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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 threerecentposts 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.
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.
So it looks like some people who have been downloading movies and TV shows illegally are going to get letters. That’s right, not even emails. Actual snail mail. Threatening snail mail at that.
Not sure if this will have any effect, given that our mail service is soon not going to be a door-to-door thing and also considering that these warnings are nothing more than that. There are no fines or jail time possible, they’re just toothless warnings.
But Canadians are, for the most part, a well-intentioned people. I’m sure we’d happily pay to support the shows we want if there was a way. That is, if there was a way that didn’t involve having to first pay for a cable service and then the content we’re looking for.
Such a thing exists south of the border, or rather it will exist soon. HBO is finally making it possible to purchase the GO platform, accessible through computers, smartphones, tablets and as an app on Smart TVs, without first having a cable subscription, but only in the US.
That’s right, all that fine HBO program… Yes, Game of Thrones, new season, because that and maybe True Detective is all we’re really after, right? The service should cost $12 a month and while that’s a pretty penny to pay for one show, it also may include quite a bit of the back catalogue, kind of like Netflix. That means Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, old episodes of Game of Thrones, pretty good deal, if you ask me.
I would gladly pay $12 a month for HBO legally, instead of “going to a friend’s house” (cause I’d never do anything illegal… and then admit it online). A lot of time, energy, talent and money went into these shows and I’d happily support them. Unfortunately, due to my geographic situation, I can’t. Instead, I’m free to support Canadian cable conglomerates that had no hand in creating the programming I want. I have neither the will or the funds to do that.
It’s time that Canadian media companies shifted focus away from fighting hard to reinforce a system that allows them to become rich by buying then re-selling content they didn’t make, through an outdated method, and instead creating some great content of their own and distributing it through apps and streaming services that the whole world has access to.
There has never been a better opportunity for Canadian-produced media to shine globally. Sure, Canadian companies don’t have the marketing or production budgets that Hollywood does, but that can change and will change if they stop focusing on distribution, and opt for a simple model, using something like a website and an app, and instead of buying US shows, pour that money into content production and promo instead.
Hollywood has a reason to fear the internet, Toronto doesn’t. We should let the full American version of Netflix come in without people having to be clever, same for HBO GO. Who cares what Canadian company owns what? We won’t be buying shows anymore, we’ll be making them.
The internet should have no national boundaries. Not only does that democratize things for smaller content producers, it also makes it possible for national media companies that aren’t American to get a leg up.
Unfortunately, for now, it looks like our media conglomerates are clinging to the old ways so much they’ve resorted to sending letters.
But honestly, guys, if you blow this chance, THE NORTH WILL NEVER FORGET!
TIME magazine recently included “feminism” in their “Which word should be banned in 2015?” poll. The suggestion was supposed to be meant as joke, but looking back at some of the major news stories from 2014 shows that there’s no joke about it. Feminism is a movement that has not been fully realized and is very much still necessary.
Every day porn actors give willing consent for the world to ogle their naked bodies, and the internet literally gives one millions of options to choose from. The hundreds of mostly female celebrities whose nude photos were leaked in August meanwhile did not give their consent.
Despite this disturbing attack on privacy, after the photo leak celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence were slut-shamed. As Lawrence described in her October 2014 Vanity Fair article, the photos were meant as a private gift for her long distance boyfriend, NOT for the world to dissect on 4chan. One of the drawbacks of being a modern day celebrity is that the public wants to know the most intimate details of your private life. Now that demand for knowledge seems to extend to their most intimate body parts as well.
Another important online story this year was GamerGate. The events surrounding GamerGate may have begun as a protest against corrupt journalism, but it eventually devolved when women who spoke up about issues in the gamer community where harassed and threatened.
Gamer and “Feminist Frequency” author Anita Sarkeesian was one such woman. Sarkeesian had to cancel a speaking appearance in Utah after she was sent an email which threatened a “Montreal Massacre like attack” if she spoke. Thankfully Sarkeesian escaped without incident, unlike the six victims of Elliot Rodger. Rodger’s California shooting spree this past May was allegedly about seeking retribution against women who sexually rejected him.
Not all feminist hate came from men this year. Women Against Feminism got a lot of press in 2014 with their stated mission being “women’s voices against modern feminism and it’s toxic culture.” Besides the few inane WAF posters who insist they enjoy living in a patriarchal society, most declare they want equal rights for the sexes. Many also correctly point out there’s unfair standards out there for both men and women. So why then do they prefer to be labelled as egalitarian as opposed to feminist?
Perhaps because even in the third wave of the movement, feminism for many still equals angry, man-hating lesbian. “The more I spoke about feminism, the more I realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating…For the record feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities,” Emma Watson (recently appointed feminist of the year) said during her eloquent speech at the UN in September.
Some believe that celebrities like Watson standing up for feminism in fact negatively impacts the movement. In her articleEmma Watson? Jennifer Lawrence? These aren’t the feminists you’re looking for, feminist writer Roxane Gay worries celebrity culture has muffled the meaning of the feminist movement. She also argues that there’s no need to make feminism more accessible to men.
Gay’s arguments are worth analyzing. Are celebrities who tweet selfies of themselves with signs saying #HeforShe or #BringBackOurGirls making a big difference? Probably not. But it’s impossible to deny that famous face gives global attention to causes that need it.
And if feminism ever hopes to truly achieve its goals, it does needs to work side by side with men to make it happen. How incredible would it be if male and female feminists could inspire men to be less like pick-up artist Julien Blanc and more like Pakistani diplomat Ziauddin Yousafzai?
Yousafzai is the father of this year’s Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai. In March Yousafzai gave a TED talk (see video below) about misogyny and the patriarchy in developing and tribal societies. By not “clipping his daughter’s wings” and by teaching her as a girl she too had the right to go to school, Malala has inspired a generation of women to stand up for their rights.
Brave families like the Yousafzai’s are the most important reason why feminism still matters. Long after Hollywood has moved on to its next cause du jour, charities like The Malala Fund will still need support. Twitter may have died down with its #BringBackOurGirls intensity, but it’s important to remember most of those girls are still missing. Women in Saudi Arabia are receiving prison sentences for driving cars. Gang rapes and lack of police interest in the crimes continue to plague India.
So the haters can spout all the nonsense they want about how feminism hurts women. But the rest of us are going to remember that feminism isn’t just a word that Beyoncé calls herself. It’s an important movement that affects all women on the planet, and still has a lot of work ahead.
Net Neutrality, the principle that all content online should be equally accessible, is under attack…again. This time around, the Federal Communications Commission in the US is poised to allow an internet “fast lane” for sites that pay for premium carriage (things in Canada, btw, aren’t much better).
John Oliver has something to say about this. On his new HBO show Last Week Tonight (think Oliver hosting The Daily Show but with uncensored swearing and occasional nudity), Oliver not only dug into the reasons behind the FCC’s new stance, but also why so many are apathetic about it. He concluded with a very unique callout.
It’s not like us to spend time talking about another site, but then, Ricochet isn’t just another site. In fact, it’s a new model for national journalism in Canada with a plan to transform the Canadian media landscape.
Ricochet is crowd funded, bilingual and unabashedly progressive. This trifecta is attracting some of the top names on the Canadian and global left. We’re talking Judy Rebick, Linda McQuaig, Tom Hayden, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Malalai Joya to name a few.
It has also attracted a slew of young writers from around the globe who will contribute in both English and French. They hope to bridge the gap not only between Anglo and Franco communities but with Indigenous ones as well. With Reuben George and Idle No More Quebec founders Melissa Mollen Dupuis and Widia Lariviere on board, there will be a clear focus on native issues.
Ricochet hopes to raise $75 000 in a month-long Indie Go Go crowdfunding campaign based on small contributions in support of content donors want to see. There will even be a way for readers to suggest and vote on stories they want to see covered.
Ricochet plans to use these funds to pay writers a competitive wage, fund investigative reports and compete with mainstream media using comparable resources not coming from corporate advertisers. It’s a reverse model to that of the Huffington Post, which although well funded through advertising, doesn’t share that wealth with many of its contributors.
If successful, and it really looks like it will be, Ricochet and their model could have lasting positive repercussions for media in Canada. They’re a welcome addition to the Canadian media landscape.
Ricochet unveils its site and launches its crowdfunding campaign today with a 5 a 7 at Bar Populaire, 6584 boul St-Laurent
Discussions of news through social media often consider it a threat toward traditional media in informing, mobilizing, and empowering the public. While this medium may grant more accessibility, it also comes with its own set of drawbacks and as such, social media movements -such as the recent #BringBackOurGirls campaign- often have mixed effects.
On April 14th, over 300 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from a school in the Northern town of Chibok, Nigeria by the insurgent group Boko Haram. 53 of the kidnapped girls managed to escape but 276 remain in captivity a month later.
On May 12th, Boko Haram released a video of the remaining girls, stating that they would be released in exchange for the Nigerian government’s release of Boko Haram prisoners.
These kidnappings are only the most recent strategy used by Boko Haram who claims that it will not stop until it overthrows the current government.
The insurgent group’s political objective is to remove all forms of Western influence in Nigeria -including Western attire, elections and secularism- and replacing it with a form of Islamic governance that is based on traditional systems and Sharia law.
The group has previously used violent means in attempts to achieve these objectives. It has claimed responsibility for attacks on Nigerian journalists and media organizations, government employees, farmers, schools, military barracks and international organizations.
More than a month later, over 260 schoolgirls still remain in custody of Boko Haram. These kidnappings are only the most recent strategy used by the insurgent group, which had previously launched attacks on Nigerian journalists and media organizations, government employees, farmers, military barracks, international organizations and even schools.
Indeed, the scale of these kidnappings sets it apart from previous attacks and shows the continuing ability of Boko Haram to operate even in light of the region being under emergency law.
Social media: Western uptake
Despite the scale of the Chibok kidnappings, international media did not immediately pick up the story. Protests in response to the Nigerian government’s initially false statements on the girls’ and the advent of the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls belatedly catapulted the issue onto the front pages of international newspapers and newsfeeds.
Thanks to the traces left by online content this can be well documented: The Chibok kidnappings took place April 14th, #BringBackOurGirls was first created April 23rd, and in-depth coverage by the Western media began in late April and early May. Political and social figures have also participated in the campaign and have thus increased its visibility.
First Lady Michelle Obama posted a picture of herself with the hashtag on Instagram and broke convention to deliver the weekly Presidential address alone, stating “In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams – and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”
Activist Malala Yousafzai also tweeted her support and penned an article titled “Save my Nigerian Sisters,” connecting the Chibok kidnappings to the global problem of difficulties faced by women in pursuing education.
The high degree of coverage of the kidnappings has also spurred political action by the international community. China, Britian, France, Israel and the US have offered their own specialized investigative teams to aid the Nigerian government in locating the girls.
The United States in particular, is reported to have also shared intelligence with the Nigerian government, and has deployed manned surveillance missions in attempts to locate the girls.
In this, the positives of the social media movement cannot be denied. It has brought the story of these schoolgirls into everyday conversation and has helped mobilize international resources and support.
However, there is a limit in the ability of social media campaigns to inform and to effect change. The high volume and short word limits of social media posts do not convey the complex political context in Nigeria. Instead, social media can further promote sensational narratives that exclusively focus on the threat of violent extremist ‘Islamists’ and/or an underdeveloped Africa.
Such generalized conversations can then divorce the link between the Chibok kidnappings and the broader social and political context specific to Nigeria.
Indeed, the fact that Boko Haram was able to orchestrate the Chibok raid in a region under emergency law and counterinsurgency measures demonstrates how vital structural factors –such as government corruption, sectarian tensions, socioeconomic inequality and military incapacity- are to the making sense of the crisis.
Social media also provides a platform for critics to voice their opinions and to engage in debates with those promoting the movements. Michelle Obama’s tweet was met with criticisms of hypocrisy as users employed the hashtags#BringBackYourDrones and #AllInnocentLivesAreEqual to counter that the Obama administration’s foreign policy decisions in the Middle East and South Asia has also jeopardized the lives of children.
None of this is to say that the kidnappings do not warrant international attention. Indeed, social media was instrumental in challenging the initially lackluster responses. However, the virality of a social media campaign does not necessarily guarantee resolution of the issue it champions.
#KONY2012 is a powerful reminder of social media’s selective attention and of its ability to distort, exploit, sensationalize and #BringBackOurGirls has similarly experienced much of the positives and the negatives of a social media campaign.