You Don’t Mind If We Keep These, Do You?

February 8, 2011

Maybe I was a little preoccupied last week, what with decorating the place for our Super Bowl party, ushering in the year of the rabbit and getting all hot and bothered about that revolution over there in Egypt, but it seems to me that the police services’ matter-of-fact announcement that they had decided to keep those sound cannon thingies they got for the G20 confab last summer went kind of unnoticed. Catherine Porter took an impassioned stance against the decision over at the Star on Friday. But that seems to have been about it from the mainstream press.

Maybe it’s not that big a deal, the police still a little on the hot seat for their (man)handling of protesters at the G20 meeting, deciding to keep 4 Long Range Acoustic Devices for the bargain basement price of $30, 000. Two of them will be used for ‘hailing’ practices only, one by the marine unit and the other lent out to the fire department. The other two will be tucked away just in case.

In case of what, you ask? If the police didn’t feel the need to use the LRADs during the G20, under what circumstance exactly do they forsee needing them in the future? I think one of the takeaway lessons from the G20 was not that the police required more crowd control weaponry at their disposal. Restraint seemed to be more in order and it’s hard to imagine how giving them access to an apparatus “originally conceived to support the protection and exclusion zones around U.S. Navy warships” is going to encourage any semblance of moderation or self-control. How will they know it works if they don’t try it out every now and then?

It immediately brings to mind the late, great Bill Hicks’ bit about the turkey shoot that was the Gulf War. U.S. soldiers reading from the manual as they try out the latest kill machines at their disposal. Take a moment and watch it here. And then watch this one which has nothing to do with this but it always makes me laugh. Watch it and think about the Black Eyed Peas or Christina Aguilera.

Give boys toys and they will play with them. (Sorry about the commercial before the video. Ain’t that Betty White funny?)

It seems to me the police and their chief Bill Blair could’ve used this opportunity to make a gesture of goodwill to the people they ostensibly serve and protect. To show everyone that, in fact, the police aren’t all about bully boy, military tactics and repressive measures chalk full of constitutional dubiousness. A friendly overture. A peace offering. I know, I know. It doesn’t make up for what happened last summer but at least you can rest assured that if we meet up again under similar circumstance, we’re not going to try and make your ears bleed.

Instead Chief Blair informed the Police Services Board that, along with the security cameras they received for the G20, they’d be keeping the sound cannons too. Done deal. Let’s move on to the next order of business, shall we? This elicited responses ranging from ‘shocked’ (Judi Cohen) to confusion (Councillor Nunziata… get used to that) to yet another excuse for bloviation (Councillor Thompson) on his way to handing off responsibility for making a decision.  Once more, the concept of civilian oversight mocked and slapped around a little.

Now I don’t want to go making spurious and possibly trite comparisons between what’s going on in Egypt currently and our police deciding to keep LRADs as part of their arsenal. But a security state starts somewhere. In that early mix comes an unquestioning deference toward those in positions of authority and power. If we can’t make a fuss and decide what instruments of coercion and surveillance our police are allowed to use, I’d say we’ve already handed over an uncomfortable degree of our personal sovereignty.

timidly submitted by Cityslikr

A P.R. Blitz

May 29, 2010

Much has already been written about the Michael Bryant-Darcy Allan Sheppard affair including right here at this site and elsewhere. Adding my obviously biased voice won’t offer any new insights or revelations. Still, there is one point I cannot remain silent on and that’s the increasing role that public relations plays in our society.

When someone, especially a someone with a higher profile than most, falls afoul of the law and hires a p.r. firm immediately after securing a lawyer, you know that their intent is not to seek truth or justice. Neither of those quaint notions are in the purview of public relations. It could be easily argued that the exact opposite is the case. So it seems to be the situation with Michael Bryant and Navigator Ltd. There was no sitting back, waiting for the judicial wheels to turn. Instead, go on the offensive, muddy the waters, demonize the opponent, all in the name of avoiding responsibility for your actions. It’s a great lesson for the kids.

Nothing I have heard from those in the p.r. industry since all charges were set aside against Michael Bryant in the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard has done anything to convince me otherwise. Former journalist and now p.r. person Susan Reisler’s interview on CBC’s Metro Morning Wednesday was quintessential double speak and plausibly deniable insinuation. She mocked social media and “citizen” journalists for rushing to judgment against Michael Bryant before all the facts could emerge but then claimed ignorance about the talk of Navigator Ltd.’s role in massaging the facts. Those who wanted Bryant to at least face his day in court were simply screeching for a “show” trial according to Reisler. You know, like they have in China, Iran and all those other undemocratic banana republics.

Later on during the local news broadcast on CBC, another p.r. person (whose name I did not catch and I’m too lazy to try and track it down now) was quoted as saying that with this whole imbroglio now behind him, Michael Bryant’s future public career could in fact be “enhanced” by it.

Imagine the cold, cold, shriveled heart of the person able to utter such sentiments out loud with the wound of a man’s death still that fresh. These are the dark arts, my friends, and those who practice them possess a dearth of compassion toward their fellow man that is nothing short of sociopathic. There’s a job to do, a mess to clean up and they will do so regardless of consequences.

I could go on with my indignation and outrage but, instead, I’ll step aside and give you someone much better and more entertaining at it than I. The late American comedian, Bill Hicks, who at moments like this I miss most for his ability to skewer the fatuous and fearlessly attack the powerful. Yes, he’s talking about marketers but they are of the same breed as consultants and p.r. people. Soulless obfuscators and murderers of truth.

Enjoy. And parents, cover the childrens’ ears.

submitted by Urban Sophisticat