizing, and nation building. These processes of criminalizing, delegitimizing, and nation building are used to control the political, social, and economic relations within Canadian society. Canada is a democratic society that allows for protests, however through tools such as the media, certain demonstrations such as the Occupy Toronto movement which are peaceful are easily constructed as the other and as a threat.

In portraying the Occupy Toronto movement, frames such as disruption, ignorance, and amalgam of grievances are used by the media (Boykoff 2007: 168). These frames (and not limited to just these three) are helpful to the media to create a certain perception and view on the case being reported. More specifically, the Occupy Toronto movement has been portrayed as one that is uncertain about its own cause which is causing disruption to the rest of the population. And by constructing the common protestor as a childlike, Abercrombie hoodie wearing youth (Kent 2012), the article successfully deposits to readers the image of a middle-class student that is just there to hangout without knowing what it is they are protesting for. The movement’s cause is further delegitimized through stating what is suppose to be common sense knowledge of how Canada’s economy is doing. Goldstein (2011), Johnson & Van Hasselt (2011) and CBC News (2011) all mention that the Canadian economy is doing much better in comparison to the United States, and they therefore conclude that the Occupy movement and its goals should not apply to Canada. By stating that certain conditions do not apply in Canada, the articles are building an identity for the readers of what our nation is and is not, and in this situation our economy is better off, so we should not have to protest for the same things as the citizens of the U.S.

I would also like to point out that the Occupy Toronto movement was a peaceful protest in comparison to its U.S. counterparts. Although the articles did not write of the movement in a frame of violence, I would like to propose that there were three threats that were being put forth against the dominant political, social, and economic ideologies. The first was the issue of space, since there was a mass number of people occupying a public park over an extended period of time. The second threat was that the majority of these protestors were young people. The third threat was that these protestors were opposing capitalism.

The main issue for the city was that the movement was occupying St. James Park for over 40 days, so they decided to have the movement evicted under the reason that “the city can no longer permit the appropriation of St. James Park by a relatively small group of people to the exclusion of all others wishing to use the park” (CBC News 2011). This comment on the eviction of the protest shows that there is a divide between the protestors and others that wish to gain access to the park. But more importantly by evicting the protestors and “taking back” St. James Park, the city has successfully criminalized any further occupation at the park. Personally, it was very surprising that the occupation of the park lasted so long, since space is an important aspect of maintaining social control (Noakes, Klocke & Gillham 2005: 238). But this is also what makes Occupy Toronto different, the protestors were able to use the site as a form of dissent. However, even though the protest was able to last for a long period of time, once the courts ordered for their eviction, “police exhibited little tolerance for protest group’s attempts to assert even a temporary or symbolic claim to control spaces” (Noakes, Klocke & Gillham 2005: 239). The police displayed this intolerance by quickly dismantling the barricades built by protestors resisting the eviction, as well as resorting to force to physically remove protestors unwilling to leave voluntarily.

The second threat was that the majority of the protestors were described as “young, left-wing, naive and confused,” which already puts a negative connotation to those involved in the protest (Goldstein 2011). The protestors were further described as ignorant and easily persuaded because they “didn’t stand for anything,” which resulted in them “falling for anything,” and further made them to be “attention-seeking complainers angry that life didn’t turn out like their grade school teacher promised” (Kent 2011).  In these media portrayals, the youth is described as not yet fully knowledgeable about the “real world issues” and are non-citizens because they have failed to give into the labour market (Kennelly 2011: 344). They are seen as non-citizens because they fail to take responsibilities like ordinary citizens which include obeying the moral codes of society and holding the same values. Young people ultimately pose a threat because they are seen as not yet fully developed adults, and “have been long seen as ‘dangerous individuals’ at risk of criminality” due to their vulnerability to be “corrupted” (Kennelly 2011: 350). So by pointing out in the articles that these protestors consist mainly of youths, it is inexplicitly pointing out common sense knowledge that it is not right that they are camping out at a park protesting about nothing, instead of being productive by going to school or finding jobs.

The third threat that was posed by the Occupy Toronto movement is that it is opposed against capitalism. The movement was demanding for income equality amongst all, instead of majority of the wealth being held by only 1% of the population. However the movement’s merits, goals and initiatives were greatly criticized by the articles examined. The famous slogan of “we are the 99%” was criticized by the Toronto Sun saying, “apparently they don’t view people who are actually poor, or former prison inmates, as part of the 99% of the public they claim to be representing” (Toronto Sun 2011). This article plays on the merit of the movement itself and who is actually being represented to sway potential supporters away from the cause. Gallinger (2011) further isolates the movement’s participants from the majority of citizens by using words such as “those people” and “this is my neighbourhood” to create the divide between those who hold the dominant ideology and “those people” who hold a different ideology. Furthermore, Carol Goar (2011) from the Toronto Star said that while there was up to 97 recommendations, there was no “single recommendation or set of recommendations that can reverse the deepening income inequality in Toronto.” The articles implied that the movement has not achieved anything and to make it worse, it cost the city $714,000 to rejuvenate the park after the occupation (Findlay 2011). Overall, the movement has been depicted as one that is not really inclusive of the 99%, therefore delegitimizing it, created as the other by being referenced as “those people” and criminalized by causing damage to the park.

In conclusion, I would like to restate that while Canada is a free and democratic society that allows for freedom of assembly and freedom of speech in forms of peaceful protests, tools such as the media have the power to construct a negative connotation of the protests, delegitimize and even criminalize it if there is a threat to the dominant political, social, and economic ideologies that exist. In “Producing Capitalist Order: Police, Class, Race and Gender” by Todd Gordon, he points out a very interesting quote of Neocleous, stating that “human individuals could become both subjects of rights and objects of administration, a process rooted in the constitutive power of the state and its role in fashioning and policing bourgeois society” (Gordon 2006: 32). Having rights and liberties that are given to us by the state, ultimately means that we have to play by the rules set by the state. We are allowed to protest and speak our minds, as long as we contain ourselves to the certain limits set by the state. Those who pass the boundaries set by the state are seen as disobedient, non-citizens, and ultimately the other that should be considered a threat. So even though Occupy Toronto has been a peaceful protest, because it challenges the dominant ideology that is protected by the state, tools such as the media are used to downplay and delegitimize the significance of the movement, and then law is used to remove the protestors from the park, and force them to move on or else face criminal charges.

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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 Dicretion.” 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).

Kennelly, Jacqueline. 2011. “Policing Young People as Citizens-In-Waiting.” British Journal of Criminology 51: 336-354.

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

Noakes, John A., Brian V. Klocke and Patrock F. Gillham. 2005. “Whose Streets? Police and Protestor Struggles over Space in Washington DC, 29-30 September 2001.” Policing and Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy 15(3): 235-254.

Todd, Gordon. 2006. “Producing Capitalist Order: Police, Class, Race and Gender.” Pp. 29-51 in Cops, Crime, and Capitalism. Halifax: Fernwood Publsihing.

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

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One comment

  1. I followed the movement closely and you have done an exceptional job in not only identifying the tactics used to downplay the movement, but you also provided theoretical analysis to provide a better understanding of the topics. In my opinion, the ignorance frame was utilized heavily as the general public formed their views based on the information the media was providing. Rather then praising the efforts of youths who are often considered careless and immature, the media downplayed and criticized them for participating in the movement. You have provided a concise account on the issue of “othering” . I feel that the media aided in creating a class difference between the protesters and the general citizen. It is very interesting to notice how the camps were able to remain there for an expanded period given Mayor Ford’s tough stance on dissent. It was also interesting to notice the judge’s ruling and application of the bylaw on the issue of trespassing. The dynamics of power are clearly visible as arrests and eviction notices are prime examples. Great analysis!

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