The risks of complacency with extremist elements
Well, it didn’t take long for new Alberta Premier Danielle Smith to plunge into the murky waters of delusion and political complacency.
Shortly after being sworn in on Tuesday to replace Jason Kenney, Smith called those who refused the COVID-19 vaccination « the most discriminated group I have ever seen in my life. »
That she could say this demonstrated to anyone who has faced true discrimination either (a) a profound ignorance of history and current realities, or (b) a bottomless ability to pander to misplaced sentiment. of victimization in his right-wing base.
Wednesday, Smith issued a statement saying she had wanted to highlight the « mistreatment » of those who chose not to be vaccinated and that she did not intend to « trivialize » the discrimination faced by minority communities.
Yet words have consequences. Words can comfort or hurt, inspire or enrage. They can bring out the best in us, or the worst.
Incitement and defamation in Canada – although we very much like our political discourse more civil than in the United States – has already seen in Ontario communities stones thrown at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh attacked by hatred and racism.
Those who have political pulpits and media soapboxes must remember that in addition to this power and influence, they carry a great responsibility.
Kenney acknowledged in his final words as prime minister that the Conservative movement in Canada comes to the aid of worrisome elements.
He warned Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre against keeping company with extremists whose main interest is to « destroy and blow things up ».
“I think a conservative party that is focused on a campaign of recrimination against COVID, politicizing science, entertaining conspiracy theories and campaigning with QAnon is a party that cannot form a government and should not,” he told Global News’ The West. To block.
Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney agreed, telling CTV’s Question Period after a private dinner with Poilievre « that you can’t get elected with that kind of stuff. »
Among other things, YouTube videos produced for Poilievre were recently discovered to contain a hidden tag appealing to an online anti-women movement — #mgtow, Men Going Their Own Way — that Canadian security agencies consider a danger.
Trudeau told Poilievre in the Commons that “by reaching out to extremist groups online and attracting anti-women and misogynist groups for his own political gain,” he will have to respond to Canadian women.
But it should not be left to women alone to oppose it. All rational citizens should be wary of the kind of rhetoric and messages aimed at courting the elements that are wrecking and exploding in Canada.
As seen around the world, there is a political opportunity for leaders who are cynical and self-serving enough to tap into sources of rage.
It’s not as if Canadians, who live where we live, lack horrific recent evidence of the damage that reckless leadership can wreak.
There’s a direct line between ‘a few very fine people on both sides’ and ‘stand back and stay away’ to the deadly attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
American scholar Larry Diamond wrote in his 2019 book Ill Winds that “a culture of democracy is also a culture of moderation.
« Democracy cannot work when politics is dominated by opposing camps of ‘true believers’ who view compromise as betrayal and dismiss discordant evidence as false, » Diamond wrote.
Danielle Smith seems not to have read her book.
What we need from our leaders is serious work to understand the social fragmentation and political polarization that brought us here and a determination to mend those fractures, not exploit them for political gain.
The complicity of political leaders with the extreme fringes will fuel social conflict and chaos. But it is the complacency of a moderate majority that will provide the opportunity.