There's no doubt that the media plays a pivotal role in shaping our view of the world, by the very act of choosing what stories we will or will not be exposed to, as well as the amount of coverage afforded to these stories.
As way of illustration let us consider a mythical story about a poor family who has been ripped off by a scam artist and finds itself destitute at Christmastime.
Invariably, after the story is aired by the media, the public reacts and money pours in to help the family out, while all the other people with hard-luck stories, just as worthy, are ignored because of a lack of media coverage.
Media shapes our opinion and forges our reactions by what they choose to report. It's as simple as that.
In science, the term observer effect means that the act of observing will influence the phenomenon being observed. Nothing can be truer than this when it comes to the reporting of news or political events.
As we all know last Saturday, French language militants held a demonstration at the Bell Centre to protest the hiring of an English coach by the Montreal Canadiens.
How do we all know this?
Because the story blanketed the television and radio airwaves for at least a week before the demonstration and for days afterward.
Before the event, Mario Beaulieu, the chief organizer was afforded dozens of opportunities to plug his demonstration through a series of interviews on television and radio in which he repeated his message, that the hiring of a unilingual anglophone coach by the Canadiens was, as he termed it,- "la goutte d'eau qui fait déborder le vase," the English equivalent being "The straw that broke the camel's back."
As the week preceding the demonstration wore on and Beaulieu continued repeating his spiel like a yoga master repeating his mantra, some reporters picked up on his tag line and started using it themselves to describe the Cunneyworth situation, an egregious act of journalistic un-professionalism.
The media reported the number of demonstrators taking part in the event at between 200 and 500 people, but the most accurate count was made by a Centre Bell security guard who actually counted each person involved and reached the unimpressive total of between 100 and 150.
100-150 people... That's it.
Over a month ago I made mention of a demonstration of over 250 people in a small Laurention community who gathered to complain about, of all things, the closure of the town's last ATM machine.
On Sunday last, over 450 people attended the funeral of a six-year old Maxime Dion, who died tragically in a river drowning.
In November hundreds of parents and students marched on the EMSB demanding that a school be saved.
The media reported all these stories, but the coverage devoted to those stories paled in comparison to the media resources devoted to the demonstration at the Bell Centre of a paltry 150 French language militants.
If Justin Bieber held an autograph session in front of the Bell Centre, I daresay 5,000 screaming fans would have showed up and the media would have devoted about 100th of the coverage that the Cunneyworth demonstration merited.
100-150 people. That's it..
Aside from the over-reported amount of demonstrators, the media also failed to tell the truth about the protest, likely because it did not fit in with the narrative that they had been selling all week.
It was plainly evident that the protesters were actually hard-core anglophobes whose signs and placards betrayed their utter hatred of all things English. Those who came were French-language fanatics, not fans who gave a hoot about the Canadiens coach.
Real Canadiens fans arriving to the game largely ignored the demonstrators and those interviewed showed a marked indifference, more excited to get into the Bell Centre than to waste time with demonstrators.
The promised action whereby fans within the Bell Centre, would wave small Quebec flags (which were distributed by the demonstrators) as some sort of protest, fizzled badly, as well. The flags were almost invisible during the game.
As a commenter mentioned on 25Stanley.com:
"100 personnes ? Pfff! C'est 4x moins que le Fan Club de Petteri Nokelainen. Pas trop grave."
Ha! I don't even have to translate that !!!
In a city of 2 million, all that could be mustered was 150 persons, which leads me to conclude that the language file is not as important as Mr. Beaulieu and this radical cohorts would have us believe. The Montreal Chapter of the SSJB has more than 3,000 members, and so it seems that Mr. Beaulieu couldn't even turn out his own hardliners.
If people were as concerned over the 'so-called' decline of the French language, as Mr. Beaulieu tells us they are, there'd be thousands upon thousands drawn to these types of demonstrations, but none of these 'language' demonstrations ever garner more than two hundred people, regardless of the media hype before and after.
With the widespread publicity that Beaulieu benefited from in the run-up to the demonstration, one would conclude that the 150 demonstrators represented a complete catastrophe, but you'd never hear that from the media!
Nowhere and never is the paltry size of these protests ever considered or the relevance thereof debated by journalists. Never.
Nobody ever calls Mario Beaulieu out on the utter failure of his movement to fire popular support.
Without the overblown support of a media driven by its own agenda, the movement would remain a coffeehouse phenomenon.
To be fair, let us remember the dismal turnout to the anti-Bill 101 protests as well.
And so I have to conclude that the language debate is a lot less important to Quebecers than we are led to believe and that the media is responsible for over-hyping these supposed tensions.
If the media afforded the language issue the weight the story actually merits, we'd hardly ever hear of it. But because it is an attractive issue, especially on 24 news channels that have hours and hours of programming to fill, we are subject to an overdose of language nonsense.
Quebecers, on both sides of the debate, by their non-action, testify to the weight they place on language issues.
Or can it be that Quebecers are just lazy and not interested in demonstrating, even on issues which are near and dear to their heart?
I don't think so, remember that demonstration in favour of a NHL team for Quebec City.
50,000 people showed up for it.....yep....50,000.
It isn't laziness that leads Quebecers to skip language demonstrations, it's just a lack of interest, the issue being far less pressing and urgent than portrayed.
It seems that English, French and Ethnics have pretty much made up their mind to accept the language status quo, as is. While none are perfectly happy, few except radicals seem to be overly upset, as we can conclude by the pitiful turnout for all language demonstrations, both English and French.
Perhaps this theory will upset some readers on both sides of the language debate, but it iss worth discussing.......
Here's the only piece that made any sense of the situation. The link to it was posted in the Comments section on Monday.
In this YouTube piece, a bilingual Anglo, absolutely slays in this sarcastic take on the demonstration.
It's half English/half French (like Montreal) so watch it even if you don't speak French, but unfortunately, you'll miss a lot, he is devastating in French!
And so readers finally, a brave soul who is ready to tell us that this emperor hath no clothes, that the whole thing is a sad farce, a movement which has no popular support.
BTW, I think this guy is hilarious....I hope he posts more on the language situation, we all could use a good laugh, otherwise we'll just cry.....
Off subject but, here's another funny video by Abdul Butt on Occupy Montreal. ENJOY!
For other funny videos check out Abdul Butt's YouTube Channel