When Shaming Survivors is Not Enough: Police-State Motives Behind Sexual Assault Transit Ads

Photo credit @the_noush. Permission to use granted.
Photo credit Instagram: @the_noush. Permission to use granted.

By Emily Griffiths

The Transit Police got burned in the media recently, when rad feminist transit riders called them out publicly for their summer-line of sexual assault ads. These ads use language that shames the survivors of sexual assault, stating, “the real shame of sexual assault is that it goes unreported.” It turns out that the transit police were the ones doing something that “doesn’t feel right” and making riders “uncomfortable.”

The whole thing was a PR blunder for the transit cops, who realized it right away and are now busily placating the public, regrouping, and working toward Version 2.0. This time, they’ll be sure to “include representatives from women’s rights groups” so as to remain in public favour. Great! Problem solved, right?

Maybe. If the ignorant and hurtful language of the original ad was its only flaw, the only reason to be concerned, and if there wasn’t another, equally repulsive message lurking underneath, then, yes, the problem would be solved. Sadly, that’s not the case.

The sinister implications of this transit ad not only shame survivors of sexual assault, but they also work to bring us all deeper into the police-state that Canada is quickly becoming (and perhaps, for those who are marginalized, always has been). An important piece of information appears at the bottom of the ad, in the second biggest font, urging readers to TEXT 87.77.77.

I’m sorry, what? We’re texting the cops now?

Yeah, what’s wrong with that?

Well, don’t you think it’s a little weird, like, ratting on random people to the authorities? It’s a little sci-fi. …a little Soviet Russia…a little Nazi Germany…

You’re so negative! Besides, it’s to stop sexual assault! You don’t like sexual assault do you?

The theme of sexual assault serves as the catalyst for gaining public acceptance for the practice of text messaging the police, for promoting and normalizing a tattletale behaviour in the populace. It functions much the same was as the issue of child pornography functions online. Child Pornography serves as the excuse for police-state surveillance tactics in the digital realm. Everybody hates Child Pornography. Everybody hates Sexual Assault. These issues serve as PR strategies to introduce the public to a new tool for surveillance and to further limit our freedoms. The report-your-neighbour text-message campaign goes nicely with the transit police smart phone app, OnDuty, which enables users to report “crimes”, view “Crime Maps”, and check out who is “Most Wanted!” It also gives the transit cops opportunity to gain access to your call logs, photos, locations, and more.

But what kind of ‘crimes’ can be reported on a smart phone?  Is it just sexual assault? This question is asked in the comments of the Transit police reddit article:

shabadoo111
Can I report someone on transit for being drunk and loud?

TransitPoliceBC
You can definitely report those situations. It’s an offense in the criminal code … We are very accountable, and are legally required to act to protect the public and preserve the peace.

So, perhaps it’s not only crimes that are being reported. After all, both the text service and the OnDuty app are for “non-emergent” reports only. And what kind of sexual assault is “non-emergent”?  Traditional 911 works just find in summoning urgent police presence, so why these new social tools? It seems like they exist for reporting suspicion, rather than dangerous ‘crimes.’ In this arrangement, every person with a smartphone is a potential cop, a potential punisher, and people learn to suspect each other.”

“See something. Say something,” the transit ad reads. This isn’t entirely a bad idea. But to whom do we “say something?” It’s assumed that the answer is the police. They will swoop in and save the day and no one has to feel guilty for staring passively at their phone while someone is being assaulted, In Real Life, right in front of them. It’s understandable that even bystanders feel unsafe in these situations and may not be able to intervene, but we do have a collective responsibility. We need to decide whether we want to create a community in which a bus full of people band together and say “No!” to abusive behaviour, or to create a ‘safe’ community in which people are picked off the bus, one by one, by big men with guns?

We know which world the police are envisioning. There seems to be a real emphasis on punishment over prevention, in the language used by transit police. The Transit Police ad tells riders that not reporting sexual assaults is the real shame, rather than the fact that these assaults occur in the first place.

Spokesperson, Anne Drennan is quoted in the Metro as having never intended to “lay blame on victims in any way, but rather to suggest that it’s a real shame that these people get away scott free when these incidences are not reported.” It sounds as if the goal is not to stop potential abusers, but to punish perpetrators.  Rather than prevention, the ad itself, supported by Drennan’s comments to the media, implicitly promote eye-for-an-eye, revenge-style ‘justice’ which serves as reinforcement for role of police in our communities.

The language of the transit police also includes a heavy use of the word “victim”, to describe those folks who have experienced sexual assault, despite the fact that the chosen identifier for these folks is “Survivors.” A survivor is strong and empowered, while a victim is weak and in need of protection, presumably by the police.

It’s clear from their language that neither preventing assault, nor empowering women and the community, are top priorities of the transit police. Instead, they actively present the world as a scary place and the police as our only protectors. If we need the police, if they are keeping us safe, then we won’t have a problem with them invading every aspect of our public and private lives, cracking down on every transgression and injecting our community with suspicion and fear.

Emily Griffiths is a writer, performer, and child care worker, living on unceded Coast Salish Territories.

 

Welcome to the 1,000th Politics, Re-Spun Editorial!

Steve Harper, the greatest threat to Canadian security in the modern era.

Happy August! Happy Day!

I have a few comments about this, the 1,000th editorial at Politics, Re-Spun. But you can read them below, about my sabbatical plan, new visions for this almost 12-year-old website, and other things.

But at the top of this post, I have something slightly more urgent to delve into before I check out for a break.

That great sick freak, Donald Rumsfeld is generally credited with popularizing the concept of unknown unknowns to our modern/post-modern era. Being a sick freak, he spun that bafflement along with his people’s neo-conservative neo-imperialism in the post-9/11 world to destabilizing things on a variety of continents.

And we know Stephen Harper has a large sick, freaky imperialist vision as well.

On Labour Day, my post [already written] will be about what happens when we start forgetting all the things that Harper and his neoliberal and neo-conservative/imperialist buddies have stripped from our civilization. It will also be about what happens when young people don’t even know we had it better, before Harper and his sick, freaky neoliberal compatriots waged war on all things progressive. These young people live in the land of unknown unknowns. Like, in BC, the neoLiberal government has decimated society for so long that those who graduated from high school two months ago have only known the long knives. They did their entire K-12 education under them, guided by the equally sick Fraser Institute. How could these recent grads ever know that it used to be so much better?! That’s its own particular tragedy.

But here’s another unknown unknown. And it all comes from the fact that Stephen Harper is the greatest threat to Canadian security that we have known in this modern/post-modern era. I put that in bold for a reason:

How, you ask?

It hit me last night in one small phrase in an op-ed in a newspaper from way over there, in St. John’s, courtesy of a union thug called Lana Payne. I’ve made it bold.

Robert Murray is an adjunct professor of political science at the University of Alberta. He specializes in security and defence policy.

He recently wrote a commentary critical of the Harper government’s “strong, sometimes inflammatory, rhetoric” with respect to its foreign policy. The government is ignoring, he noted, the historical successes of Canada’s foreign policy. The current government has rejected this “proud tradition … in favour of an approach that can lead to threats to Canada’s national security and/or irrelevance on the international scene.”

Silencing dissent – Columnists – The Telegram.

We have all long lamented how our reputation around the world has turned to scum. Scuttling international climate deals, siding with baby murdering Israeli bombing of Palestinian hospitals in Gaza, gutting regulations, promoting pipelines, proroguing parliament twice [the second time BY PHONE even!].

And we lament this loss of moral influence around the world.

So we sigh about that and say, “someday we’ll get it back.” Then we go on living our lives, hoping for a better future for Canada.

But here’s the other side of that. The more our government, who speaks for us [ostensibly], sides with despots, the more other people in the world see us as a threat, because we are. We are a threat to peace and freedom and democracy and dignity. And some people, including extremists, will react badly to that.

What do I mean? Well, here’s an example. In the good old black and white days of the Cold War [tm], the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. We [the west] decided that was bad. So we helped arm the mujahideen. And since no one can ever hold Afghanistan, the Soviets bailed. Then, a couple decades later, some of those same mujahideen blew up the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Who knew?! Aside from the US government, roughly 13 years ago this week. But Bush was on vacation doing his manly cowboy thing on his ranch in Texas, so there’s that.

Skip forward to this month. Does Harper’s belligerent, imperialist foreign policy stance open Canada to attack from other extremists?

Yes.

In the past, we were ignored, or we were a moral compass for others.

Now, our compass is covered in tarsands and sludge from a tailing pond spill in BC.

And we aren’t being ignored. We’re now part of the problem propping up Israel’s infanticide in Gaza and all the other international morally criminal acts we are supporting.

And here’s the unknown unknown. We don’t know who is going to hate us for how Harper is ruining Canada’s reputation. We can sure guess, but that’s something that can keep us awake at nights.

We live in a delusion of complacency and entitlement. Just like America before 9/11. And wow, was America shocked when it was attacked. Are we as deluded about how nice and polite we are as Canadians, when our prime minister is bouncing around the world, telling despots that Canada has their back, and serenading Israel’s prime minister with a Beatles song.

We certainly, though, can’t know for sure who among those who now hate us, will decide to do something about that. Will someone target Canadians overseas for murder, kidnapping, terrorism? Will someone attack a symbolic location in Canada: the CN Tower, parliament, the TSE, a nuclear power plant, a refinery?

It would be naive to think that there is no risk associated with Harper’s imperialist stance. But we’ve been naive for years now. How often have YOU talked about Canada as a new target for extremists? Have you wondered if there’s a bullseye on your back?

And we’ve also been lucky. But when will that luck run out?

A handful of sycophantic Canadian MPs just went to Israel to suck up to them and their “heroes” killing children and bombing schools and hospitals in Gaza. Will the next [non/spin]fact-finding MP mission be greeted with a Palestinian suicide bomber? Will we feign surprise? Really?

Will Canadian aid workers in some troubled place be massacred because of Harper and Baird?

But we also know what happens when all of us “innocent” people get unjustly attacked by terrorists. We saw it in America after 9/11. Are we innocent if we let this imperialist speak for Canada?

And Stephen Harper is sitting in the wood-paneled rec room of his own Oval Office in Ottawa, with his fleet of idling black SUVs outside his building waiting to whisk him away to an undisclosed location. With Dick Cheney.

Don’t think for a second that Harper would not use an attack on Canada/Canadians as a justification to go much further than America ever did in terms of increasing his soft fascist footprint.

It’s almost like Harper is poking the bear.

But the bear kills us, not him. Ever.

So it’s time to ramp up our efforts to get rid of this despot, and any other Canadian political leader who similarly exposes Canada to insecurity because of their imperialist, racist, neoconservative, and/or soft fascist principles.

Nobody voted for that!

*******************

So as you figure out what YOU’RE going to do to take Canada back, I’m taking a break. To ponder that, and other things.

  1.  I’m taking some time off until Labour Day, or maybe after that because I’ve already written the Labour Day post. And that won’t necessarily stop the other writers on the website from posting, just because I’m off to decompress, part of the time bobbing up and down in Skookumchuck Narrows.
  2. I recall in December 2005 I had such a long time off while doing my Political Science MA that I was able to ponder things, make connections, discover some unknown unknowns and basically do all the things that should happen on sabbaticals. Out of that month came a conference I ran at SFU on Earth Day on April 22, 2006 called “Canada 22: Envisioning Post-Neoliberalism.” It was a great day. In the morning we were imaging what a Canada could look like after we fix the scourge of neoliberalism. And in the afternoon we imagined how we’d get there. The Occupy Movement and groups like the Metro Vancouver Alliance are building on that theme.
  3. And in time off, which is a luxury most in the world don’t enjoy, often serendipity plays a card. I am open to unexpected developments. It could be quite exciting!
  4. I’m working on a new visual theme for the website, one that will be far more responsive for being viewed and interacted with on phones and tablets.
  5. Maybe in several weeks, there will be far more editorials on art, which has been lacking. Maybe more audio/video interviews. Maybe more GroupThinkReSpun posts. More poetry or photography? Maybe the whole focus will revolved around Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Social Sins: Wealth Without Work, Pleasure Without Conscience, Knowledge Without Character, Business Without Ethics, Science Without Humanity, Religion Without Sacrifice, Politics Without Principle.

So until I return, enjoy your summer, hug those you love, seek peace, and plan for a better world!

Israel: Rogue State

Why It Matters That Norman Finkelstein Just Got Arrested Outside the Israeli Consulate

Israel has the right to defend itself.

Arguably, so does every nation.

Israel, however, gets a free pass for going well beyond defending itself.

I’ll leave the West Bank alone right now.

Gaza:

  1. Is an open-air prison, walled off by Israel.
  2. Is under an economic embargo.
  3. Is barred from importing and exporting.
  4. Recently saw its Gaza Ark bombed. Twice.
  5. Has had its children, hospitals, university, homes, beach soccer-playing teen boys, and hundreds of civilians systemically targeted and bombed/murdered.
  6. Makes people feel uncomfortable when they see pictures of dead Gazan children in the Twitter. Even though this kind of reality journalism helped end the Vietnam nightmare.
  7. Is monstrously outgunned by Israel, which is armed by the USA and others.
  8. Is defined as a terrorist region despite the massive power/economic/military imbalance.
  9. Is invaded and occupied by settlers.
  10. Is a daily paradox: Israel wants them gone so they can have the land/resources, but they aren’t allowing the Gazans to leave. So is the goal to kill them all?
  11. Is the thorn in the side of the quaint, deflecting notion of a two-state solution. Why would Israel seek peace and a two-state solution when it out-guns the Palestinians, gets billions a year in military funding and virtually carte blanche support from many other nations, even when they indiscriminately murder children.

So, don’t expect the Israeli crimes against humanity in Gaza to stop any time soon, unless Israel decides to stop.

And considering all this, Israel is constantly shocked that Hamas fights back.

The nerve of them!

TFWP: How Racist is Canada?

Here’s one way to tell how racist a person/nation is.

Have them read this excerpt and see if they fly into a rage about “those” people, or just come up with economic arguments to keep “them” out.

Hopefully, everyone you know will nod and say, “obviously!”

Since this is a chronically underpopulated country with an aging population and an inadequately sized consumer and taxpayer base for its geography and culture, there is no reason for Canada to make any of its immigrants anything other than permanent.

Those who say “Canadian jobs for Canadians” are right: We should continue to attract immigrants who want to do these jobs, and we should make sure they are able to become Canadians, as quickly as possible.

via Foreign workers won’t be temporary if we make them permanent – The Globe and Mail.

James Moore and “precision” in Gaza-Israel

James Moore was on CBC radio in Vancouver this morning talking about the “difference” between Hamas rocket launches from Gaza and Israeli operations into Gaza.

Per Moore, Hamas’ attacks are indiscriminate, and are simply aimed at civilians to do the most damage. Conversely, according to Moore, Israel’s attacks are “pinpoint precision” and are specifically targeted at combatants, not civilians.

Let’s review the numbers, though, shall we? According to the Gaza medical authorities and the UN, there are nearly 800 people killed in Gaza so far, will all but about 150 being civilians. Roughly 81% civilian deaths. There have been about 30 Israeli deaths, all but 3 soldiers. 90% combatant deaths.

Equivalency isn’t something I’m arguing here – there should be no more deaths. But James Moore’s pronouncement that Israel’s attacks are solidly different because they’re more targeted is questionable, at best.

Just How Many BC Government Comms Staff Are There?

crowded_factory.jpgBelow are all the job titles of all the comms staff in the BC Government Communications and Public Engagement bodies as of last week. Count with me! :)

There are 278 people!

278. That’s more than a few. The records include folks in these two areas:

Government Communications: which tends to the day-to-day communications
functions, including strategic communications, media relations and issues management; and
Strategic Initiatives Division: which largely consists of technical experts who provide
corporate online and data services to government.

But don’t take my word for it; count for yourself. I might be off by a few. My eyes get a bit blurry counting them all.

This part is very curious:

There are over 15 online editors in the “Media Monitoring Services” section alone. With two more online editors in the mega-gravity well, International Trade and Minister Responsible for Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism/Intergovernment Relations Secretariat.

But 278, really? Really?

  1. Is that high or low compared to other provinces/states?
  2. What are their job descriptions?
  3. Do they troll in Twitter, Facebook, the comments section at the CBC and other websites?
  4. How many sock puppets do they each manage, if any?
  5. Or do they just clip newspaper articles and count hashtag usage, and benignly report the data to the ministerial staff?
  6. Do they do partisan work for the BC Liberal Party, or do they do work only on BC government programs?
  7. Why are Agriculture and Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation so devoid of comms staff compared to all other ministries? I can guess. I bet you can too.
  8. If you could FOI, say, 5 job descriptions, which ones would you choose? [Me: online editor, public affairs officer, media monitoring assistant, and I'm still pondering two more.]
  9. Can you think of how to craft an FOI request to determine how much work various of the 278 staffers do that is for government versus for the political party in charge? Because they’ve had a blurring line problem in the past.

Granted, many of these positions are necessary just for government to function. But 278?

278? Say it with me. 278.

And that includes at least one comms director and one comms manager and generally at least 2 public affairs officers for each ministry. Are they really pumping out that much content and fielding that many requests from media? Remember, there are far fewer journalists in BC bopping around asking questions than there used to be before the great corporate media consolidation/purges!

But it turns out, there are only 4-5 news releases each day coming out of all of government. And while comms does far more than just pump out news releases, I wonder whether they might be a bit, you know, overstaffed?

So. here is the list of comms positions. Enjoy!

2014.07.14 Responsive Records

Class Warfare CAUSED Income Inequality, Not the Opposite

Horatio Alger mythology is designed to make us leave the 1% alone and shut the fuck up.

If you haven’t yet seen John Oliver’s amazing rant about the perils of inequality and how the rich shame us out of talking about it by suggesting we’re trying to invoke class warfare, you can see it below.

The truth is, income inequality doesn’t just happen one day, then the classes fight each other. Class warfare is what creates the conditions for income inequality.

But as long as the 1% can keep us from talking about class issues, we can say income inequality 84,000 times each day and nothing will ever change.

The rich want to keep us poor and powerless.

But we all knew that anyway. It’s time we did something about that, don’t you think?

Because the more we continue to believe in this American Dream nonsense, the longer the 1% continues to pull our strings.

We need to demand higher taxes on the rich and corporations. We need to protect working people. And the environment. And people who aren’t old white men, so basically those without entitlements.

And if this isn’t yet clear enough for you, you may now watch John Oliver sock it to ya!

Continue reading

Lego Pimps Your Kids’ Brains For Shell Oil

Shell LegoThis is just too much.

Lego has teamed up with Shell Oil to pimp your kids’ brains for Shell.

We need to be helping our children understand that our future lies in the post-carbon energy infrastructure and things like solar roadways.

Here’s one way to do that, at Lego Block Shell.

Another is to share this priceless video, so that everything CAN BE awesome!

 

BC’s Deep Deep Racism, Shhhh!

Shhh, this is uncomfortable. It might make you ashamed.

Hopefully it will anger you to action?

First Nations burial grounds in BC have less protection than settler cemeteries.

Along with desecration at a Musqueam burial site, someone is building their home on top of another burial ground on Grace Islet off Saltspring Island. On stilts [see the horrible details below]. And the person building this home was once fined $150,000 for putting fake safety labels on retail products. Sigh. Morality much? Ever?

The minister responsible said in the legislature that Grace Islet’s “owner” “and the archaeology branch had done everything they needed to do to proceed” with the home construction. Except live moral lives, that is.

What kind of universe are we living in?

What kind of sick racist society allows people to build a home on someone’s burial ground?

Ours.

If this makes you ashamed as a British Columbian, you have a good soul. Here’s what you can do to force our elected “honourable” leaders to stop this blatant racism.

Educate yourself on this shameful situation. This is a good start. And you can follow developments in the Twitter.

Sign this petition. Then…

Email/phone the following people and tell them the following things:

  1. BC’s laws are racist and inadequate. You won’t tolerate this.
  2. Tell them to pass Private Members’ Bill M 208 to help First Nations protect their burial sites.
  3. Tell them that dignity matters to you and it should to them.

Here’s who you contact:

  1. The minister responsible: Minister of Forests Steve Thompson: FLNR.Minister@gov.bc.ca, 250-387-6240
  2. The premier: Premier@gov.bc.ca, 250-387-1715
  3. The opposition leader: john.horgan.mla@leg.bc.ca, 250-387-3655
  4. M 208′s MLA, Maurine Karagianis: maurine.karagianis.mla@leg.bc.ca, 250-387-3655
  5. Your MLA: see the listings here.

Then share this article with the 3 people in your life who appreciate human dignity the most. You have good taste in friends. They will support you in this campaign because they’ve got your back.

Finally…

Here’s some of the disturbing background about this stilt house on a burial ground.

Provincial archeologists in the 1970s marked Grace Islet as part of an ancient First Nations village. It later became privately owned and subdivided into a residential lot. The 0.75-hectare piece of land was bought in 1990 by Alberta businessman Barry Slawsky, who is now building a luxury home on the site.

The development has been intermittently stalled by a series of archeological assessments and permit requirements since the remains were found.

The owner has fulfilled all legal requirements and adjusted his plans. He is building the house on stilts so as not to disturb any burial spots, and has begun to clear the land.

Jacks said Slawsky has not responded to requests to sell the property or meet with First Nations. Some band leaders even enlisted a local rabbi to appeal to Slawsky on a religious values level.

“Can you imagine if us chiefs went to Ross Bay Cemetery (where several historical figures are buried) and said we’re going to build a longhouse over it?” Jacks asked.

The Tseycum chief is among a growing group of people — including several First Nations, politicians, archeologists and residents — opposed to building over the burial grounds. They want the land to be protected, but the province has said it has no plans to purchase the land.

In British Columbia, burial sites dated before 1846 fall under the Heritage Conservation Act and any alterations are managed by the archeology branch. Burial sites established after that time, including Ross Bay Cemetery (1873) and Pioneer Square (1856) in Victoria, fall under stricter cemetery legislation.

- from First Nations chief says province’s burial ground policies are racist.

 

How Translink Impedes Transit Use

Translink is “being evasive on exactly how much money is being spent on this.”

via Compass Card program delayed again by TransLink – British Columbia – CBC News.

How’s that for not surprising.

Translink is notorious for its taxation without representation: taking municipalities’ money without providing democratic representation to municipalities. This was a gift from the provincial government years ago to keep local communities from directing their transportation infrastructure.

And now, Translink continues to be evasive about how much money they’re spending on the Compass card system and turnstiles, in place ostensibly to stop fare evasion. They’ve always been unclear on how much fare evasion is taking place and how the turnstiles will fix that, without costing millions of extra dollars.

And all of this skirts the debate that transit should be fare free anyway. Sigh.

But now, I have quite a bit more sense of how Translink impedes transit use. Yesterday I tweeted to the universe this futile yet obvious observation:

Turns out, Translink didn’t reply to my tweet. Maybe they’re understaffed [but I know they monitor their hashtags]. :)

Today I spoke with a small business operator who had a Fare Dealer sign in the window. I wanted to buy fare savers. He was out, and even more frustrated than me:

  1. He has to pay up front for fare savers and bus passes.
  2. He can only put in 2 orders each month; Translink explained that they’re too understaffed to take more orders.
  3. Large retailers like London Drugs get an infinite amount of Translink fare products, and on credit.

So a few things are clear here, unless Translink can somehow credibly refute the above 3 points:

  1. Translink impedes transit use by making it too complicated to get fare savers and fare cards, quite the opposite of requiring shops at Skytrain stations to stock fare products.
  2. Translink is funded by federal, provincial, municipal and gas tax revenue but won’t allocate sufficient staffing to allow riders to get effective access to fare products.
  3. The Compass card is just another elaborate corporate welfare scheme based on a right wing government policy decision to install the system to stop fare evasion [poor bashing] despite not providing a sound business plan and without sufficient transparency to see if the Compass system provides value for money.
  4. Fares are a tax on the poor. A tax system designed with dignity and respect for various income classes is a progressive system that taxes the rich more than the poor. Then it spends that money on public goods like a high quality free public education, health and transit systems. Instead, we have MSP premiums going up, underfunding of education and increasing transit fees.
  5. If the governments really cared about climate change and building a post carbon energy infrastructure, transit would be free. No turnstiles. More Skytrain cars. More buses. Less cars. More green electricity being used to move more people.

 

De-Spinning the Political and Re-Spinning it for Social, Economic and Political Justice