When CanoeKayak Canada uses Propaganda, Structural Advantage and Manufactured Compliance to its Benefit
What is “propaganda”? Why is it significant to a study of social movements?
Propaganda is generated often by Public Relations (PR) firms, government and corporations. It serves to spread information that is often biased and one sided. Today the word “propaganda” has been replaced with “spin”. In the book a Century of Spin by David Miller and William Dinan they write that “Edward Bernays, one of the founders of ‘public relations’ put it” ‘propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans… using it [in 1914-1918]. So what I did was to try to find some other words.”. Miller and Dinan “think that propaganda is a better term than spin or public relations because it also implies the unity of communication and action.
I have personally experienced propaganda when I was preparing a group of First Nations youth to attend the 2014 North American Indigenous Games Canoe Championships. At the time, like many others we had a blog and social media account documenting our processes and attempts to qualify for the games. What started off naively turned into a reality of “spin” we were not prepared for. The governing institute for the Olympic sport of Canoe and Kayak in Canada is CanoeKayak Canada. According to affidavits from my Human Rights Tribunal hearing, the institute Domestic Director of CanoeKayak Canada would send an email to its partner organizations CanoeKayak BC which is the provincial extension of its organization. In addition, they would also include The Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council (ISPARC) and the President of the North American Indigenous Games in their emails.
In that email dated December 2, 2013, the Domestic Director writes “Hi Guys, We should further discuss what we are doing collectively to address Mr. Anson’s messaging. I think a joint response is worth discussing. Let me know your thoughts”. On July 15, 2014 that “joint response” would come in the form of a press release professionally written by a well known Canadian author in sport. “Aboriginal Paddling Initiative Supports a Proud Tradition”. The article writes about each province and a span of more than a decade to claim how successful they are. The article is full of inaccuracies in terms of facts, ideological at best with no supporting evidence and one sided as it didn’t address any of my concerns. What it was, was an attempt to rewrite history.
What is “structural advantage”? Why is it significant? [See especially page 6 of the Miller and Dinan textbook.]
When you consider the Institutions ability to have professional writers and television segments to promote their ideology unquestioned. It speaks to Miller and Dinan when they write that structural advantage is “one cannot fail to notice that big business, the transnational corporations, have a structural advantage in terms of political activism under the conditions of liberal democracy. They have the resources, interest and opportunities to engage in politics and governance.
In a video of the 2013 Canada Summer Games television news segment about “mainstream” war canoe racing, CanoeKayak Canada, Domestic Director says “When you talk about history, you got to think of fur traders, getting the furs to Montreal first, you get the good prices. This is a long legacy in country, there isn't a more Canadian boat than this boat”. He is referring to the mainstream “war canoe”. The institution often ties their history of “war canoe” racing with the fur traders of Canada.
An example of structural advantage by the institution CanoeKayak Canada can see in their press release. When Sheila Robertson wrote "Aboriginal Paddling Initiative Supports a Proud Tradition' for the institution of CanoeKayak Canada. She writes “Canoe “contests’ involving Aboriginal People and fur traders represent the earliest beginnings of canoe racing. The modern sport evolved in waterfront communities in close proximity to native settlements, in particular the areas around Peterborough, Ont., Montreal, Halifax, and Victoria.”.
Robertson doesn’t reference how she came across “Aboriginal People and fur traders” raced canoes against each other. However, it may have come in the form of spin from Colin D. Howell, author of Blood, Sweat and Cheers: Canoes, Boats and Aquatic Sports (page 21) where he writes “The nation's harbours, lakes, rivers, and beaches provided a venue for all manner of sporting and recreational activities. Boating, sailing, paddling, rowing, swimming, skating, and curling all had preindustrial origins. While originally undertaken as individual and spontaneous reactions, these activities eventually became more organized and competitive. Even without documentary evidence, one can readily imagine Native people racing each other in canoes or on snowshoes, and races between fur traders as they pushed into the hinterland.”
I do not believe Fur Traders and First Nations people were racing canoes against each other during the fur trade era. When you consider there is no evidence to suggest that and yet the Institutions still keep propagating that ideology, it becomes more folklore than historical. As Howell already states “even without evidence” and Robertson evolves the ideology into fact by saying “Aboriginal People and fur traders” raced canoes against each other. Neglecting the fact there is no evidence and that is “spin” and even if they did race and there was evidence, the Institution of CanoeKayak Canada which represented the ruling “class” of the times (1900) direct lineage is of the Royal Navy, not of Canadian heritage between the Metis people and First Nations of the day.
What does it mean to “manufacture compliance”? Is consent a necessary feature of compliance? Why or why not?
To manufacture compliance is to engineer consent. For example, in my personal experience, the Institution of CanoeKayak Canada and its partners decided to jointly respond to my public criticisms of how we were being treated at the time. We can see in the email between the Institutions on how they planned to jointly respond to my public comments. The press release “Aboriginal Paddling Initiative Supports a Proud Tradition” does capture their intent to undermine my own morale. It does this by rewriting history to not include my group in their success. It was as if we never existed in the first place. Miller and Dinan write that the key to manufacturing compliance “is to ensure public and political compliance. It is not that the public or decision makers actively agree and support the policy ideas promulgated by business lobbies and corporations. What is critical is that they do not actively and aggressively oppose them.”
Prior to the above emails/press releases from the Institutions, I sat on the Aboriginal BC Provincial Canoe Committee (2012-2013) which was tasked with the development of the system leading up to the 2014 North American Indigenous Games. I would witness the non-indigenous institute of CanoeKayak BC make decisions and set “the rules” in regards to the Canoe Championships leading up to the games. The indigenous institute of iSparc would never oppose any of these ideas or suggestions. That can be seen, in a set of emails from my affidavits, in my Human Rights Tribunal Hearing against these two institutions.
Essentially white people are making the rules for indigenous people to participate and qualify for the North American Indigenous Games. These are actually white competitions in sport and not actually indigenous sports. The process leading up to the games was verbatimly a copy of the whitestream of sport. There were no adaptations or cultural protocols such as one would believe would be associated with such an event. On June 12, 2013 I attended a board meeting for the canoe committee and voiced my concerns about the Institution of CanoeKayak BC. It essentially amounted to CanoeKayak BC “setting up so many conditions for the rest of BC as to make it impossible to qualify”. In addition, leading up to the games, the Institutions wanted to call it the Team BC “Training Squad”, which is what they call the whitestream participants. When I suggested, in an email, to the board “I found the approach at that meeting insensitive when the question was never asked to the First Nations on the committee, what the team would like to be called”. I would support my email with a Ditidaht First Nation elder and Canadian Indian Residential School Survivor, Charlie Thompson’s comments:
“Oh man! I think it is better to pick something that catches the interest of the youth. Let it be their Vision/Dream. I really believe in “Owning” whatever we decide we are going to do. Asking people what, where, when & why we want to do this. A prime example is the whole issue of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. The process from day one did NOT belong to us Survivors, because the ‘powers that be’ did NOT ask all of us which would not have been difficult. We were not in a hurry to get to a point of settlement, so, time for us would have been key because we all would have had input. So, bottom line for me, ask the youth ”.
When I followed up to the email, the Director of Sport for iSparc would write the board “The label of ‘training squad” and concerns with it were raised and our last call and it was agreed we would need to think more about this label.”
We now know via the affidavits from the Human Rights Tribunal that the Director of Sport for iSparc would email the Executive Director of CanoeKayak BC and dismiss my concerns. Instead telling them they had their full support and did not agree with me, to which the CanoeKayak BC responded “who’s Charlie Thompson anyways?” and iSparc dismisses the elder as “another one of Jason’s supporters”. I would be quietly removed from the board with no notice and never invited to meetings again as a result of criticizing the institutions. To this day, the team is still called the “Training Squad”.
Do you think corporate PR is compatible with functioning democratic societies? Why or why not? [Be sure to read Chapter 11 in the unit textbook.]
In the Miller and Dinnan Book - A Century of Spin, it reads - “We have also tried to show that communication itself can be coercive, as in the case of deception, misinformation and strategic use of information - techniques all well developed by the PR Industry.”..
An example can be seen when Robertson wrote "Aboriginal Paddling Initiative Supports a Proud Tradition' for the institution of CanoeKayak Canada. The press release sub title reads “With the North American Indigenous Games taking place July 20 – 27 in Regina, CanoeKayak Canada is pleased to present this article written by Sheila Robertson about the Aboriginal Paddling Initiative”. In that article, Robertson writes “Alberta CanoeKayak sent program coordinator Alan Ross to northern Alberta to promote the sport and the 2013 Alberta Indigenous Games, which featured canoekayak as a core sport. His visit took him to many aboriginal communities, including Cold Lake, Slave Lake, High Prairie, Grouard, Joussard, Sucker Creek, Swan River First Nation, Drift Pile First Nation, Wabasca, and Big Stone Cree Nation. He connected with several hundred aboriginals and fostered a strong interest in canoekayak.” By all accounts, one would think that the Institution with all its Provincial partners were a success when it comes to their Indigenous paddling initiative. Yet, the reality is Ross, the province of Alberta or Team Alberta would not even send a team of paddlers to the championships. Not one indigenous person from the province of Alberta raced in the 2014 NAIG Canoe Championships, which can be confirmed by the 2014 NAIG results despites Ross’ many attempts of “success”.
Miller and Dinnan further state: “Coercion is much more debilitating than persuasion or even influence. Persuasion is a simple attempt to steer someone’s thinking by using logic. Influence is the act of applying readily discernible pressure; I want you to do this; I have power over you, so do it. Coercion seeks to stymie our rational processes in order to make us act against - or, at the very least, without - our better judgement. Once immersed in a coercive system, we act without conscious control.
Essentially in the early days, all I was saying was the Institution CanoeKayak Canada didn't even have a Aboriginal Paddling Initiative that was seen on the ground- at the grassroots level. In fact, their ideology of an Aboriginal Paddling Initiative was more of a cultural tour on the mainstreams part. Ie. Where white people visit First Nation communities and tell their friends ” look how cultural I am.” The white people have never embraced the First Nations (rez) into their competitive mainstream of canoe/kayak. I felt it was patronizing and of little consequence in facilitating a competitive sport amongst aboriginal youth.
Miller and Dinnan also state, “On the contrary, democracy brings more threats to the powerful and thus they invest more in techniques for managing it.” ‘Leys writes that it not necessary for an ideology to be ‘loved’ to be hegemonic. It is ‘merely necessary that it have no serious rival’. This seems to us correct. But we would go further, asserting that it is not necessary for the ideology even to be respected for it to be able ‘rule’. What we have attempted to show throughout this book is that power can be organized in a formally democratic system which can bypass popular opinion. Leadership in this context refers not to leadership of the popular classes but leadership of the elite. Hegemony in other words may simply refer to the possibilities of ruling class unity.
The reality is the Indigenous athletes in Canada out number the mainstream athletes who race canoes and kayaks. The ruling class demographically would be outnumbered if there was a true inclusive approach. The whites, essentially cannot lose their grip on the power of putting their interests first, over those of the indigenous stream.