Climate journalism is urgent. Help US raise $125,000 by December's end.
Farmers aren’t usually caught off guard when it comes time to harvest the crops they’ve dutifully planted and fertilized. But some of the prominent conservative pundits who have spent years farming rage against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seem genuinely surprised by the latest ugly outburst against him in Belleville, Ont., last week, one that included antisemitic slurs and accusations of pedophilia and treason. Who knew that reaping what you’ve sown could be so much trouble?
In a column for the Toronto Sun, Brian Lilley correctly noted the obsession with pedophilia and politicians not named Trump has begun to pour across the border. “It’s not true, it doesn’t make any sense, there is no proof, but this conspiracy theory that started in the United States has made it’s [sic] way into Canada,” Lilley wrote. “Calling for Trudeau to be arrested on false claims that he’s a pedophile makes the person yelling those claims look bad, not Trudeau.”
This did not go over well with Lilley’s readers, who have understandably grown accustomed to being told the prime minister is the root cause or prime mover of all their fears and failings. “One woman wants to find out where I live, one dude wants to fight me, I’m a WEF puppet to others,” Lilley tweeted over the weekend. “These people are nuts!”
Indeed, Brian, they are. Lilley deserves at least partial credit for calling out these MAGA-inspired protesters and the flavour of politics they want to bring to Canada, even if he’s only doing it because he can see the damage they’re doing to his cause. “Trudeau was run out of Belleville on Thursday,” he wrote, “but if there are many more demonstrations like that, with crazy and anti-Semitic claims, he’ll soon be returned to office for another term.”
Not everyone has given up on their crops here, though. On Sunday, conservative columnist and former Stephen Harper speechwriter Michael Taube stepped up to suggest that the vile antisemitic remark aimed at Trudeau had actually been misheard. “There's a debate going on about this repulsive clip,” he tweeted. “Did the protester say ‘pathetic puke’ or ‘pathetic Jew?’ FWIW, I've just listened to it a few times. Increased and decreased the volume for effect. While it's not easy to discern, I believe the protester said ‘pathetic puke.’”
That one of the key organizers of the anti-Trudeau rally is a noted antisemite, as Press Progress’s Luke LeBrun pointed out, doesn’t seem to have occurred to Taube. But he’s hardly alone in trying to spin last Thursday’s ugliness as something other than a dangerous outburst of hatred and paranoia. Catherine Swift, the former board chair, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, suggested the whole scene was a charade — and that the prime minister’s office and RCMP detail were in on it. “If it were a real security risk you’d have his security folks whisk him away,” she tweeted. “Kinda makes you think it’s a set-up, eh?”
Postmedia columnist Terry Glavin apparently shares this view. “What ended up happening in Belleville wasn’t scripted, but it didn’t happen by accident either, and Trudeau’s people got what they came for,” he wrote. “Video of a smiling, affable prime minister with ordinary Canadians who like him a lot. Fabulous bonus prize: shouting, menacing yobs who don’t like him at all.”
The real problem, Glavin says, isn’t the said “yobs” but apparently Liberal partisans who were dumb enough to believe what they’d seen with their own eyes. “No matter the evidence against Dear Leader, they’ll dig themselves ever deeper, because they’re afraid. They’ll lash out wildly rather than consider the terrifying possibility that they’re being taken for fools by the handsome messiah they’ve gone to such lengths to so loudly and publicly defend.”
But Canadians, regardless of their pre-existing partisan affiliations, have every right to be afraid of what they saw and heard in Belleville. It’s a reminder that the ongoing spread of Trumpism in the United States and its degradation of that country’s political discourse will be felt here in Canada. The threat of Trump getting re-elected in 2024 is real, but Canada’s conspicuously tolerant and liberal values are already seen a target by far-right provocateurs and politicians. We are, whether we like it or not, a part of their culture war now.
Conservative rage farming can have consequences, as we saw last week in Belleville. The real question now is whether politicians and pundits will stop doing it before something even worse happens, writes columnist @maxfawcett. #cdnpoli
We would do well to start preparing for this unpleasant reality rather than trying to dismiss or deflect it. When the public inquiry into foreign interference is finally announced, it should — as I’ve been saying all along — focus just as intently on the unwelcome involvement of American agitators and activists. It should track the flow of money and political organizing across the border, and identify any linkages between U.S. and Canadian political campaigns. As we saw last week in Belleville, the question of America’s influence on our politics and democratic choices is an increasingly urgent one.