Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Removing democratic rights, one summit at a time.

I agree with The Jurist. Linda McQuaig hits the nail squarely on the head.
But there are others who are so passionate about the fate of the Earth that they feel compelled to do more than shop. They want to object, to let world leaders know they disapprove. These are the types of people who plan to protest at the G20 summit later this month in Toronto.

If you're thinking they're just violent troublemakers, you've probably been listening too closely to the Harper government, which is hoping you'll succumb to its attempt to lump terrorists and peaceful protestors all together in one giant bin marked scary and anti-democratic.

One of the most difficult things to accept, as McQuaig points out, is the surrender of one of this country's leading universities to the squelch-knob twisting of the Harperites and the loss of a venue from which to challenge the so-often wrong-headed direction of establishment figures out to develop an agenda without opposition.

The University of Toronto, falling in line with this new security-state mentality, plans to lock down its main campus during the summit, forcing the cancellation of G20 related events, including one featuring Maude Barlow, Amy Goodman and Naomi Klein.

It's hard to imagine a more inappropriate response. Universities should be centres of critical thought, where students are encouraged to scrutinize the current orthodoxy and challenge the Establishment. That's hard to do when they shutter their doors at the first whiff of controversy.

You may not like protesters and you may find the anti-establishment crowd occasionally uncomfortable, but the alternative, opposition brutally silenced on the altar of "good order" (as defined by the silencers themselves) is completely unacceptable.

Now, before some semi-literate knob goes off half-cocked in the comment section, let's clear up one thing. I do not and never will support the so-called anarchists whose street antics during a protest include wanton damage to property and/or physical injury to others. Engaging in such activity is little more than gang violence and, as we have now seen demonstrated in the recent past, something readily provoked by police and government to justify the use of weapons on all forms of protest, peaceful or otherwise.

Better that the cop using the pepper spray be highlighted as having no justification for ever doing so.

McQuaig's column quite properly takes aim at the egregious rantings of Rex Murphy who, from his privileged platform, decided that a pre-emptive smear was in order.

Finally, from Seattle to Quebec City to Toronto next month, who really "owns" these summits? With the leaders invisible under their security blankets, they belong to the protestors. Summits are the high holy days, the carnival of ritual protest and vacuous street theatre. You can't hold a global anything these days, even a joyful event like the Olympics, without the tired kabuki of protest groups jamming the streets, shouting their impenetrable litany of anti-everything, accompanied, of course, by the usual band of black masked pseudo-anarchists allergic to Starbucks and thirsty for the two-day fame a little provocation or a lot of violence can bring them. The leaders own the meetings; the protestors own the cameras.
This is the same Rex Murphy who doesn't like it when he is called what he is to his face. This is the same Rex Murphy who denies global warming exists, questions science he won't or cannot understand and then tries to define himself as an educated "skeptic". Yet, without an attributable scientific fact to support his "skepticism", he protests. Protest is fine by Murphy, it would seem, as long as it suits his particular agenda done in his own particular way - electronically broadcast right across the country. Immediately followed by an injection into his bank account.

Should he be stopped? Perish the thought! Murphy, no less than any other protester, represents a point of view and it would be as damaging to democracy to silence him as it would be for a university to close their doors to a meeting which questions the actions of a government peddling right-wing ideology. And while Murphy continues to bleat unchecked, a university caves in to the jack-boot security requirements of the Harper government.

Instead of complaining about such protest one would expect the likes of Rex Murphy to stand and scream from the rooftops of the CBC and National Post that the lock-down of the U of Toronto campus to satisfy the Harper "security" demands is not only an affront to democratic freedom but extremely dangerous. One would expect a Rhodes scholar like Murphy to immediately pick up on such suppression of free expression and point directly at another time in history where the universities toed the government line. By the time they realized what a mistake it had been to submit to the security-state it was far too late. Far from protesting for the cameras, the distribution of one-page pamphlets demanding liberty were getting the university-resident authors sent to the guillotine.

You would expect the likes of Rex Murphy to know the story of the White Rose and issue loud public warnings when a government so vilifies protest that the universities start closing their halls to themselves.

You would expect it. You would, however, be disappointed.

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