Calgary Herald And Sun Accused Of Malicious Defamation – Mandi Schrader

29 Oct

Wow! That headline sure got your attention, didn’t it? Sounds like a story of impending lawsuits and high profile dirt, doesn’t it? It isn’t untrue, but if I didn’t tell you that the accusation was unofficial and took place on a Facebook wall you might find your perception of those two publications already seriously coloured by that statement.

The media portrayal of the Olympic Plaza campers is a very good illustration of the way we are spoon fed the information someone wants us to have and how that information can be skewed to support a particular bias. We tend to think that if it were newsworthy if would be in the news, right?

We all understand that many things must be happening right under our noses. We have all had someone in our lives lie or hide the truth but we don’t imagine that our public sources of information could do so.  Why do we imagine that the people controlling our economy are immune to the enormous tendency toward crime and predatory behaviour  in the human soul? Why is it easier to imagine a bad guy holding up a bank than a bad guy running it? Yet we tend to place our trust in institutions that we really know very little about. I have found http://www.albertafraud.com/ very interesting.

We know that corporate crime does happen frequently, but we don’t consider how often and who the victims might be. We never think the victim might be ourselves. We don’t consider how often our system of law allows loopholes for criminals to slip through if they are wealthy.

We know that the hand is quicker than the eye, yet we trust media sources without question to present accurate, complete information. How often do you think they do? How much important information do you think might not be presented?

In the case of the occupiers, what I have witnessed is people picking up litter they didn’t leave there and caring for the park better than the city does. I don’t mean to take a shot at the city in saying so. They can’t have people standing around to pick up every cigarette butt that gets tossed on the ground. Right now at Olympic Plaza however, they do. I can’t imagine one of those people deliberately damaging the facilities they were provided by the city. That is because despite all the disagreement, lack of knowledge and tremendous amount of information to sift through to even begin to untangle one issue from another (impossible, incidentally) there is, I think, a very specific goal.

The entire point of what these people are doing is to show that you MUST respect the place you live and the people you live with. I think that is truly at the heart of the very diverse range of issues being discussed not only in Calgary, but globally. Respect doesn’t mean caving to the demands of people who want something but won’t stand up for it themselves. It means recognition of common humanity. Treating persons as persons. Sometimes the greatest respect is shown through active disagreement.

Are we capable of dealing with humans on a human level? We are afraid of each other. That is the truth. Our fear of each other can manifest as hatred and the need to shut others out, tear down, control or destroy. It can also mean appeasing, forgetting, ignoring or spinning information to eliminate responsibility. It depends whether or not we feel we can take control of what we fear. One way to take control is to turn public opinion against the thing feared. This is very often the beginning of a justification for violent acts. One could say that manufactured public opinion is sometimes the seed of violent acts, thusly an act of violence in itself.

So do we have a group of peaceful, respectful protesters who have worked with the city to share the park, cleaning up after themselves and other users, moving the tents aside to allow sprinkler maintenance and meeting with the leader of the Muslim non profit organization who has booked the Plaza for Oct 29 to ensure the needs of both are met? Or do we have a gang of lazy anarchist squatters holding the Plaza hostage, destroying the facilities they depend on and terrorizing the public so they don’t dare enter the park?

Never mind the fact that Olympic Plaza has always been a well known area of crime and drug use and it is probably safer to be there now than it has been since the ’88 Olympics thanks to the presence of the occupiers. The organizers of the Muslim Day of Peace who have offered Occupy Calgary an info table at their event don’t seem particularly terrorized. Never mind that the majority of occupiers camping there are working full time jobs or going to school while sleeping in the cold and subjecting themselves to general public ridicule just to try to raise awareness of the fact that something in our society is very wrong and this wrong affects all of us. If Licia Corbella or Rick Bell pull some clever sleight of hand with the facts we can dismiss this protest and it’s message utterly. We will feel smugly justified in ignoring this call for awareness and go back to watching “reality” tv, secure in the knowledge that since those hippies are annoying us and some of them are confused about the issues, it must automatically follow that nothing is wrong with our economy and we should just keep unquestioningly accruing debt and destroying the environment.

That is some classic media logic there isn’t it? They can actually use the movement against itself to reinforce the existing order. People believe that the little bites in the news really do accurately represent the whole truth. And all we can do is stand in a park with a sign that points to a side of the truth people never see (even when they are looking it right in the face) and hope someone will listen.

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12 Responses to “Calgary Herald And Sun Accused Of Malicious Defamation – Mandi Schrader”

  1. mike_yyc October 29, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    Mr Walker,

    By all means, if there is evidence backing the City’s claims of damages and also of said damages being explicitly linked to Occupy Calgary, let’s see/hear it.

    Thus far there has been claims of replacing sod (at a cost of $5,000 per square foot as quoted by GLI Landscaping who charges the public $0.25 per square feet), claims of vandalism in the bathrooms, and claims of replacing the bronze at Olympic Plaza.

    For the record, other than the famous five statuettes, there is no bronze on the plaza. It is possible that I may have overlooked the specific areas CEMA manager Tom Sampson was referring to; it is a big area for one person to cover.

    Let’s see this so called evidence; thus far all we know is that a conversation was held between CEMA and a manager of City Parks along with an estimation. What is most interesting is that the initial discussion cited “up to $40,000″ in damages, which has now become “at least $40,000″ (inferring more is to come). There are also quotations indicating that a proper assessment cannot be completed with current conditions.

    As a taxpayer, would you agree that before citizens foot the bill we are given an accurate invoicing of any costs? I would be most uncomfortable handing over a blank check for this amount without knowing what it was being used for.

    I ask nothing more than proper accounting and proving the need for the claimed work.

    • Jeff Walker October 29, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

      Absoutely, and I would never suggest that anyone pay anything that wasn’t based on legitimate damage.

      Again, I can’t say what damage is legit or not because I don’t have experience with maintaining a public park in a major city. I do know that if a place isn’t designed for that kind of footprint, it can suffer as a result.

      • idnami October 30, 2011 at 10:20 am #

        Now, when you suggest Occupy Calgary take responsibility for the damage that raises several questions. The first would be WHO is Occupy Calgary? We are not an organization. I mentioned before that I am not one of the campers myself, though I consider myself no less a part of this movement than they. The responsibility for provable damage done by specific autonomous individuals participating in the camp would then fall to those individuals, likely in the form of fines, and then we would see the scenario I already described resulting in a far larger drain on tax money than the highly inflated figure currently being discussed.
        The second question would be, if those individuals voluntarily paid the city maintenance bill, would they be setting an example others would follow? One of the subjects of major concern to this movement is the environmental impact of industrial practices. If we agreed to foot a bill to replace some grass or repaint a pole, would this lead to more emphasis on corporations taking responsibility for the damage that they do, not only to the forests and water supplies they are constantly contaminating beyond repair, but to the people? And if not, why should we be held to a standard others would not be expected to follow? We are talking about something much bigger than a few hundred square feet of sod, which incidentally probably hasn’t suffered anything it can’t recover from on it’s own. If this movement accomplished something on that scale it would be considered a major success. And as a person who obviously cares about keeping Canada beautiful, would you not consider the movement that accomplished it justified in the entirely peaceful actions it took to do so?

      • Jeff Walker October 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

        When I say Occupy Calgary, I mean anyone who is actively camping downtown. I understand there are many supporters, but those such as yourself who protest within the law and aren’t camping within the park should not be held accountable for any damages that may occur.

        You may be right that the result may be a larger drain on tax money, but that is not an excuse to simply ignore them. You can’t use the “lesser of two evils” argument to justify breaking the law. If Occupy Calgary is concerned with their actions being a drain on tax dollars, then they should be doing everything they can to avoid any situations that may lead to that.

        As to your second question, lets be clear that this is a red herring. What others do has nothing to do with the issue we are discussing, and is designed to deflect the argument somewhere else.

        The issue is simply this. Occupy Calgary has chosen to break the law by camping in the park. This law was put in place for many reasons, one being that the park is not designed to handle this type of traffic.

        If damage is done, then it shouldn’t be the tax payers who foot the bill. If Occupy Calgary wants to break the law for their cause, then they need to take responsibility for any damage that may occur.

        • idnami October 30, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

          Well it isn’t really up to you is it? Or me either. If you feel strongly about it I suggest you contact the people in charge of deciding.
          I asked the second question in an attempt to return to the larger issue of overall discussion on this blog: why the protesters feel that they must maintain a continuous visible public presence. Obviously no one is enjoying living outside in the cold. However I personally feel that if they succeed (as they are) in drawing attention to the very screwed up way society is operating business and actually make any significant inroads for real change in these practices, then this movement is justified in its insistence on staying put. Someone else has expanded upon this point better than I could, if you are interested: http://occupiedcalgaryfreepress.wordpress.com/2011/10/29/the-occupy-calgary-story-youre-not-seeing-elsewhere-by-mercedes-allen/That's how civil disobedience works. And considering that at any time in the past two weeks the city could have begun issuing fines and has not, and that Occupy’s City Hall liason has been in continual contact with the city, I feel it barely counts as disobedience at all. If a cop sees a citizen breaking the law and does not take appropriate action due to the direct orders of the lawmakers not to, I would argue that the particular law in question is agreed to be no longer valid. But I’m not a lawyer and it’s not up to me, as I said.
          They accuse the occupiers of hiding behind the charter. I would say its detractors are hiding behind a bylaw in order to avoid addressing the real and growing problem that made this demonstration neccessary in the first place.

  2. Jeff Walker October 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    This poll is a false dichotomy. They present two extremes (yes or no), as though those are the only two options.

    Media is like any thing else, they are subject to bias, pressures, and lack of information. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don’t.

    As a thinking human it is your job to use your critical thinking skills to determine to what degree something is true.

    Take this article for example. Are the claims in this article supported by unbiased evidence? Why is this article more true than what the media writes?

    Don’t be suckered into an either / or vote. The real question is, whether it’s the media, Occupy Calgary, or your Grandma, who provides the best, unbiased evidence to support their story / claim?

    • idnami October 29, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

      “As a thinking human it is your job to use your critical thinking skills to determine to what degree something is true.”

      That is actually exactly the point I am making, both with this article and with the poll itself. I feel that few people actually question the information presented and the way it is presented and thus you have a one sided view of, in this case, Occupy Calgary.
      I have presented the side that I have witnessed personally. I find it interesting that even as the Sun is shouting about $40,000 worth of damage, they have no choice but to show pictures of an impeccably clean and neat camp. Have you seen a single picture of damage, litter or even untidiness? You know they would print the ones that cast the camp in the worst possible light if they could, because the PURPOSE of those articles is not to inform the public but to influence it to increase pressure on the city to take action against the campers. The stories deliberately cater to their readers’ sense of moral superiority and justified outrage. So I would argue that those photos are excellent evidence in favor of my story.
      As to the poll, that also was deliberate and intended to reinforce my point. I wanted my story to be read, therefore I gave it an inflammatory headline. I wanted my story to be remembered so I took a dig at two prominent journalists. I wanted my story to be popular so I stuck a fun poll at the end which really only has one possible answer no matter which you select but gives you a little glow of pride when you when you select the one everyone else did. Because it is the correct one, incidentally. So the main purpose of this article, besides presenting what I feel is the truth about Occupy Calgary from what I have seen (I don’t camp, but I am obviously a big supporter of the movement. However as a thinking person myself I would not be if they were the kind of jackasses they are being painted as in the news) was to appeal to people’s critical thinking skills and point out that we have to dig much deeper to find the real truth.

      • Jeff Walker October 29, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

        I wanted to address a few of your points if I could.

        “I feel that few people actually question the information presented and the way it is presented and thus you have a one sided view of, in this case, Occupy Calgary.”

        The problem with this statement is that you seem to be making the assumption that Occupy Calgary does not present an unbiased view. Occupy Calgary, like many other protests approach problems with a predetermined conclusion. They then present whatever evidence they need to support their personal cause.

        You go on to say:

        “I have presented the side that I have witnessed personally.”

        And that there in lies the problem. You, and the media are very much one in the same. You both have a story to tell, and seek out evidence to support your bias. This is appropriately called, confirmation bias.

        Your “personally witnessed” review is honestly nothing more than a personal anecdote with no more validity than the random reporter taking photos. This is not meant as a personal attack, but only to point out that both you, and the media are many times guilty of the same thing.

        “You know they would print the ones that cast the camp in the worst possible light if they could, because the PURPOSE of those articles is not to inform the public but to influence it to increase pressure on the city to take action against the campers. The stories deliberately cater to their readers’ sense of moral superiority and justified outrage. ”

        Again, where is Occupy Calgary different in this regard? The whole purpose of the protest in the first place is to influence the public to increase pressure to take action against whatever issues or concerns they have.

        In my opinion both the media, and Occupy Calgary are guilty of the same thing. Each has a personal view, and both will present whatever evidence supports their cause, or gains exposure. The problem is that the general public many times does not have the time, or care to seek out the information for themselves.

        So, then who is responsible for presenting an unbiased view? If Occupy Calgary feels the media is as disingenuous as you claim, then I would argue that it is their responsibility to do whatever it takes to avoid the pitfall of confirmation bias. If the media makes a claim, demand unbiased, supportable evidence, if Occupy Calgary makes a claim, then demand the same from yourselves.

        To be transparent, not much of what I said above addresses the point, and yes, I openly admit I am making a logical fallacy. It doesn’t matter if Occupy Calgary and the media are the same or not, the issue is the claim of damage…and that is all that matters.

        So, I present the following article for consideration:

        http://www.ffwdweekly.com/calgary-blogs/politics/2011/10/28/the-40000-question-917/

        There are a few statements in there that would indicate that some, with expertise to assess such things estimate there may be damage. The amount of damage really doesn’t matter. What matters is that there is a claim made that Occupy Calgary is creating damage, and there is some evidence to support this.

        The question is, will Occupy Calgary accept this evidence, or will they attack the media to distract the public from this? Critical thinking is not just about asking the right questions, it’s also about being able to change your mind when presented with evidence.

        My personal opinion on the damage is that other than this article, I have not seen any evidence to support the $40k price tag. I have not seen an in depth assessment to justify that specific number. However, the only evidence I have to refute the claim are by the protesters themselves, which frankly is not very strong evidence.

        At this point, based on informed opinion, it appears there is the potential for costly damage, and if that turns out to be $100, or $100k that is unacceptable that anyone other than Occupy Calgary should cover that cost.

        • idnami October 29, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

          So we are on the same page, I do agree that I used media tactics to present my ideas. The article was less intended to chastise the mainstream media and more to clearly illustrate that there is more than one angle to view this story from, and that information can easily be spun to sway the reader’s opinion. Defending the occupiers was really a secondary consideration to me when I wrote it.
          Now, if intentional damage has been done that exceeds normal wear and tear of a public space then you certainly have a point. However, is that $40000 over and above the cost of maintaining that park or are the costs of park maintenance for the last 2 weeks included in that sum? How much do you think it costs to clean up after the people that usually use it? Keeping in mind that a very big point has been made from the beginning and agreed to by the general assembly to make certain that park is in better condition than they found it at all times. They were given a set of limits and requirements by the city and they have adhered completely. If these people care so much about the cause of their demonstration that they are willing to live outside in the temperatures we have had in the past two weeks, why would they do anything to jeopardize the support that they have received from the city? That doesn’t make sense.
          In terms of who should pay for it, that isn’t for me personally to say. If specific damage is linked to specific individuals then I suppose the city would issue them a fine as they would to anyone else deliberately damaging public property. And each individual would likely then take it to court, costing more taxpayers money. And they will probably beat the fines because the city has after all permitted this and shown total voluntary cooperation and if they got all fascist at this point they’d be making our argument for us.
          But maybe they won’t beat the fines and more taxpayers’ money will be used to enforce those fines. And if they are jailed then that is even more taxpayers’ money being spent to keep them there than is currently being spent to let them freeze in a park. This would be a wonderful illustration of the real need to rethink society from the ground up, which is what we are really talking about here.
          The activities of Occupy Calgary are entirely conducted in public. If a person wants evidence they only have to stroll on by to see how things really are. You could have gone today to see the information table provided by the Muslim group who held their event at OP and invited Occupy Calgary to take part and share their views. I have promoted this article along with an entire blog where we attempt to make clear what this thing is really all about. Because the discussion of damage and bylaws and pissed off taxpayers is a huge distraction from the point. What we are trying to do with this blog is to engage others in dialogue about the mess the world is in and the hope that we can find a way to fix it. My part in that discussion is to present information for your consideration. I think the difference between Rick Bell and myself at the moment is that I present to you a viewpoint along with all the facts that led to it and all the information I currently have to support it plus a number of other posts that attempt to begin to get to the heart of WHY we are doing this. Yes I spun it, I told you I was spinning it as I did so. I was showing you how it was spun. Transparency to the fullest extent I am capable.

      • Jeff Walker October 29, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

        I agree with you for the most part. The issue of the bylaw aside, I think that you have to keep in mind unintentional damage as well. I will be honest with you, I know a few of the protesters down there and I know they wouldn’t destroy anything purposefully.

        As you said, this would be counterproductive on many levels. It’s the potential damage done by just using the park in a way isn’t not designed to be used.

        I know this because I am an avid hiker / camper myself. If you take a gorgeous trail like The West Coast Trail, you see that the park limits the amount of people on it every year, and even by e day.

        This is because humans are big clumsy animals that even with the best intentions can ruin the environment just by doing what they do. The WCT is a fairly hardcore trail and even then human inaction takes its toll.

        You can easily see how a public park designed for light traffic with the occasional event can take a lot of unintentional damage if not used as designed.

        So as I said, bylaw aside, if Occupy Calgary will take responsibility for any legitimate damage, intentional or not, then at least on that point I can relax. I just don’t think it’s fair for everyone else to pay for a choice these people are making.

      • Jeff Walker October 29, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

        I meant interaction….autocorrect is a jerk.

  3. Samantha Withnell October 29, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    So much for the investigative journalism I came to expect. Over the past few weeks it’s become amazingly clear to me that mainstream media is now the simple purveyor and dresser of photoshop journalism.

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