Monthly Archives: September 2009

Montreal parties and copyright

The four major parties vying for control of Montreal city hall (yeah, let’s go ahead and include Louise O’Sullivan) all seemed to have embraced the new online trends. They all have Facebook and Twitter (though some use the latter more than others). The two top contenders also have YouTube channels and upload official candidate photos and campaign photos to Flickr.

But, I wondered, do they really have a firm grasp of social media? We’ll set aside the fact that none of the four websites is fully bilingual, and move on to the fine print: how do the four parties handle copyright?

Since these are campaign websites, one would expect they would want to encourage dissemination of their pictures, slogans and press releases as much as possible. But that’s not exactly the case.

  • Union Montreal is the only party to release its content (Union Montreal’s fine print is still French-only) under a Creative Commons license, though it is the most restrictive of such licenses. It does not allow commercial use of the content (which could conceivably mean not publishing candidate photos in commercial media), nor the creation of derivative works (which would prevent activists from creating mashups of those photos). Also, all the party’s photos uploaded to Flickr are still marked “all rights reserved”, which is the default copyright license.
  • Vision Montreal’s fine print (the only one available in English, ironically), is complete boilerplate legalese: “All content, including texts, articles, photos, images and illustrations, belongs to Vision Montréal or the appropriate authors. It is forbidden to modify, copy, distribute, broadcast, transmit, represent, reproduce, publish, concede under license, transfer or sell said content without prior authorization from Vision Montréal or its appropriate authors.”
  • Projet Montréal’s website has no fine print, no indication of a copyright notice, in either language.
  • Parti Montréal Ville-Marie (Louise O’Sullivan’s party) is vague about its copyright license, saying that use and reproduction of its content can be used only for journalistic and activist purposes.

If these parties want bloggers and others to promote them, especially online, they need to be a bit more permissive than that.

Louise … umm …. uhh … umm … how you say … Harel

It was a train wreck, but we all knew it would be.

A few days after declining to participate in an English-language debate hosted by CTV, Louise Harel willingly subjected herself to a one-hour interview on CJAD on Saturday afternoon.

CJAD hasn’t posted audio of it online, but I recorded it and compiled the best of its unquotable moments. You can listen to it here: Louise Harel on CJAD (edited, MP3)

Her English wasn’t just bad, it was atrocious. During the 30 minutes of interview, I counted a total of 19 times that host Anne Lagacé-Dowson suggested words that Harel was struggling to find. (In one case, it was the word “expensive”.) At one point, Harel gave up entirely and gave an answer in French for the host to translate.

Perhaps Harel and her handlers never listened to the station, but I can think of no worse platform for a unilingual francophone ex-PQ minister and municipal merger advocate than the last great bastion of angryphonism.

It’s noteworthy that Harel chose to come on the Saturday afternoon show of Lagacé-Dowson, the former CBC radio host who left the Corp to unsuccessfully bid for a seat in the House of Commons for the NDP. (She’s now the permanent host 1-4pm on Saturdays.) Normally, high-profile guests sit with Tommy Schnurmacher on weekday mornings or Ric Peterson during the drive-home hours.

Stories about Harel’s genuine but failed attempt to reach out to anglos appear in The Gazette and on CJAD’s website. CTV’s cameras were also in the studio. French media seems to have ignored the gesture entirely. The Gazette has some fun at Harel’s expense, but even that is downright laudatory compared to some of the comments made by CJAD listeners who called in. One said she “exemplified hatred for the English-speaking community” and was “trying to destroy our community,” while another used the word “racist” in describing PQ language policy. No wonder Harel said she was “afraid to speak in English” for fear of committing a major political faux pas and being branded something worse than a green-skinned witch.

All three stories about the discussion also mention the fact that she was 25 minutes late to the interview. (Her explanation was that she was giving another interview to a community radio station and couldn’t get to the studio on time.) It was 1:21pm by my watch when she got in the studio, and she was at the microphone a minute later. She missed about 11 minutes of actual talk time, during which Lagacé-Dowson filled otherwise dead air with a biography of the Vision Montreal leader and took a couple of calls. Cutting out the ads, traffic and news breaks, Lagacé-Dowson and Harel talked for 30 minutes after she finally arrived.

Why bother?

I’m not quite sure why Harel decided to be interviewed on CJAD. Perhaps it was to prove a point that she doesn’t hate anglophones. Perhaps it was just to get it over with. Or perhaps she lost a bet.

But listening to the interview, it becomes clear why Harel chose not to participate in an anglo television debate. She has literally nothing to gain from such an embarrassment. Her approval among anglophones according to the latest La Presse poll is an astonishingly low 6%, way below Gérald Tremblay and Richard Bergeron. I think George W. Bush has better support from anglo Montrealers. Stumbling through severe language difficulties to give un-nuanced explanations of why she supports policies that anglophones are most opposed to is an exercise in futility. “For Harel to try to debate in a language she doesn’t really speak would have been an excruciating waste of time for both her and any listener who isn’t a masochist,” says Gazette columnist Don Macpherson.

CTV offered simultaneous translation, which would have given us something similar to what we had in the 1997 French leaders’ debate where Preston Manning spoke in English to a French audience. That might have been easier for everyone involved, but it’s easier still to simply write off a segment of the population you have no chance of winning anyway. The BQ and PQ don’t campaign for anglo votes, so why should Harel?

Irrelevant? I think not

I don’t think that mastery of the English language should be a requirement for being mayor of Montreal. The city has had mayors in the past whose English skills have been sorely lacking, and so far no civil wars have erupted. Richard Bergeron’s English isn’t all that much better.

But there’s this talking point circulating among Harel supporters (and militant sovereignists) that the ability to speak English is completely irrelevant to the job of mayor.

Sorry, but it’s not. No matter what the law or the city’s constitution says, Montreal is a bilingual city. The national anthem at Canadiens games is sung in two languages, we pay for our shish taouk with bilingual money, and panhandlers start off their begging with “anglais/français?”

Harel herself is the first to admit that this lack of skill is a strike against her. The job of mayor isn’t simply about creating legislation and voting in city hall meetings, it’s about being a leader, about representing Montreal on the national and international stage, and (for better or for worse) about giving speeches, cutting ribbons and writing those letters you see on Page 2 of municipal newsletters and festival programs. And like it or not, these things require the use of English.

This same irrelevance argument is made about Harel’s views on Quebec sovereignty. Even asking the question is considered “totally out of line.” Since when is someone’s political views irrelevant to politics? Sure, Montreal’s mayor doesn’t have the power to make a unilateral declaration of independence, but identity politics have defined political discourse here for decades, and there are plenty of related issues (language, for example) that do have an impact at the municipal level. Playing this not-my-jurisdiction game seems ludicrous to me. If Stephen Harper were asked a question about his views on health care or education during a campaign, would those too be considered “totally out of line” because those things are provincial jurisdiction? Of course not.

No platform

I get the point: We know she’s a sovereignist, we know she can’t speak English very well, and we know she brought in those forced municipal mergers (which, despite the stereotype, didn’t just piss off anglophones in Montreal). We should be debating the “issues” instead. Looking forward, you know.

But we can’t. Because over a week into the campaign, Vision Montreal hasn’t released its platform yet. Neither has Tremblay’s Union Montreal, although one can extrapolate their policies from the past eight years of governance.

And because Vision Montreal is a shell of a party that really has nothing to define itself by other than its revolving-door leadership post, we have to wait until a platfom is released to debate the issues. (Though apparently Harel and Trembaly don’t – they already had a debate, with Jean-Luc Mongrain on LCN, before releasing any platforms.)

If Harel wants to move on and keep the momentum she’s built up, and maybe even attract a few anglo votes on the issues that really matter, that platform needs to be released soon. And it better have some good ideas.

Oh Nelly, oh Pierre

It was a double-whammy this week for ICI, or at least it would have been if that newspaper still existed.

Late Thursday came word that Nelly Arcan, née Isabelle Fortier, was found dead in her apartment, in what police are apparently treating as a suicide. On Friday evening, it was Pierre Falardeau, the “colourful” political commentator and filmmaker, this time of cancer.

Both were former ICI columnists, and both continued writing under the 24-Heures version. Falardeau stopped during his cancer fight, but Arcan’s final column was published the day after she died (it includes no mention of that, since news came out after the paper went to press).

The ICI columnist page looks more like an obituaries page now. The two main stories on 24 Heures’s homepage right now are obits for Arcan and Falardeau, though the first reads more like a police blotter.

The tributes are still pouring in.

Nelly Arcan

Nelly Arcan

For Arcan, whose death was much more surprising than Falardeau’s, there’s a level of … let’s call it discomfort. The media don’t normally report on suicides, for fear of encouraging them. But you can’t simply ignore the death of an important figure, nor can you fail to mention how they died. So here there’s no choice.

There’s also the problem of unanswered questions. We still don’t know how she decided to take her own life (everyone has that morbid curiosity, whether we like to admit it or not), and more importantly why. The first answer is known by a few, the second probably only by one, who now can no longer speak.

Nicolas Ritoux has an open, personal letter to Arcan, which gives a window into her troubled soul.

Being a public figure who has written extensively, we can also go through the media archives, looking at her interviews and her writing in a different light. P45 magazine unearths an article written by her about suicide back in 2004, though it doesn’t delve into the personal. Cyberpresse similarly collects some of her thoughts on the subject. has video of an interview with Arcan last fall, which talks about how she chose her name and her fears in life (one of which was losing her parents – ironic since those parents are now living their worst nightmare).

Cyberpresse has opened up an entire dossier on the subject.

More on Nelly Arcan from:

Pierre Falardeau

Pierre Falardeau

In Falardeau’s case, the death wasn’t so surprising. Falardeau had been fighting cancer. If obituaries hadn’t been written in advance, journalists could at least have suspected they’d soon have to write one.

Expressions of condolences are coming in from all parts, from Guy A. Lepage, Pauline Marois and others. Perhaps because more people knew him, because he made more of an impact on the lives of Quebecers. Or maybe it’s because talking about his death isn’t awkward, even for those who disagreed with everything he said.

More on Pierre Falardeau from:

UPDATE: Now talk of naming a street after him.

Also: More Gazette pieces on Falardeau and Arcan.

Forgotten Star

montreal star

An anniversary that would have been forgotten had it not been for a piece in the National Post: The Montreal Star was shut down 30 years ago today.

Raymond Heard, who was the managing editor at the time, writes about its demise for the Post.

For those too young to remember, the Star was an evening paper, and the bigger of Montreal’s anglophone newspapers until a pressmen’s strike in 1978 caused it to lose readers and advertisers to its competitor The Gazette. By the time the strike had been settled, it was too late to recover, and the Star shut down months later. Some of the big names at The Gazette now, like Red Fisher, Mike Boone and Aislin, moved there from the Star (though Aislin moved before the strike).

Rue Frontenac, paper edition

Rue Frontenac, with Quebecor's Journal de Montréal and 24 Heures

Rue Frontenac, with Quebecor's Journal de Montréal and 24 Heures

As Montreal’s favourite hockey team suffered yet another preseason loss, many fans had in their hands a new newspaper put together by some very experienced journalists. Rue Frontenac, the news website put together by the 253 locked-out workers of the Journal de Montréal since January, put together its first printed product, a special section on the Canadiens.

You’ll recall that when the Journal de Québec was locked out in 2007-08, they printed their own free newspaper MédiaMatinQuébec to compete with their employer as a pressure tactic. When the Journal de Montréal faced the same fate, it was determined that the larger city, not to mention the existence of two free dailies (one owned by Quebecor) meant doing the same here wouldn’t work as well, so it was decided that would be an online-only operation.

But then, online only gets you so far.

The publication, coordinated by Jean-Guy Fuguère, is strictly a Canadiens season lookahead, with commentary from veterans like Marc De Foy and Bertrand Raymond, as well as union-sympathizing stars Martin Brodeur and Jacques Demers. It’s 40 pages long, and has a few advertisements, from Molson, Chambly Mazda, various unions and Georges Laraque’s WeTeam Ice.

You can get it in PDF format on Rue Frontenac’s website. They will also be distributing 50,000 copies of the paper over the coming days.

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No bikes on Summit Circle … path

No cycling on Summit Circle?

No cycling on Summit Circle?

A little over a month ago, I noticed a post at with the title “pas de bicyclette à Westmount?” – two pictures without commentary suggesting that bicycles had been completely banned from the city.

I decided to take a look for myself. The pictures looked like they might have been taken near Summit Park, so I headed up there with my camera (“up” being the operative word, it’s quite a hike from the bus stop on Côte des Neiges). Sure enough, at the corner of Summit Circle and Oakland Avenue, a small “no bicycles” sign.

The same no bicycles sign from the other side

The same no bicycles sign from the other side

I couldn’t quite make out its intent. Is cycling banned on Summit Circle? If so, why? And why aren’t there other signs saying that? Was it put up in error?

A bit down the street, I spotted another, similar sign:

No cycling, but where?

No parking, no cycling?

Being one of those curious journalist-y types, I emailed the city of Westmount asking what this was all about. After a few days, and with a standard template for answering citizens’ questions, this email reached my inbox:

In reference to your question, the “no bicycle” sign is not meant for Summit Circle but only for the Jogging path along Summit Circle. The Jogging Path begins at the corner of Oakland and Summit Circle.

I hope that this information is helpful.


The jogging path is that dirt path you see in the second and third photos. It runs along Summit Circle on the north side of the park.

Though it makes sense to ban bikes from this narrow pedestrian path, the signage isn’t at all clear. No words, not even an arrow pointing to the path to give some indication where exactly the bicycles are forbidden. A cyclist passing by there would only look on in confusion, and perhaps go away with the impression that the summit neighbourhood of Westmount is filled with rich, bicycle-hating luxury SUV drivers who want to exclude those who don’t fit on their better-than-thou pedestal.

Because that impression would be false, right?

Shockingly, people still reading newspapers

NADbank, the national newspaper readership monitoring service, released a report on Wednesday with some new numbers (PDF) for newspaper publishers to chew on. And, of course, with all the data there, each newspaper cherry-picks facts to make it look like they’re doing better than their competitors:

So what do the numbers show?

For the sake of comparison, I’m using the “five-day cumulative” number, which measures how many people read the newspaper (in printed form) at least once over the previous five weekdays. The numbers are compared to the last annual report released in March.

  • Journal de Montréal: 1,027,400, up 3.3% from 994,600 despite the lockout
  • La Presse: 678,200, up 0.9% from 672,300
  • Metro: 630,100, up 2.0% from 617,900
  • The Gazette: 454,200, down 1.1% from 459,200
  • 24 Heures: 516,400, up 13.9% from 453,200

Note that no numbers are given for Le Devoir.

The big news here is with 24 Heures, which has shown a huge jump in readership, surpassing The Gazette for fourth place in the market overall.  This is most likely due to more aggressive distribution as well as the increased number of journalists now employed by the paper since the Journal de Montréal was locked out. It also may have picked up some former ICI readers, since ICI is now a weekly supplement in 24 Heures.

For online readership, the numbers are all press-release-worthy:

  • La Presse ( 359,000, up 10% from 326,200
  • The Gazette ( 134,900, up 6.5% from 126,700
  • Metro ( 36,900, up 12.2% from 32,900
  • 24 Heures ( 27,100, up 24.3% from 21,800

NADbank is also, for the first time, counting Journal de Montréal online readership (the Journal doesn’t have its own website, but Canoe groups some of its articles on a page here). It measures weekly readership at a paltry 130,700, just a bit less than The Gazette.

It’s unsurprising that online has grown quite a bit (in most cases it really has nowhere to go but up), and while Metro and 24 Heures have seen huge gains percentagewise, their numbers are still so small that NADbank puts an asterisk next to them to indicate the sample size was too small to be reliable.

Speaking of small sample sizes, the numbers also include Montreal readership for the Globe and Mail (97.600 Monday-Friday, 79,800 weekly online) and National Post (71,400 Monday-Friday, 41,100 weekly online).

So I guess the newspaper crisis is over, huh?

Gardening expert Stuart Robertson dies

Stuart Robertson (CBC photo)

Stuart Robertson (CBC photo)

If the plants in your garden seem a bit limp today, they might be water-logged from the rain, or they might be mourning the death this morning of local gardening expert Stuart Robertson.

According to obituaries in The Gazette and at CBC, Robertson died Wednesday morning of complications from pneumonia after a long battle with lymphoma.

Robertson, who worked at CBC Radio in Montreal (among other things, as a traffic reporter) until retiring in June, turned his gardening expertise into a weekly column in The Gazette (the last one was just this past Saturday), a regular column on CBC television, and a weekly (sometimes more than that) spot on CBC’s Radio Noon. He also wrote two books on gardening.

The CBC obit mentions that Robertson was a popular columnist on Radio Noon. This can’t be overemphasized. His gardening call-in was by far the most popular regular segment. While other times the call-in segment would struggle for a trickle of calls, when the topic was gardening everyone wanted to get on and ask him a question. The only thing stopping the station from having him on more often was a concern that Radio Noon not turn into the Stuart Robertson Gardening Show.

Stuart Robertson was a quiet man, but his departure leaves an ominous silence.

UPDATE: The full Gazette obit got Page 1 treatment on Thursday.

The Rest of Quebec

Patrick Lagacé has a column this week about how people in the Rest of Quebec hate Montreal. How they judge everything based on a comparison with Montreal. How they judge themselves by whether they’re better than Montreal.

Even though I’m a life-long Montrealer, I see where they’re coming from.

And I point at least one finger at the media.

When Global Television’s CKMI-TV regional station in Quebec City officially became a Montreal station on Sept. 1, I understood the reasoning (mainly to gain access to local advertising, but also to acknowledge the de facto change to a Montreal station), but I was also a bit disappointed.

At its peak, Global Quebec had an active Quebec City station and a bureau in the Eastern Townships. The only other anglophone television stations in Quebec were both local stations based in Montreal (with at most a reporter at the National Assembly). I had wondered if, instead of focusing on its largest cities, Global could set itself apart from the other two by being a truly regional network, by covering the far-away communities ignored buy CTV and CBC. It would, effectively, be the local station for anglos in Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Gaspé, and even some places in the Montreal metropolitan area that the city’s reporters hesitate to venture to.

But the economics of that proposition apparently don’t hold. It’s expensive to cover such a large area, and the anglophone population outside Montreal is simply too small and too widespread to be able to create that critical mass of loyal viewership.

Instead, Global concluded that it would be better as the #3 station in Montreal than the #1 station elsewhere in Quebec.

(Of course, this logic applies only to local programming, of which CKMI and CBC’s CBMT produce a pathetic 7.5 hours a week. The rest would have no difference in content or reach if the station were based in Montreal or St-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!)

And today in Montreal…

It’s easy to get local news as a Montrealer. Three nightly TV newscasts in English, two in French (not counting what’s on TQS V). An all-news French radio station, and news/talk radio stations in both languages. Six daily newspapers, of which two are free. And, of course, blogs and online sources such as this one.

But it goes farther than that. Two all-news TV channels, Radio-Canada’s RDI and Quebecor’s LCN, are headquartered here. LCN is often on the TV in the newsroom because it’s essentially become a Montreal local all-news channel.

If I wanted to, say, get a story about a local event in Quebec City told by local English media, I’d have to scratch my head a bit figuring out where to go. CBC has an English radio station there, but it doesn’t even have a website (it piggybacks off CBC Montreal, and calls itself the Quebec Community Network). My other option is the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, a weekly community newspaper.

In other cities in Quebec, the options for local news – in either language – become even bleaker than that. The Sherbrooke Record is the only English daily outside of Montreal. Outside of some low-budget community initiatives, there are no English news media and few French media. And much of that media contains news from the big-budget corporate headquarters of Montreal in between the bits of local flavour. Like Toronto is the media capital of Canada, Montreal is the media capital of Quebec.

What this all means is that when people outside Montreal turn on their TVs, turn on their radios, open their newspapers or go on the Internet, they’re bombarded with news from Montreal, while in many cases their local news consists of gallery openings, petty crimes in police blotters, and grandmas turning 100.

One city down, 1109 to go

The big news in Montreal this week is the release of an auditor’s report into a water meter contract, which led to its cancellation. That whole ordeal might not have come to light had it not been for local media and reporters like La Presse’s André Noël and (I’d say especially, but perhaps that would be biased) The Gazette’s Linda Gyulai (I give her the plug here because I gave her a length for her story last night and she astonishingly filed to exactly that length). Gyulai is a dedicated city hall reporter who doesn’t have to spend (much) time chasing ambulances and rewriting press releases. She can focus strictly on her beat and spend days reading massive reports and digging for information.

With the exceptions of Le Soleil and the Journal de Québec in Quebec City (both of which still contain quite a bit of Montreal-produced news), few other newspapers in Quebec have such resources (and TV and radio certainly don’t).

I wonder about those cities that don’t have such a strong watchdog press. As I told CJAD’s Ric Peterson the other day: who’s watching Beaconsfield City Hall? Or Repentigny City Hall? Or St. Jerome City Hall? How many skeletons do they have in their closets because the media there consist of no-budget community papers that get all their news from press releases, or big Montreal media that swoop into town for a day or two when something big catches their attention?

Lagacé thinks the Rest of Quebec should get over its inferiority complex in constantly comparing itself to Montreal. I agree. But he should also acknowledge that he and the rest of the Montreal media are part of the problem.

UPDATE: Similar thoughts from Matthieu Dugal: “nos médias sont tiers-mondistes”

They weren’t scabs after all

In December, Quebec’s labour relations board made a precedent-setting decision in a case pitting the Journal de Québec workers union against the newspaper and news agencies Quebecor did business with while the union was locked out.

In the decision, the Commission des relations du travail expanded the definition of “workplace” in Quebec’s anti-scab law, ruling that since journalists perform their work outside of the office, their workplace is anywhere and everywhere.

The decision had huge implications for labour in the information economy. Unlike factory workers, information workers can do their job from just about anywhere, submitting their data to the employer when they’re done with it. Under this decision, the Journal de Québec and other employers couldn’t simply contract out work to other companies that was being done by its own employees.

Quebecor and the Journal de Québec appealed the decision, and this month Quebec Superior Court overturned the CRT’s decision, setting the definition of “workplace” back to what it was before.

As a result, the workers deemed scabs by the CRT have had those labels removed by the court.

And anyone who does a job that deals mainly with processing information and data has lost the protection that a union might have given them, because they can be simply replaced by subcontractors in case of a strike or lockout.


As Agence Nomade pops the Champagne corks, the union says it might appeal the decision, but it seems that this might ultimately go to the politicians at the National Assembly, who will have to make clear what their intention is about banning replacement workers.

Sorry, you’re a scab

The publication of the Journal de Québec decision comes on the same day that the Quebec Press Gallery rejected an application by two of its employees, who are attached to Agence QMI’s new parliamentary bureau. The decision came after a long debate about whether to accept members who have involvement in companies with labour disputes.

After rumours circulated that Quebecor might sue members of the press gallery’s board, it also adopted a resolution protecting thost members in case of legal action related to their official functions.

Travel Travel is back … in Calgary

Back when local television stations produced something beyond their local newscasts, CFCF-12 (as it was known then) had a show called Travel Travel that showed off exotic destinations and plugged hotels that let them stay there for free while filming them. It featured some lovable local TV hosts like Don McGowan and Suzanne Desautels. The show ran for 10 years, from 1987 to 1997.

And now it’s back.

In Calgary.

Ricky Leong, a former Montrealer now living there, pointed out that the show has been added to CFCN’s schedule Sunday mornings at 10:30am.

CTV Calgary programming manager Connie Hempel told Fagstein via email that the “CTV-owned property” would run on the station’s schedule “occasionally”. Questions to her and to CTV’s national programming department about whether running a decades-old travel show (with, in some cases, laughably out of date information) might be a disservice to viewers went unanswered, as did questions about why they’ve chosen that out of all the programming in CTV’s archives to bring back to the air.

Well, at least it provides a bit of nostalgia for Montreal ex-pats living in Calgary, like Leong and Terry DiMonte. I suggested to DiMonte that they also bring back Fighting Back, the consumer rights show he hosted on CFCF during that era. But he wasn’t so sure: “I think I may have a hard time convincing the folks here to watch me fight for folks against Hydro Quebec et amis.”

Better that than hearing about the fantastic views from the observation deck of the World Trade Center in New York (hopefully someone will check the archives to make sure that one isn’t aired).

All you need is fun

Your humble correspondent dances disco-style at the beginning of the Love Mob

Your humble correspondent dances disco-style at the beginning of the Love Mob (photo from the Facebook group)

I do like fun. And as long as an event has that as its primary goal, I’m all for it. Even if it’s a tired formula like a choreographed dance or a lip dub.

On Sunday, I played hookey from PodCamp to participate in an event called “Love Mob Montreal“. Not crazy about the name, but maybe that’s just because I’m not in touch with my emotional side. As I mentioned in the previous post, it was an MP3 experiment that made sense to everyone with headphones but no sense to all the bystanders without.

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Flash mob is the new protest

Police officers monitor a "flash mob" protest on St. Jacques St.

Police officers monitor a "flash mob" protest on St. Jacques St.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know my opinion on so-called “flash mobs”. The term is poorly defined (mostly because the groups most associated with the term find it demeaning and refuse to describe themselves that way), but most people seem to have settled on the definition of a bunch of strangers meeting in a public place, doing something strange and then leaving.

That “something strange” is open to debate. In some cases, it’s harmless fun for fun’s sake. In others, it’s a highly-choreographed stunt. I wouldn’t really describe every seemingly spontaneous public performance as a flash mob, but as long as people are having fun I’m not going to complain.

My issue is that, because “flash mob” is popular among youth, various groups with agendas are trying to use it to their advantage. In some cases, the intentions are honorable, like fighting cancer. But it’s also been used to promote beer, or create “viral videos” to drum up interest in some convoluted advertising campaign.

Now, it seems, it’s also being abused for political activism.

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