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Paul Jay should stick to the "Real" News

by Caribou Jamelia Toronto News

Paul Jay: If logic gets in the way, interview a lawyer!
Paul Jay: If logic gets in the way, interview a lawyer!

Also posted by caribou jamelia:

Paul Jay is an experienced journalist and newscaster whose reputation, in some circles, precedes him. He's the founder, CEO and visionary behind the Real News Network, a project that gets out lots of independent journalism, with talented journalists filing stories from Palestine to Toronto.

But supporters of the Real News Network ought to carefully assess Jay's reaction to the anti-G20 demonstrations in Toronto. Since then, particularly with the theme of police infiltration and the black bloc, Jay has repeatedly crossed the line between professional journalism and punditry.

Jay's analysis of the events of June 26 leap from "the bloc is infiltrated" with little to no proof to back that up, to "the cops knew what the plans were and didn't react," again with little to no proof back that up, to "It's not too many degrees of separation to get to the real man in charge – The Prime Minister." This is ideologically driven editorializing. It's not journalism.

Before I examine the fallacies and opinions he injects into his otherwise journalistic commentary, I'd like to quote from the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada Code of Ethics. This code of ethics sets clear guidelines for reporters, kicking off with perhaps the most obvious one: Accuracy. "Broadcast journalists will inform the public in an accurate, comprehensive and fair manner about events and issues of importance." The code also states "Editorials and commentary will be identified as such." 

It is clear that in his work following the G20, Jay isn't particularly concerned with the accuracy of his reports, specifically with regards to the black bloc tactic, or with being clear with viewers about the difference between journalism and commentary. Here's why.

In a piece called Who Commanded the G20 Commander?, Jay states "We know the police had infiltrated the Black Bloc, we know they had cameras that could see 'everywhere,' so why couldn't they defend their own vehicles?"

I'll admit it, even in the face of reams misinformation, and even followed by a ridiculous statement that the pigs could somehow 'see everywhere', I was intrigued. We know the police had infiltrated the black bloc? I clicked the link, lo and behold another video produced by Mr. Jay himself pops up. In this interview, Jay himself refers to the black bloc as a tactic (not a group), and proceeds to ask lawyer Howard Morton if the bloc was infiltrated.

This line of questioning totally ignores the extremely problematic fact that all kinds of groups are infiltrated by police informants, and undercover pigs (secret police) appear uninvited to events and meetings organized by activists ranging from anti-war to environmental justice groups with an increasing frequency. "What even a decade ago would have been seen as organising, discussing openly about ways to protest, is now being seen as a conspiracy," Jaggi Singh, who was recently jailed on such charges, told the Media Co-op. But instead of shaming the police for infiltrating above ground, community based, grassroots organizations, Jay is keenly focused on the fact that infiltration happened in the black bloc, which (to restate the obvious) is a tactic, not a group that organizes meetings or events.

Morton responds that various groups (but he doesn't specify by saying the black bloc) were infiltrated.

Indeed, organizers with these groups (like Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance) are now facing what are no doubt trumped up conspiracy charges. I say trumped up because their organizing was open and above ground, because these folks were obviously not "leaders" of the black bloc (the bloc did just fine without them), and because nobody tells folks engaging in black bloc tactics when to break off from the march, or what to smash. The bloc, fluid and dynamic, decides.

Morton offers two explanations to answer Jay's next question, about why the police didn't react immediately when the breakaway march started. "One would be that they simply screwed it up, and the other would be that perhaps some of what happened [June 26] justifies the $1 billion spent on security and will turn some people unfortunately against protests of any kind."

The possibility that the police screwed up June 26, and were outwitted and shamed by the bloc, seems completely lost on media personalities like Jay, Judy Rebick, and others who have used denouncing the bloc as a platform to assert themselves as movement managers.

So let's revisit Jay's earlier statement: "We know the police had infiltrated the Black Bloc, we know they had cameras that could see 'everywhere,' so why couldn't they defend their own vehicles?" In earnest, the evidence he presents isn't all that compelling, and I don't think Jay himself "knows" what he claims to know.

Instead, Jay seems hell bent on criminalizing those who engage in militancy, as well as justifying the pig state's charges against our comrades who are still in jail. Believe it or not, this also contravenes the code of ethics mentioned before, which states "In reporting matters that are or may be before the courts, broadcast journalists will ensure that their reporting does not interfere with the rights of an individual to a fair trial."

Let's look at another of Jay's complete non-sequiturs with relation to the black bloc in the wake of the G-20.

On June 28, Jay said: "And I'd like to say to people that participated the black bloc—at least those of you that aren't paid by one of the various police forces in Canada—that if you think you're fighting for social change, how about not helping create the legal framework for such draconian laws and actions as we saw this weekend?"

This is one of the most irresponsible comments I've heard with regards to the excessive police brutality and crackdown in police state Toronto during the G-20 weekend. But it also makes no sense. The black bloc created a legal framework? Ahem, I thought that creating legal frameworks was the work of the courts and legislators. Who knows. Maybe the bloc infiltrated the legislature. But I kind of doubt that.

 I think Jay comes close to answering his own question when he asked: "So if the police had infiltrated the black bloc and they'd infiltrated the demonstration, how on earth could they not have known that when the demonstration march was moving towards the fence and then made a turn and runs up Yonge Street, that's what the plans were?"

If somehow the affinity groups that participate in the bloc tactic were infiltrated to the extent that Jay seems to believe they are, then sure, the cops would have been able to quell the breakaway group before anything was smashed. This leads me to conclude, based on the evidence available at this time, that these affinity groups were not infiltrated or were infiltrated to a minor extent (these tend to be very small groups of friends or close comrades) and in fact that the cops didn't know what the "plans were."

The more I read comments like Paul Jay's, the more I come to grips with the fact that it's hard for authoritarians and corporate media types to understand the concepts of autonomy, spontaneity and affinity that are essential to the black bloc tactic. That said, it is well within the demands of responsible, ethical journalism that many of us expect only from the alternative media that Jay stop trying to create "facts" and force them to fit his version of events. 

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Comments

good work!

great piece. your last point is the crux.

 

Other issues please!

Hey VMC and TMC! Can we move on from the endless posts about the black bloc and how awful Dobbin and Rebick and co. are, and cover some other issues please? Or at least stop featuring all these stories? Can we accept that in order to grow our movement we need to make it even just a little bit palatable to the 95% or whatever number of people in Canada are getting their info from the mainstream media?

*Please* let's take some of this energy spent black-bloc-back-and-forth-blogging and use it to cover some of the other stuff taking place in our cities! 

 

Become the media

The VMC is open publishing and most of these articles are written by people like you and not necessarily written by the VMC Collective. That said, this is a hot topic and people seem pretty interested in having this discussion. If you want to see other issues covered, become the media, open an account and write a story, produce a video or post some photos. 

yea

we are also doing community radio programming (today's show was about street vending) and lots of other coverage in general. If you don't like what is being covered maybe you should write something yourself. To be honest I feel that it is important that these different critiques and points of view get heard.

I very much appreciate all

I very much appreciate all the rest of the coverage, and appreciate that this is open publishing. However, I imagine the editorial committee chooses which articles to feature, and you currently have 5 of 11 featured posts on this same topic. I agree these points of view should be heard, but I question how useful it is to the movement at this time to spend all this energy slagging folks like Murray Dobbin and Paul Jay.

 I have a few problems with

 I have a few problems with your argument. My response constitutes an opinion, just to make that clear (I'd hate to get in trouble for not doing that...).

1. I can't ignore the irony of using an opinion piece to criticize someone else's use of opinion pieces. I don't always agree with everything Mr. Jay offers up, but I appreciate his passion and perspective, especially in light of the high emotions that most people were feeling in the midst and aftermath of the G20 debacle. I agree with this though: If he is going to offer up op-eds laced with hyperbole, a disclaimer that he is doing so would be a good thing.

2. Bloc infiltration: Whether the undercover cops were provocateurs or not, infiltration is proven. This video alone, even if you  discount every other one, shows that plainclothes infiltrators were in Black Bloc garb and moving among the protesters.

3. Outwitted or standing down: We won't know if the ISU stood down to allow the Black Bloc tactics or whether they were somehow outwitted unless a full public inquiry is conducted. Hell, even then it's a crap shoot at best. That leaves using a bit of logic to try to form an opinion. Personally, I find it unlikely that the ISU was just outwitted and far more believable that they simply expected and wanted the vandalism to occur. I also consider it plausible that provocateurs were responsible for some of the damage and find it suspicious that so many cruisers were abandoned in the Black Bloc path. I leave room for that opinion to be wrong and wouldn't state it as fact, but the circumstantial evidence is compelling.

4. "Legal framework": Yeah, that's a poor choice of words on his part. "Excuse to develop a justification" might be more applicable, but the concept (if you're not looking for things to pick on Jay for) is fairly accepted and getting a lot of credible support even among activists. I understand and empathize with those who ascribe to Black Bloc tactics, but I think that there are a couple points in regards to corporate vandalism that bear serious discussion: First, that these tactics do distract from the message in so much that the MSM is waiting for the vandalism so they can take advantage f the drama and photo ops. In the absence of said drama, they might actually pay attention to the real reasons for dissent. Second, (and most relative to Jay's apparent argument) that the tactics and 'uniforms' provide the state police with every opportunity to act as povocateurs and every excuse to justify their fascist behavior in the aftermath. Black Bloc'ing has had some admirable successes, but it seems to be a self-defeating tactic at the moment.

5. What you really seem to be critical of: It might just be me, but I 'got' most that you are pissed with Jay for criticizing the Bloc tactics and not standing in solidarity with them as is the activist-PC status quo. You're allowed your opinion, but really, trying to hide it behind a 'serious critique' of Jay's journalistic integrity seems a bit fallacious. An ad hominem attack, which is what I mostly consider this opinion piece to be, doesn't seem like the logical way to go about making your point, and I do think you have a valid one buried under your own hyperbole.

This probably sounds like I'm practicing apologetics for Paul Jay, but that's not my intent. To re-state it, I think you do make a very valid point in suggesting that, if he's going to offer op-eds, he should say so. He's allowed to as an editor, but making it clear when he is doing so would help clarify when he has his opinion hat on as opposed to his 'just-the-facts' hat on.

The Black Bloc tactic debate needs to happen though. There are some legitimate tactical considerations to argue through. Solidarity is a good thing, but if we abandon a valid debate because we're afraid of threatening that solidarity, then we have bigger problems.

 I watched the video. The

 I watched the video. The undercovers are mixed in with non bloc folks. Don't really know what that proves, other than that cops are assholes. As the article above states, infiltration (secret police) in our movement is super problematic and needs to be addressed. Even if the bloc was infiltrated, and the cops set some of the fires, they sure didn't set all the fires. People don't seem to understand that bloc doesn't need to be provoked!

FINALLY, re this concept of debate, it's happened over and over again. Organizers internally in Toronto had probably had it a whole lot. Same happened here in Vancouver, where after the fact folks *WHO ARE NOT ORGANIZERS* started claiming there was no debate and denouncing the actions.

See: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/video/2916

 

No facts? then shut the fk up!

i also watched the video, a bunch of (very) ugly plain clothes pigs providing security for a snatch squad.  doesn't prove shit, and it certainly doesn't prove that the black bloc was infiltrated (as there is no black bloc in this action, or in this area).

the real point of paul jay's allegations isn't his 'politics' per se, but his unsubstantiated allegations that the black bloc was infiltrated, which is a way of undermining the militant resistance and which has obvious political motivations (ie it has been promoted liberal reformists and pacifists as a way of showing the 'incorrectness' of the black bloc tactic).

a very distorted post

 

caribou jamelia .... you distort what the lawyer Morton says. His comment about infiltration was responding to a direct question about people involved in the black block tactic (see transcript below).

It's clear from everything Jay has reported - that he says the primary motive of the police was to establish a 'martial law' model for the future in order to suppress dissent to elite economic policies. This includes the use of the Public Works Protection Act. He says the Black Bloc tactic helped create the conditions for mass arrests. Whether the Black Bloc people were so brilliant they evaded the police, or whether the police allowed them to do so, changes little. Although the evidence he and others have presented makes a very strong case that the police chose to hang back for quite some time.

The point is that the tactic was the rational for mass arrests. It’s clear from London to Pittsburgh, mass arrests follow Black Bloc tactics. You should be honest about all of this, provoking a confrontation between the mass of demonstrators and the police was the tactic’s objective. It doesn’t require any infiltration for this piece of theatre to play out. It’s not much of a stretch given how predictable all this is that the police chose to take advantage of it . . . if not directly provoke it (which can’t be ruled out).

You can attack Jay or others but you cannot escape the fact that the movement is fed up with these infantile self-indulgent ‘tactics’. False flag or not, from the Reichstag Fire and so on, this is how police states are built. Why? Because public opinion tends to side with order and is afraid of chaos. Every fascist knows it and plays on it. That’s the real question: do you want to build a movement or play out some ‘vanguard’ ego trip? Because what you do now is rely on liberal democracy, that the consequences of your actions won’t be so serious. But some day, they will be. And detention won’t be for a few days or months, but for years and maybe more.

Below is the transcript of Morton’s interview with Jay. The main point here is how you chose to distort what Morton says. It’s obvious he is referring to people involved with the BB. The main quote is this:

“MORTON: Paul, I think they know more than just who these people are. I think they had information, either from an informant or from undercover officers who were present, perhaps at gatherings of people, and actually knew precisely what was being planned, because that's what they've alleged in this conspiracy charge.”

Here is more of the transcript, available a the TRNN site, so people can see the quote in context.

“MORTON: But as you know, last night a lot of the violence that erupted was actually right at Queen's Park, and that's where those people who were demonstrating very peacefully, as I understand from the media reports, were subjected to all sorts of violence on the part of the police.

JAY: Now, what started all the real violent activity—although there had been some the day before and two days before—but the big violent activity was inaugurated by the black bloc tactic. Apparently, according to the police chief, there was a march going on the fence, and then they turned from the fence. These people calling themselves the black bloc run up Yonge Street, break some windows. There's no police in sight. Is there evidence that the police had infiltrated the black bloc and then perhaps should have known what going to happen?

MORTON: My understanding is that they've clearly infiltrated it, going back as far as perhaps April 2009. And given the number of arrests yesterday morning, just before any of these incidents took place, they obviously knew who was allegedly involved in planning these things, and they've charged them all with conspiracy to commit a whole number of indictable offenses. And the ones that are in custody will probably remain there for at least the immediate future.

JAY: And in fact the chief, in a press conference I attended where I asked him a few questions, he actually talks about how we know who the leaders are, we know who the people are. I mean, it suggests, if you know all of that, why didn't you know they were planning to turn and run up Yonge Street?

MORTON: Paul, I think they know more than just who these people are. I think they had information, either from an informant or from undercover officers who were present, perhaps at gatherings of people, and actually knew precisely what was being planned, because that's what they've alleged in this conspiracy charge.

JAY: So if they know, then what does one think? Why would they have gone, apparently, 10 or 15 minutes or longer on Yonge Street? And we have footage of what was happening, and there is no police officer in sight.

MORTON: Well, I guess there are only two explanations. One would be that they simply screwed it up, and the other would be that perhaps some of what happened yesterday justifies the $1 billion spent on security and will turn some people, unfortunately, against protests of any kind.”

a distorted post .. .

caribou jamelia .... you distort what the lawyer Morton says. His comment about infiltration was responding to a direct question about people involved in the black block tactic (see transcript below).

It's clear from everything Jay has reported - that he says the primary motive of the police was to establish a 'martial law' model for the future in order to suppress dissent to elite economic policies. This includes the use of the Public Works Protection Act. He says the Black Bloc tactic helped create the conditions for mass arrests. Whether the Black Bloc people were so brilliant they evaded the police, or whether the police allowed them to do so, changes little. Although the evidence he and others have presented makes a very strong case that the police chose to hang back for quite some time.

The point is that the tactic was the rational for mass arrests. It’s clear from London to Pittsburgh, mass arrests follow Black Bloc tactics. You should be honest about all of this, provoking a confrontation between the mass of demonstrators and the police was the tactic’s objective. It doesn’t require any infiltration for this piece of theatre to play out. It’s not much of a stretch given how predictable all this is that the police chose to take advantage of it . . . if not directly provoke it (which can’t be ruled out).

You can attack Jay or others but you cannot escape the fact that the movement is fed up with these infantile self-indulgent ‘tactics’. False flag or not, from the Reichstag Fire and so on, this is how police states are built. Why? Because public opinion tends to side with order and is afraid of chaos. Every fascist knows it and plays on it. That’s the real question: do you want to build a movement or play out some ‘vanguard’ ego trip? Because what you do now is rely on liberal democracy, that the consequences of your actions won’t be so serious. But some day, they will be. And detention won’t be for a few days or months, but for years and maybe more.

Below is the transcript of Morton’s interview with Jay. The main point here is how you chose to distort what Morton says. It’s obvious he is referring to people involved with the BB. The main quote is this:

“MORTON: Paul, I think they know more than just who these people are. I think they had information, either from an informant or from undercover officers who were present, perhaps at gatherings of people, and actually knew precisely what was being planned, because that's what they've alleged in this conspiracy charge.”

Here is more of the transcript, available a the TRNN site, so people can see the quote in context.

“MORTON: But as you know, last night a lot of the violence that erupted was actually right at Queen's Park, and that's where those people who were demonstrating very peacefully, as I understand from the media reports, were subjected to all sorts of violence on the part of the police.

JAY: Now, what started all the real violent activity—although there had been some the day before and two days before—but the big violent activity was inaugurated by the black bloc tactic. Apparently, according to the police chief, there was a march going on the fence, and then they turned from the fence. These people calling themselves the black bloc run up Yonge Street, break some windows. There's no police in sight. Is there evidence that the police had infiltrated the black bloc and then perhaps should have known what going to happen?

MORTON: My understanding is that they've clearly infiltrated it, going back as far as perhaps April 2009. And given the number of arrests yesterday morning, just before any of these incidents took place, they obviously knew who was allegedly involved in planning these things, and they've charged them all with conspiracy to commit a whole number of indictable offenses. And the ones that are in custody will probably remain there for at least the immediate future.

JAY: And in fact the chief, in a press conference I attended where I asked him a few questions, he actually talks about how we know who the leaders are, we know who the people are. I mean, it suggests, if you know all of that, why didn't you know they were planning to turn and run up Yonge Street?

MORTON: Paul, I think they know more than just who these people are. I think they had information, either from an informant or from undercover officers who were present, perhaps at gatherings of people, and actually knew precisely what was being planned, because that's what they've alleged in this conspiracy charge.

JAY: So if they know, then what does one think? Why would they have gone, apparently, 10 or 15 minutes or longer on Yonge Street? And we have footage of what was happening, and there is no police officer in sight.

MORTON: Well, I guess there are only two explanations. One would be that they simply screwed it up, and the other would be that perhaps some of what happened yesterday justifies the $1 billion spent on security and will turn some people, unfortunately, against protests of any kind.”

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