Canada: Truckers Convoy Versus the Media

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Is the media lying about the truckers?

There’s one thing that takes a long time to build but only moments to lose—trust.

Unfortunately though, trust in journalism has been eroding for some time now and coverage of Canada’s Freedom Truckers Convoy is the most recent example.

Whether you support the convoy or not, doesn’t matter. But what does matter is whether what’s being shared with you is an accurate depiction of what’s happening.

I love journalism—what it can be, and has been, when done well. But something is broken. When the stories we are told are inaccurate, we make decisions based on false premises and it undermines our trust in important institutions that are meant to serve us, not influence us.

Journalism should reflect the world back to us—not as we want to see it—but as it is. Activism journalism, which is increasingly taking over, does the opposite: A few people get to decide what version of the world we see, and what we do not.

Their intentions of these message crafters aren’t necessarily malicious. They might genuinely believe that it is for the greater good. The thing is, none of us have a monopoly on defining what that ‘good’ is. The best we can do is to put forward the truth, warts and all, and give people the sovereignty to decide for themselves what they do with it. Anything else has far more in common with the authoritarianism depicted in Orwell’s famous novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” than the democracy that so many of us value so much.

My journey with this particular narrative began when I first learned from a social media post that an anti-mandate rally was being held in my city, Vancouver. When I tried to look for more information, there was no coverage in the mainstream media to be found. All I could locate were a couple posts in independent, online publications. Several thousand people attended the anti-mandate rally, yet one would never know this if one received their news from the mainstream press.

I soon learned—once again from social media—that a convoy of Truckers was being organized to protest the Canadian government’s pandemic policies and vaccine mandates in Ottawa. People on social media who claimed to follow the organizers shared turn-out estimates as high as 1.4M people. This number seemed rather high and I was skeptical, so I tried to gather more information. Again, I couldn’t find virtually any coverage.

The day before the rally, CBC had put out a story saying that a truckers convoy was happening—a protest against poor road conditions. The timing was strangely coincidental, but the story was true. Except this convoy was rather small, compared to the Freedom Convoy that the CBC was ignoring.

Soon Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made remarks about the convoy participants, calling them a “small fringe minority” of people who hold “unacceptable views” that do not represent Canadians.

On Sunday, the convoy arrived in Ottawa and suddenly the “small fringe minority” didn’t seem so small anymore as they converged on Parliament Hill in huge numbers, in the middle of a frosty Canadian winter.

The story, finally, became too big to ignore and the media began to cover it. Any large rally will just about always have some adverse effects on its surroundings. Historically, that has included noise, violence, road blockage, business disruptions, destruction of property, littering, etc. Anyone can show up (including bad actors) and it’s well documented that large groups don’t always behave well.

Nonetheless, so far, given the size of this rally, it’s astounding that police haven’t reported any physical violence. Listening in on Twitter Spaces with participants and organizers, reports were mostly of a friendly, fun atmosphere. Participants were consistently encouraged to be polite and respectful, and if they saw any inappropriate behavior, to let police officers know and avoid getting involved as to not escalate the situation. Individuals shared how friendly and supportive everyone was being and posted videos of people dancing.

The media narrative, on the other hand, was rather different.

The convoy was made out to consist entirely of anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists. This despite that many—if not most—were actually fully vaccinated and were merely voicing their opposition to vaccine mandates and government overreach on COVID policies.

They chose to hyper-focus on the few random confederate flags and swastikas—hateful symbols that indeed represented an extremely tiny “fringe minority,” a handful of people out of thousands and thousands. In fact, the entire convoy was painted by many in the media as being mainly composed of white supremacists by many in the media—despite it including East Indians, black people, Asians, Indigenous, and others.

When, sarcastically poking fun of that narrative, a speaker at the rally asked the crowd if there were any ‘white supremacists’ around since she hasn’t seen any yet, a volunteer emerged. “Me, I’m a white supremacist,” he yelled while people cheered on. Media types were quick to share this widely on social media as evidence. What they did not share is context: The person who volunteered themselves was not even white. They were merely lampooning the absurdity of the media narrative.

One CBC reporter, without a shred of evidence, even speculated whether Russia might be behind the convoy in some way because of Canada’s support of Ukraine.

The media reported on the Terry Fox statue being draped with signs and a mask—calling it desecration, but they did not report on the many convoy participants who spent cleaning the streets—as well as the statue itself. They reported on a few people inappropriately asking for food at a homeless shelter, but they didn’t report on the protesters who set up free food stations, or those who spent time shoveling snow to clear sidewalks for the elderly.

The mainstream media did not give an accurate depiction of events.

But social media made things more difficult to hide.

This all makes you wonder: In our daily media diet, what are the distortions that we are getting? How do we know that our understanding of the world is accurate?

No one should have a monopoly on which truths are shown and which are not. The idea that the media knows best what to show and what to hide—as noble as their intentions might be—is based on a delusion. We can’t, none of us, predict the consequences. And not only does this betray people’s trust—a non-renewable resource—it also takes away the opportunity for people to make informed decisions for themselves. Decisions that are based on truth, not narratives.

Regardless of whether you side with the convoy, or thinks the worst of it, the public is owed a truthful depiction of events. Because when the truth is distorted, it puts everything under suspicion. And the less the media is worthy of our trust, the less people will trust it.

The greatest risk is that when you actually tell the truth, no one will believe you anymore.


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