A Few Thoughts on #GGI

by Adam Kovac

I recently told a friend that I was relieved my time at The Link was over, because the student strikes currently ongoing throughout Quebec would no longer be my beat. She told me that as a journalist (and former Editor in Chief of The Link), she was still excited to cover the subject, even though she’d worked on hardly anything but that for months.

It got me thinking that the reason I’m sick of the subject isn’t because it’s not fascinating: obviously, when you’ve got thousands of people in the streets, the story isn’t going to be boring. It’s become a bit of a running joke with some friends that we enjoy covering riots because of the great exercise, and the undeniable thrill of having flashbangs tossed at you (the other part of that running joke is that I’m too pretty for jail, but I’m sure I’ll write more about my arrest last year in another post in which I’ll pretend to be way more grizzled than I think I have any right to claim to be). So it’s not the stupidity of the little violence going on that’s frustrating, but that there is essentially no real dialogue ongoing. You’re either on one side or the other, and covering a topic for months on end where both sides are repeating the same stuff is tedious. It’s even more tedious when the audience has already picked their positions, and aren’t going to move.

Obviously, there’s more than two stances you can take on the strikes. It’s not limited to “We demand free education, and will stand for nothing else, and the streets will burn until we get it” on one extreme, and “All the strikers are stupid, ungracious, violent psychopaths who should be shot as soon as they put on their red squares in the morning.” There’s tons of of positions in the middle, such as supporting a freeze, supporting a lower tuition hike, understanding what the strikers are saying but not agreeing with them, etc… My argument is that as always, the people on the extremes are the most vocal, and dealing with people like that makes me want to do yoga so I can get limber enough to kick myself in the face repeatedly.

Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places. But when you speak to someone from CLASSE, you get told that the hikes are class warfare. No mention of the complexities of the public debt situation in Quebec. They’ll tell you that the corporate tax rate is low in Quebec (which is true), but you don’t get anything on what the effects of raising it might be. It’s a complex issue, but they’ve narrowed it down to being a war on the poor, not just in effect, but in intent. And I don’t think anybody agrees that Jean Charest and Line Beauchamp are sitting around in their offices, texting “Lol, skrew the lower clas” to each other.

Not that the extreme on the other side is any better. I’ll occasionally take a gander at the Concordia Students Against the Strike Facebook page. While they haven’t gotten much media attention, I do think the general tone is somewhat (remember, I said somewhat) accurate in representing the tone of many students who oppose the strikes. There’s a lot of name calling, a lot of really vile stuff said on that page. Almost nobody expresses so much as an understand for even the ideals of the strikers, let alone their goals or tactics.

With stances like these, how can there be dialogue, let alone understanding, or God forbid, compromise?

So the strikes will continue. Maybe the Liberals will continue offering concessions. Maybe not. All I know is, I have no desire to pitch stories about the topic anymore, unless they’re only tangentially related (and I am working on one about some of the effects the protests have had on vital services, but more on that another time…).

My hat is off to anybody who can still get a journalistic hard-on for this story. But please, for the love of all that is holy, try and say something new.