So this is it. Call it the series finale for American Democracy. Call it The Thrilla with Far Too Much Vanilla. It’s the 2016 US Presidential Election and it will be resolved tonight (in theory).

I’ll never complain about the length of a Canadian campaign again. This site alone has published 21 posts on the subject and spoke about it numerous times on our podcast and most of our readership can’t even vote in US elections.

From the spark of revolutionary Bern in the primaries to the threat of a smug orange mushroom cloud in the general, we have been paying attention. Canadians like me, people around the world, Americans living abroad, some right here in Montreal and of course those living in the 50 states have been closely watching, reading and posting about the developments.

Tonight will be no different. The question becomes, will you be taking in the results alone or with others. In both cases, there are plenty of options:

2016 US Election Results Watch Parties in Montreal

If you want to watch the election results pour in and either celebrate or commiserate with a room full of people, there are a bunch of places in Montreal where you can do just that.

Here are a few:

US Election Results Viewing Party @ Chez Boris: Usually, this Parc Avenue breakfast and lunch place isn’t open much past 7pm. They made an exception during the recent Presidential Debates and it was a success, so they’re doing the same thing for election night.

I like that the place is open specifically for this event, which means those in the room are also only there to watch the election results. They’re promising deep fried oreos, Icelandic-style veggie dogs and hot dogs and an election-themed costume contest and bingo. Details and a rather funny description are available on their event page, and also this, one of my favourite event images so far:

us-elections-hope-progress-pabst-cans

Chez Boris, 5151 Ave du Parc, 7pm – 12:30am

Democrats Abroad Montreal Election Night Party @ Sir Winston Churchill Pub: This is probably not the best place to ironically wear your Make America Great Again hat. Also, probably not the most pro-Jill Stein crowd in town. If, however, you’re waiting with anticipation for Hillary to smash that glass ceiling, this group of people watching the results at Sir Winston’s are very much “with her” as well.

Democrats Abroad Montreal and Democrats Abroad McGill are hosting an election night party, as they did for the debates. If you happen to be looking away from the screen or even outside having a smoke when a state turns blue, don’t worry, the cheers of the crowd will let you know what happened.

Sir Winston Churchill Pub, 1459 Crescent, 6:30pm – midnight

OCSM US Election Pub Night @ Burgundy Lion: The Oxford & Cambridge Society of Montreal has a section of tables reserved at the Burgundy Lion Pub. This is a group that hosts events for Oxford and Cambridge alumni living in Montreal, so it’s sure to offer a much more academic perspective on the vote south of the border

Burgundy Lion, 2496 Notre Dame Ouest, 6:30pm – 3am, Ask for the O&C tables or Martine Verdy. Please RSVP with Professor Gerald Ratzer at gerald.ratzer@mcgill.ca

US Election Night Party @ Groove Nation: If groove is in the heart and politics is in the head, then Groove Nation is putting together a package deal for election night. The venue most known for live shows and dancing will be showing live election results on a giant screen.

According to the event page: “Whether you are for, against, or abstaining, you are welcome to join us for drinks and debates. Whatever happens at the end, at least it will finally be over! We think.” They’ve also got a good image:

us-election-night-groove-nation

Groove Nation, 410 Rachel Est, 6:30pm – 3am

Election Night at Casa : America’s Final Rose Ceremony 2016: Casa del Popolo has probably one of the best names for an election results watching event I’ve seen. It’s also the event which takes into account the psychological effect this election has had on people. They’re offering free community support along with $4.50 pints and $3.50 shots.

DJ Christina Bell will be spinning tunes, the results will be shown on a giant screen and there’s no cover. There are also “no jerks or Trump supporters allowed”.

Casa del Popolo, 4873 Boul St-Laurent, 9pm – 3am

Watch the 2016 US Election Results Online

If you’re not so sure if you can contain your reactions in public or would just prefer take the results in at home alone or with friends, there are options other than mainstream news outlets. Here are a couple:

The Young Turks: I love this team. They’re biased and don’t hold their opinions back. They were pro-Bernie in the primaries, but now their main host and network co-founder Cenk Unger as well as most of the other pundits on the panel plan to vote Hillary, while remaining critical of her. A few are backing Jill Stein. They all hate Trump.

If you’re looking for solid analysis from a progressive perspective, they have it. They also will be reporting the results as soon as they come in. Generally once two of the major outlets predict a winner in a state, they announce it as well.

The Young Turks will be streaming live from 1pm to 1am and possibly longer on YouTube and Facebook.

Democracy Now: Amy Goodman is the paragon of independent journalists. She, along with Juan Gonzalez, will be hosting live election night coverage featuring up-to-the-minute results not only on the race to the White House but also for the US Senate and the US House of Representatives as well as ballot initiatives across the country, including California’s push to legalize recreational weed.

DN is not op-ed, in fact, it’s known for objective journalism. What I love about them, though, is how, through their selection of topics to cover and guests to have on, they present information that rarely gets a hearing outside of progressive circles. I trust them to focus on what’s really important this election as well as the the big stories everyone will be covering.

Democracy Now! will be livestreaming on their site election night from 7pm to midnight.

No matter where you’re watching, here’s hoping you get the results you were looking for. That, and let’s also hope it’s a lot smoother in four years.

* Donald Trump painting in featured image by Samantha Gold. Buy the original on eBay

* Special thanks to my FB friends for helping me assemble this list

Last month, Montreal’s international reputation took a hit thanks to Denis Coderre’s pit bull ban. This was amplified by celebrities speaking out against it. Now, we’ve caught the attention of famed whistleblower Edward Snowden, who tweeted this:

Snowden linked to a Montreal Gazette article about the Montreal Police (SPVM) spying on La Presse journalist Patrick Lagacé’s cellphone. Lagacé had been looking into Escouade, the police task force dealing with street gangs and drugs, and the possibility that they were fabricating evidence.

The SPVM wanted to know who the journalist’s sources were. They asked for and received 24 warrants to monitor Lagacé iPhone, record its metadata and track his GPS location between January and July of this year.

These came out in the investigation into Costa Labos. The former head of Internal Affairs at the SPVM confirmed that they had been spying on Lagacé.

For Snowden, this story serves as a warning for journalists everywhere: if you don’t protect your phone data and GPS location, you may be putting your sources at risk. It’s also an indictment of the fundamental disrespect some police forces have for freedom of the press.

For Montreal, though, it means that once again, we are a shining example to the world of the wrong way to do things. And the ultimate culprit may just be the same one as the pit bull ban, or at least quite close.

As Alex Norris, City Councillor with Official Oppositon party Projet Montreal said in the same Gazette article Snowden tweeted: “We believe that it is inconceivable that an operation this sensitive would not have been approved by Philippe Pichet. If he wasn’t advised of this operation then it means he has lost control of his organization.”

If it goes as high as Pichet, then it’s not that far from the office of the man who appointed him: Mayor Denis Coderre. The sad thing is, spying on police is not out of character for Coderre, either.

For the second time in as many months, Montreal is in the international spotlight. And we don’t look good.

* Featured image of an SPVM officer going through a protester’s bag in July 2015 by Cem Ertekin

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has been in the news lately over its announcement to loosen the rules requiring Canadian television productions to have pre-dominantly Canadian talent. Despite the CRTC’s claim that allowing productions to have more foreign artists will open the door to new talent and have more International and Canadian co-productions, Canadian artists like the members of the Canadian Guild of Professional Screenwriters are criticizing the move as having long term negative financial and cultural repercussions for Canada and its artists.

To most of us, the CRTC is that annoying organization that issues fines and cuts Canadians off of those great Superbowl Ads. It’s the government body that keeps Canadians stuck with sometimes inferior quality TV shows due to Canadian Content requirements established by law that force networks to reserve a certain amount of airtime to Canadian productions, be they ads or shows.

But the CRTC is also the body that helped keep great shows like Royal Canadian Air Farce, Kids in the Hall, DaVinci’s Inquest, and Nikita on the air for as long as they were.

Why does the CRTC do this?

They are required by law.

The CRTC is the government body responsible for enforcing, among other things, the federal Broadcasting Act and Canada’s anti-spam laws.

The Broadcasting Act sets out the broadcasting rules and policy for all of Canada, specifically with regards to television, radio, and any other means of broadcasting programs and ads. According to the Act, Canada’s broadcasting policy includes that the Canadian broadcasting system be effectively owned by Canadians, that said system operate primarily in English and French, and defining the system as a public service for the purpose of maintaining and enhancing Canada’s national identity and cultural sovereignty.

The Broadcasting Act also says that the Canadian broadcasting system should “serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada” by providing programming that reflects Canadian opinions, attitudes, ideas, and values.

According to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission Act, The CRTC consists of a maximum of thirteen members named by the government for a term of five years with a possibility of re-appointment. Members have to work on the committee full time and cannot become a member of the CRTC if they are not Canadian citizens or ordinary residents of Canada.

They also cannot be named to the CRTC if they have a conflict of interest because they are involved in a telecommunications firm directly or indirectly as an owner, shareholder, director, officer, or partner OR if they have any financial interest in a telecommunications company or are involved in the sale or manufacture of telecommunications apparatus. The law does provide for an exception to the latter rule if the telecommunications stuff being sold is an incidental aspect of a retail or wholesale business which a potential member is involved in. Where a potential Commission member has a forbidden financial stake they can still be named to the CRTC provided they get rid of said stake within three months.

The current chairman of the CRTC is former Montreal lawyer Jean-Pierre Blais whose term ends in 2017.

In order for the CRTC to enforce Canada’s broadcasting policy, it has been granted various powers by the Broadcasting Act.

The main powers are control over who gets a broadcasting license and the ability to make regulations regarding everything from ensuring that Canadian programs and ads get a certain amount of airtime to setting what constitutes a Canadian program.

It’s their discretion over what constitutes a Canadian program that is now coming under fire. Canadian programs and co-productions are eligible for federal government money which by extension comes from Canadian taxpayers.

A production that does not qualify as Canadian as per the definition set out by the CRTC is not eligible for federal funds.

The current eligibility requirements for a production to count as Canadian are high, resulting in more Canadian screenwriters, actors, and directors hired for Canadian television shows. The CRTC’s proposal is to lower those requirements, opening the door to more non-Canadian talent at the expense of Canadian artists.

The obvious counter argument is that it should be the best person for the job, but if the law says that the goal of the Canadian broadcasting system is to work for the benefit of the Canadian people and present their point of view, government funds should go to productions that employ a lot of Canadians.

To do otherwise would result in the CRTC violating the very law that empowers it.

From French commentators calling Japanese gymnasts “little pikachus” to media systematically crediting male coaches for female athletes’ achievements, the coverage of the 2016 Olympics is accumulating mishaps. Not that it’s anything new.

Once every two years, sport journalists are thrust in a spotlight of epic proportions. Every media tries to make the most of it, scrambling to find a commentator who has the faintest idea about the rules of slalom canoeing. Not only are mistakes bound to happen, but they are bound to be heard by a greater audience than ever.

One of the most disturbing effect of all this live, unfiltered, commentary are some shockingly racist comments appearing on national television. France Télévisions’ Thomas Bouhail kept comparing Japanese gymnasts to pokemons and mangas. CBC’s Byron MacDonald had to apologize after saying a Chinese swimmer “died like a pig.”

The lack of technical knowledge is forgivable. As a gymnastics fan, hearing nonsense like “piked salto with straddled legs” about a bar release certainly makes me wince, but I have to appreciate the challenge of commenting on sports – especially ones you only have a passable knowledge of – in real time.

What I take offence to is commentators who palliate their lack of knowledge with relentless remarks about every competitor’s age, appearance or nationality that are redundant, irrelevant and bordering on prejudice.

Take young Chinese gymnast Wan Yang. She was wonderfully consistent in Rio, qualified for two of the four event finals and came sixth all-around. Listening to Radio-Canada’s announcers, though, you would think that the most interesting thing about her is that she is 4’6″.

I swear more than half of their commentary about Chinese women’s gymnastics was an extended exercise in variations of the terms small or tiny. The rest of it was mostly preconceived notions about what China was good or bad at with little regard to what was actually happening at the moment.

I particularly resent one commentator discoursing on the lack of artistic delivery, amplitude and good connections in Chinese floor while Yang delivered a brilliant performance that presented none of these problems. The same commentator, in a remarkable impression of a well-meaning but obnoxious uncle, exclaimed that Yang “looks 12 or 13, ahahahah.”

Radio-Canada is not a lone sinner. It’s amazing how much of the coverage of women’s artistic gymnastics is still a long-exhausted running commentary on how young and tiny gymnasts are.

Not only is it annoying and besides the point, it’s deeply rooted in racial and gender bias.

How often have you heard about the height of male gymnasts, this year (yes, male gymnasts too are notably short)? Which brings us to Olympic coverage’s other most enraging aspect:

Ubiquitous Sexism

The world of sport journalism is very unwelcoming to women, be they athletes or journalists.

Has this issue been explored before?

Multiple times.

Do we need to keep talking about it?

Well, let’s take a look at a couple of things that actually happened in the last two weeks:

dempsey pretty penny

  • Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak breaks an Olympic record and wins four medals: Toronto Sun’s cover gives her the nickname “Pretty Penny.”
  • American Corey Cogdell wins a bronze medal in trapshooting (her second one in three Olympics): Chicago Tribune refers to her as “wife of a Bears’ lineman” in a tweet, omitting her name.
  • Majlinda Kelmendi wins the first Olympic medal for Kosovo, in 52Kg Judo: A BBC commentator calls the final a catfight.
  • Women’s rugby sevens make their debut at the Olympics: France TV’s commentary includes a consultant calling the French players “little darlings” and saying they are cuter and more feminine than the Americans.

I recommend you devote four minutes of your time to have a look at this spot from Vox’s Wide World of Sexism (I promise you it’s worth it).

Why are Olympic commentators so bad at commenting on women’s sports? Probably because they never do it.

A Canadian study published this year highlighted how little attention women’s sports usually get. In 2014, National newspapers only devoted 5,1% of their sports coverage to women’s sports. National sports channels had similar performances.

This is despite the fact that Canadian female athletes have excelled more than ever on the international scene in the past couple of years. As of this morning, women have won 14 of Canada’s 18 medals in Rio. Nonetheless, according to the same study, 99,5% of sponsorship sums are still awarded to male athletes.

Female athletes who actually make it to the news don’t have it that much easier. Another recent study by Cambridge University Press analyzed 20 years and seven billion words of media coverage of male and female athletes.  They found striking differences in the vocabulary used to describe them.

Male athletes were found to be often described with words like strong, fastest or great. Words often associated with their female counterparts included married, unmarried and pregnant.

Women in sports were likely to be referred to as ladies or girls, whereas the terms boys and gentlemen were rarely used.

The researchers also observed a particularity in the usage of the word women. We talk about Women’s football, women’s golf, women’s cycling. But we never see men’s football or men’s golf, do we? Usain Bolt won the 100 meter dash. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won the women’s 100 meter dash.

BBC’s John Inverdale gave a prime example of the mentality this is linked to when he asked Andy Murray how it felt to be the first person ever to win two Olympic golds in tennis. Because Serena and Venus Williams won about four each… in Women’s tennis.

Women are a huge part of sports. They should be a huge part of the coverage of sports too.

*Featured image from the Nirvana News Youtube Channel

Yesterday, the infamous Rob Ford Crack Video hit the web. From the click-baitiest tabloid sites to established media, they all had it.

There he was, the late mayor of Toronto Rob Ford, in all his former glory, drunk and puffing on a crack pipe while wearing a track suit. Or at least that’s what I think the video showed. I don’t know, I didn’t watch it, and I don’t plan to.

It’s not news, or at least it’s not news right now. When Ford was still alive, still Mayor of Toronto and still denying what were then only allegations that he smoked crack while in office, it was in the public interest to publish such a video. Even after he admitted to smoking crack, when he was alive and running for re-election, you could make the argument that it was valid news content.

Now, there is no need to prove something which was already admitted to and the argument of reminding voters what someone who is asking for their votes did the last time he was in office is no longer valid as Rob Ford won’t be running for anything ever again. If you think it’s important to remind people that Ford was a mess as a mayor so they don’t vote for similar politicians, there are plenty of other videos of things he did in public that serve the same purpose.

I can’t really think of why someone would want to watch the video now. Maybe it’s a desire to laugh at the failings and addictions of someone they didn’t like or hated. Why some outlet would want to publish it is a little easier to figure out: clicks, ratings and money. While you can argue that reporting on the video being available is newsworthy, and you’d probably be right, but then just report that, you don’t need to actually host or embed it yourself to do that.

I think media outlets shouldn’t publish the video out of respect. No, not out of respect for Ford, his family, or even the abstract concept of respect for the dead. I’m a firm believer that if someone didn’t earn your respect in life, then they don’t automatically inherit it upon death.

While I did think his ‘never give up’ attitude was commendable, I despised everything Ford stood for politically and truly hope no one as blatantly anti-progress as him ever comes to power again (yeah, I know that’s a pipe dream). I’ve also heard that he was quite abusive to those around him and, in general, wasn’t that great a guy.

That still doesn’t mean people should be promoting a voyeuristic video of a dead man feeding his addiction. It won’t change how anyone views him or his politics at all.

Media outlets shouldn’t publish the video out of respect for themselves and their audience.

Hey, did you hear that Melania Trump plagiarized her RNC speech from Michelle Obama? You’re not the only one.

Actually, whoever wrote her Melania Trump’s speech stole from whoever wrote Michelle Obama’s speech and got caught. The Trump campaign, though, is saying that no one will be fired. Of course they won’t. It was, after all, a job well done.

Even getting caught. Especially getting caught.

Think about it. They didn’t choose a speech from decades ago that most people on the internet today probably never heard, they picked one from 2008. They knew someone would find it and share their findings.

The Trump team wanted to get caught. The question is why. I can think of two reasons:

The Perfect Audition

If you see politics through the lens of showbiz and reality TV as the Trump Campaign clearly does, this speech was Melania’s audition for the role of First Lady. And now, thanks to the plagiarism, everyone gets to see her audition reel juxtaposed with that of the woman who currently has the role.

They’re using the same script, as many performers do in an audition. Only the delivery can be judged. If you think that Donald Trump thinks substance is important, especially when it comes to women, then you really haven’t been paying attention to the Trump Campaign.

Sure, there will be Trump plagiarism jokes, but they will fade. Everyone knows about speechwriters, so there won’t be any lasting repercussions for Melania’s credibility. The result of the media’s inadvertent and subliminal elevation of Melania Trump to Michelle Obama’s level, on the other hand, could be long lasting.

Burying the Ugliness of the Night

Until Donald introduced Melania, night one of the Republican National Convention was a prime time play to the extreme right of the GOP base. The speakers hit all the right bigot sweetspots.

There was fear of the Mexican other, fear of the Muslim other and fear that Hillary Clinton somehow colluded with the others in Benghazi. There was praise of the militarized state and, of course, Blue Lives Matter.

It was a display of middle American white pride and fear that was as sure to rally the Republican troops as it was to infuriate the left and alienate more than a handful of centrists. But that’s not what we’re talking about now, is it?

While the far right most likely now feels that Donald Trump’s Republican Party really speaks to them, the rest of us have been focused on video of a would-be first lady played opposite a video of an actual one. Donald didn’t even screw it up by saying something inflammatory himself.

After using We Are the Champions as intro music (something, fortunately, we are calling him out for), Trump said: “Oh, we’re gonna win. We’re gonna win so big!”

He sounded like someone unable to contain the fact that he thought his plan was working. Now, it’s clear what his plan for the night was.

The most frightening takeaway from RNC Night One wasn’t that most of the GOP base are bigots, we already knew that. It’s the horrific realization that Donald Trump may actually be smart enough to pull this off.

Fredua Boakye

“Growing up, people were always telling me that I was the ‘whitest Black kid’ they knew because I loved ‘white rock music’ like Radiohead and Dead Kennedys,” says Fredua of Bad Rabbits. He laughs, and quickly responds to them: “But you can’t ‘act a colour,’ and Rock & Roll culture isn’t reserved for X race. But I will say this until my dying day: Rock & Roll was created by a Black Queer woman named Rosetta Tharpe.”

Fredua is the frontman of Bad Rabbits, and I had the honour to speak with him about race, rock, and his thoughts on being a Black American in 2016.

Fredua tells me that conversations of race and belonging within his scene have always been a part of his consciousness, explaining the common lamentation among young men of colour that he was never “Black enough” for the Black kids, and “too Black” for the white kids.

“I considered myself a hybrid from the jump because nobody on either side liked me… The only kids who accepted me in school were the punk rock kids.” For Fredua, this embrace of the punk scene of the late 80s led to an early and profound appreciation for bands like Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, and Public Enemy.

The moment of clarity that gave Fredua a real understanding of how he could fit into the Rock scene came when he saw Fishbone and Living Colour music videos, with Black musicians like Kendall Jones and Vernon Reid “not rapping, not singing, just jamming with guitars. When people said I was the ‘whitest Black guy’… There was nothing ‘white’ about what I was doing. Period. I was doing what I saw, and that was a Black person playing this music.”

When I asked Fredua about conversations of race in his current role as the frontman of a multi-ethnic band in a scene dominated by white dudes, he emphatically affirmed that there has never been racial tension at a Bad Rabbits show, as people are too busy having a good time. It’s when he stops making music for people to dance to, and starts talking about things that make him angry and upset – like the ability for police to routinely kill Black people with impunity – that tempers begin to flare.

Fredua explains, “There are probably a bunch of my fans that are inherently racist, and I know this because I’ve argued with them. They’re the types that grew up thinking Black people are supposed to only be entertainers or basketball players. When they see me speaking my mind it’s suddenly ‘Fredua, you’re an entertainer, you shouldn’t be talking like that!’ People are angry at the fact that I have the nerve to talk about things going on instead of making a song for them to dance to.”

In response to the recent spate of highly-publicized killings of Black people by police, Fredua posted a video to his personal Facebook page in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Fredua tells me that the response from most friends and fans was positive, but one fan came out of the woodwork to leave the following comment: “I follow you because I think your old band was awesome, but let’s be honest, this militant black guy thing isn’t working out for anyone.”

Fredua explains it’s no skin off his nose – people who see him not as a Black human being, but strictly an entertainer aren’t real fans anyway. The reluctance of white peers and fans to see him as anything but a stage presence has bothered Fredua since he first started singing: “I look back at school, and I mean, I did chorus for the girls. Don’t get me wrong,” he says with a laugh, “The girls loved my voice. But they didn’t love me. Because I didn’t look like them.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 7.54.37 PM

I asked Fredua if these reactions to his showmanship bother him when he looks back on them, and he is quick to point out that he’s one of the lucky ones. “I lived out my dream. That dream was to make music and act like a damn fool for the rest of my natural life, and I don’t have to worry about aging because I found the fountain of youth through music. I have a beautiful house and a beautiful wife and a beautiful dog and I get to do something I love all the time.”

Fredua mentioned that Bad Rabbits has a new album one year in the making that will have more anger in it than previous records. He describes some of the album’s lyrical content as “two year’s worth of anger,” much of it directed toward the issues that we spoke about.

The new album, American Nightmare, is planned to drop in September, but will likely end up coming sooner. When I naively asked if the early release was due to the urgency of the message, Fredua’s voice dropped to that sacred place where the spirit meets the bone:

“This is the thing that kills me about this issue of police brutality,” Fredua says calmly, but with palpable fury. Cops are always gonna kill people. As long as there’s a justice system that lets these people kill someone and go about their day, there is never gonna be any type of change. This country is hell bent on keeping things the way it is – to keep the haves and the have-nots, the white and the Black, the Us and the Them, separate.”

The footage of the recent shootings and lack of legal action against the officers involved has made it abundantly clear to the public that it is possible to kill a Black person with little to no consequence. Black activists like Fredua, understandably furious that their lives are proven to be worth less than white victims of similar violence, are routinely portrayed by mainstream media as “armed-and-dangerous Black Power rebels,” seconds away from violence.

Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits
Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits

In an interview with The New Yorker, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza explained that this image is “a battle that we are consistently having to fight. Standing up for the rights of black people as human beings and standing against police violence and police brutality makes you get characterized as being anti-police or it has you being characterized as cop killers, neither of which we are.”

Fredua expressed a similar frustration, explaining that “it’s easier for news channels like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX to show footage of angry Black people on TV than it is for them to show smart Black people with an idea. Nobody is listening to the solutions we’re trying to offer. And the picture they put up of the shooter in Dallas? A pissed-off black man with a dashiki and a fist up? That puts a target on my fucking back!”

Despite all of the difficult topics that came up in our conversation, Fredua’s determination to keep performing and thriving as a Black man in America in 2016 shines through. His concluding statement was one of hope:

“I was raised by two West African immigrants that came to this country on an American dream…I’m gonna make sure that I achieve it through them with my voice. That dream was to have a prosperous, peaceful, God-fearing life. I will die for that. I’m not afraid for a shooter coming to my show, I’ll jump in front of any bullet to protect a fan. I’m gonna do what I do until I die. I will literally die for this.”

Yesterday, Janick Murray-Hall announced that his satirical news site and Journal de Montéal (JdeM) pardoy Le Journal de Mourréal would cease all operations. In a Facebook post, the site’s founder said that he couldn’t afford the legal fees necessary to fight media behemoth and JdeM parent company Quebecor:

Le Journal de Mourréal started publishing fake news stories in 2012 with a style mimicking JdeM’s tabloid approach, complete with a spoof of their logo and category choices on their website. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery for some, for Quebecor, it was cause to seek an injunction, claiming Journal de Mourréal was financially benefiting off the similarities and readers may confuse the two sites.

Initially, Murray-Hall decided to fight the court challenge by raising funds online and, of course, publishing a satirical article about Quebecor’s over-the-top litigious nature, but then realized the costs would be too much and threw in the towel. As Murray Hall’s colleague Olivier (aka Suzanne Lachance) noted in a different Facebook post today, Quebecor was very likely to lose the case, but the prohibitive costs made it impossible for the pair to continue.

This sounds like it could be a typical SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit designed to frighten potential critics into silence with the looming threat of huge expenses. Such suits are, in fact, illegal in Quebec, but then, of course, getting to the point where the Mourréal team could sue for court costs would probably take a hefty amount of legal fees up front.

The question remains, though: Does Quebecor really have such a low opinion of the typical JdeM reader that they think a clearly satirical site may confuse them? Or, as Olivier put it in his Facebook post:

“Honestly, we never thought that a newspaper which publishes 10 articles per day on Pokémon and the Kardashians could actually consider having, at this point, a brand image to defend!”

* Featured image is the former Journal de Mourréal Facebook page header

Looks like the Sûreté du Québec (SQ)’s union have a new strategy for dealing with the allegations of systemic police abuse against aboriginal women: sue the ones who made them.

Seven months after Radio-Canada (French CBC)’s program Enquête aired shocking testimonies of aboriginal women describing widespread abuse of SQ officers in Val d’Or, charges could finally be filed…against Radio Canada. The Journal de Montréal is reporting that The Association des policiers et policières provinciaux du Québec (APPQ) voted in favour of suing the national broadcaster during a congress held last week.

APPQ Communication officer Laurent Arel denied that the mandate specifically targets Radio Canada. According to him, the members voted “for the association to give itself the means of defending the rights of its members,” but FTB is still awaiting specifications about what those means could entail and what rights did Radio Canada threaten. Arel didn’t confirm nor deny that a lawsuit is on the table.

Growing Evidence and Lack of Police Progress

Politicians and the public called for an inquiry following Enquête’s bombshell report. Eight SQ officers were suspended and Montreal’s police force (SPVM) was chosen as “an independent entity” to investigate the allegations.

Since the original report aired, Enquête received a growing numbers of alarming new testimonies from aboriginal women all across the province, allowing them to do a follow-up report in March. Despite this, the SPVM has yet to pursue any criminal charges.

Some will argue that lack of SPVM action proves how unreliable Enquête’s findings are, which incidentally provides grounds for a defamation lawsuit.  But such an argument would have to ignore how often this is the unsurprising outcome of police investigating police actions.

The SQ union initially and fervently opposed the opening of any public inquiry, arguing instead that body cameras and electric Tasers were the only changes they needed to implement to improve their relations with aboriginal communities. Now that they may be suing Radio-Canada, we’re left with a heavy question: are they more interested in preventing these stories from getting out or preventing their officers from abusing native women?

On May 11, 2016 the Jian Ghomeshi scandal was brought to what is for many a disappointing end. On that day it was announced that Ghomeshi agreed to sign a peace bond provided the Crown withdrew any further sexual assault charges. On the surface it looks like Jian Ghomeshi has gotten a free pass for assaulting and harassing so many women, but when you look at peace bonds in greater detail it’s clear the former radio host has hardly gotten a slap on the wrist.

Peace bonds are covered in section 810 of the Canadian Criminal Code. The loose definition of peace bonds is that they’re a formal commitment by a defendant to keep the peace. It’s one of the more common results of plea bargaining between defense attorneys and the prosecution.

In order for a defendant to be made to sign a peace bond, a justice of the peace or court has to be convinced that the victim(s) in a criminal case have reasonable grounds to fear that she, her spouse or common law partner or her children will come to harm without one. The peace bond is also granted if there’s a risk that the defendant could damage victim’s property or if the defendant is at risk of violating Canada’s revenge porn laws.

A peace bond is not a criminal conviction. It does not result in a criminal record or jail time. However, like a prison sentence, peace bonds have a set duration, the maximum being twelve months.

Peace bonds almost always come with conditions decided on by the court and prosecution. These conditions can include making a defendant abstain from drugs and alcohol with the exception of prescriptions. The bond can stipulate that the defendant provide samples of bodily substances for testing like blood or urine either at regular intervals or upon request from a probation officer.

The court can also ban the defendant from possessing any weapons, ammunition or explosives and any licenses or permits to have them. If the court bans the defendant from possessing said weapons, it has to specify in the peace bond the conditions in which they will be surrendered to the authorities and how they’ll be stored or disposed of.

borel

In addition to rules regarding drugs and weapons, peace bonds often include specific conditions made to protect the victim, her spouse or her children. The stipulations are similar to a restraining order and can include forbidding the defendant from directly or indirectly communicating with her or her family and prohibiting him from being at any place where the victim or her family is regularly found.

Since peace bonds generally come with many conditions, the reasons for a peace bond without conditions have to be included in the court’s records.

The duration of Jian Ghomeshi’s peace bond is the maximum twelve months prescribed by law.

Following his signing of the bond, Jian Ghomeshi issued an apology but it was hardly the one Canadian women were looking for. Instead of apologizing to all the women he assaulted and abused, he directed his apology only at Kathryn Borel whom he physically, sexually and verbally abused during the time she worked for him. His apology included one particularly troubling statement in which he said:

“I now recognize that I crossed boundaries inappropriately.”

It’s Ghomeshi’s use of the word “now” that’s problematic. By saying he has only now realized that his behavior was inappropriate he’s implying that he didn’t know at the time that punching, choking, sexually harassing, assaulting, and abusing women was illegal or wrong.

His claim violates one of the most fundamental notions of law: nul n’est censé ignorer la loi aka ignorance is not an excuse. Neither Ghomeshi nor anyone else deserves a free pass for heinous crimes simply because they didn’t know they were crimes. As a media figure Ghomeshi’s claim that he didn’t know his actions were illegal or wrong is particularly doubtful for he would certainly have been apprised of all the news stories of men convicted and jailed for sexual assault and sued for sexual harassment.

It’s more likely that the real reason Ghomeshi is apologizing now is because he got caught.

Though Ghomeshi is currently not going to jail, we can take comfort in the fact that his chances of salvaging his reputation and career are slim to nil and we owe it all to Kathryn Borel. Kathryn Borel worked for Jian Ghomeshi at the CBC and during that time was regularly abused, sexually assaulted and harassed by him. When she went to her employers for help, they sided with Ghomeshi and said it was her job to endure the abuse.

Following the signing of the peace bond Borel turned a public outrage into a glorious vindication. On May 11, 2016 she boldly told the press:

Jian Ghomeshi is guilty of having done the things that I’ve outlined today. So when it was presented to me that the defense would be offering us an apology, I was prepared to forego the trial. It seemed like the clearest path to the truth. A trial would have maintained his lie, the lie that he was not guilty and it would have further subjected me to the very same pattern of abuse that I am currently trying to stop.

Since Ghomeshi’s sexual assaults have come to light, twenty more women have come forward with allegations of his violent, rapey tendencies. Though Ghomeshi has lied, denied guilt, and done a lot of victim blaming it’s clear he’s guilty and a repeat offender.

That means that even though he’s out on the street now, the chance that he’ll be able to obey the terms of his peace bond is pathetic at best, and disobeying the terms of a peace bond can result in jail time. Though most agree that Ghomeshi should be locked up, Canadian women everywhere can take comfort in the fact that though he’s out now, he won’t be for long.

On Friday, January 22nd and Saturday, January 23rd, I attended the Entertainment Management Conference, held at Sid Lee’s in Downtown Montreal. Now in its fourth year, the event was designed to allow emerging young professionals in on some of the trade secrets “behind the business that fuels culture.”

Run by a talented cast of students from McGill’s Desautels Management program, and backed by corporate sponsor Evenko, the event included a series of panels from professionals in Montreal’s music, film, nightlife, gaming, arts and media scenes. On top of that, the two day event included a series of workshops, as well as the opportunity for these young-entrepreneurs to network with professionals. The event provided a unique, immersive experience into the multi-faceted world of the entertainment industry.

As a student who is just about to graduate from McGill, I was hoping the event would give me something, anything, to hang onto as I wade into the uncertain world of “finding employment.”

Forget the Box’s Editor-In-Chief Jason McLean was a panelist during the Media portion of the event, and spoke at length about the challenges that online publications face in not only getting their message across, but also, building a brand and an ‘image’ in an online world that is over-saturated with content. In other words, how do we distinguish “good content” from “bad content?”

Jason’s point was a salient one, and resonated with me for much of the day. Now more than ever, the entertainment industry feels overloaded with “noise.” Take, for example, the insane social media buzz over Kanye’s new album– initially titled Swish, then Waves and finally, The Life of Pablo — which had most of the internet in a frenzy.

While people today are debating over whether Kanye actually ‘dissed’ Taylor Swift on his new track Famous, I got to wondering how much of the buzz surrounding the album’s internet campaign actually merited my time, or was worthy of my attention. Can we really classify Kanye’s latest album release as a solely ‘musical’ enterprise, when clearly, there are so many social and artistic dimensions at play? And at the end of the day, how am I to decide if Kanye’s hyping good content or bad content?

The EMC NIghtlife Panel (l-r) moderator Moderator Oriane Rosner, Noah Bick Creative Director of Passovah Productions, club owner Zach Macklovitch and nightlife promoter DL Jones (photo via EMC on Instagram)
The EMC NIghtlife Panel (l-r) moderator Moderator Oriane Rosner, Noah Bick Creative Director of Passovah Productions, club owner Zach Macklovitch and nightlife promoter DL Jones (photo via EMC on Instagram)

Over and over again, panelists from all corners of the entertainment industry– from Arbutus Records’ Sebastian Cowan, to Mad Decent’s DL Jones– stressed the importance of the network, that is, the face-to-face connection when promoting a party, an album, or a film. As the panelists spoke throughout the day, they consistently reminded us that nothing in the entertainment industry happens without a direct connection between the fan and the artist.

The event’s emphasis on forging personal connections was perhaps the greatest piece of advice that I took away from my time at the EMC 2016. In an age filled with more noise than ever, the panelists urging us to focus on the personal when building a career, of meeting directly with professionals and building relationships, is a crucial thing to note. And of course, their in-person presence at the event really drove that point home.

The professionals speaking at this year’s EMC were consistent in their message of how to make sense of a world filled with way-too-much information; of how to distinguish the things we like from the things we don’t, so we can learn to build our own careers. The message was simple, keep it personal. I’d like to thank all of the hard-working students and sponsors who made this year’s event an enriching experience: the Entertainment Management Conference is undoubtedly good content.

* Featured Image: EMC Media Panel (l-r) moderator Sean Finnell, Jason C. McLean, Editor-in-Chief of Forget the Box, JP Desjardins, CEO of Wallrus and Martin Spalding, VP and GM of local radio and TV for Bell Media. Image via EMC on Instagram

There is one reason to be sorry to say farewell to Stephen Harper. That’s because the end of the Harper era might also mean the demise of ShitHarperDid. The social media comedy group that has built a large cult following poking fun at the PM for four years is considering drawing a the curtain its own act, maybe as a victim of its own success.

For the past four years the pesky anti-Conservative government protest, best known for its satirical YouTube videos supported by crowd funding, aimed to connect with an audience of young Canadians who had grown disenchanted with politics and their inability to affect progressive change.

SHD first came to prominence during the 2011 election, with its own campaign to empower young people with information and the motivation to vote. But SHD could have died after that election, especially as its efforts were frustrated by such a disappointing result.

“We thought we’d have to go back to our day jobs,” said SHD’s founder, Vancouver based stand-up comedian Sean Devlin. But instead the movement was sustained by the frustration at the electoral system that gave Canadians a majority government that didn’t reflect the values of many Canadians.

It’s no accident that the group has a comedian at its foundation. Political change may be the group’s ultimate goal, but the message is delivered through the comedy and satire which has made it so popular.

Devlin soon built SHD into a nationwide network of organisers, volunteers and supporters all across Canada, like Montreal’s David Vanderfleet, who was originally attracted to SHD by its biting brand of comedy.

“I think a lot of young people consider politics really dull. But they’ll share funny stuff online even if it’s political,” he says, “like a lot of people, I first got into the group because of the name. It’s like what you’d say to your friends; ‘Hey, have you heard about that shit Harper did?’”

The group’s YouTube gags include the viral video Ryan Gosling Not Endorsing ShitHarperDid.com:

and the purchase of the domain name EcomomicActionPlan.ca to spoof the government’s self promotional ads on the state of the economy. The SHD versions highlighted unemployment, lack of opportunity and discrimination as an alternative view of Harper’s economic record:

Behind the gags was much more serious activism. Devlin teamed up with Brigitte DePape, who is best remembered as the Senate page appearing on the floor of parliament holding a stop sign with Harper’s name on it. The two activists breached the Prime Minister’s protection protocol to crash a 2014 Harper speaking event in Vancouver to protest the PM’s environmental policy. The stunt got Devlin roughed up and arrested but also gathered national media attention for SHD and its message.

As the 2015 election neared, SHD swung back into full campaign mode focusing on getting the anti Harper vote out. The Conservative campaign handed the protesters plenty of ammunition for its particular brand of mocking protest.

A protester holds a sign reading "Stop Harper" is led from the room as Canada's Governor General David Johnston delivers the Speech from the Throne in the Senate chamber on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Former “Rogue Senate Page” now SHD member Brigitte DePape

With reference to the niqab issue and a woman who was attacked on the streets of Montreal while wearing the veil, SHD’s webpage offered a stinging message to the Harper government: “If you’re going to put Canadians against each other to get ahead in the polls at least offer a hand up after they get knocked down…and wash it off before you offer it, you slimy eel-eyed discriminating weasel.”

A massive mobilization of its supporters on election day may have played a part in ending the Harper era, but the question the membership is now being asked on the SHD web page is whether the group’ efforts should continue and where it could go from here.

Brigitte DePape has suggested that the fight will continue on several other fronts. “We are part of building something special that is capable of taking down not only the Harper government. It’s really great being part of this shift in culture,” she says.

It remains to be seen whether the shift in Canada’s political culture DePape refers to will gather momentum or moss, considering how it has been built on antipathy toward such a polarizing figure as Harper.

One hint at SHD’s new focus can now be seen on its website. A ‘Trudeau meter’ will record the incoming PM’s record of keeping his promises. “We will be prepared to hold that (new) government to account and push for the systemic changes we need to get through,” said a statement by Devlin, “things like the climate crisis, the environmental crisis and the economic crisis.”

David Vanderfleet confirms that he wouldn’t like to see the movement disband, even if it’s in need of a name change. “Shit Trudeau Does? No!” he laughs, as he considers how it might be abbreviated, “I don’t think that could work.”

Wednesday morning, like most mornings, I went on Facebook to see what was going on in my community and the world and to get a good idea of what people would be talking about that day. It’s a useful start of the day ritual for someone in media and something to do while the coffee brews.

The first thing that caught my eye was a story from Global News announcing that two journalists had been murdered live on air. I clicked and was greeted by a video player. In my not-yet-caffinated state, I clicked play.
I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe a news report on the incident. I missed the graphic content warning and saw the raw footage of a murder as it aired live on WDBJ Roanoke, Virginia.

Fortunately I didn’t see the carnage, but still a helluva way to start the day. At least I was only a witness after the fact. The day started off much, much worse for reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Brad Ward.

virginia shooting victims
Shooting victims Alison Parker and Brad Ward

As the coffee kicked in and my mind shifted to what I actually needed to do, I wondered why it was necessary for me and the thousands of others clicking on that post to see the actual crime. It wasn’t, and I could have done without. Just knowing that it happened would have been enough.

Later in the day, as more details started to emerge, a more graphic video shot by the killer started showing up and even did in my feed. By this point, I was awake enough to know not to watch it, but I seriously wondered why anyone would share it at all.

Sometimes We Need to Watch, But Not This Time

Now I will admit that sometimes it is important to share graphic videos. However unpleasant to watch, videos of police murdering and abusing unarmed citizens need to be shared. Videos and images of wartime atrocities committed by supposedly democratic governments are also important to circulate.

This is because public outcry over abuses of the state is essential for any changes to happen. Otherwise, crimes, even murder, can very easily be swept under the rug.

What happened Wednesday morning in Virginia was not one of those times. The killer freely admitted his crime and posted the proof himself. This is one of those rare cases where we should trust law enforcement to be the only ones to view the evidence and respond accordingly.

Murder For Shares

Whatever the killer’s stated motives were, fame was clearly what he was looking for above all. He made sure he killed live on air to get the story out there and filmed his own version and posted it himself, hoping for an exclusive.

He was denied that pretty quickly. Facebook, where he posted the video and Twitter which he used to link to it deleted his accounts almost immediately. LinkedIn also removed his profile, though that was kind of pointless. Murdering former colleagues effectively makes a business networking page useless.

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Unfortunately this didn’t stop other people who had captured the video from sharing it themselves. They can try and justify it all they want, but sharing in this case is helping the killer get what he wants at the expense of the victims and the peace of mind of anyone who had the misfortune of watching (I hear some of these vids were on autoplay).

Basic Decency Isn’t That Hard

While the gun the killer used to commit the murder is something that should be restricted, the tools he used to record and upload it aren’t. Before we start talking about a mandatory waiting period and background check for data roaming plans, we should realize that we can stop killers from posting murder online by denying them an audience for it.

It’s not that hard, really, we just need to apply a bit of basic decency. For example, Vince McMahon isn’t known for being decent, but yet, our modern-day PT Barnum decided against using the death of a wrestler during one of his company’s Pay-Per-View events as a moneymaker. The WWE cut to stock crowd footage right after it happened and destroyed all footage (except those they sent to authorities) and even removed the Pay-Per-View from its history (yes, he didn’t cancel the rest of the event when it was running, that would have cost millions, but he did do the right thing after the fact).

So what does it say when a man who never met something he couldn’t gleefully exploit decided to take the high road when someone actually died, but legit news outlets have no problem sharing the footage of a murder? Also, what about the New York Daily News and a slew of other papers who took a screengrab from the killer’s video of the shot being fired and splashed it across their front page?

Well, they’re just Murdoch tabaloids, I guess. That’s their excuse. But for the people sharing the video, what’s yours? Don’t you realize that by sharing the killer’s angle on the shooting you are helping him get the fame he so craved? Why would you do this?

Slamming mainstream media is easy, but they respond to a perceived demand. If there is no demand, they won’t show it. We’ve got to stop clicking on videos like this. We shouldn’t share videos like this.

This is probably the first time a murder was designed for social media. Together we can make it the last. If we don’t build it, they won’t come.

There was a time when Bell Canada had a monopoly on telecommunications in this country. That may have changed decades ago, but it’s clear they still haven’t gotten over it.

Sometimes this comes out as frustration at no longer being the only game in town. Try ordering internet through a third party ISP that has to use Bell’s lines and technicians. When the Bell rep activates the service and tells you in no uncertain terms that they will only do the one thing they have to, no more, it will become clear that this is a company which still yearns for the good old days.

Sometimes, though, it seems like top executives are in denial about the company losing its former dominance. This “it’s still the 70s” mentality is most apparent when it comes to technology that didn’t even exist 20 years ago.

Shaming Canadians for Accessing US Netflix

Yesterday new Bell Media President Mary Ann Turcke asked the public to shame those who used VPNs to access the American version of Netflix. She also lamented media articles that she called a virtual how-to on unlocking Netflix content not officially accessible to Canadians.

I wish they were comprehensive how-to guides. Then they would include free options like Hola, which is available as a Chrome extension and takes less than a minute to set up. You simply click it when you’re on Netflix and identify which country you’d like to be virtually visiting from. It also works on other sites which employ geo-blocking just as easily.

hola
Screenshot of hola.org in action

These articles also don’t mention Media Hint which turns an entire browser, usually Firefox, into a US-based surfing device. Recently they’ve only made their service free on a trial basis, but supporting them financially isn’t the worst thing you can do.

It’s Not Stealing If You Paid For It

The most galling part of Turcke’s statement is that she equates getting around geo blocks with stealing. Her messaging hearkens back to commercials from a few decades ago that argued illegally accessing cable and satellite signals was basically the same as shoplifting.

Now, if she was talking about illegal downloads or streams from pirate sites, she would have a point. I’m not going to get into a piracy debate now, only to say that her narrative would be consistent if she was talking about Pirate Bay, but she wasn’t, she was talking about Netflix, something people pay for.

Canadian Netflix clients pay the same per month as those in the US, but because of geo blocks, they have access to a fraction of the content. There’s no option to buy the American version.

How can you be stealing something if there’s no option to buy it? But, in this case, you did buy it.

Editorial cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator - Friday June 5, 2015
Editorial cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday June 5, 2015

Imagine walking into a store, paying for a case of beer and as you walk out the door, the clerk realizes it’s 11:10 pm and in Quebec, where you are, there are supposed to be no beer sales after 11.

In this scenario the store could be in trouble for selling alcohol after it is legally allowed to, but you did nothing wrong. While that point can be debated (did you know it was after 11?) one thing that is absolutely clear is that you did not steal the beer. You paid for it and were entitled to walk out of the store with it.

If you pay for Netflix and access US content, you are not stealing. Period.

Turcke’s statement is just a desperate attempt to make people who have committed no crime feel guilty. Canadian media conglomerates, with help from the CRTC, already tried to go after Netflix. That didn’t work because Netflix is doing all it can to prevent virtual border jumping.

Geo blocking is unenforceable as those circumventing it are committing no crime. They’re not stealing. They may be breaking paragraph whatever, subsection something of the Netflix user agreement, but the last time I checked, that wasn’t enforceable by federal law.

So Bell has resorted to public shaming. Problem for them is there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of and everyone outside of the Bell bubble knows it.

Old Media Models Need to Go

When you access US content in Canada with a VPN service, you aren’t taking food off the table of content producers, directors, performers or crew. The only thing you’re doing is forcing giant companies like Bell into the 21st century.

When television content needed to be carried across great distances by conventional means, it made sense to have local distributors. Online, though, there is no need. Sending a friend who lives a few blocks away a Facebook message is just as easy as texting, even though your question about where you are meeting that night bounces to and back from a server in California before reaching its destination.

There are no natural geographic barriers on the internet, only those we impose on ourselves. The Canadian old media business model of buying US content and then redistributing it for profit is quickly disappearing. Likewise, the concept of selling content to distributors for specific markets needs to be done away with, too.

No More National Media

A few months ago, I argued that Canadian media companies should focus on producing original programming instead of paying to re-distribute US content. The biggest argument against this idea whose time has come is the fact that they would never be able to compete. The US is too huge a market.

If you see the entire population of media consumers in all 50 states as one block and Canadian media consumers as another, they’re right. However, if the media model no longer called for national distribution by a network that broadcast to an entire country, then the size of a particular national market would no longer matter.

A drama about hockey, for example, produced in Canada, may not get “picked up” by a major American network as a distributor (because people in Nashville and Tampa don’t really care about hockey cc: Gary Bettman), but could build an audience in this country and in major American markets like New York, Boston and Washington, plus in parts of Europe. If the model was one source distributing online to the world, that source would do very well.

Stuck in the Old Ways

Instead of trying to be that source of innovation, Bell would prefer stick to the old ways. Along with their Canadian media conglomerate compatriots, they rolled out sites like Shomi and Crave TV and called them Netflix competitors. Problem is they aren’t competitors at all because you need to first get a cable package before signing up.

shomi crave tv netflix

Either they just don’t get what people want or they chose to be oblivious to the reality of the current global media landscape. Either through ignorance or arrogance, they are acting like the old Bell who had a monopoly. Now, though, they want to make you feel guilty about not buying into their view.

I could go on and on, but I think I’d rather marathon Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, available on US Netflix.

“I’m not stuck in anybody’s body — this is just who I am as a human being” – Caitlyn Jenner

I could not even imagine what it feels like to be existing in a body that doesn’t match how you feel on the inside. Told from childhood that you have to be a certain way. Boys on one side and girls on the other. No acknowledgement of the in betweens. Pink or blue! Well I like purple.

I have always celebrated my femininity and given strength to my masculine side as well. All people are a mixture of both, gender and sexuality are not cut and dry. They are both fluid terms that have been influenced by societal standards and cultural norms. Nobody fits in a box.

For the haters out there – just stop! It takes a lot of courage to do what she is doing and your ignorant trolling is not welcome. This is 2015, we live in a world where people should feel safe sharing themselves and not tormented by hate mongers. The media pisses me off by putting the pronoun she in quotation marks and still calling her by her former name, Bruce. Have some fucking respect.

jenner newspaper
Have some fucking respect, New York Post

Caitlyn Jenner is in an interesting situation of privilege. She is in the spotlight during a very private point in her life and she isn’t hiding any intimate details. Her former self was the pinnacle of masculine achievement, winning all the Olympic medals and being the patriarch of a famous reality TV family.

She spent her whole life hiding inside of that success. In the 70’s Jenner wore a bra and panty hose under a suit, now she is able to strip out of that unnecessary layer.

She is now on the cover of Vanity fair with loose curls, flawless makeup, and a white corset. It took a lot of courage to reveal her true self. Her position and celebrity status has thrust her into becoming one of the most recognizable and talked about trans-women ever. Fame is a big responsibility, she has chosen to use that to her advantage and be honest about her body for the first time in her life. She looks spectacular.

At 65 years old, Caitlyn Jenner is also the oldest woman ever to grace the cover of Vanity Fair. She shattered multiple cultural hurdles with her bold cover shot, she is now a revolutionary icon.

Being a woman is hard enough in this society, being a trans-woman is exponentially more difficult. Suicide and hate crimes are both sadly very prevalent in the trans community.

Ageism is also a real problem. When even cisgender women reach a certain age they become desexualized and forgotten by the media at large. Caitlyn has proved that beauty has no age limit.

With this simple “Call me Caitlyn” she is finally seen for who she is and not who she used to be. This is a hard task for someone who has been famous for decades. There is no way that her public transformation would not create a spectacle – and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

I am proud of her for not hiding this and going on her whole life with inner torment. She was unapologetically honest with herself and the world, shedding positive light on a minority group that is often discriminated against even in the LGBT community, never quite being understood, always marginalized.

By talking to Diane Sawyer on 20/20 and allowing the world to listen Caitlyn has opened up a really important dialogue about transgender acceptance and understanding. We should celebrate her extreme visibility and openness with her journey as a win for all people who have been marginalized or dehumanized by being transgender.

Hopefully by talking about it the world as a whole will have a better idea of what transitioning really means. I knew that things were changing when the topic of transgender folks came up at the family dinner table the other day. It was refreshing to have this conversation openly with them.

Some people are judging her, saying its all for publicity. Those people are idiots. Who would change their gender for a stunt? It’s not an act of vanity, she hid inside her body until she was 65 years old because she didn’t want to disappoint her family or fans.

She didn’t need the attention. Especially being someone who is already rich, famous, and doesn’t need any more justification.

Personally I hate reality television, it’s a superficial circus. Jenner’s new reality show on E! is definitely going to be a little different than anything we have seen before. I hope they keep it classy.

No more lies or hiding, Caitlyn is finally free – especially when the camera is there, she will have no choice but to be real.

chelsea
Chelsea Lee Jones

I only wish that my dear friend Chelsea Lee Jones was able to see this story unfold. Chelsea was a trans-woman that I was lucky enough to be friends with. She illuminated the world with her grace, style, and compassion.

Her story was very similar to Caitlyn’s. She was successful and married with a family, then later in life came out as trans. Chelsea was so important to her community, she made sure that everyone felt safe and fabulous, often leading the charge and inspiring other trans-women to be themselves in public, which is scary as fuck.

Tragically Chelsea was taken from us only a week after she finally received her new drivers license with her true identity on it. I remember the joy in her face when she proudly showed it off. She had finally become the person who she always was on the inside, and she was so lovely.

I remember once she showed me a photo of her mother and I commented on how they had the same beautiful smile. I will never forget the happiness in her eyes upon receiving that compliment.

She changed my life forever, her courage inspired me to be myself no matter what and her legacy will always live on in the hearts of all who knew her. I miss her every day. Every dance is for you girl! Chelsea would have been proud of Caitlyn and her inspiring public transformation.

At the end of the day Jenner is a rich woman who can pay for the thousands of dollars of gender affirming surgeries. To the public eye this transformation might seem quick and easy (we got to see the before and after). For most trans people this journey will take years of engaging in risky procedures, poor health care, and lack of understanding and support from their families.

It’s often a long and lonely struggle to become who you feel on the inside. I hope someday that everyone will have the same access and acceptance as Caitlyn. We have a long way to go, but this is a step in the right direction. Nobody should be afraid to let their true light shine.

The first rule of reading news articles on the internet: if you don’t want to get angry, stay away from the comments. I broke that rule more than once, both during the lead up to the current student protests against austerity and since they started to bloom. I have lived to regret it, though my shattered piece of mind did lead to one rather interesting observation: the rhetoric of trolls has permeated the mainstream.

Are you familiar with CJAD? While their most prominent opinion show hosts veer right of centre, their overall news coverage is quite balanced. However, their audience, at least those who comment on Facebook, is, for the most part, divided between those who feel everything is about language and separatism and those who spew the sort of bile I would only expect from the most ignorant portions of the Republican base south of the border.

A few weeks ago, I saw one comment that made me do a double-take. The commenter was arguing that the reason a pre-strike protest at UQAM drew only a few hundred people was because the unions didn’t have the money to front the students this year and this was good because students’ brains hadn’t developed enough to comprehend complex political and economic philosophy.

I replied, calling him out on his ageism and he actually tried to respond with a flawed scientific argument. It was then that I realized I was speaking with the drunk at the bar that everyone knew was going to be thrown out by bouncers before the night was over, so I closed the tab on my computer and stopped engaging.

The problem is that his condescending attitude has found its place beyond the space inhabited by trolls. You see it all over the media and the web these days. It’s just a little less blatant and a lot more insidious.

So-Called Austerity

CTV news may not be the most progressive media out there, but they have always maintained at least basic journalistic standards when it comes to their reporting. Their bias has always been apparent in what they choose to present, not their choice of words.

Now, that seems to have changed. In at least three recent posts to their website about Printemps 2015, they refer to the Couillard government’s “so-called” austerity measures. So-called? When did the Quebec government’s plan to cut services and pensions fall into the realm of alleged austerity?

I’m pretty sure if you asked Philippe Couillard if his government was implementing austerity measures, he’d deny it, but he’s a politician. However, if you google austerity and compare the definition to what the premier has been doing, you’d see they match. According to the Financial Times Lexicon, “austerity measures refer to official actions taken by the government, during a period of adverse economic conditions, to reduce its budget deficit using a combination of spending cuts or tax rises.” The media even called it austerity until the students got involved.

You may agree with this definition. You may prefer, as I do, to extrapolate a bit and call austerity the practice of cutting off services and support for the poor or those of moderate to average income because of a perceived crisis and implement corporate welfare, er, business incentives and tax breaks. Either way, austerity is what the Couillard administration is bringing in.

Either way, austerity is what those in the streets are fighting. Instead of actually trying to defend austerity, which is really a tough sell, those against the protests have taken to arguing that it’s not really austerity the students, and now others, are fighting.

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Quebec Has it Easy

Leave it to Reddit to explain how a protest clearly against austerity may not be. It all stems from the fact that Couillard’s austerity measures aren’t as severe as those elsewhere. This is true (Greece comes to mind), but it also misses the point completely.

It reminds me of the old right-wing refrain from 2012. You know the old chestnut I’m talking about, the one that points out how Quebec students pay the lowest tuition in North America. While true, it is irrelevant to the discussion.

That fight was for no tuition increase, not even a penny, with the ultimate goal, for some, of university being free. This is a fight for no austerity, not even a little, but a different approach to allocating resources.

Making the argument that students should accept a tuition increase or Quebec should accept its austerity because it’s not that bad compared to other places presupposes that tuition increases and austerity are inevitable and need to be accepted, if only a little bit. Or, just the tip.

Grow Up, Get a Job

I was wondering why these arguments still got any traction and why that random CJAD troll’s statements, which were beyond offensive, weren’t criticised by more than some random lefty who happened to make the mistake of reading the comments. I think it stems from what Winston Churchill said:

“If you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at 40 you have no brain.”

The modern local equivalent of this statement is “when these kids grow up and get a job, they’ll understand why they’re being foolish.”

The concept that abandoning social justice and embracing neoliberal economic policies and the global austerity agenda is a sign of maturity is not only wrong and condescending to those who have a different opinion, but it is also an option that is only open to the privileged. As someone who is privileged, has grown up to a certain extent, and has a job, I can tell you that austerity is wrong-headed and harmful.

Another world is, in fact, possible, and it starts with those in the streets. Now if only we can all admit that they do know what they’re talking about.

* photos by Gerry Lauzon