Monologues about the federal carbon tax abound on Canadian social media, but few are quite like Saskatchewan's Karl Hren's. Posted to TikTok on Monday, the clip shows the self-described "uneducated, white, blue-collar, oilpatch-working truck driver" clad in coveralls and nestled in the cab of his Kenworth truck ranting about the carbon tax.

But while the setting and tone echo the social media accounts of right-wing influencers and conspiracy theorists who want to kill the carbon tax, it doesn't take long before Hren reveals himself as a disinformation crusader and comedian.

In the 83-second video viewed about 44,600 times as of Wednesday, Hren takes some of the most common conservative arguments about the carbon tax — that it is unaffordable and impacts individuals most strongly — and parses through dense legalese and his own gas bills to show how they are inaccurate.

He points out the tax only adds a small amount to his yearly gas costs, which is largely offset by the rebate most Canadians receive through the program. In 2021, the tax gave all Canadians who paid the national levy an average rebate of $804 — about $250 more than they paid.

That's a problem, he jokes, "because everything I hate, (policymakers) have thought about."

Hren's carbon tax rant is a "brilliant example of how social media platforms can be leveraged to effectively counter mis- and disinformation about the carbon tax," wrote Tanner Mirrlees, a professor of communication and digital media studies at Ontario Tech University, in an email to Canada's National Observer. The video "is an effective means to counter those who misrepresent the carbon tax as harmful and to inform those who may have been misled."

The clip is the latest in Hren's side gig fighting against the "rampant prevalence of ignorance," particularly on what he calls "blue-collar" social media. It is an environment where facts are routinely superseded by claims that hold a powerful emotional appeal, eroding people's ability to assess the actual impact of policies, including the carbon tax, he said in an interview with Canada's National Observer.

Part of the problem lies in the name "carbon tax," he said. For many people, and particularly his "demographic," the term "tax" hits a nerve.

"We have this emotional response of: 'I don't want to be taxed. I'm busting my ass, I'm struggling to feed my family, I'm struggling to pay rent. I don't want more taxes,'" he said. "That's an extremely emotional response, and when you're in that state, you stop hearing the logic and reasoning — no matter how precise the information."

"To live in a world where we're loud and angry and just factually wrong bothers me."

Moreover, conservative attacks on the policy focus on how it impacts individuals and omit its broader social benefits, which help lower-income Canadians the most. Focusing on whether the tax adds a few cents to the price of common foods is irrelevant compared to the impacts of climate change and the revenue it generates for the government, which can then be redistributed to Canadians more equitably.

Shifting debates around the carbon tax from its impact on individuals to assessing how it fits into the broader economic and power inequalities shaping society are key to reaching a broader audience, he said. Hren said he grew up poor in rural Saskatchewan, a background that taught him to "hate everything," including himself.

"I still have this voice in the back of my head that says if I'm struggling to pay bills, it is because I'm not working hard enough — I need to do more as an individual," he said. "But the problem isn't my work ethic. The problem is the society we've developed puts people like me at a disadvantage.

"My whole life was a struggle," he recalled. "You learn to hate society, you learn to hate life, you learn to be angry." For most of his early twenties, that rage made him "extremely angry and cynical" and he "very much hated society and existence."

Then, on a long drive along a Saskatchewan highway, he started to change. Bored with the radio, he turned on the audio version of British biologist Richard Dawkins' book The Magic of Reality, which explores key existential questions using science. The book made him see that "the reality of our universe is more impressive than ghosts and demons and monsters" and pushed him to foster curiosity about other aspects of the world around him.

From that moment on, he started trying to "take the time and understand things economically, politically, environmentally, biologically." It was a shift in perspective that made him see more nuance and complexity in the world, eventually replacing his frustration and anger with more nuanced perspectives grounded in reality.

"It is so easy to learn nowadays with technology and so many universities even putting huge amounts of information out (in the world) completely free," he said. "To live in a world where we're loud and angry and just factually wrong bothers me."

That frustration prompted him early in the pandemic to start creating TikToks and other social media content to fight online misinformation. As a self-described member of the "blue-collar" demographic equipped with "fairly good communication skills" and willing to "take the time to read," he saw an opportunity to push back on the misinformation and conspiracies adopted by many of his peers.

That first account was closed several months ago after one of Hren's followers accused Hren of harassment for calling out his racist remarks. Still, Hren has continued to produce content like the carbon tax rant that delivers accurate information with a comedic spin.

And for some of his audience, the comedy is essential: "My wife only watches the jokes," he laughed.

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Great article showing importance of critical thinking; something that seems to be mostly lacking in the Canadian population right now.

Much appreciation to this young man. More and more and more of us need to jump into the (social media) street brawl and fight back against the misinformation and disinformation. It's messy, but it has to be done.

Bravo Karl! A wonderfully brilliant rant.
The attitudinal switch up and 'misdirected anger' is so well done. Very, very funny and so needed right now.
Please keep it up. Look forward to more.
And thank you Marc Fawcett-Atkinson for introducing all of us to Karl. A terrific article.
And you keep it up too. I look forward to more observations from you as well.

So much said in this piece. I love the self reflection, critical thinking, the courage and hope for a more equitable society and a sustainable planet. I look forward to more.

Restored my faith in my fellow Prairie folks.
Now ! Take on Poilievre's gaslighting campaign of convincing us we are broken and learned another word for gaslighting and being 2 faced as PP is:
Pecksniffian! Wonderful description

Goes to show you how a little simple curiosity can lead you to enlightenment and truth.

Listening, reading, intellectual engagement, these attributes don't require a PhD to practice.

An important guideline would be that if someone tells you they are a leader who claims to know the truth, run in the opposite direction. Seek independent evidence on your own time.

Yaaaaaayyyyyy! Absolutely brilliant, this guy is a star; unless he's happy to keep on truckin,' there could be a special place elsewhere for this rare, astute and open-minded prairie guy! And not just seriously open-minded but honest and objective about HIMSELF, current society and his place in it , but also a poster boy AGAINST the stereotype of being "blue-collar" generally, and one of those "convoy" trucker guys in particular.
The difference is that he actually READ the Act in question on carbon pricing for himself, which changed his mind because he's also smart enough (uneducated yeah, but obviously smart) to recognize what's happening on social media, and the dangerously effective utility of using emotion to manipulate a majority. It's all eloquently expressed in, "I hate that so many are so loud and so angry now and SO FACTUALLY WRONG; it really bothers me!" A sentiment shared by so many of us cringing in horror at the likes of Pierre Poilievre being in charge of ANYTHING whatsoever, let alone our federal government when he's a "Skippy" if there ever was one.
And I love that Richard Dawkins, atheist, is what turned him onto the "magic of reality."
He's a guy after my own heart; I hope we see way more of him somewhere other than on Tik Tok. But his striking rebuttal DOES make a bit of a case for Tik Tok in the context of where most of the current tsunami of dangerous disinformation and misinformation takes wing, but in the parallel context of the emotion that drives it, his truth-laden entry is probably a drop in the rage bucket because that emotion SO resonates with so many men right now, and is so much easier. And fewer all the time are willing to READ at all OR are capable of comprehending what they read OR open-minded enough to climb down even if they DO, especially from the stupid proud boy perch having such a bafflingly inexplicable moment.
Might the reason for that be my mature woman's theory of a prolonged and protracted backlash against and fear of creeping, rising feminism/women that sparks good, old blanket misogyny, often subconsciously? What else explains what's happening right now on the political right? I've argued that it's religion, and religion IS the most common and still widely held platform for the patriarchy where men rightly rule as they bloody well SHOULD, and for all time.
For example, again, Islam is THE worst because it stubbornly and defiantly refuses to evolve (Catholicism is a runner-up) except to go ever further by openly, even CASUALLY perpetrating this ongoing crime against humanity by way of open advocacy for outright "gender apartheid."
I watched the wildly popular (on male-centric social media anyway) Andrew Tate smoking a massive cigar yesterday on the news where he actually said OUT LOUD that, "women are BARELY SENTIENT, even lawyers....." meaning that they're all incapable of being independent because they all need (want?) a man" while this spectacularly self-involved pinhead apparently needs no one. Right.
Karl Hren on the other hand seems to genuinely respect and appreciate his wife as his partner in life. Big Smile emoji.

I dunno about Islam being "the worst." Islam had a lot going for it: it was the first "western" religion to accord women any rights at all. With all religions, it seems, there are those who adhere to the orthodoxy, those who subscribe to reformed versions, and those who claim the religion but don't practise at all. The latter include those who have never read the holy books of any religion.
And then, there are the utter, outright renegades, which include the likes of ISIS, the current crop of Israeli right-wingers, and the right-wing "Christians for Trump." None of them practise the precepts and requirements of the religions they use as cover.
(BTW, I saw Romanian news footage yesterday or the day before, of Tate 1 and Tate 2 (Tate 1's brother) being hauled to court there for an extradition hearing. Britain wants him back, to face charges. Romania said the UK could have him, but only after he's stood trial and sentencing on the Romanian charges brought against him. He wasn't smoking a cigar ... or a pipe or a cigarette ... but he *was* dressed very well.)

This comment is directed to the producers of National Observer audio articles; you need to listen to the articles and eliminate the "back slash, back slash" that the digital reader inserts for the variety of punctuation used. The interruption in otherwise interesting stories is irritating and an unprofessional standard of work.


It's fun to watch! And I appreciate the intent.

But, in the grand scheme of required actions, to actually do what's required, it's tactical. Ag & fisheries (the nutrition supply chain), for example, can't get a forever exemption. Obtaining personal rebates larger than the sum paid in carbon taxes is lovely, unless the total carbon generated by society still exceeds the limit of what's actually necessary.

Hence, instead of (or, minimally, in concert with) carbon taxes, we ought to discuss personal carbon allowances.

Provinces with lower carbon emissions per capita pay the same carbon tax, but get a smaller credit.
The way to Win Big on the CAIP is to have a completely green lifestyle.
I look forward to the day when beef gets a carbon tax applied to it. If it shows up on the price label, so much the better.