Behind the Mask of a Movement


No better way to start a blog than with a frustrated scream eh? It actually feels pretty good, give it a try.

This week a Canadian bill making it an offence of a maximum of five years in jail to “wear a mask or other disguise to conceal one’s identity while taking part in a riot or an unlawful assembly” reached another level on the bureaucratic ladder to implementation (2 out of 7 squares!). The law is also up for debate in the City of Montreal where a little something called #ggi has created a bit of a stir…

Is this the kind of masked protesters you are worried about!?
Just saw this post shared on Facebook by Etienne Coutu
Too good.

No, I’m not screaming because I want to go around wearing a mask and breaking shit or because i support violence *blah blah disclaimer on not supporting violence or anarchy blah blah*. Actually you never know about me…in Grade 11 I rocked a face-mask to school for Halloween with the idea that I was dressed as a freedom fighter, but for all you know I may be a terrorist!? Aha! The crux of the issue!

The ban on masks is another step in the direction towards silencing dissent. “Now wow there Mr. radical… Don’t you support capitalism and freedom!?” My position is that owning up to a movement or to any opinion that is contrary to the status quo will group you into a box…like this poor girl.

Ad in the Montreal Eaton's Centre
Activists are stuck in a box with no way out…sorta like this live advertisement in the Montreal Eaton’s Centre, but not really.

If for instance, you support the Palestinian people, nay, any singular issue where you take the Palestinians side you are Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Sadaam Hussein. If you support the student strike you are the Black Bloc tossing red paint and using violence. Well, apparently according to Rex Murphy’s recent National Post article you actually are.

The proposed ban on face covering at riots or unlawful assemblies obviously does not list peaceful protests, but as we have learned from the student strike, police give only moments warning before declaring a protest illegal. Even though its in an extreme minority of cases, what about those demonstrating in a niqab when a protest turns illegal? How will the police respond to that?

Black Bloc leaving McGill campus…because who wants a lawyer that stands up for what they believe in

This anti-mask legislation is part of a wider global movement to expose the identities of activists and make you think twice before voicing your opinion to the public. The protection that we had from covering our faces and from the safety we found nestled behind our computer screens is eroding. Twitter is currently fighting a court order to release the names of Occupy protesters, the Canadian Bill C-10 Omnibus bill will change Internet privacy as we know it and Research in Motion was targeted in 2011 for allowing activists to organize the destruction that ensued from the London riots with their BBM service (BlackBerry gave up the information to the British government, but refused a similar request by Saudi Arabia).

I don’t want people to go out organizing violent actions and I don’t support Saudi Arabia creeping the information of their people, but I also believe in the democratic right of people to organize. But where do you draw the line?

There is a reason people cover their faces at protests. The stakes for associating with a movement are high. Along with jail-time or fines, an activist is, so they say, faced with public ridicule for the rest of their lives. I’m not sure I buy that, but hey what do I know. I was speaking with a reporter at CJAD during my internship who told me that even though she participated in student protests years ago…now she doesn’t give a crap about student protests.

We have been told over and over again to be careful of what we write on the Internet since employers will scope out those political beliefs or those photos from that sloppy night at the bar where you got blackout and you swear you didn’t touch that celery stick… So why not just stay home and do nothing about it?

The protesters in the Arab Spring did not have everyone on board with their pro-democratic (or is it anti-dictatorship?) arguments right away. I am sure they were ridiculed and labeled as pro-West, just like people here are labeled as socialists or communists. They still went out and said what they felt and  made a far greater life risk than botching their job interview at KPMG (no offense).

Canada is not a dictatorship you might say. We don’t have genital mutilation here. Incase you didn’t know, let CTV Montreal Executive Director Barry Wilson speak at you for 3 minutes. Why are you complaining? Because that is what democratic citizens do.

Express yourself and look past the denigrating rhetoric that seeks to delegitimize rather than debate. When they box you with that dictator, call you a “whiner,” “hippie,” or “hipster” challenge them on the facts – that’s the last thing they want.

Keep standing up for what you believe in and if that job doesn’t like your belief in free education, the environment or anything else…you don’t want to work there anyways.

Lupe said what he felt and cracked the mainstream…you can too :).


One thought on “Behind the Mask of a Movement

  1. Hi Joel,
    Glad to see you blogging about what you believe in and a lot of what you say is great. My only issue is I found it hard to follow, sort of felt like you wrote everything down in a rush and didn’t really organize things. I look forward to reading more of your stuff in the future.

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