A painting of me

Informed Discussion on the Tamil Protests

   28 April 2009, late morning

The Internet gives a lot of people a venue to spout off about stuff they can no longer say in public without getting disapproving looks from those around them. Canada’s old media hasn’t figured out how the Internet works, and so the comments on their news posts are almost always a cesspool of racism, bigotry, and ignorance. Today I thought i’d look at comments in the Toronto Star’s article on the Tamil Protests.

These protesters, whose allegiance is stronger with India than with Canada, who wish to make a real difference, should return back to their native homeland and lobby their own Indian government about this. — Jiga Nina at 9:21 AM Tuesday, April 28 2009

I think Jiga Nina needs a better fact checker. Or he should open up an atlas.

Tamils are a terrorist organization as per the Canadian government. — The_Rocket at 9:19 AM

Damn, I had no idea. Someone needs to write to immigration minister and figure out what went wrong here.

Use mounted police, water cannon, tear gas, pepper spray, whatever. Those not yet Canadian citizens should be deported as soon as possible for reason of supporting a terrorist organization. Those who are already citizens should be tried for supporting a terrorist organization. If found guilty, revoke their citizenships and kick them the Hell out of this country. Clean this trash off our streets please. — Galoca at 9:09 AM

Because you know those old Tamil ladies aren’t going to go down without a fight. (Also, i’d hate to be the person who has to sit Galoca down and explain that some of the protesters were born here, and you’d have to kick them out to… Winnipeg?)

Did I hear CBC Toronto news correctly this morning? 200,000 Tamils have shut down University Ave for a second day to protest events in Sri Lanka. — veeh at 8:12 AM

200,000? No, you heard incorrectly.

Why won’t the police round up these people. check their immigration papers and then deport the illegal ones (90% of them)! — eighty-eight-fingers at 8:07 AM

90 percent? Damn that’s a lot. I can see why this fellow is up in arms. I’m guessing he gets his numbers from “Immigration Watch”: /blog/immigration-watch-saying-nothing-247.

I’m just ashamed our government, that was elected by 12 million Ontario voters to represent all of us…is again doing nothing “see Caledonia”, because they’re afraid to speak out against non whites. Tell you who the minority really are doesn’t it? — JackR at 7:45 AM

Won’t someone think of the White people? If only they had it as good as those Natives in Caledonia.

I understand that everyone has a right to protest, but this is getting ridiculous. Obviously no one cares about what’s going, which is good, because why should we? We don’t live there. — Evert at 7:53 AM

And this is really why protesting in Canada is a waste of time. I’m pretty sure this is a very common sentiment nowadays. Lucky for Europe and many other parts of the world, there was a time when Canadian’s gave a fuck about what was happening in the world around them.

My thoughts on the protests, for those who missed them.



  1. Ugh. For fuckin shame. Just when your faith in humanity is restored by something then you stumble upon an internet comments section.

    Don’t people ever get curious about issues they don’t understand, and want to learn about them? Do they always just spout off whatever knee-jerk reaction comes to them?

    That said, I don’t think this means protests are a waste of time. It’s the turnout that is key, if it generates media attention, and at least signifies that an issue is important – or shows that there is dissent about an issue that otherwise would get press-release treatment. You never know who might see an article about the protest and think, something’s going on in Sri Lanka, I should learn about that. You can’t win over every ratfuck ignorant comment troll, nor should you want to I guess.

  2. Yeah, sometimes I can’t help myself and read through them. It’s always a little bit soul destroying.

    I suppose the protests are helpful on some level, in that they have been getting a lot of press coverage. It seems disappointing that the only way to get in the news is to have a large protest that blocks traffic. I’ve been to large protests in Dundas Square, and they never make the news.

  3. All I can do is try and convince myself that this is just the vocal ignorant section of the population. Even if they represent the majority, I just have to believe that somewhere out there are people who are learning about the conflict and thinking that it’s just not right that people are suffering this way. Maybe they’re helping in small ways or maybe not, but at least they’re not spewing venom wherever possible.

    I read your post yesterday, did a quick twitter search, came across this tweet: http://bit.ly/FdgRU. I actually got very angry at the tone, language and complete ignorance. Then I just had to let it go. Reading stuff like that just makes me feel awful.

  4. From the same dude: “my favorite toy is my new girlfriend. She just turned 18.” Stay classy, Mike Dancy. You would figure someone in sales would be more tepid on their twitter page.

  5. oh boy. But aren’t you glad that you now know how people really feel? Sometimes I think we fool ourselves with the political correctness thinking that the human race is progressing forward.

    Anonymous comments at least allow you to gauge how backwards some sectors of our society are. And that’s only a measure of those who know how to use the internet.

  6. I’d been lying in bed for the past hour or so, hearing the protestors over on University Ave.. To be honest, I’m not sure what they think they’re accomplishing. A few weeks ago, when they were lining downtown streets, I respected their ability to get my attention without being disruptive (I didn’t encounter any traffic problems, though I might’ve just missed them?). But I’m not sure what drumming and chanting (yes, I understand what a “protest” is) at 3am is really going to accomplish.

    it may not be ideal, but I think the fact is that if you want to spread a message — regardless of its sincerity or importance — you need to do it in such a way that people will listen. It seems to me that annoying (deliberately or not) your target audience is a bad start.

    I wonder if it’s maybe that the situation is so dire that the only goal left is to make people aware of those who are and have died, with no hope anymore of trying to bring about change or prevent future deaths.

  7. I think most Torontians must be aware there is a war in Sri Lanka taking place right now. So I suspect your last point is probably closest to what’s actually going on here. At this point, even if the US deployed troops in the region — which is never ever going to happen — they would be too late to amount any real change. Still, I suspect the protesters do think they can still bring about change. If you didn’t believe that, I think it’d be hard to keep showing up.

    I imagine there is a lot of guilt within the Tamil community — especially if you still have lots of relatives still living in Sri Lanka. If you are here, what can you do? (For that matter, if you were there, what could you do?) The contrast between peoples situations here and there is probably hard for some people to come to terms with.

  8. the chanting went on until at least 5am (the drumming stopped sometime between 3 and 5), and was still going at 8-something when it woke me up again, so I imagine they were out there all night.

    this morning I thought about it again and I have no idea exactly who they’re trying to reach anymore. It’s not as if anyone at the US Consulate was paying attention all night, and the general public wasn’t around either. If they’re really only out there in the hope that someone will remember the dead, why would it be a few blocks of area residents?

    If you are here, what can you do?

    it seems to me that even if change is impossible, and deaths are inevitable, one shouldn’t specifically generate ill will towards one’s own cause. So I think that they’re out there is something irrational born out of pure despair.

  9. I was thinking about this too, and I’m probably (almost certainly) over-intellectualizing it. In my mind, the majority of people are never going to take action for this cause one way or the other, this is especially true of all the people tweeting or posting comments that are just hateful or venomous. If one acknowledges that, then alienating the people of Toronto isn’t necessarily a huge deal, because you’re “losing the support” of people who weren’t really going to support you in the first place. Instead, maybe you want to reach people who could potentially do something, if you can catch the eyes/voice of one vocal MP, then maybe you could potentially affect Canadian policy.

    Now Weiguo, I don’t mean to imply you’re in one group or the other, but I think maybe they’re trying to fry bigger fish than the average Torontonian. Public support a) doesn’t seem likely and b) probably wouldn’t do too much anyways. So maybe they’re just trying to be disruptive enough (within reason) to get the powers-that-be to notice.

    That’s just my take on it, and maybe I’m just painting it that way so I don’t think my own people (however removed I am from the culture) are just jerks.

  10. no, I don’t think they’re jerks either, which was what my “irrational/despair” line was supposed to mean (I realize it isn’t very clear; I’m pretty fuzzy today). I think they’re out there because they’re not sure what else to do, that there’s nothing else TO do, so they’re doing something futile and self-harming (not malicious).

    as for your point about support, I think support isn’t something that’s either positive or zero. That is, I think they can annoy “people who weren’t really going to support [them] in the first place” into actively being against the cause. Yes, it’s stupid for a little traffic to cause someone to NOT be against killing civilians, but I think that’s what has actually been happening (see some of the comments that Ram has been highlighting). I think it’s entirely possible to create more OPPOSITION to the cause than support via your hypothetical vocal MP.

    and it isn’t that they’re protesting in my neighbourhood vs someone else’s. It’s that I don’t think that protesting ANYWHERE in the middle of the night is going to do much to reach any vocal MPs. Again, the same energy could very much be used to reach a wider audience, and with a greater net positive effect, if it were expended in another fashion.

  11. Bill Blair comments on the protest. They have reopened University.

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