Saturday, 10 December 2011

A brain needs to Occupy Brodbeck's head

Winnipeg Occupiers: According to Brodbeck,
cowardly squatters who have it so easy and are so
hypocritical, in their high-rise tents & all!

Image Source: Winnipeg Metro News

Well, the Winnipeg Sun's star editorialist - Tom Brodbeck - is at it again. With thoughts slightly less deep than a puddle in the Sahara, he swipes at the Occupy Winnipeg movement:

We all knew the Occupy Winnipeg folks wouldn’t make it a week into real winter. The camp has been devoid of “protesters” for several weeks now. They left their tents up but they were largely empty every time we went by to check out the camp.

What we did see was a lot of junk and garbage lying around — not very environmental of them.


The vast majority of the tents are now down. And the vows of “sticking it out through the winter” were more bravado than real courage. Everyone’s now back in their carbon-heated homes driving their greenhouse-gas emitting vehicles and punching away at their corporately-manufactured laptops and iPads.
Upon reading this garden-variety Brodbeck style crap, I have a few comments and observations.

  • Would Tom Brodbeck trade his warmly heated office, where he spews his ill-informed opinions, for a tent in Downtown Winnipeg during chilling winter temperatures? How could these protesters be so "cowardly" and full of "false bravado" if Winnipeg Sun writers like Brodbeck are right about Winnipeg's downtown - that is to say, that their claim the core is a war-zone is right?

  • As someone who actually visited the Winnipeg Occupiers in late November, let me just say that more than a few people stayed well after snowfall and sub-zero temperatures. To reiterate point one, would Brodbeck trade his rightwing whine fest office for the sub-zero temperatures of an early Winnipeg winter?

  • I also gleaned from my visit to the camp how remarkably generous and tolerant the Occupiers were - to a fault. The crowd was diverse, with some LGTB members, and they were remarkably tolerant to a homophobic woman who harassed campers. After the fact they spoke extensively of strategies to de-escalate situations like that. I can only imagine how incredibly far from this superhuman level of patience the angry Brodbeck falls.

  • Any camp generates garbage, but for a camp with little central organization, varying inhabitants, and a completely volunteer-based staff, they did a remarkably good amount of cleaning before heavy snowfall. I personally witnessed a man doing heavy garbage removal in sub-zero temperatures purely out of his personal generosity.  

  • There were more than a few road cyclists at Occupy Winnipeg, so not all of them went back to "driving their greenhouse-gas emitting vehicles".

  • Since Brodbeck apparently thinks it's hypocritical for the Occupiers - who range from solidly anti-capitalist anarcho-syndicalists to reformist social democrats to reform liberals who just think capitalism needs the enforcement of law to work - to live within the constraints of the present system, then I guess all rightwingers who benefit from a big government R&D project via the Internet (or many pharmaceuticals), benefit from cheap hydro rates or cheap beer or cheap auto-insurance in Manitoba, cheap municipal water or subsidized agricultural products are evil hypocrites for not going ridiculously out of their way to avoid anything the product of state intervention in the marketplace. 

Honestly, the number of times this stupid "gottcha" gimmick has been used against critics of poorly regulated corporate capitalism is amazing. I'm not an anti-capitalist, as a market economy whose underlying institutions are structured in a way to ensure more equitable outcomes is the best socioeconomic system, but this gottcha smear is just stupid and needs to stop being used if there's any hope for humanity.


    Now, this isn't the end of Brodbeck's staggering ignorance.

    It was funny actually. This was a Seinfeld occupation, a protest about nothing.
    The only way one could view Occupy Winnipeg as a "protest about nothing" is if the amount of time one spent researching the protests approaches "nothing". Very little research goes a very long way in determining exactly what the Occupy protests are about (socioeconomic equality, limiting the influence of money in politics, and holding the perpetrators of the financial crisis accountable). Something covered here before.

    Tom Brodbeck continues this epic failure of a piece with more arrogant claims that bite him in the back if one thinks for a moment.

    Even when they were trying to protest against something specific like jails, they didn’t even have a rudimentary understanding of how the criminal justice system works.

    They couldn’t even protest at the right cabinet minister’s office. They were “occupying” the office of Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan over a federal crime bill.

    News flash guys: The provincial justice minister has no control whatsoever over federal legislation. Try a federal office next time.
    Newsflash, Brodbeck, Manitoba's justice minister has influence and sway over provincial crime policy and how smoothly federal legislation is implemented in this province, even if said legislation is ultimately passed in Ottawa. Andrew Swan actually took a pretty solid stand in favour of the Harper Conservative dumb on crime bill, so bringing public protest to him makes sense. Besides, Brodbeck, do you really expect Occupy Winnipeg to be Occupying Ottawa?

    The Selinger government said they didn’t interfere with the protest because they believe in freedom of expression. This had nothing to do with freedom of expression. This had to do with a bunch of people illegally occupying a public park and having open fires in contravention of fire bylaws.


    Here’s my advice to the province:

    At the first sign of someone trying to set up a tent at Memorial Park in the spring, move in and take it down. Don’t give them time to set up their little village. The park is under camera surveillance from the Legislature and is monitored 24/7 by provincial security staff.


    Don’t let these guys ruin an entire summer for families, kids and soccer players who want to use Memorial Park next year.
    Time to get a backbone.

     Apparently, Selinger not making Manitoba an international embarrassment like Melbourne - which used disproportionate measures against peaceful if civilly disobedient protesters - makes him spineless. Quite frankly, Tom Brodbeck is a provincial disgrace.

    Incidentally, at least according to some of the Occupiers I've spoken to, the government hasn't been super-lenient on them. In November I was informed that they were denied access to the legislature (with legislative staff saying they could tell who the Occupiers were via surveillance video) and were denied any service by legislative security in the event of trouble. Since the Winnipeg Sun frequently likes to elaborate on the dangers of downtown Winnipeg, this surely must be a pretty strong measure.

    While I obviously got half the story from the protesters (obviously, the legislature has its own concerns with rule integrity concerning the park) that's more of the story than Brodbeck got.

    Once again, the status of the Winnipeg Sun as the trashiest tabloid of this city is reaffirmed.


    1. The dumbest thing in Broadbecks article is the notion that soccer players and families use Memorial park. Which is interesting because a lot of his article is quite dumb. Which is a shame because he's quite capable of better. I suppose this type of tripe is what the Sun is going for these days. Trying to be the Fox news of Canada rather than something useful and productive.

      Still, while I am sympathetic to the OWS movement, and by extension the Occupy Winnipeg movement, I don't see a prolonged encampment as effective protest method in the long run. Eventually people tune out.

    2. "The dumbest thing in Broadbecks article is the notion that soccer players and families use Memorial park." - Reed Solomon

      Well, I guess Brodbeck's adopted the Stephen Colbert "gut instead of facts" method of investigating. :P

      "Still, while I am sympathetic to the OWS movement, and by extension the Occupy Winnipeg movement, I don't see a prolonged encampment as effective protest method in the long run. Eventually people tune out." - Reed Solomon

      I certainly have some tactical disagreements with the Occupy Movement. One being that, despite being a movement desiring radical-to-reformist ends, their means of decision-making (the consensus model) produces inertia and results in a fundamentally conservative type of organization. I've observed quite a bit of paralysis in the Occupy Winnipeg camp because the protesters are sticklers for consensus.

    3. Sometimes you get up in the morning feeling a little down, maybe with a touch of the flu, and think, will I work hard this day...? ummm... no, not so much."

      And so you get through the day with a slacker strategy, something like Tom showed off in his article cited above.

      The toughest facet of this occupy movement, for a journalist, is how hard it makes them work. In this day of barely modified press releases and oft unchallenged media manipulation, it is rare for actual hard work to show up on the platen.

      Tom's article prompt this from me: get well soon, buddy. And then get back to work, k? You can do better than recycled 'right-wing status quo Occupier basher' re-runs. I know you can.

    4. The Winnipeg Sun's all about quantity over quality.