Question: when visiting a storied reservation whose tragic tale should rightly inspire indignation and disgust towards Ottawa in any right-thinking person, how many news organizations should be there? I can think of a few candidates. There’s APTN, the Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network. It’s a go-to for my own research and thinking because they tend to cover stories that the CBC and Postmedia juuuuuust didn’t around to because destroying historical artifacts is obviously less newsworthy than the daily slather of revisionism and feels. The CBC as a national broadcaster would probably be a good choice, seeing as how the miserable plight of the Indigenous is a national issue.
No, of course not. Those reasonable options should go fuck themselves because this story, a potentially-important moment, is not here to inform Canadians. It is here for memes and photo-ops. And if it’s the Prime Memeister we’re talking about, there’s no “news” site more meme-tastic than VICE. For the unaware, VICE is a cripplingly-stupid and exploitative “progressive” news source which alternates between talking about totally-wild-kinky-weird-sex (which is in fact rather tame), talking about marijuana and how much/little fun recreational drug use is, and generally being sensationalist little schmucks. It’s as transparently constructed-cool as MUCH was, except that MUCH never pretended that it had anything clever to say. It certainly didn’t run hard-hitting pieces about blowing a load through the night.
APTN also isn’t guilty of running click-bait bullshit whose titles are written with a smitten eye to “the youths”. But they got kicked out alongside any other of those square media outlets run by The Man. Fears of a media circus are rather hyperbolic considering that there isn’t any road access to Shoal Lake. But that’s hardly explaining why a profit-hungry media company playing at edginess got access to the story over an Indigenous-run news organization or the fucking CBC. When others are barred from entry it suggests that Indigenous suffering is only worth talking about if it makes one shithead caker rich and another shithead caker look good. In other words, the Indigenous are being used as props. Again.
Why is it that the suffering of Shoal Lake can only be experienced through the lens of a sadsack collective of Hunter S. Thompson wannabes? Do you think Hunter, the master of Gonzo journalism himself would be an appropriate choice to cover Indigenous issues in the first place? I will concede that VICE sometimes does have useful stories and even more rarely can run good television. But the image that VICE projects and the image that’s used to sell shitty labor conditions to journalists is utterly inappropriate for the issue at hand unless the goal is to render the thing so edgy as to be meaningless. At the very least it should not be the only voice present…but exclusivity is what they, and by extension we got.
We leave the world of
edgy brand management and marketing real, raw journalism now to comment on something more than a little bit insidious lurking in the wings. Go back to the link I posted under the words ‘kicked out’ in the third paragraph – do you notice all those Mounties hanging out there? This wasn’t merely a closed event. Access to the Prime Memeister and the community as a whole was completely cut by the RCMP even as Justin was out on what is undoubtedly national business. This wasn’t a top-secret meeting at the Pentagon. This was a trip specifically with a stated mind to uncovering and understanding problems on reserves and it didn’t allow the kind of media that people who aren’t attracted to milennial edge a chance to report another angle. Closing the trip down tells me that there’s something to hide; using the RCMP to do it is even fishier; giving exclusive access to an entertainment company over relevant broadcasters is profoundly dodgy.
We have plenty of aww-worthy pictures of #RealChange playing with children, hugging and smiling people – the usual tripe. But the story of Shoal Lake itself, the one that VICE got? Totally sublimated by talking points. There might have been some darkness to the trip, some evidence of frustration and resentment or even condemnation of the Liberal Party itself. But we’ll never know because the only people allowed to report gave fawning praise for Justin and the others were shut out by police action and a flimsy excuse.
VICE and the PMO are made for each other. Both are pale facsimiles of the institutions they are supposed to represent, leaning on marketing and branding to mask shitty ideas and shitty conditions. Both are under the thumb of egoistic maniacs. And neither should be able to consider the stunt they pulled at Shoal Lake anything more than a photo shoot.