Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Wordle Cloud Examples
Only in Toronto could isolated spasms of political protest drive a whole population into a state of collective hysteria
You'll find a Wordle for the following article at http://is.gd/d9246
When I was covering the riots at the Summit of The Americas in Quebec City eight years ago, the most useful data came through my nose: If I smelled tear gas in the air, I would follow the scent -- Toucan Samstyle -- to wherever in the city police happened to be raining tear gas canisters on protestors. Like other reporters and riot tourists, I even took one of the spent canisters home with me--you could find the things all over the city--to put on my desk and show my colleagues what a bad-ass I was.
The Quebec City protests of 2001 were about 10 times the size of the protests at Toronto's G20 summit this past weekend. And they were more violent, too -- featuring not only tear gas, but also frequent use of rubber bullets and water cannon. Some protesters even got through the security perimeter -- which never happened in Toronto. At one point in Quebec City, there was so much tear gas in the air that the official summit delegates couldn't even leave their building.
All of this violence was rightly denounced. And yet, somehow, the country didn't descend into hand-wringing about how Quebec City's image had been irreparably damaged in the eyes of the world. There was no talk of the historic city receiving a "black eye" on the world stage. The city simply cleaned itself up and got on with things. Within a day or two, it was back to the usual business of provincial governance and tourism.
Here in Toronto, on the other hand, we are in the midst of a spasm of civic mortification. Over the weekend, I listened to radio reporters breathlessly tell listeners that tear gas actually had been used on the streets of "Toronto the Good" -- as proof that the city was enduring some Cormac McCarthyesque apocalypse. Egged on by thousands of media images of the same three cop cars burning, my Twitter and Facebook correspondents filled their postings with hysterical dispatches: One particularly breathless Rosedale denizen compared the violence to "Soweto '76." A Toronto Sun columnist compared a brief detention of some protesters at Queen Street and Spadina Avenue to "martial law." The normally sensible Don Martin wrote that the scenes have "bought Toronto an international black eye." And the Toronto Star -- well, the Star covered the story exactly as you'd expect it to. Naturally, this being Canada, everyone is now demanding a public inquiry.
As a Torontonian myself, I am naturally not happy about what happened over the weekend. But neighbours, get a grip please: Thanks to a strong police presence, not a single person got seriously hurt, let alone killed. Even the property damage was minimal: As I wrote in Monday's Post, when I biked around the protest-affected areas of downtown Toronto on Saturday evening, I was surprised to see how few businesses actually had been attacked -- and in most cases, the damage was confined to a single plate glass window. That very evening, the downtown core was thronged with the usual crowd of well-dressed restaurant-goers and tacky club-hoppers. I guess none of them got the news about Toronto being transformed into Soweto.
I love living in Toronto. But in times of strain, the city takes on the character of an over-privileged wimp, shrieking and sobbing at the merest civic pin-pricks. We saw this in 1999, when the mayor asked for army troops to help battle the sort of snowstorms that Edmonton and Winnipeg seem to get every other week. We saw it again in 2005, when a series of local gangland shootings caused the media to present the city as a sort of Escape from New York wasteland of nihilistic violence -- even though we have one of the lowest per-capita rates of violence in the world. And now, a weekend of scattered protests, featuring even more scattered criminal vandalism, has had the same brain-scrambling effect.
In many parts of the world, including large parts of Europe, a protest featuring no deaths or major injuries would barely make the daily news. And indeed, it is telling how feebly Toronto's violence registered in the global media. I have in front of me print editions of three world-leading newspapers, The New York Times, the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. All three front the G20 summit. And not a single one of those A1 stories even mentions the protests (though separate stories on the protests were included, in the back pages).
Is it any wonder the rest of Canada dislikes Toronto? We say we want to be a world-class city. But then, when the price tag comes -- in this case, in the form of the cliques of idiots who show up at each and very "world-class" G8, G20, WTO, IMF and World Bank conference -- we fall to the ground and weep.
It's almost as if someone tear-gassed us or something.Read more: http://www.nationalpost.com/city+wimps/3213468/story.html#ixzz0sGQAS6C8
Copyright 2010 National Post, June 29, 2010, p. A16