Dissecting the Media Spin on the Montreal Protests for "Free" College Tuition
The CBC recently ran a story entitled How a Student Uprising Is Reshaping Quebec by Jennifer Clibbon consisting of interviews with two prominent francophone journalists and a political scientist, which is available at:
The interviewees have ascribed to the student protesters near-hero like status. While the student protesters are portrayed as being incapable of doing wrong, the government of Quebec is portrayed as being incapable of doing anything right.
I plan to first dissect this apologia for the student protesters in order to show how completely ridiculous this entire CBC article really is. After demolishing some of the fallacious arguments made by the three interviewees, I will argue that these student protesters are actually conformists calling out to the government of Quebec to enslave them further. If these students think they are fighting for "freedom" and "rights," then they are sorely mistaken.
The article paints the students as being ultra-modern, cutting-edge, world- and media-savvy, and on the cutting edge of technology, which differentiate them from their old and outdated elected leaders. One interviewee goes so far as to assert that the students are "better placed than their elders to imagine what kind of education system our society needs to face the challenges of the future." To further this point, the article stresses how the youth see no future because of the dominance of the older generations who will consume most of the tax revenues in the form of health care costs and pensions. In other words: the students are the future while the elected leaders are the out-of-touch past.
One of the most glaring problems with this past-future or conservative government versus progressive students dichotomy is that the student protesters have not offered one innovative, cutting-edge, or modern solution to the education problem in Canada. If they were really revolutionaries "fighting the Establishment," they would be offering us solutions such as privatizing education in order to re-establish competition and choice in the education system or they would be demanding that the leviathan bureaucracies and teachers' unions be smashed. With such private solutions, the student protesters could instead peacefully negotiate the price of their education with various and competing service providers. But no! Our revolutionaries, far from being original thinkers daring enough to challenge the status quo, seem to be simply recycling the old worn out ideas of the Syndicalists. The CBC article mentions that the student protesters use strikes, boycotts, and picket lines and that there has been "violent actions on campus against those who actively oppose the strike." How is this any different from the definition of the Syndicalist approach advocated by George Sorel who wanted to launch, under the name action directe, tactics such as riots, strikes, general strikes, and sabotage? How this can be called an "accelerated education in political culture" is beyond me. If education is any sign of civilized behavior then what we are witnessing is certainly the behavior of the uneducated.
The media certainly enjoys portraying the student protests as a spontaneous uprising of these young individuals. I have heard it used before by other Quebec media sources and, unsurprisingly, this CBC article also mentions "the spontaneous demonstrations." What is rather humorous--one might say ironic--about this is that the term spontaneous ordering is one of the most famous terms in economics of F. A. Hayek. But why on earth would a Hayekian term be used to describe what these student protesters are doing? The sweet irony here is that our anti-neo-liberal protesters--and if you ever watch CUTV they just love to mention "neo-liberal" interminably--are using a term that is neo-liberal!!! Don't our "accessible" education freedom fighters know that Hayekian economics--the evil neo-liberal economics that they hate so passionately--is all about the study of the spontaneous--of what the student protesters allegedly do!
The CBC article also tries to portray the student protesters as receiving a "crash course in rights and freedoms." Unfortunately for these student protesters, even rampant grade inflation is not going to save them from failing this course. What "rights" have these students learned about from these never-ending nightly protests? Their "right" to use the coercive taxing power of the state in order to provide them with a "free" education paid for by the extortion of the vast majority of other people who clearly oppose this plan? Their "right" to shape the national identity, whatever that is supposed to be? I suppose that is their supposedly collective "right" to deny the individual his or her right to shape his or her life however he or she sees fit. Their "right" to "build a different world" without first getting the explicit consent of all the other people affected by the imposition of their grandiose plan? Their "right" to set up picket lines and infringe upon the egress rights of their fellow students? Their "right" to unilaterally impede upon the use of private property and to deny the owners the ability to earn legitimate incomes from the use of their own property? Their "right" to spout off the fallacious economic theories that they learned into their introductory political science course, which then somehow entitles them to demand that taxpayers pay for more of this "education"? Their "right" to the "new world" of social democracy? What rights have they learned? Nothing!!! Not one. The most basic characteristic of a society is the right to freely exchange. Nowhere in this article do these students call for free exchange. Instead, they place demands upon people to give them what they want at the end of the government's gun and then have the temerity to claim that they are "not slackers."
Now, if they remain ignorant of rights, are they at least conversant in the idea of freedom? Do they know what freedom is? To understand freedom, one must begin with the insight that aggression is unjust. When the state beats, shoots rubber bullets at, harasses, and intimidates the peaceful protesters, is this not an act of aggression against the bodies of these peaceful protesters? Yes, it is! But what then do these student protesters want? They want free tuition! But who will pay for this education? Certainly not the students, they want the government to pay for it all. But where will the government in Quebec City get this money from? Will Ben "Helicopter" Bernanke make a special trip with his helicopter to Quebec City in order to rain money down on Jean Charest in order to solve his budgetary problems? Certainly not! The government in Quebec City will go to the taxpayers of Quebec and force them to pay for something they do not want. Even the CBC article says that they do not want to pay for this. "Against the students and their allies," we are told, "there is a significant part of Quebec society that doesn't support the protests (and the accompanying violence) and approves of the increase in tuition." So, it is wrong for the government to use aggression against the allegedly peaceful protesters, but it is acceptable for the students to use the aggression of the state's power to tax people against their will in order to enrich themselves. Maybe the problem is that the word "hypocrisy" has been confused with the word "freedom"?
The reason for all of this confusion is that the CBC article assumes throughout that education is actually the "real" issue being debated here. The debate has been framed in terms of "access to education" with comments claiming that "higher education [is] a vehicle for economic and social 'emancipation.'" The simplest way to reply to this is to point out that education is a phantom--it does not exist in our public system. In her important contribution to the history of education, Charlotte Iserbyt saw this problem right on page one of her massive study concerning the Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. She writes: "the philosophies of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Wilhelm Wundt, and John Dewey et al., reflect a total departure from the traditional definition of education." Traditional education is as dead as a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Moreover, in his 1931 Page-Barbour Lectures at the University of Virginia, Albert Jay Nock was already lamenting the fact that education had already gone the way of the dodo and had already been replaced by the "imposter system," i.e., training. So whatever these students are demanding of the taxpayers of Quebec, it is certainly not education because education does not exist today. What does exist is the government's monopoly on training.
So what then do these students want? What these students want is to be enslaved. To make such a claim is certainly shocking and rightly so. They have failed to learn from one of the greatest political philosophers of all time, Étienne de la Boétie who wrote of the mindset of these Quebec students in his famous work The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude. La Boétie warned the French of his day of the dangers of tyranny when he observed that people are trained to adore rulers. It is fairly easy to see this parrot-like training of students in introductory business courses. The economy is in a depression, what should we do? The government should intervene and spend! Too many marketers are unscrupulous, what should we do? The government should intervene and push some sort of "social responsibility" agenda! Prices are rising too quickly, what should we do? The government through its central bank should intervene and slow down the rate of new money supply creation! The government has all the answers. The right answer to every question is the government knows best. To put this in terms that a teenager will certainly get: the public "education" system is indistinguishable from the system imposed by the Movementarian leadership on Edna Krabappel's classroom. Do you really want to be in a system in which Bart Simpson gets every answer right because the answer to every question is "the Leader" did it?
In conclusion, training has nothing to do with "education"; training has everything to do with maintaining the status quo, i.e., of locking in one ruling group. To call for more public "education," i.e., to call for more training is, in essence, to call for more rulers, more conformity to the parrot-like memorize and regurgitate system, and more tyranny over the minds of men. This is not a system that encourages the development of an original mind; this is a system that produces trained automatons. If these students really want a lesson in rights and freedoms they should ponder this question: why do you want to uphold a monopoly system--a monopoly over your mind--when monopoly is the very antithesis of the freedom you supposedly are seeking?
NEIL M. TOKAR
June 5, 2012