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Merit Award Essays

Strike a Match!


A view from 1993 Spring/Summer 2003

youth action

action jeunesse

The media


Tia Dafnos


Clara Chow

WELCOME TO THE NEWSROOM. From here issue forth the ideas that control our times; from here the news as recorded – or created – is transmitted in print, on the radio waves, on television screens and online bulletins. This is a world of stories – breaking news stories, human-interest stories, fashion stories, Aesop’s fables, fairytales. There is a huge market for stories, catered to by an army of journalists, paparazzi, writers and directors, scribbling, typing and tape-recording madly to quench this thirst for drama, amusement, and information. They burn the midnight oil, working with inky fingers and sticky keyboards to string together people and places, adverbs and adjectives into coherent, concise narratives, suitable for public consumption – and, first and foremost, the approval of the editor-in-chief, publisher or producer. After all, stories are no more natural than blue jeans and remote controls. But they are even more necessary (if such a thing were possible). Nobody lives happily ever after. Comedies and tragedies are matters of perspective. Love and hate are states of mind. Life is messy, with unanswered questions, messy beginnings, and endings are like the Cat that Came Back: not endings, but beginnings of other problems, other stories. Things happen. Humans interpret them. And the story structure allows us to wrap them up neatly and tie up loose ends, to give human lives meaning and stories, morals, and to get the point and get on with the day. After all, when there are spills to clean and fish to fry for dinner, nobody has time to wonder what happened after the make-believe characters rode off into the sunset, or what they were really thinking. But when the characters are real – or, we are told so – the lack of critical reflection could be problematic. Face value is none too valuable. A journalist’s job is a tough one: to tell a good story, to tell the truth, to make the deadlines. To pull his or her job of with integrity, a journalist must capture the various and contradictory faces and facets of the truth, condense an infinite range of perspectives and voices into a 650-word nugget of newsprint, and have it on the chief’s desk in an hour. It’s all the work of story crafting, but in place of the creative license is 2

professional responsibility. The responsibility to convey a reliable reality. On the stressed scrawler’s shoulders falls the burden of information and communication in an ever-shrinking world. He or she is the monitor of government, the objective eye. But what is objective? As Anais Nin wrote, “we see things not as they are, but as we are.” The very presumption of storytelling, of documentary, is the fundamental choice: what to tell, what to leave out – what to imply, what to conceal. This is the dilemma: who to call for an interview, with limited time and phone funds? What to describe, what to gloss over? Whose story to tell, the prince’s or the pauper’s? Which word to choose, ‘thugs’ or ‘teenage boys in big pants,’ and with what implications, connotations, misconstrued meanings? What to do with conflicting stats? And that’s the ideal case – which, in a time of spin-doctoring, advertising and propaganda, is far from the actual case. As Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham states of the case in America – and perhaps not just there – “the mainstream media is a function of the government essentially.” The script of the White House is that of CNN – and that of Hollywood. There are ‘facts’ to back up any position, rhetorical techniques to strengthen any argument, extremists who will give sound bites that fit any stereotype. David Cronenberg, the acclaimed Canadian director responsible for bringing Naked Lunch, eXistenZ and now Spider to the screen, acknowledges the tricky line journalists walk as they take us with them through the media of words, images and sounds. He decides, “I’d rather just make it all up and say these are not real characters and therefore I’m free to do with them what I please.” When it comes to documentaries, some “approach their documentaries as fiction, others as propaganda pieces, so it’s sort of up for grabs.” On the floor of the hypothetical newsroom are strewn reels of footage, Pulitzer prize-winning snapshots, cassettes of interviews, hasty notes. Tinctured reality, churned out on deadlines. Comedies, tragedies, romances, satires: stories up for grabs! Just make sure you know what you’re reaching for. Clara Chow is a member of the Youth Action Network Board of Directors. Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

FORUM notes Thanks for reading FORUM magazine! This page is reserved for notes about the projects and happenings involving Youth Action Network. If you would like to get involved, please contact us. Submissions to Forum can be sent directly to the office at 176 John Street, Suite 307, Toronto Ontario, M5T 1X5 e-mail us at; visit our website at fax us at (416) 368-8354; phone us at (416) 368-2277 or toll-free at 1-800-718-LINK Youth Action Network Board of Directors Youth Action Network invites anyone interested in making an impact to apply to become a member of the YAN board of directors. Contact us for more information about the positions and for nomination forms.

Youth Action Network Merit Award Youth Action Network (YAN) has established a fund to award young people who have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to their communities at large. This is a merit award and may be used for any purpose deemed suitable by the recipient. The applicant’s financial need will be given due consideration, but will not be the primary criteria for selection. Youth Action Network’s Merit Award Program is administered by a committee of experienced YAN volunteers and staff. Applications will be considered according to a list of published criteria, and one to two awards will be presented in mid-Fall of each year. Deadline for applications is August 31. Please contact us for an application and more detailed criteria. Amount of award: $500 Deadline for applications: August 31 QUESTIONS? If you have questions about the Merit Award Program or would like an Application Form, please contact Michelle Dagnino by email at (with “Award Program” in the subject field), or by phone at 416-368-2277. We received many outstanding applications for 2002, but could only have one winner. Part of the application was an essay question. We have published the essays of the winner and two honourable mentions.

Ruckus! 2003 Ruckus! is YAN’s anti-racism conference and will be happening in the fall of 2003. Contact us for information about the event and how to register. Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

Forum Submissions Forum invites all youth across Canada to submit articles, rants, poetry, or artwork to Youth Action Forum at the above address/email/fax. Contact us if you want to bounce ideas off our editors.

Bilingual Forum Youth Action Forum constantly seeks to ensure that we are fulfilling our mandate of being a medium through which young people from all over Canada can express their views, concerns, and opinions. Because of financial considerations, a decision was made in the past to discontinue the use of French translators. We are now making an effort to return to a fully bilingual publication. This will be a gradual process, beginning with this issue in which one article has been translated. Youth Action Forum depends on volunteers to be published, and we need you to participate. We need volunteers to translate material as well as Francophone writers in order to obtain our goal of bilingualism.

Volunteer! Youth Action Forum is run fully by young volunteers. We need people to write, edit, create artwork, design layout, translate articles, develop a website, and raise funds! Contact our office for more information about YAN (or visit the website) and the opportunities for volunteering with Forum or other exciting YAN projects.

Fire it up! Is the Youth Action manual -- a compilation of resources that are essential for youth to take action. It is available free for download at You can also order hard copies of the manual ($5 each) -- just contact our office! For a sample of the great material included in Fire It Up!, we have included a condensed excerpt of the first section of the manual. Check out Strike a Match! on pages 36 & 37. 3



YAN Merit Award Essays What is identity?

Action Jeunesse

Editors-in-Chief Tia Dafnos Alysia W. Zhou



Looking back on the cold war A reprint of an article that appeared in a 1993 issue of Forum

Editing Crew Alysia W. Zhou Adrienne Lee Clara Chow, Andrea Tsang, James Kwok, Jenny Yeung, Samantha Wu

Paul Sedra


Cover Art Adrienne Lee Layout & Design Tia Dafnos, Adrienne Lee Translation Dwain Richardson

Fragmented still-life Clifford Gnetecki 33-34

Contributors Kehinde Bah, Paul Baines, Christina Campisi,Clara Chow, Fotis Dafnos, Michelle Dagnino, Ilona Dougherty, Clifford Gnetecki, Emily Gordon, James Kwok, Amen Jafri, Anthony James, Adrienne Lee, Paul Lykotrafitis, Tia Dafnos Coral Maloney, Judith McKeown, Osman Omar, Nick Philips, Shayan Rahnama, Paul Sedra, Miriam Tsao

Submission guidelines Share your articles, artwork, photographs, poetry, and letters. All original art and photographs will be returned. Articles should be accompanied by art or photographs, as well as some very brief information about the author. Send your submissions to “FORUM Submissions” at YOUTH ACTION N ETWORK.


Art Matters Ilona Dougherty 30-31

Strike a Match! 36-37

Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

Youth Action Network

Board of Directors Chair Tia Dafnos Finance Director Karen Lau Fundraising Director Clara Chow Volunteer Coordinator Andrea Tsang Secretary, Forum Liaison Alysia W. Zhou Communications Director James Kwok Equity Director Farrah Byckalo-Khan Regional Director Angely Pacis

Members-at-Large Onyii Udegbe, Cameron Barker Program Coordinator Michelle Dagnino Projects Coordinator Paul Lykotrafitis Special Thanks Don & Mary Lucy McGregor (Delta Bingo) YOUTH ACTION NETWORK is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing to youth the resources and information they need to take action on issues important to them. Views and opinions expressed in YOUTH ACTION FORUM are not necessarily those of its editors nor of the Board of Directors of Y OUTH ACTION NETWORK . Every effort will be made to preserve the content and style of all submissions to FORUM. However, the editors reserve the right to edit articles for clarity or length. Youth Action Network 176 John Street, Suite 307, Toronto Ontario, Canada M5T 1X5 telephone 416.368.2277 fax 416.368.8354 charitable registration 136303195RR0001 ISSN 1188-6870

Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

Special Section: The Media Objectivity James Kwok 11-14

Evolution or revolution? Emily Gordon 15-16


Operation Iraqi Liberation Nick Phillips 17

This ad... Paul Baines 18

The hottentrot venus Judith McKeown



Prison for the free Anthony James


Fear conquers morality Shayan Rahnama 23


Islam in the media Osman Omar 24

Exposing DU Christina Campisi 25

Map: Freedom of the press 39



Youth Action Network Merit Award 2002

In 2002 YAN inaugurated the Youth Action Network Merit Award, recognizing three outstanding applicant -- one award-winner, and two honourable mentions. These three young people have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to their communities at large. All three had spent countless hours in his/her community promoting youth rights and youth activism, whether it was as members of school branches of Amnesty International, conference organizers, or as chair of their local city youth cabinet. We were taken aback by the outstanding level of passion and dedication that all the candidates demonstrated in youth rights and youth activism and how activism had become a building block in helping them succeed with their future plans. Kehinde Bah, a youth activist based in Toronto and our winner, was chosen for his passionate commitment to various youth causes. Amen Jafri, is a first year university student in Ottawa and one of our two honourable mentions. Coral Maloney, another honourable mention, is a high school student from Winnipeg. Kehinde, Coral and Amen stood out for their honesty and passion to the cause of youth engagement and social justice. YAN is honoured to have had such esteemed candidates and look forward to next year’s competition. Look for details in August 2003. One part of the application for YAN’s Merit Award was an essay addressing the following question: “What is identity?” Below are the essays written by the Award winner and honourable mentions.

What is identity ? Kehinde Bah

T O ME IDENTITY IS WHAT ONE SEES WITHIN THEM that tells them who they are. But to “see” it, one must be able to explore the environment around them. In this world there are many things that we can all identify (or can’t identify) with that makes us all unique. I find that the more you search, the more you’ll actually find. My identity to me has always been torn; between the reality of a proud yet ignorant Nigerian boy, an ignorant yet proud inner-city black boy, and most recently a politicallyminded “conscious brotha.” Me, myself and I. And as a boy I never really wondered how these worlds could exist within one person. But it was routine, as simple as getting up in a Nigerian home and going off to my inner-city elementary school and returning to my Nigerian home at the end of the day. But recently I have really started to wonder about my identity. Getting intimately involved in youth issues was a catalyst for my journey. I’ve spoken at memorials for murdered youth and tried to comfort their mothers who cry on my shoulders and hold me like I was their own asking me: why my son why all this violence he was a good boy. All this time I’ve been speaking about stopping the violence and the aftermath was someone I held in my arms, over and over again. That experience really made me pause and realize that the reality - that I 6

grew up in the projects – wasn’t and couldn’t be something I identified with anymore. I was never into violence anyway. So I began to search my family’s roots. I found out more than I expected. Back home in Nigeria before independence (which was 1960), my grandfather was a politician, who was very wealthy. He owned a lot of land, had and adopted many children, and developed a lot of the country’s commercial properties. Today my family back home is part of the aristocratic community. All of this was a shock to my psyche and erased any stereotypes I had of African and Nigeria. But I couldn’t identify with being wealthy here; how could I over there? Somewhere in between these realities were me, trying to identify with both. I’ve settled with the notion that it’s ok for me not to belong to pre-determined demographics. Even if I did, no one could tell who I was based on a group I “belong” to anyway. Identity is so relative, and it can get tossed and pulled to-and-fro in an endless struggle. To keep from going nuts we keep our true identities to ourselves and let people see what we think they can handle. Believe me, you should see how many people look at me funny because I tell them my name is Kehinde (Cane-day) not Kindy. It’s how I choose to identify myself and how others should identify me; and people look at me like, (pause), ‘oh yeah he’s African.’

... to “see” it, one must be able to explore the environment around them

Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

Coral Maloney

Amen Jafri

I SEE IDENTITY AS BEING STRUCTURED from three important aspects of a person’s being. The first is that of their heritage, ancestry and their cultural past. I myself have relatives from Colombia who have undergone many struggles in their lifetimes due to the political unrest and various forms of corruption in the country. This plays an enormous role in who I am as a person. Not only am I aware mentally of the atrocities that they have experienced, I am aware of them emotionally as well, as I have witnessed the intense feelings that come from memories of hard times. Experiencing this has led me to examine what rights I believe each person should have and under what type of circumstances. It has helped me have something I can relate with, something that is closer to me than just a snippet of in-

AN IDENTITY IS A FORM OF CLASSIFICATION. We all need identities in order to establish our roles in life and in order to fit. All peoples have identities, whether they believe it or not. When we are young, we do not often articulate our identities, because it is not yet clear in our minds. However, as we grow older, we begin to realize what complex creatures we are, and the many ways in which we can classify ourselves. For example, as a child, the only way I could have identified myself was as a young Muslim Pakistani girl. However, now I see myself as a middleclass, heterosexual, able-bodied, suburban woman of colour of Shi’ite Muslim/Pakistani/Canadian background. I mentally add to that list everyday. There are two types of groups I often see each of my identities fitting in (although it does call for some generalization): the oppressor and the oppressed. For example, being heterosexual puts me with the position of advantage. However, as a woman, I do not have such a great advantage. The privileges and the hardships that I encounter in life are sometimes linked to these identities. As an activist, this is something very important to know, because the way that I am going to fashion my activism is dependent on these identities. For example, I might unintentionally gear an essay on women of colour’s rights more towards heterosexual, able-bodied women of colour, rather than homosexual, disabled women of colour, because I do not identify with those groupings as much. It does not mean that they are not important, but it does mean that I am not properly fulfilling my role as an activist if I exclude those groups be-

Identity is also created by a third aspect: our future. formation. My family’s roots have allowed me to look more closely at what I am living with today, and to take time to realize more about myself and the culture I am a part of in Canada. The second aspect of identity is that of who we are right now, in this moment. This is something that each person chooses on their own. We are truly affected by our past and by our upbringing, but we are also each our own individual, choosing which pieces of ourselves we admire, and which we would like to change. This is a continual process; one which I believe never ends. We are constantly in motion, becoming new peoples at all times. This is demonstrated in our daily lives by the lifestyles we choose. I have chosen to be very aware of how my lifestyle affects the world and the environment around me, and so this is a major part of who I am. We have the freedom to decide for ourselves. We are all constantly changing and evolving as our experiences alter our opinions and ideas. Identity is also created by a third aspect: our future. We have ideas, dreams, plans, goals… all of these are part of who we are, and are just as real as the past or the present. Our ambitions create who we are today by allowing us the freedom to imagine future possibilities. For example, I have had the opportunity to teach children about social and environmental issues and find that it is a very fulfilling experience. I am eager to continue this work, and plan to study International Development to further my knowledge. I am shaped by my goals for the future, and this helps me to become more centred in what I am doing now, realizing that every step along the way is not only valuable and necessary, but an amazing experience in itself as well. The question of identity has been asked time and time again, and will continue to be asked. These three major aspects of identity are what truly build a person’s character. Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

We all need identities in order to establish our roles in life and in order to fit. cause I am striving for justice and equality in society. Furthermore, excluding certain groups because they do not fit within my mental boundaries makes it harder to fulfil my goals – how can all women of colour expect to achieve their rights if those who are homosexual disabled do not have their voices heard? On the other hand, as an activist, it is always easier to remember that I am oppressed. Capitalism breeds negativity in individuals - a constant reminder that we cannot ever compare to the best. It brings out the worst in all of us, as the identities often clearest to us are the so-called “oppressive” ones. This is also where activism stems from; it is the action that arises out of the need to rid oneself and others of oppression. Before I became an activist, I did not consider identity to be anything beyond its dictionary definition. However, I now have a clearer understanding of both the importance of having an identity as well as how it affects my activism. 7

May 5-10th 2003

New Youth Week Logo designed by Phil Sawatsky


It’s never too early ... or too late to start start. To become a regional coordinator of Youth Week contact us: 176 John Street, Suite 307, Toronto, Ontario, CANADA M5T 1X5 tel/tél: (416) 368-2277 / 1-800-718-LINK (in Canada) fax/télécopieur: (416) 368-8354 ... and stay tuned to Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

YoUtH WeEk 2 0 0 3 Across the globe, young people are bursting out and making a difference.

Youth Week is a global network of local and international youth movements in this unique, youth-foryouth, collaborative project. Youth Week 2003 is being held this year from May 4-10. It’s our chance to celebrate and inspire community youth action, in solidarity with youth networks worldwide. It’s about collaboration, not competition, activity, not passivity, and solutions not problems. We want to move from policy to practice – from education to action – with decentralized, grassroots action this is most effective. We’re not just “leaders of tomorrow”; today’s youth must challenge ourselves to see what we can achieve if we pool our talents and energy. Let’s show the world how youth envision a more just and sustainable future and what positive changes we CAN and DO achieve! Youth Week events include fun parties and activities such as concerts, skate parks, movie nights, workshops, and so much more … Youth Week is also a time to network and plan things together. Some of the main events being held for Youth Week this year are conferences aimed at bringing youth together so that people can see the different groups out there and get involved with them. In Toronto Youth Week is being kicked off with the Hungry 4 Change conference, which is being held from May 3-4. This youth-for-youth conference will hold more than two dozen workshops and skills sessions. The Youth Action Network (YAN) helps coordinate Youth Week so that people can see the different groups out there and get involved with them. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, take Youth Week into your own community. Hook up with your nearest contact person (pr become your region’s contact person), or with the central YAN office. Most importantly Youth Week is meant to inspire youth to take action! Many people find Youth Week an excellent time to launch their campaigns and projects. Youth Week is just the beginning! For more information on Youth Week, the Youth Action Network, or the Hungry 4 Change conference in Toronto, check out the websites below. You can also contact the Youth Action Network by phone @ 416-368-2277 Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003


A FORUM Special Section:


The Media

ow does mainstream media influence our views and perspectives about ourselves, others and the world?


Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

Perfect objectivity in the media— perfectly extraneous L’objectivité parfaite dans les médias— parfaitement superflue By/Par James Kwok Translation/traduction par Dwain Richardson

Tia Dafnos


ON JANUARY 24 2003, The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star both had front-page articles concerning the proposed war on Iraq. The Globe’s title, “PM to Bush: Hold off on war” suggested that Jean Chrétien was in need of a UN resolution in order to wage war on Iraq with the US. On the flipside, The Toronto Star wrote on its front page, “Chrétien supports U.S. push for war: Bush, PM speak on phone,” suggesting that Chrétien was ready for a war—in this case, with or without a UN call to arms. All joking about crooked flip-flopping politicians aside, one assumes that the nation’s leader isn’t ambivalent to the point of total ambiguity. Why have these reporters created two different pieces of news on the same matter? In a Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

LE 24 JANVIER DERNIER, The Globe and Mail et The Toronto Star ont eu des manchettes concernant la guerre proposée sur l’Irak. Le titre de Globe, « PM à Bush : Attendez pour guerre » a suggéré que Jean Chrétien avait besoin une résolution des Nations Unies afin de faire la guerre contre l’Irak avec les Etats-Unis. Sur l’autre côté, The Toronto Star a écrit sur les gros titres, « Chrétien est en faveur de l’avance de guerre aux Etats-Unis : Bush, PM est à l’appareil », en suggérant que Chrétien était prêt pour une guerre—dans ce cas, avec ou sans un appel aux armes. Toute la plaisanterie au sujet de politiciens demi-bouteille laisser tomber tordus de côté, on suppose que le chef de la nation n’est pas ambivalent un point d’ambiguïté 11

more macroscopic sense, what does this say about the pursuit of truth and objectivity in the media? In order to tackle such a set of questions, one must first ask the question, “what rules and regulations, both official and personal, guide a journalist in their reporting?” Journalists, like most people, do have an overriding sense of purpose, whenever they have an article or idea in mind. The perhaps overquoted Teddy Roosevelt adage that reporters were “muckrakers,” is an idealistic notion that journalists must follow a certain type of higher order. For the purposes of this article however, journalists in the media do have a certain obligation to their customers and their readers. In a general sense, whether journalistic responsibility is indeed a universally altruistic objective of theirs is left to personal conjecture. Essentially, the prerogative these reporters are serving will lead to subjective writing. These writers may be adhering to a principle of theirs, their bosses who are affiliated with political parties, or perhaps to the opinions of the general populace—which one is not entirely clear always, and not the point of this article. Therefore, is this adherence wrong? Should the facts be told just the way they are, with none of the figurative bells and whistles? There is certainly a multitude of truths and perspectives that a reader with both the aforementioned papers in hand can consider. One could just as well brush these stories off, noting that both articles are slanted, perhaps to advance the agendas of each paper’s owners. Obviously, reporters then, don’t always say, or investigate anything objectively.

it’s almost impossible to communicate or relate ideas without somehow changing it There are also inexorable forces that create discrepancies in the news. The argument presented however, does not include journalists to create phony, inaccurate events for absolutely no reason. It is the purposeful, or perhaps natural abstraction of news that will be discussed, and hopefully in the end, understood. It is the study of how sets of rational human beings inevitably create distinctly individual viewpoints about the same matter, or issue, that will be touched upon. Part of the question about journalistic inconsistency can be attributed to the inherent subjectivity of the media. In a broader sense, this article deals with the intrinsic subjectivity of communication—it’s almost impossible to communicate or relate ideas without somehow changing it. This problem with communication is analogous to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle: the very act of describing a given idea will inevitably change the form of the idea when communicated to a receiver. As well, subjectivity, in comparison to objectivity, is an issue of focus—how broad should a study be? Should I have a focus? By proposing an area of investigation, a reporter is thus being subjective as to what the article or news piece will deal with. Finally, if nothing else, presentation is incredibly subjec12

totale. Pourquoi les deux reporters créaient-ils deux nouvelles différentes sur la même matière? Dans un sens plus macroscopique, qu’est-ce que ça veut dire de la recherche de vérité et l’objectivité aux médias? Afin d’aborder des questions comme telles, on doit tout d’abord poser la question « quels règlements, officiels et personnels, aident un journaliste aux reportages? » Les journalistes, comme la plupart des gens, possèdent un but primordial lorsqu’ils ont un article ou une idée en tête. L’adage trop cité de Teddy Roosevelt qui les reporters étaient les « fouineurs », est une notion idéaliste que les journalistes doivent suivre un type certain des hauts ordres. Cependant, pour le but de cet article, les journalistes aux médias ont une obligation aux consommateurs et lecteurs. Dans un sens général, si la responsabilité journalistique est en effet leur objectif universellement altruiste est laissé à conjecture personnelle. Essentiellement, la prérogative que les reporters utilisent mènera à l’écriture subjective. Ces écrivains peuvent s’en tenir un principe du leur, leurs patrons qui sont affiliés aux partis politiques, ou les opinions qui proviennent de la publique—ce qui n’est pas toujours évident, et n’est pas le point de cet article. Donc, l’adhérence a-t-elle tort? Les faits devraient-ils racontés comme tels sans la langue métaphorique? Il est certain qu’il y a une multitude de vérités et perspectives que le lecteur des deux journaux cités ci-dessus peut considérer. On peut ignorer les histoires et remarquer que les deux articles sont penchés pour avancer les agendas des propriétaires. Il est évident que les reporters n’enquêtent rien objectivement.

c’est presque impossible de communiquer ou relier des idées sans les changer Il y a également les forces inexorables qui créent les désaccords dans les nouvelles. Néanmoins, le débat présenté n’exclut pas les journalistes de créer les évènements faux ou inexacts sans raison. C’est l’abstraction résolue, ou bien l’abstraction naturelle des nouvelles qui seront discutée, et à la fin, comprise. C’est l’étude de déterminer comment les êtres humains raisonnables créent les points de vue distincts sur la même question qui seront examinés. On peut attribuer la subjectivité inhérente des médias aux inconsistances journalistiques. Dans un sens plus général, cet article trait de la subjectivité intrinsèque des communications— c’est presque impossible de communiquer ou relier des idées sans les changer. Le problème avec les communications est analogue au principe d’incertitude de Heisenberg—le même acte de décrire une idée donnée changera inévitablement la forme de l’idée lorsqu’il est communiqué au receveur. En plus, la subjectivité, en comparaison d’objectivité, est une question du centre—une étude devrait-elle très générale? Dois-je avoir un centre d’attention? En proposant un domaine d’investigation, un reporter est subjectif avec l’affaire d’article Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

tive. An anchorman on the television for example, cannot help but to present news in a certain way. Be it manipulation of voice, intonation, or diction, the manner in which news is presented is subjective, and not devoid of emotion. Therefore, subjectivity is absolutely unavoidable—and total objectivity, with respect to those purporting it—is nothing but a quixotic dream. The citizens who decry the newspapers claiming that they provide inaccurate information then, are failing to recognize the overall point of the media, and the information that it provides. The media is meant to present a collection of opinions, to put at a reader’s disposal. By extension, objectivity is possible, but absolute objectivity can exist nowhere in the media. In order to achieve full accuracy, or total objectivity, every aspect of literally everything must be evaluated when composing an objective article—in short, total objectivity, by nature, is exhaustive. Following the same footsteps of the “butterfly” chaos theory (that a butterfly in one hemisphere fluttering its wings could cause an earthquake on the other side of the world), the sheer amount of information that must be “considered” to evaluate a viewpoint fully, is impossible to fathom. Newspapers then, provide very small bits of interpreted history: an opinion of what happened yesterday, the day before, and in general, what might happen in the near or distant future. This is all collected in a reasonably well-balanced body of writing with facts and testimonials, and presented. But like all histories, the degree to which a historian—or in this case, a reporter—analyzes, collects, and disseminates his/her information directly affects the meaning and value of the article. Studies like historiography are meant to provide analyses of differing interpretations of historians. The existence of such a study indicates that recounting, retelling, and opining—even if conscientiously doing so—are not absolutely objective in any sense, no matter how turgid, specific, and well-researched anything is. If writers and speakers could speak and write totally objectively, then the demand for journalists would be negligible. Not even the editorializing ranters sprinkled throughout newspapers and appearing on TV screens across nations would be able to receive paycheques for their writing or their opinions, as perfect information would eliminate the need to have opin-

ou de la manchette. Enfin, s’il n’y a plus rien, la présentation est toujours subjective. Par exemple, un présentateur réalisateur sur la télévision ne peut que présenter les nouvelles dans une certaine façon. Quelle que soit la voix, l’intonation, ou l’élocution, la manière de laquelle les nouvelles sont présentées est subjective et non dépourvue d’émotions. La subjectivité est donc inévitable—et l’objectivité complète, avec respect à ceux qui se la veulent—n’est qu’un rêve donquichottesque. Les citoyens qui déprécient les journaux en déclarant qu’ils fournissent l’information fausse, ne reconnaissent pas la vue des médias en général et l’information qu’elles fournissent. L’objectif des médias est de présenter une collection d’opinions aux dispositions des lecteurs. Par extension, l’objectivité est possible, mais l’objectivité absolue n’existe nulle part aux médias. Afin d’accomplir la précision complète, ou l’objectivité totale, tout aspect doit être évalué lorsqu’on compose un article objectif—en bref, l’objectivité totale, naturellement, est exhaustive. En suivant les mêmes étapes de la théorie du chaos par égard au papillon (un papillon qui voltige ses ailes dans un hémisphère peut causer un tremblement de terre sur l’autre côté du monde), la quantité d’information stupéfaite qui doit être « considérée » pour évaluer un point de vue complet, est impossible à comprendre. Donc, les journaux fournissent l’histoire interprétée : une opinion de quoi s’est passé hier, le jour avant hier, et en général, une opinion de quoi peut arriver à l’avenir. Ces facteurs sont recueillis dans un corps d’écriture bien équilibré avec des faits et témoignages, et présentés. Comme toutes les histoires, la quantité dont un historien—ou dans ce cas, un reporter—analyse, recueille et sème l’information a un effet directement sur la signification et la valeur d’un article. Les études telles que la historiographie sont destinées à fournir les analyses des interprétations différentes des historiens. L’existence d’une étude comme telle indique que les actions de recompter, raconter et d’exprimer vos avis—même si c’est consciencieuse—n’est pas absolument objective peu importe le sens, qu’elles soient ampoulées, spécifiques, ou bien recherchées. Si les écrivains et orateurs pourraient parler et écrire toujours objectivement, la demande des journalistes aurait été négligeable. Les rédacteurs dans les journaux et sur la télévision partout le monde n’auraient pas reçu leurs salaires pour écrire leurs opinions, car l’information parfaite éliminerait le besoin

The media is meant to present a collection of opinions, to put at a reader’s disposal.

L’objectif des médias est de présenter une collection d’opinions aux dispositions des lecteurs.

Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003


ions fed to the reader/viewer. Anchormen would only need to be replaced with a computer voice (as close to an emotional vacuum as possible) and CNN’s operating costs could decrease tenfold. On the other hand, why would anyone want to watch the news anymore— would it not be extremely tedious, not to mention boring, to listen to a robot read news, in the name of total objectivity? In this same vein, only one person would need to write any sort of newspaper article, which in turn, would be distributed globally as the definitive source of news on a given event— hey, totally objective news would be the only news anyone could possibly want, right? Wrong. If such a state were possible in reality, all of us who strive for perfection would inevitably be tending towards absolute objectivity—but why is the media still overtly showing its opinions in reporting? Readers nowadays do not consider the news to be gospel, nor do they expect any newspaper to be the one-stop-shop of the media world. The CBC, in November of 2002 reported that web sites on the Internet are not to be trusted. Understandably, any passerby on the street will express some sort of doubt as to the validity of information culled from the Internet. However, is that hampering anyone from using such information? The Washington Post found in a survey on January 30th that most citizens polled preferred the Internet to television, even though those polled did not treat the information as a full-blown truth. In essence, the media, or any means of communication for that matter, is not appreciated for being an unfocused, unedited, and unprocessed information vendor. Such an ideal realistically cannot exist. In quoting an article in the preceding paragraph, I fully admit that this article itself is not an objective truth. It doesn’t have to be totally objective however, and that is exactly the point—the readership of the papers and the viewership of TV news do not expect perfect information, nor do they always expect perfect truth in media reporting. What they do expect is to have, at best, an abstracted interpretation of the world and its peoples, and a generalized idea of their machinations. With that in mind, the two articles mentioned in the beginning, while contrary, do tell us something about the news of the day. If anything, general uncertainty, insecurity, and tension abound. Maybe both of the reporters are wrong. Maybe they’re both partially right. What is certain however, is that we aren’t getting the bigger picture from the news. Believe it or not, there’s no need to. That perspective is for us to find individually, and not for any one group in the media to present to us definitively. 14

... most citizens polled preferred the Internet to television, even though those polled did not treat the information as a full-blown truth. plupart des citoyens a préféré l’Internet que la télévision, bien que les informations soient fausses.

d’avoir des opinions présentées aux lecteurs/téléspectateurs. Les présentateurs réalisateurs seraient remplacés par les voix d’ordinateur (comme un vacuum plein d’émotions si possible) et les coûts opérationnels de CNN pourraient diminuer dix fois. Sur l’autre main, pourquoi regarder les nouvelles un instant de plus—ne serait-il très ennuyeux d’écouter un robot qui les lit objectivement? Dans le même esprit, il suffit une personne d’écrire un article dans le journal, et comme résultat, il serait distribué mondialement comme la source définitive de nouvelles sur n’importe quel évènement. Les nouvelles objectives seraient-elles les nouvelles qu’on veut? Pas tout à fait. Si un état comme tel était possible, tous qui s’efforcent à obtenir la perfection auraient des tendances à l’objectivité absolue—mais les médias, pourquoi montrent-elles ses opinions quant aux

reportages? De nos jours, les lecteurs ne considèrent pas les nouvelles comme l’évangile ou le journal du monde des médias non plus. Le réseau anglais de la Société Radio-Canada, le novembre dernier, a déclaré que les sites Web ne sont pas fidèles. Naturellement, un passant sur la rue exprimera le doute des informations tirées via l’Internet. Cependant, l’Internet entrave-t-il les gens d’accéder leurs informations? Le 30 janvier dernier, The Washington Post a fait un sondage qui a découvert que la plupart des citoyens a préféré l’Internet que la télévision, bien que les informations soient fausses. Essentiellement, les médias, ou d’autres moyens des communications, ne sont pas appréciées comme un marchand ambulant vague, mal rédigé et mal occupé. Un idéal comme tel ne peut pas exister d’une façon réaliste. En citant un article au paragraphe précédent, j’admets sans faute que cet article luimême n’est pas une vérité objective. Il ne doit pas être complètement objectif, néanmoins, et c’est tout à fait le point— le nombre des lecteurs des journaux et le nombre des téléspectateurs de la télévision ne prévoient pas l’information parfaite, ou la vérité parfaite aux médias non plus. Ils prévoient au moins une interprétation abstraite du monde et ses peuples, et une idée générale des ses manœuvres. Avec cette idée, les deux articles mentionnés ci-dessus, même contraires, nous racontent quelque chose des nouvelles du jour. Ce serait plutôt l’incertitude, l’insécurité, et la tension abonde. Il se peut que les deux reporters se trompent ou ont raison partiellement. Une chose est certaine… nous ne recevons pas la plus grande image des nouvelles. Croyez-le ou non, c’est inutile. Nous devons trouver cette perspective nous-mêmes, et non un groupe des médias pour la présenter définitivement. Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003


volution or Revolution? Pop-Punk takes over mainstream By Emily Gordon

It all started about a year ago, with artists like Nelly Furtado, Alicia Keys, and India.Arie. These artists were noticeably different from others who had previously reigned.


E VER WONDER what Britney Spears is doing these days? Haven’t heard much from her lately, have you? She’s on hiatus. What does that mean, you ask? Well, she’s probably sipping daiquiris (non-alcoholic, of course) in her perfectly manicured backyard, by her diamond-inlaid pool full of hundred-dollar bills. Do you even care? Probably not. You didn’t even notice she was gone. What about Christina Aguilera? Do you remember her? Well, she’s planning a comeback, which you will probably be very aware of by the time of this article’s publication. The first single off her yet-to-be-titled new CD is called “Dirrty.” But she’s going to have a problem. She must have been recording that album under a rock, because anyone who breathes knows that the industry is changing, even if it doesn’t realize it yet. It all started about a year ago, with artists like Nelly Furtado, Alicia Keys, and India.Arie. These artists were noticeably different from others who had previously reigned. They wrote their own music, played their own instruments, and wore their own clothes. It was obvious that they were in the business because they had something to say, not because they had a product to sell. They were aiming toward a more adult audience, probably because the Britney/Christina act among the teenage demographic was so popular, there was no point in experimenting with anything else. Then, Christina goes off to record another album, Britney takes a much needed, very long break (because everyone knows how hard it is to film horrible movies, sing songs other people write for her and dance Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

around). Then, the fall of the boy bands, how tragic. They run off and get married, have kids, fall into drugs and alcohol, or plan to launch into outer space. What would happen to the future of popular music? This is when we witnessed the rise of bands like Sum 41, the return of Blink 182, and the birth of Nickelback. Then, Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton come seemingly out of nowhere, clutching their instruments. Finally, Avril Lavigne, preaching about how boys are Complicated, when really, who is she to talk? There’s always a certain amount of planning involved with any artist, and Avril is no exception. I’m sure a lot of planning went into looking “real.” The first thing everyone notices about Avril is her image. She wears what she wants with a wardrobe consisting of baggy clothes and wristbands. Avril still has a long way to go lyrically (“I’m not the milk and cheerios in your spoon”) but you have to give her credit for at least writing her own stuff. Some of the songs on her album are undeniably pop, which she denies (she claims it’s “guitar-driven rock”). She may not be hardcore, but the fact is that the industry is using new qualities to sell music, such as her originality and talent, which is a better message then the one they used to portray. Her management took a risk in signing a deal with someone so unique, but they must have seen potential. In her first video, Complicated, Avril “crashes the mall” with the rest of her band: Mark, Evan and Matt. Seems just like an average day for her, skateboarding and playing guitar. Avril’s management probably wants everyone to think that she rolls out of bed every day complete with her tie and her eyeliner, 15

and goes about her business. It seems to be working. I’ll admit it. I got sucked in. I’m an Avril fan. When a friend and I heard that she was going to be playing at Fairview Mall last summer, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. We waited in line from 5:30a.m. for wristbands to the autograph session. The crowd was very diverse. There were the obsessed people at the front of the line who had slept in the mall overnight; the girls dressed exactly like her; your average skater-punks; the more hardcore, complete with a million piercings and tattoos (this was funny to me ... I mean, Avril is pretty pop); and your normal people... the people you go to school with, the people you would never expect to find in a line for Avril Lavigne wristbands at 5:30a.m. So, we got our wristbands. We went home, then came back later in the day for the show. There were hundreds of people there, and we were upset because we thought we would end up with a bad spot. We ended up with the best view, on the side (everyone always underestimates the sides, I don’t know why). All we wanted were autographs and a picture with her. I mean, we did have wristbands, and it wasn’t like there were a lot of people waiting. There were only 500 wristbands (sure, quite a few, but there could’ve been a lot more). My friend managed to get a picture, but I didn’t - her security guys literally pushed us away. I got an autograph, but she didn’t even look up (although the guys in her band did talk to us and were very nice). My theory is that when an event like this happens, everyone gets about two seconds with her. My two seconds happened to be whilst she was taking a bite of her fajita. So that’s all I remember, the extent of my experience. When someone asks me about it, I tell them about the fajita and that my overall experience wasn’t great, just okay. I know how lucky I am to have an autograph, I just expected her to be nicer. When I think back on it, I ask myself if that was a realistic assumption. I mean, this is the supposed punk-girl who rides around on her skateboard and disses Britney Spears. Did I really expect her to be nice? If it were anyone else, it would be different. What if it was Britney Spears at that mall? I would be a lot angrier, because she would have probably danced around the stage for a while before being ushered off by her crew, then signed autographs. Would I feel sorry for her ... maybe she’s tired after that exhausting show... watch her take a bite of her fajita? I 16

don’t think so. When I imagine this scenario, I can’t picture anything but her sitting there with a huge smile plastered on her face, even if it was fake. But the fact is, a person like myself would never be at a Britney Spears show to begin with. So was Avril’s behaviour typical, even appropriate? Or is this just part of being “real”? If I were Avril Lavigne, I wouldn’t want the first thing a fan to think of when they hear my song to be a fajita. I’ve since recuperated from my Avrildrama, and can look back on the experience as a normal person instead of a crazy one. Am I still a fan? Yes, even more than before. The main reason I think people like her is that they can relate to her music. Her songs reflect specific experiences everyone goes through, and are not vague (oops... I did it again? Did what?). When you hear one of her songs, it’s like she’s speaking to you, or reading your thoughts. The teenage generation embraces her for her ability to speak her mind and put into words what everyone else is feeling. She’s more of a religious leader than a celebrity. With most celebrities, you think of them as distant figures. With Avril, it’s like you know her, she’s your friend. How can anyone relate to Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera when their songs are written by a bunch of old men? The music industry seems to have adopted some new values. They’ve realized that artists are not products like their records, and have stopped packaging and manufacturing them as such. In this time, teenagers need role models who they can relate to instead of seemingly perfect, unattainable figures. As for those old pop acts - Justin Timberlake recently went solo - pulling Michael Jackson moves in front of a 7/11 in his new video. Lance Bass was recently rejected by NASA, so I guess we have to stop hoping he’ll leave the planet and never come back now. For Christina Aguilera, I predict a horrible fate for her new album. And Britney is going to have to pull a Madonna if she wants her career to survive. All of these artists emerged at generally the same time, four years ago. They’ve released a few albums, grown up a little, and maybe realized that they’ve been under the control of their management all this time. They’re rebelling, and entering the weirdo-artsy-I’ll-do-what-I-want stages of their careers. This creates a perfect opportunity for new artists. These new artists are smart, industry-savvy... they won’t allow people to control them. They’ve been able to witness the demise of their predecessors and won’t make the same mistakes. Will their influence change future generations into expressive, unique individuals, and break down the walls of conformity? Only time will tell. Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

new artists are smart, industry-savvy... they won’t allow people to control them

Envision an alternate universe where roles are reversed, where Canada emerges from the Second World War as the greatest power and becomes the only superpower in the 1990s...


SONIC BOOMS FROM ISRAELI JETS GOING AIRBORNE to protect their nuclear cargo from Iraqi Scud missiles… Silent green video clips on CNN showing our high tech bombs zeroing in on concrete military targets… During the war with Iraq in 1991 all we had to know was that our Coalition Forces were defending all that was Good and Free and Lawful in the world. Yet whispers like these intruded. “Yeah Saddam gassed the Kurds in 1988, but why did we protect him from punishment?” “Yeah we freed Kuwait’s oil fields from Iraq, but why did we restore an oppressive regime?” Once few and faint, those whispers now gust fiercely among us. Many protestors are clear on this: War is sometimes justified, but the initiator of war bears a heavy burden of proof and this burden has not been fulfilled in public. Beyond that single point, there are as many perspectives as there are new reasons given each day why we should go to war.

Meanwhile, our PM’s armed convoy is snaking towards the United Nations headquarters in Montreal. As it slows to pay homage to a hockey stadium destroyed by terrorists, perplexed Canadians turn to each other. “How can antiCanadianism exist when everybody downloads our movies, hoards our currency, and gets so much help from our handsome sons and daughters in uniform?” The PM presses his cowboy hat to his breast. “Citizens of the world – Canada knows this invasion is our duty. We challenge you. Be relevant - give us permission. Otherwise, we will do our duty.” No world leader who opposes the war needs a translation. Few leaders can have much influence and legitimately uphold their country’s position unless it happens to coincide with Canada’s position – a giant boulder rumbling towards them.

Operation Iraqi Liberation By Nick Phillips

Envision an alternate universe where roles are reversed, where Canada emerges from the Second World War as the greatest power and becomes the only superpower in the 1990s. How different would Canadian foreign policy be from that of the U.S. now? Let us strive for honesty. In this parallel universe, Canada’s National Security Strategy might say: “We are the dominant model of goodness for the world and we want to stay that way. We promise to provide weak and inconvenient countries with more enlightened leaders.” Can you picture the excitement of the influential minority of Canadian politicians, writers and talk show hosts who are promoting the latest twist on the most ancient doctrine of all? The “let’s take more ‘cuz we deserve it and it’s for their own good” Doctrine? With Canada on top the names are different but the rules are the same. Americans and Europeans are pleading, “Oh Canada, of course we’ll support your war against whomever but pretty pleeeeze let us ratify your plans with the United Nations”. Comfortable at the centre of this imaginary world, Canadians don’t bother learning much about non-Canadians. The American host of the notorious show “Talking to Canadians” is gaining huge popularity by asking Canadians on the street what is the capital of New York State? Or Mexico?

They may stand in the path of a far-away boulder and scream and stomp their feet, but when a boulder tumbles closer it is time to scramble out of the way. Even better, if they run beside Canada and help push the boulder they can feel relevant! Shoulder to shoulder, they might share some of the benefits. If they are lucky they might even nudge the boulder in a slightly different direction. In this parallel world a few Americans with flag-plastered backpacks slung over their shoulders are feeling superior to Canadians. After all, they proclaim, “Americans follow international law and don’t tell other countries what to do”. Smugly, they sometimes take credit for not abusing powers they don’t have, rather than face responsibility for how well or how poorly they use the powers they do have. Anti-Canadians seem to think that if only America were on top, or if nobody were on top, then justice would prevail. Tragically, even if Canada did stop its shenanigans, it would be like declaring a no-peeing zone in one corner of a little kiddy pool. Some people admit Canada can play a needed role in the world. After the historic speech millions of people around the world search vainly in their history books for consistently enlightened Canadian principles, because they really do like Cacontinued on page 35 >>>

Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003


[Man in tower] “Come in car one.”

what is this ad but a piece of the world something dead and deadly to live with

By Paul Baines

[Scene] View of car from a lookout tower, driving alone on a winding highway of desert. Mountains in the background with street sign reading “Honda Driving Track”.

[Man in car] “This is one.” [Tower] “Looks like we’ve got some uninvited visitors flying in from the West.” [Scene] Cut to plane, cut to close up of driver in racing uniform, cut to tower. [Car] “Looking for a little preview uh.”

man’s performance is tested man’s surveillance is tried cool how engines and empires are built to seduce, for surrender

[Tower] “Better come in and cover up that car right now.” [Car] “Roger back.” [Scene] Car speeding through turns from almost every angle, cut to car dashboard and driver shifting gears

for sale is a spy game with players on both sides

I drive, I watch, I wait [Car] “I’m at the third turn, I’m coming in.” for my chance [Scene] Hand pressing large red button, cut to releasing of large white canopy, cut to plane’s cockpit with car in its camera’s cross-hairs, cut to driver close up, cut to fighter/spy plane close up, cut to wide shot of car under canopy with sky full of planes. [Voice Over] “The all new much anticipated Accord, from Honda.” [Screen Text] “Are You Ready For It?” followed by “The All-New Accord” and finally the Honda logo I present this car commercial description next to my poem to raise what I consider important issues in education and media literacy specifically. What now interests me in media education is how we can start to name our own involvement, however invisible at first, within the issues we study and care about. Here, the student becomes the subject more so than what’s in the text book or the government’s binder. How does our personal position on media issues (such as racism, commercialism, sexism, censorship, public access, and diversity) reveal and respond to our ongoing and conflicted perpetuation of these same issues? Paul Baines is a media learner-educator interested in re-branding media literacy and interested in working with young men who want to do critical-creative media projects around masculinity, militarism, and auto-culture. Article comments and inquiries welcomed at:


not to hide, but to see myself testing, trying this invitation this participation

“No Blood For Oil” is easy to say half a world away but the war in front of me, inside of me not so

I catch myself protesting and denying the parts of me sold off everyday

buying or not buying the car is not my question and why is studying the media stuck on itself and not my self

Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

(Re)Sexualising Black Women in Popular Hip-hop Music Videos By Judith McKeown


HISTORICALLY, black women have been defined within three rigidly structured constructions: first, as the docile and desexualised mammy figure, second, as the controlling matriarch, and third, as the highly sexual seductress. I plan to focus on the latter. In Slave Women in Caribbean Society, Barbara Bush argues that during slavery, based on European conceptions of morality, respectability, and aesthetics, black women were considered inferior to their white counterparts. Slave women were considered lewd, lascivious, and wanton, which Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

Reproducing the Hottentot Venus:

Slave women were considered lewd, lascivious, and wanton, was in direct conflict with European conceptions of femininity that upheld the virtues of purity, delicacy, modesty, and physical frailty. Following from theses constructions of black womanhood, black women were labeled as ‘Sable Queens’ and ‘Ebony Beauties’ by elite European men. Although these labels reflect some of the more favourable perceptions of slave women at the time, they also perpetuated the myth that African slave women were foreign, exotic, and highly sexual. The myth of black female exoticism was reinforced for many Europeans when they saw African slave women either partially or completely nude, thus revealing and validating black women’s perceived sexual availability. Their nudity further became a symbol of their ‘uninhibited’ sexual practices to European society and justified the negative stereotypes that existed about black women. From this discussion, it is evident that early conceptions of femininity constructed female slaves as sexually promiscuous and inferior to white women. This definition of femininity debased black women and provides the framework from which I will argue that some black women, at present, have internalised these definitions of black womanhood and reproduce them by using their physical appearance and sexuality in black music videos. During the nineteenth century, the symbol or icon for the black woman was further constructed and popularised through the image of the ‘Hottentot Venus’. In Black Bodies, White Bodies, Sander Gilman argues that black women were constructed as the antithesis of European sexual moral practices and beauty. Black women were believed to be “primitive” and more “sexually intensive” than were white women. The perceived heightened sexuality of the black woman was justified by pseudo-scientific theories developed by J. J. Virey (and other academics of the time). According to him, black women’s “voluptuousness is developed to a degree of lascivity unknown to our climate, for their sexual organs are much more developed than those of whites.” Here, Virey attributes black females’ perceived sexual availability to their physical appearance and genetic makeup. He further suggests that differences in genitalia between blacks and whites account for different corresponding sexual appetites in blacks. Another academic of the time, Georges Cuvier, proposed that physical differences—skin colour, genitalia, ‘protruding’ buttocks, and phenotype—that were exhibited in black women were signs of deviant sexual behaviour. As a result, black women came to symbolise ‘unbridled’ sexuality, not so much because of their actions, but due to their socially constructed physical appearance, mainly their ‘voluptuous’ figures. At present, black

... which was in direct conflict with European conceptions of femininity that upheld the virtues of purity, delicacy, modesty, and physical frailty. 19

women continue to be depicted as icons of heightened sexuality, especially in their portrayals in popular hiphop music videos. The sexual objectification of black women continues today through negative sexual representations of black femininity. Nowhere are these representations echoed more coherently than in popular hip-hop music videos. For example, hip-hop artist, Mystikal, in his video “Shake ya’ Ass” perpetuates the notion that black women are only useful as sexual objects. The video opens with three black women approaching Mystikal with an invitation to a party. Of course, he accepts and upon his arrival he is greeted by a scantily clad masked woman who leads him throughout the house where numerous other women, in like physical appearance and dress, also greet him. In this video, the women are generally wearing masks and bikinis. That the women are wearing bikinis is particularly problematic in this situation because they are not in a beach or pool setting. Here it is obvious that the women are outfitted in bikinis merely to ‘show off’ their bodies and there is no real purpose or explanation as to why they are not wearing regular clothing. Furthermore, the masks symbolise the exoticism and sexuality of these women, which is not a far cry from the historical representations and constructions of black womanhood outlined previously. The masks further represent the perceived immateriality of black women’s faces and the corresponding importance of their bodies as objects of sexual significance. Lastly, the masks also reveal the anonymity or invisibility of black women’s individual identities and highlight their frequent reduction to mere sexual or body parts, both historically and at present. Here black women’s bodies are objects of spectacle for the male gaze (ultimately to be ogled). Similar to the representation of black womanhood in Mystikal’s music video, Jay Z’s Big Pimpin’ video also portrays black women as mere sex objects. Set on a cruise ship where approximately forty women are scantily clad in either bikinis or revealing outfits, the women generally out number the men with a ratio of eight to one, however, the men are fully clothed (with the exception of maybe one shirtless male). This is of particular importance because it shows the oppositional nature in which black men and women are constructed

and positioned. That the men are fully clothed reveals their power to subvert early constructions of black masculinity that also designate them as oversexualised. Their clothes, in this instance, represent their refusal to be reduced to mere body parts, although their female counterparts fall victim to this categorisation. Ultimately, the women in this video are ‘put on display’ again for white, black, and other audiences, which is reminiscent of the ways in which black women were put on display historically. Though I have only provided a brief history of the constructions of black womanhood and the ways in which certain sexistracist interpretations of black femininity have been reproduced, I do not want to overgeneralise or oversimplify a very complex issue. We have to consider why women choose to be in these videos, especially bearing in mind the historical past of women of African descent. Are they passive victims or active strategists? Many women in these videos get paid or see this type of televisual exposure as a stepping stone to modeling, acting, and other careers involving the spotlight. Does this absolve them of their responsibilities to compete against negative stereotypes about black women? Do they have that responsibility in the first place? These are important questions that cannot be answered in an article as brief as this one, but they are important to think about. I just want to leave you with this. The reproduction of certain stereotypes about black womanhood in popular music videos are dangerous on two levels: first, these images are perpetuated in the black community, affecting the selfesteem of black adolescent youth, skewing the perception of what a black woman should look and act like for black females and males alike, and second, non-blacks and specifically whites are privy to these images as well and continue to perceive black women as sexual objects that remain inferior to white women (who are not represented in the media in the same ways as their black counterparts, especially in music videos). Although I do not pretend to have the answer and there are clearly no simple solutions, the first step would be for more favourable representations of black women (as active participants and not simply objects) to permeate this growing televisual medium.

... black women continue to be depicted as icons of heightened sexuality, especially in their portrayals in popular hip-hop music videos...


Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

“According to the 1998 United Nations Human Development Report , the growth in global ad spending ‘now outpaces the growth of the world economy by one-third.’” - Naomi Klein, ‘No Logo’


IF MOST OF US CONSIDER ourselves generally kind people who do not wish, nor inflict, harm upon others, where is the cause of the world’s problems to be found? The Ecologist reports that there are now more people living in economic poverty than ever before; the World Bank expects that number to worsen in the next generation; while the Worldwatch Institute informs us that the number of obese and overweight people in the world has equalled the number of starving or malnourished at 1.2 billion individuals. This is to say nothing of the environmental destruction that will increasingly threaten our very survival within decades, if we survive that long amidst the ever-threatening imperial rule of war. If not derived from the majority of generally kind people, these problems must be due to some small proportion of the

THE ILLUSION OF FREEDOM “Our biggest challenge is showing people that advertising’s not just a nuisance, and that if they ignore it, it will just get worse.” (Carrie McLaren, editor of Stay Free!, a zine about commercialism and pop culture.) (ref. Mother Jones) By its manipulative nature, most of us remain in a state of ignorance as to the influence of Western commercial propaganda over ourselves and our world. Take note of the nature of this propaganda the next time you are confronted by it. You will not have to go far: turn on the television or radio, go to a movie, walk down the street or

Propaganda: prison for the free population that does not represent us, yet is empowered to control our destinies; a component of the human population that is, at best, blind to the systematic destruction they wreak or, at worst, unconcerned by it. Even if we follow this logical deduction, a few women and men still remain incapable of carrying out this large-scale destruction alone; the control they possess must steer the majority of us generally kind individuals to some destructive madness! But we would never let that happen! Thus, the only way these problems are able to occur is if the majority of us are responsible for it, yet remain unaware (if only of the sheer gravity of our contribution), or even feel like we are doing the right thing. What is the tool of the controlling few that succeeds in such fine control over us such that many of us may not even think we are being controlled? What keeps us in the dark or worse, feeling good and/or justified while contributing to a system that spells disaster for this planet and its inhabitants? This black hole, this all-powerful vacuum of good intentions, may in large part be recognised as Western commercial propaganda.

Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

take a glance at the growing number of billboards by highways, atop buildings, and now in schools and universities. Living in the Western world means it is almost always “in your face”. Naomi Klein, Canadian author and journalist for the Globe and Mail, in her book ‘No Logo’, details “the advertising industry’s astronomical rate of growth,” with total ad spending in the U.S. in 1998 at $196.5 billion ($435 billion globally). These dollars represent massive investment into the psychology of how best to manipulate you, and the physical infrastructure to carry out the bombardment of commands: enjoy this, ask for more, do this, buy that, do not miss this! Then there is the fear lever: you could get a disease or your children could get one; you will not be cool, look good, or appear professional enough; you might smell; you may just be missing this one vital component to your life for it to miraculously transform into perfection. In this world of intense competition for those untapped markets, there is another vital ingredient to the proficiency of Western commercial propaganda: truth – and there is none. What is being sold is a product, but what is being marketed is an image. Marketing only has to satisfy one criterium to be considered good, successful and worth rewarding those re-

By Anthony James


sponsible with large amounts of money: sell us something. Amidst an obesity epidemic in the Western world, Nestlé will have us believe that ice-cream makes for happy kids, while McDonald’s and the multitude of fast food franchises will make sure that there is a jumbo special meal deal that is just what the responsible, busy parent can trust. Amidst global warming, an asthma epidemic, and more intense traffic jams all over the world each year , car companies will place us on cliff tops with the road to ourselves, looking shiny, clean and at one with the beautiful countryside (often to the applause of local wildlife). We are continually coerced and manipulated to consume more of the world‘s resources (material, money, labor), the majority of which are already devoted to the service of so very few. As Western world consumers, whatever we buy represents resources that could have been used towards equipping the 45-75% of the world’s population living beneath the poverty line, with basic necessities like water, housing, and education. Western commercial propaganda may well be seen as counter to the good of societies both in the miAdrienne Lee nority “first” world and majority “third” world. CAPTIVITY TO FREEDOM Do we treasure the idea of democracy, where we would be free to explore our unique selves and strive towards our dreams? This would necessitate that the systematic priority of society be to nurture those dreams through whatever insecurities or “false” obstacles may be restricting a person; not to manufacture and then prey upon them as is the wont of Western commercial propaganda. If it was your friend slamming you with commands, preying upon your fears and doubts, barely telling you the truth, to ensure that you continue to serve her or his narrow objectives by using resources that another friend desperately needs, would you continue to regard this person as a friend, much less a symbol of freedom, truth, love and peace? If the commercial propaganda that so saturates our living space may be identified as a critical element in the “missing link” between the majority of individuals generally believing themselves to be kind and well-intended, and a disastrous global situation, then the solution presents itself in neon lights! 22

The propaganda now turns on itself as we identify it as our guide to what not to buy, who not to work for, and who not to endorse in the clothes we wear, and so on. On a deeper level, families and educational institutions need to move further away from a culture of obedience, silence and conformity, as this merely “trains” youth to be vulnerable to the manipulative commercial bombardment they begin to face from a very young age. Encouragement is required towards a culture of questioning and independent thinking in children, related to the reality of the world in which they live. By playing our part in dismantling the propaganda, our choices will have immediately enhanced the quality of our lives, and systematically extracted ourselves from this unique form of slavery. The intention of the few controllers is irrelevant. In fact, we may see ourselves as playing a role in freeing them also, from the (in many cases, blind) destruction they wield; the blood and lifeless human spirit that stains their hands. As we develop our internal strength by making individual choices based on the truth and our own conscience and deeper preference, we enhance the opportunity for those not yet strong enough, to also begin to make decisions for themselves. We create a bridge for those who would dare to dream for themselves and for a better world. This bridge is the way for good intent to become the reality in which we live. It represents the call to freedom, to truth, to sister-hood and brother-hood, to love. It is the insurmountable, needless brand of wealth upon which a new outcome slowly but surely reveals itself, finally representative of humanity crying for a brighter day.

___________________________________________________________________________ Anthony James is a freelance writer specialising in issues of economic, social and environmental justice relating to globalisation and international development. Related websites Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

Fear conquers morality as US takes on Iraq “

By Shayan Rahnama

“THE PEOPLE CAN ALWAYS be brought to the bidding of the leaders. . . . All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” I’ll be sure to tell you who said that later. I know, very cliché to start an article off with a quote, but in a time where the world is being bombarded by war-hype, war-talk and warrhetoric, cliché is all too familiar and the general theme or this repeated excitement is ‘Scared? You should be!’ Reluctantly, I must say that media, particularly with respect to the war on Iraq, has become the voice that tells us ‘You are being attacked!’ It seems that in a society where everyone should be comfortable with their right to ask questions, simply because that is what they’ve been preaching to other societies, people have accepted that they are ‘under attack’ and won’t step back and ask ‘are we any more danger than we were yesterday?’

Several countries have been quick to pledge their love for Bush, playing the humanitarian card and justifying war based on unsubstantial proof of reason. Colin Powell has found a coalition of 45 countries that are ‘willing’ to support the US, although its strange that 15 of them prefer to remain unnamed. Claiming that Saddam has links to Al-Qaeda, no doubt in hopes of gaining the support of American public opinion, the US has forged forward. Although many people are sceptical to believe that link, or Powell’s unmistakable satellite evidence of Saddam’s illegal arsenal, its hard to live in the face of TVs telling us why the US should be attacking Iraq and to NOT be scared of Saddam. So, in cases like this, the media is the allies’ best tool. In striving to make an exciting story that people want to watch, the media can effectively scare the population into thinking that action is justified. So, for the US government etching to convince their people that what they are doing is right, the media serves as the primary tool for communication and indirectly, serves as a medium for manipulation of opinion.

... as Canadians, we are put in a fortunate position where we have several sources of news, our CBC, broadcasts of the BBC world news and American news coverage of ABC and CNN. Here’s some cynicism for you: ‘It has been more than a year since the events of 9/11, and people seem to have forgotten the reason that the US is in the Middle East in the first place. Afghanistan was to be rescued from its tyrannical fundamentalist government, and it was. Only, it was left to wither in economic draught and forgotten because, frankly, it didn’t make exciting (and scary) news, and of course, wasn’t in America’s best interests. However, the ball was rolling, and while the troops were out there, helping other countries. While US intelligence has been staring in at Iraq with its super-satellite cameras (that can zoom in on licence plates), and a no-fly zone that is half the size of Iraq, they might as well send a more troops over, and make sure Iraq isn’t up to anything. The media reacted appropriately and mostly in concert with its government, first telling us that the US is proposing that the UN make a task force to go in and find out IF Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Of course, the US already knows that they do, but they thought it would be nice to play by the rules, and take the United Nations route. Of course, the minute they saw that the United Nations involved, well, uniting nations, they started trying to make as many friends as they could.’ Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

Of course, as Canadians, we are put in a fortunate position where we have several sources of news, our CBC, broadcasts of the BBC world news and American news coverage of ABC and CNN. We are able to sift through it and make a more educated analysis of what story is most accurate. As such, people who care for a different perspective can easily get it. Of course, in an age of information accessibility, everyone has access to different points of view and versions of stories, but it is much easier to sit back and watch it on TV with a beer in one hand and a pork chop in the other than to spend hours looking for it. The result is that a majority of the population is subjected to the generally irresponsible and sensationalized reporting available on TV. In an article I read in the National Post entitled ‘Americans want news that affects Americans,’ written by Kevin Newman, executive editor and anchor of Global National, he argues against Canadian criticism of American news coverage, and in particular CNN. He argues that “CNN is doing what it is supposed to be doing: reflecting the country it is broadcasting to. [..] It is talking to Americans. And those viewers are wounded.” Newman seems to be forgetting that the mandate of any professional journalist should be to, as accurately and complease see page 35 >>> 23

WHEN THE SEPTEMBER 11 ATTACKS TOOK PLACE in the United States there was a huge reaction to the events in the media. Many people witnessed the attacks on television as it happened, and after the images of huge planes crashing into the twin towers were played over and over again, it just glued to people’s minds. I remember on the day of September 11, one of the American networks said the attacks were blamed on so called “Islamic terrorists” without a single piece of evidence to back it up. When I look back however, that wasn’t the question that everybody was asking on that day. People were too overwhelmed by what happened to ask “Who did it?” The people of America were so emotional at that time, feeling shocked, sad, frightened and angry. They were looking to someone for support and leadership—which was very convenient for the Bush administration. They took advantage of people’s emotions and by doing so they’ve made people believe that there is a great threat to their nation by Muslims. I believe that Islam has been too closely linked with the attacks. In the days following the attacks I kept seeing on television images of bearded men holding assault rifles. Now, some sources of the media might say that they don’t believe all Muslims practice such activities, but to the average viewer that’s not what comes to mind. Many Americans probably find out most of what they know about Islam through the media, so when they see only negative images portrayed they’ll think that’s what Islam or Muslims are all about. According to the mainstream media, nineteen hijackers were responsible for the September 11 attacks. Any logical individual would say it’s unfair to blame the religion of 1.2 billion people because of the action of a few. In Northern Ireland violence has broke out between Protestants and Catholics for years and we don’t hear the words “Christian Terrorists”. However when a Muslims 24

commits a violent act out of political reasons we always hear the words “Muslim Terrorists” over and over. Stories like this seem to be always dominating the headlines. Many times sources in the media, especially American Media outlets, have given inaccurate information about Islam. For example, they have described the word Jihad as holy war, which in fact is the Arabic word for perseverance or struggle. All the hostile attitude from the press has led to hate crimes being committed against Muslim communities across the world. In Toronto alone hate crimes have went up 66% in just one year, and when such events occur where Muslims are the victims the reporting on the story is either very brief or not there at all. I also realized that the word “Islamists” have been used to describe enemies of America carrying out attacks in the name of Islam, now all you have to do is remove the last three letters to have Islam as America’s enemy. Those in charge of such decisions might say that’s not what they intend, but shouldn’t they have thought of what viewers, listeners or readers might make of this. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world but the most misunderstood. The word Islam itself means peace. This is a religion that has the same origins of Christianity and Judaism but treated so separate. This is not just my point of view—these are the facts.

when they see only negative images


they’ll think that’s what Islam or Muslims are all about.

Osman enjoys playing pool and hanging out in Toronto during his spare time. He likes to write as a way to express himself, and feels that there are a lot of social issues that need to be addressed.

Islam in the Media after September 11


By Osman Omar

Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

EXPOSINGthe atrocities behind DEPLETED URANIUM A grave lesson from the first Gulf War


By Christina Campisi

THE IMAGES of the aftermath of the nuclear bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki shocked the world. By the time the news was brought to our attention, the damage had been done and there was nothing to do but prevent the atrocities from happening again. More than two decades later years later, during the Vietnam War, the reaction of the American people to the images of war in the media made the continuation of the war unviable. Now, with the possibility of another war in Iraq, we can be fairly certain that the US military will not drop another nuclear bomb in Iraq. But most of the public is unaware weapons containing depleted uranium (DU), a substance that produces many of the same effects of the atomic bomb dropped over 50 years ago, and that the world pledged would never happen again will be used in the coming war. DU is a highly toxic and radioactive heavy metal that is created as a waste product of nuclear bomb production, about sixty per cent as radioactive as natural uranium. It is used is weaponry because of its capacity to penetrate most kinds of armour and protect tanks. Upon impact, DU bursts into flames, and the burning spreads into the air and can be inhaled or ingested, traveling with the dust. Remaining DU fragments that still lie in the battlefield and in aerosols will continue to pollute the Gulf environment for years to come. The first report of the use of DU weapons in combat was in 1974 by the Israeli army under

US supervision in the Yom Kippur War. Their first extensive use was in the Gulf War, and then again by NATO in 1999 in Yugoslavia. Since then, the legacy of these weapons has been uncovered among Iraqis, as well as Gulf War veterans in the US, Canada and Britain. The Basra Paediatric Hospital in Iraq was a heavily hit location during Operation Desert Storm, because of its location just north Kuwait. The “memorial gallery” in the hospital is full of disturbing photos of babies born with sickening deformities: two heads, internal organs protruding through their chest cavities, limbless children, and an alarming number of newborns who reached full term without developing any skin. And more than ten years later, the legacy of birth defects continues, alongside an increase in renal disease and cancer, especially leukemia. Dr. Selma al-Taha, the founder of Iraq’s Genetics Clinic says that he witnesses the worst effects on pregnant women because eyes and bones are most sensitive organs when it comes to the effects of uranium. The impact on Gulf War veterans has also been devastating. Their symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, respiratory disease and chronic dysfunction, have been dubbed the “Gulf War Syndrome.” According to a study conducted by the US Veterans Administration, a sample of 251 War veterans revealed that 67% of their children conceived and born since the war have severe illnesses such as missing eyes, missing ears, blood infections, respiratory problems and fused fingers. Dr. Asaf Durakovic, is the head of the Uranium Metal Project, a private re-

Art by Fotis Dafnos

Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003


Exposing DU >>> search initiative and a former U.S. army colonel. He explained at the Association of Nuclear Medicine in 2000 “that tens of thousands of British and American soldiers are dying from radiation from depleted uranium shells fired during the Gulf war.” His team of Canadian and American scientists had tested urine samples of 17 Gulf War veterans and de-

hair loss. She participated in the government tests, but believed the results were a foregone conclusion. As she put it, “All you had to do was read the official disclaimer which accompanied each of the test kits.” Those instructions read, in part: “Based on a careful review of all known science concerning depleted uranium, there is essentially no chance that depleted uranium is [affecting] the health

use of weapons containing DU. The role of the governments involved in this atrocity is unforgivable. But surely the media must be doing its part. In the late nineties, there was some coverage in Canada’s mainstream media and alternative media in the US, but now, with a war in Iraq, why has there been little or no media coverage on this issue? The consequences of the Gulf War for

In the late nineties, there was some coverage in Canada’s mainstream media and alternative media in the US, but now, with a war in Iraq, why has there been little or no media coverage on this issue? tected disturbing amounts of depleted uranium in more than 70 per cent of their case studies. While the facts speak for themselves, the findings of government studies present starkly different conclusions. Studies conducted by the Pentagon and British Ministry of Defence, through their departments of Veterans Affairs found evidence of depleted uranium in veterans urine samples to be inconclusive. In February 2001, responding to public pressure, former Canadian Minister of Defense Art Eggleton established a government program to test Gulf War veterans. Louise Richard served, a nurse in a field hospital during the Gulf War, has suffered from a number of ailments, including tuberculosis, incontinence, and

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of CF members who served in the Gulf…” Following the tests, Colonel Ken Scott, the individual responsible for the depleted uranium testing, announced that the levels of uranium detected were so low that any more study in “unnecessary.” As veterans are facing a brick wall in their own nations, they have begun fighting hard in the international arena. Since activists have brought the issue to the attention of the UN, the organization has made attempts to research the impact of DU weaponry in Yugoslavia. Until 2000, NATO has refused demands by experts from the U.N. agencies, UNEP and UNCHS (Habitat), to hand over the list of targets hit by empoverished uranium bombs. At this point, the UN has called for a moratorium on the


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Christina Campisi is completing her bachelor’s degree in political science at McGill University this year.


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our veterans and Iraqi children are grave misfortunes. If we fail to use our knowledge to prevent this from happening again, misfortune becomes injustice. Even if an international collective decision is made that removing Saddam Hussein from power will ultimately bring the least harm to the citizens of Iraq, there is no need for weapons with such longterm consequences to be used in the process. In order to learn from the mistakes of the past, the issue must be addressed in the media at this crucial juncture.

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Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

Art and Community Making art matter in Montreal La question d’art à Montréal

L ’art et la communauté By/par Ilona Dougherty Translation/traduction par Dwain Richardson



C’est un milieu difficile pour les jeunes émergeant IT IS A ROUGH WORLD OUT THERE FOR YOUNG EMERGING artists, there is no ‘job market’, no ‘career prospects’, and no real artistes, il n’y a aucun ‘marché du travail’, aucune ‘perspechope of ‘job security’. All there really is to keep young artists tive de la carrière’, et aucun vrai espoir de la garantie de l’unité going is perseverance, inspiration, and hope that opportuni- de l’emploi. Les jeunes artistes possèdent la persévérance, ties will come along that will make creating art enough to scrape l’inspiration et l’espoir que les occasions viendront pour créer l’art et fouiller une façon de vivre. together some sort of a basic living. Il y a tant de ressemblances entre la vie d’un activiste et There are many similarities between the life of an activist celles d’un artiste; et l’une des and that of an artist and not making much ressemblances est que vous ne gagnez pas money is definitely one of them. Another beaucoup d’argent. Une autre ressemblance important similarity is the increasing move est celle de reconnaître une idée de in the artistic community to recognize a responsabilité artistique dans la sense of artistic responsibility. This means communauté artistique. C’est-à-dire qu’on taking a view of ones art and life as someenvisage l’art et la vie de quelqu’un comme thing that touches the community that one quelque chose qui affecte la communauté lives in, and the world beyond it. Art Matdans laquelle on habite et au-delà du monde. ters is Concordia University’s student-run Art Matters est un festival des arts organisé fine arts festival in Montreal, one festival For more information about the festival check out the Art Matters par les étudiants de l’Université Concordia that is trying to make this link between art website/Pour plus d’information au à Montréal. C’est un festival qui veut faire and community. sujet du festival jetez un coup d’œil ce lien entre l’art et la communauté. Art Matters is a festival that not only au site Web d’Art Matters Il y a deux buts qu’Art Matters aims to create opportunities for student art possède : pour créer des occasions pour les ists but also aims to reach out to the comjeunes artistes et arriver à la communauté munity and recognize the place that stuet reconnaître l’identité des étudiants dans dents have within the Montreal community. The way Art Matters is reaching out this year is by putting art in unusual places; la communauté montréalaise. Cette année, Art Matters met des the festival is taking art to the community rather than trying to œuvres d’art aux endroits inhabituels; au lieu de les mettre dans get the community into galleries were they are unlikely to go. les galeries, il les met dans la communauté. Elles seront Places where art will be showcased include the local YMCA, présentées dans un bureau local de YMCA, les bibliothèques libraries, and a women’s shelter. Student art at Concordia is et un abri des femmes. À Concordia, l’art des étudiants est un new, innovative and cutting edge, and the hope is that by get- nouveau concept. Il est aussi innovateur et progressiste. En ting art out into the Montreal communities the artistic visions présentant les œuvres d’art dans les communautés of students will be seen and heard by a diversity of people in montréalaises, on espère que les visions artistiques présentées Montreal. The student work will contribute to the Montreal par les étudiants soient remarquées et entendues par les gens divers à Montréal. Les travaux contribueront à la communauté community and as such become a part of a community voice. Students at Concordia University are known for their ac- montréalaise et deviendront une partie d’eux. Les étudiants à l’Université Concordia sont connus pour tivist tendencies and sensibilities. Art Matters tries to recognize this and sees the festival as an opportunity to promote art leurs tendances et susceptibilités activistes. Art Matters essaie with a political conscience in a positive way. “Concordia often de reconnaître ceci et voit le festival comme une occasion gets a bad rap for its politics and protests. Art Matters is a d’encourager l’art avec une conscience politique dans une chance for fine arts students at the university to show Mon- façon positive. « Concordia reçoit souvent un mauvais petit treal that they are creating really great works and contributing coup sec pour sa politique et protestations. Art Matters est continued on next page... Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003


Art and Media Art & Media

By Ilona Dougherty


alternative media, which can provide a different perspective on things. “Alternative media is important because it illuminates issues that I am concerned with, and informs my understanding of these issues. I also believe that alternative media sources could act as venues for conceptual art” said Allysha Larsen, an artist who is part of

Etude sur la beaute No. 1 by Benjamin Rodger

AS AN ARTIST I SPEND A LOT OF my time looking for inspiration. Sometimes this is an easy task that seems to be guided by a higher power. Other times it is a struggle that leads to frustration and the proverbial artists block. Either way in the process of trying to discover the right inspiration, whether I like it or not, I am bombarded like everyone else with a multitude of media messages every day. This is not inspiration, but none the less it affects the art I create, and these messages become – to some degree – relevant to the dance that is the end product of my choreography. My choreography is based on the concept that activism is an essential part of art. As Guillermo Gomez-Pena puts it, “we are in a state of emergency it is not longer ok to just make art.” As a result of my commitment to action and positive social change, the media inevitably plays a part in how my choreography is created. I watch the news to find out what is going on in the world. It is with that lens that I view my place in the larger scheme of things. Of course there are other sources of information such as the

the 2003 Art Matters Festival in Montreal. The festival provides a forum for issues that artists face when placing their art in the real world. As part of this mandate the festival Art Matters will be offering several opportunities for artists to discuss art and its place in society, including a workshop with co-founder of

Art and Revolution Alli Starr. Despite the presence of the alternative media, mass media continues to not only provide a bias context of a world view, it also provides a biased context of what art is, and should be. “The media puts some pressure because of the limited view that media has of art. I think the media perpetuates stereotypes of what art is and how artists should live,” said Allysha Larsen. It is because of this twofold affect that the media has on art and artists that it is important that as a community artists find opportunities to discuss the media and its relevance as a source as well as a pressure in creating art. Art Matters will provide one opportunity for this in Montreal, but it of course is only one small step. Through my dance, and my work as an activist, I look forward to a future where the performing arts are not only about creating things of beauty, but also about understanding where the inspiration to create comes from in the context of our society and using this understanding to creatively make social change.

... continued from previous page to the community in a positive way.” said Art Matters co-producer Emily Pearlman. The artwork that is part of Art Matters is sometimes overtly political and sometimes aesthetically based, and it is the mandate of Art Matters to promote work in a diversity of styles. What makes the festival grassroots is its commitment to the Montreal community and its commitment to maintain the integrity of the student art, regardless of style, even though this means working on a small budget. The Art Matters festival is finding new and interesting ways to not only give opportunities to young emerging artists, but it is also making art matter to the Montreal community. 32

une chance pour les étudiants des beaux-arts à l’université pour montrer Montréal qu’ils créent de vraiment grands travaux et contribuent à la communauté dans une façon positive, » dit Emily Pearlman, la co-productrice d’Art Matters. Les œuvres d’art qui font partie d’Art Matters sont parfois très politiques et basées esthétiquement; et c’est le mandat d’Art Matters de promouvoir les travaux aux styles divers. Ce qui rend le festival de la base est son engagement à la communauté montréalaise et son engagement maintenir l’intégrité de l’art de l’étudiant, sans se soucier de style, bien que cela veuille dire travailler sur un petit budget. Le festival Art Matters trouve des nouvelles façons bien intéressantes non seulement pour les jeunes émergeants artistes mais aussi faire matière de l’art à la communauté montréalaise. Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

Fragmented Still-Life Article and Artwork by Clifford Gnitecki


IN TODAY ’S MODERN AGE, WE ARE SURROUNDED or rather, overwhelmed by everything we’ve created. Nothing is left of what existed yesterday, much less fifty years ago. As a young visual artist, I’ve been in constant search for things to inspire my work - to make me want to paint. Little did I know that the answer to my prayers was right under my nose. I had to begin somewhere so in the beginning I painted still-life images, then pictures from nature, figurative scenes and so on. Recently, I ran short on ideas as I was sick of the normal things to paint - it was redundant and not progressive at all; in fact, it was boring. The images were nice, but they were mundane and useless, serving only as decoration in my room. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret making these paintings and I certainly do not consider them a waste of time. They were practice. Actually, I consider them baby steps, ones which I knew would eventually lead to a giant leap. Suddenly, it struck me. I realised that there was one element that influenced me every day of my life: The great, immense city I lived in; this was the perfect subject. Why? Because even though Toronto has many distinguishing features, it also contains numerous elements that makes it indistinguishable from other cities in the world. My goal was to exploit this very notion. With a common relation to the Postmodern tradition in visual arts in that everything in society, or all which was created by society, at one point, becomes so overbearing that it hits us so hard in the face, that we become fragmented. We become disjointed and lack the knowledge of where we are. This is just one of the characteristics of Postmodernity. Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

As human beings, living in any city leads to us being fragmented. We are surrounded by huge, massive buildings and skyscrapers, and technology seems to engulf everything we touch - even the very things we found sacred once before. Sure, we live in a bubble, but this bubble has somehow become mechanically or digitally controlled. In a sense, we are becoming more and more useless as the age of computers grows. Jobs are becoming scarce, especially to those who are not computer knowledgeable. I don’t believe that depicting an IBM or a TV in my art will say anything that hasn’t been said already. People were afraid of computers over twenty years ago when they were introduced as a common household item or “tool.” Rather, it is not an issue to us anymore; they are not the root, because we are. My depictions of the city represent the confusion and isolation we experience as a result of the technology and chaos which surrounds us. 33

In truth, this Postmodern idea is not hard to fathom. We see it everyday, even when you go shopping at the Eaton Centre, for instance. Don’t malls just love to imitate the nature it has destroyed in its path? Don’t you see the trees “planted” inside the mall as you walk from store to store? Who are they kidding? They’re trying to make the mall seem user friendly and natural, when in truth, it would make more sense to have the

tle differences - a CN Tower here, a Statue of Liberty there, and so on. That, in a nutshell, is what my series of paintings is based on - viewpoints of the city. Wherever you go, it will follow you, just like Big Brother. You can consider each painting a security camera taking an image or still-frame of simply what it sees. These images are not pretty. Rather, they all spaek the truth, my truth. Although I believe at some point in our short lives we all feel fragmented in our usual surroundings, the images I’ve made reflect only what I personally witness. Initially they seem negative, but that is far from the truth. They are neutral. No political or social stance is necessary to create the images I have, but only an open mind. The artist must allow the physical act to accomplish itself without limiting or restricting the outcome - the mind knows what to do, and so will the hands in return. In all honesty, the series I have created has been described as “distopian” and “bleak,” but as stated before, these results were not intentioned, as there was no intention, just the lust to keep the brush moving, to continue building, and at the same time, destroying. The paint was scraped and slapped on, sometimes in

As human beings, living in any city leads to us being fragmented. We are surrounded by huge, massive buildings and skyscrapers, and technology seems to engulf everything we touch even the very things we found sacred once before. entire mall cast in steel - that’s how “natural” it really is. Do you ever feel that the city looks the same from wherever you stand? Do you ever notice how it looks the same each and every single day? It’s no different in New York, Chicago, or even Mexico City. It’s all the same idea with little sub-


large, thick amounts, and in other pieces, with almost no paint at all. More than a state of society, the series reflects the state of my physical being, yet my mind remains clear and focused; control lies at the heart of the images I’ve created. Looking back on the series of paintings, I see that there was an evolution from the first attempts to create an image. They began as mirror images of specific places, but then progressed to general images of a city - any city in the entire world. I see them all as the same: skyscrapers, towers, bridges, roads, cars, people - everything. We have become part of the landscape, an element which moves, much like the rest of it. I wanted to make these paintings as simple and broad as I could, a single image - not a single, fleeting moment, but a timeless image we recognise. The idea of a single image occupying a chunk of space, each one separate from each other, yet all the same - just different perspectives. There is no distinction of where it is, but rather, that it does exist somewhere in the world. And really, isn’t that all that matters? Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

Operation Iraqi Liberation >>> nadians. With reluctance, they conclude the war is not really about self-defence against law-breaking meannies with nasty weapons. Indignant, these millions swarm into the streets and are shocked when the PM insinuates they are hockey-hating terrorist-loving cowards. Returning to the real world where Iraq is the target of the day, this article is not about deciding who is wearing the white cowboy hat or the black cowboy hat, though that is also a crucial task. Actors say the trick to playing a bad guy role is that they believe they are the good guy! Bad guys seem to sleep well at night too. Sometimes our best insights into other people come from what we know about ourselves. When we try to analyze the media or the government, all we are looking at are institutions driven by other people. We may yearn for a world that is not ruled by the logic of the boulder – a world where people can choose both relevance and legitimacy. But ask yourself this with me. In our own daily lives, do we ever put on the wrong coloured hat without noticing? Do we ever make a decision and then invent reasons to convince others? Do we ever tolerate little trends we know will hurt others? Do we always remember to stop and question the natural assumption that what we want is the same as what is best for the world? As the whisper that became a gust becomes a roar, can we demand a world that is perfect when we are not? Well, we can demand a world that reflects the best in us. A touch of humility just might bring us one step closer to figuring out and improving the world. As to those who worry the protest movement is too diverse, I say thank goodness – otherwise we would be just another giant boulder. Nick Phillips, 23, is an Economist and has lived in Quebec, B.C., Alberta, New Brunswick, France, and Albania. Comments can be sent to

Fear conquers morality >>> pletely as possible, deliver the story. Public opinion is based on information, and if the most easily accessible sources are focused on reflecting their audience instead of journalism, then public opinion will have a substantial basis. As such people are conditioned and shoved into a mentality of fear, and the morals of a culture that, not so long ago, was considered ethically stable on the most part are compromised. Along with it, are the principles it strives to prolong. We can already see attack on freedom of speech, like radio stations boycotting the Dixie Chicks because Natalie Maines, their lead singer, said in London “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” Along with several critiques and threats of boycotting celebrities with Anti-War views, like Sean Penn, Jeanne Garofolo, Susan Sarandon, Samuel L. Jackson, and others calling them unpatriotic. Of course, these people are in the public’s eye, and have to be careful what they say, but there is already an undertone of those that are against war being considered unpatriotic. There is also an undoubtable racial profiling that has recently surfaced. Selective security measures at airports and borders make sure that those who look like they could be terrorists aren’t. Although understandable, it is not morally sound and is definitely an indication of willingness to abandon fundamental principles in light of fear. The unfortunate reality, however, is that, in times of war, people form their opinions without considering the principles they’ve lived by, and act on them in the same manner. So with the war under way, it is liable to become much worse before it becomes any better. The media, particularly in the United States, induces apprehension and fear. Fear, in turn, brings paranoia, and as in the quote at the beginning of this article, by Hermann Goering, commander of the Luftwaffe of Nazi Germany, it is in paranoia that a people are brought to follow their leaders without questioning, and a free democracy gradually transforms into a notso-free, not-so-democratic rule. We’ve seen it before. To think it can’t happen to us would be painfully naive. Shayan is a second-year Computer Engineering student at the University of Waterloo in the Co-op Program (class of 2006) and am a Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation National Award recipient.

A Comic... by Miriam Tsao

Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003


FIRE IT UP Is all about

keeping it


burning in your hearts being passionate about

We’re pleased to present you with a taste of what playing with fire is all about. This issue, let’s take a look at anti-oppression and historical frameworks in which we can place the world.


We live in a world full of inequalities and injustices. As a youth organizer, not only will you join the struggle to battle these injustices, but you will find yourself trapped within them as they affect the way you relate to others, how your group works, and the way you approach different issues. Remember that your struggles is never isolated from the other injustices of the world - they are all embedded within one another, and ... 36

Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003

fighting for one cause means fighting for the other causes as well. r? t fo

figh o t nt a Colonialism uw o y About 500 years go, Europeans set do at xism out to ‘explore’ the world and (suph W ~ Se posedly) bring the native ‘heathens’ they ‘discovered’ to God. They cism eventually took control of land and ~Ra resources in these areas, wiping out lfare y e indigenous peoples in North and tod s ~W u South America and Australia with in C h t u smallpox and slavery. ~Yo ts ran g i Imm ~ are Ableism and Accessibility C nts r e r e t a s Ableism is discrimination based on a persons’ ng P xism ~ Fo u e s o physical, cognitive or emotional ability. People o le/ Y eter g with disabilities can be marginalized in many H n i / ~S obia ways, for instance, not being able to acces h p o public or private spaces, knowledge, services, om H ~ institutions, etc. and being looked at as sism inferor/incapable or as a ‘burden.’ s a l ~C

BURN BURN,, Baby, BURN Look out for installments of Fire It Up in future issues of FORUM! We’ll be sharing excerpts and helpful hints from YAN’s very own toolkit for youth action and change. Want to learn more? Want to get inside info on project planning, media and communications? Want to keep the fire burnin’ bright?

You want a copy of Fire It Up! Contact us at: Resource Action Centre c/o Youth Action Network 307-176 John Street Toronto ON M5T 1X7 Tel: 416-386-2277/1-800-718-LINK Fax: 416-368-8354 E-mail:

YAN’s Resource Action Centre (RAC) is a practical database for youth to learn how to take action, with guides on fundraising and starting projects. Info on the environment, government, social justice, human rights, international affairs, and many other issues is also available. RAC can be accessed by phone, fax, email or mail.

Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003


youth action network Ever wondered how you could make a difference? Had a plan to improve your community or country? Volunteering or activism is for you if you want to: o o o o o o o

meet new people have fun gain useful skills Y A get an advantage in the job market realize a goal inspire more dreams help others


Action Jeunesse

YOUTH ACTION NETWORK can help you realize the dream.

Do something. YOUTH ACTION NETWORK (YAN) was established by a group of enthusiastic young people in 1989. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to motivating and empowering youth to take action on social justice and environmental issues. As a fully independent youth-run organization, YAN is committed esourcethat ction entre play an integral role in their communities. to ensuring young people



Youth Action Connec-

YAN acts as a catalyst by stimulating youth to become socially aware. To this end, the organization operates four projects: Youth Action FORUM, Youth Week, the Resource Action Centre and Youth Action Connection.

your next move

YOUTH ACTION NETWORK 176 John Street, Suite 307 Toronto, ON M5T 1X5

Phone: 416.368.2277 Fax: 416.368.8354 Email:

could change the world


Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 35 2003


Freedom of the press 5

Canada The highest ranking nonEuropean country.


Human rights and the media



ITALY The lowest placement of 15 European Union nations.


United States The low ranking is mainly because of the number of journalists imprisoned there -- mostly for not revealing sources.


BENIN United Kingdom Uruguay

Although classifed by the UN as one of the poorest 15 countries in the world, Benin ranksalongside the United Kingdom.


Israel Many violations of press freedom have been documented in Gaza and the West Bank.




Colombia Although the government is democratically elected, it fails to protect journalists from armed rebels and militias.



IRAQ The media is controlled by the state and used to relay propaganda.



COSTA RICA Switzerland

Costa Rica is the highest ranking Latin nation, even placing higher than the US.



The lowest of all the countries included in the index.


ERITREA In September 2001, all privately-owned press was banned.

For the full rankings, contact Reporters Without Borders or visit Source: Reporters Without Borders -- Worldwide Press Freedom Index. The index measures the amount of freedom journalists and the media have and the efforts made by governments to see that freedom of the press is respected. The index is based on the situation between September 2001 and October 2002 and only takes into account human rights violations that affect freedom of the press. It is not an evaluation of the quality of a country’s media.

Youth Action FORUM . SUMMER 2003


What is FORUM ?

Youth Action Forum is a free magazine published by YOUTH ACTION NETWORK (YAN). YAN is a national, charitable organization helping young people take action on social and environmental issues. It is operated entirely by youth and coordinates three core projects: Forum, the Resource Action Centre, and Youth Week.

C’est quoi FORUM ?

Forum Action Jeunesse est une revue gratuite publiée par LE RESEAU D’ACTION JEUNESSE (YAN). YAN est un organisme charitable dédié à aider les jeunes à s’impliquer activement au niveau social et environnemental. Il est dirigé entièrement par des jeunes et il coordonne trois projets : Forum, le Centre d’action et de ressources, et la Semaine de la jeunesse.

Each issue of Forum has two sections: The Special Section presents information and youth perspectives on a particular topic. The Context section comes from you, our readers --your ideas, opinions, and experiences with youth activities.

Chaque numéro de Forum contient deux sections : La section Reportage présente de l’information et des perspectives de jeunes sur un sujet. La section Forum vient de vous, nos lecteurs – vos idées, vos opinions, et vos expériences lors des activités de jeunes.

Youth!: Call 416-368-2277 or email for a free subscription and show this magazine to your friends. Send us your articles, artwork, photography, poetry and letters.

Les jeunes!: Composez le 416-368-2277 ou nous contactez par courrier pour obtenir une souscription gratuite, et montrez cette revue à vos amis. Envoyez-nous vos articles, vos œuvres d’art, votre photographie, votre poésie, et vos lettres.

If you are a teacher: Forum is the best resource for connecting your students to youth across Canada. Forum also provides a national showcase for your students’ ideas and projects. Why not arrange a subscription for your library and bring forum to the attention of student leaders?

Si vous êtes professeur : Forum est la meillure ressource pour établir une communication entre vos étudiants et les jeunes à travers le Canada, et Forum fournit une tribune nationale afin d’exposer les idées et les projets de vos étudiants. Pourquoi ne pas ammener Forum a l’attention de vos chef-étudiants?

If you are a librarian: Add Forum to your periodical collection or leave several copies displayed on an information table to make Forum accessible to your community’s youth.

Si vous êtes bibliothécaire : Ajoutez Forum à votre collection de périodiques, ou laissez plusieurs copies mises à l’étalage sur une table d’information afin que Forum soit accesible aux jeunes de votre communauté.

If you are an organization: Reach the most active, socially-minded young people across Canada by publicizing your organization, event, or service in Forum. Call us for more information.

176 John Street, Suite 307 Toronto, ON Canada M5T 1X5

Si vous êtes un organisme : Informez les jeunes les plus actifs et soucieux des problèmes sociaux à travers le Canada du nom de votre organisme, de vos événements, et de vos services en les publiant dans Forum. Contactez-nous pour plus d’information.

The Media  

Youth's take on the media and freedom of the press

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