Opinion by Darren Clarke, February 27, 2022
“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
Not since Little Red Riding Hood took a deeper look at the figure before her and declared, “Grandmother, what big teeth you have….” has there been a bigger reveal of a predator as there has been of the primary sources of the Freedom Convoy’s media support this week. In revealing the fraudulent media sources, the disingenuous nature of the convoy has been further revealed as well.
By a wide margin Russian State TV and Fox News lead all, “news,” sources in producing content on the Freedom Convoy. Both sources portrayed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a dictator given, in the absence of Premiers being willing to use their normal powers, Trudeau felt compelled to use the Emergencies Act. This week those same media outlets have focused on excusing an actual dictator in Russia who is currently simultaneously violently oppressing protests in his own country and bombing Ukrainian citizens.
Have we figured it out yet?
Let’s stop for a second. Do you know how completely uninformed on the histories of these two men you would have to be to think Justin Trudeau is in any way similar to Vladimir Putin? Do you know how completely dishonest you would have to be to suggest it? It’s bonkers, it’s beyond the pale, it’s ridiculous. Putin is demonstrably a man with a long and storied history of oppression and murder. In a 2021 Politico article David J. Kramer characterized Putin’s work from the time of the 2006 murders of Putin critics Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko, through 2021 as, “Putin overseeing the worst crackdown on Russia’s opposition, media and civil society since the Soviet era, including the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in 2015 and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny in 2020.” Trudeau meanwhile takes awfully timed vacations. There’s no comparison. Yet that’s what you’ve been told by Fox News. In the big picture however, it’s the recipe for effective propaganda- The uninformed lead by the dishonest.
Fox News railed all day and night, theatrically inflating and outright making stuff up, about Justin Trudeau’s actions in Canada, portraying him as an oppressive dictator. Yet, when an actual authoritarian began invading Ukraine, bombing its’ cities, killing civilians, the narrative was, “Man’s gotta’ do what a man’s gotta’ do!” Sometimes the narrative was worse.
In fact, Fox News smarmy, pied piper of misinformation and disingenuous posturing, Tucker Carlson, was quoted in a February 25th article by Erik Wemple in The Washington Post saying, “Why do I care what is going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?” Carlson asked. “And I’m serious. Why do I care? Why shouldn’t I root for Russia? Which I am.”
He’s rooting for Russia, he’s rooting for Vladimir Putin. No surprise of course that Donald Trump is too. Trump telling a CPAC crowd on Saturday, “If Democrats want to fight for democracy [abroad], they should start with…Canada. […] The tyranny we have witnessed in Canada in recent weeks should shock and dismay the world.”
Trump’s statement was very similar in nature to the Russian State TV narratives excusing Putin’s actions. On Thursday the CBC reported that Russian State TV, the leader in creating bogus narratives for the Freedom Convoy, “painted the attack in line with what Putin said in his televised address announcing it. Russia 1 TV host Olga Skabeyeva called it an effort “to protect people in Donbas from a Nazi regime” and said it was “without exaggeration, a crucial junction in history.”
This is precisely the kind of rhetoric that authoritarians look to use to excuse conquest. This is a very real threat to Canadian sovereignty that has long been under threat by compromised American media, financial interests and the kind of transnational crime syndicate government embodied by the Republicans. This rise in threatening overtures is unprecedented in the last century of Canada-US relations. That Fox News in concert with Trump and other Republicans are actively using weaponized misinformation to sow discord and invent potentially useful narratives for heightened attacks on Canadian sovereignty in the future should worry every Canadian.
Before we can get to worrying though, Canadians have to recognize the shared reality before us. We have to be able to differentiate between obvious things like the fundamental differences between Justin Trudeau and Vladimir Putin. We have to be able to see the evidence of dishonest actors churning out misleading propaganda designed to make us think what’s up is down and what’s down is up.
Let’s continue pursuing the truth by comparing/contrasting the passive approach to resolving the protests that spanned weeks in Canada with Putin’s response to protests in Russia.
In the wake of Russia invading Ukraine many Russians took to the streets to protest the attack. They did so at very real personal risk. That risk was realized quickly in 1,700, often violent arrests (that number growing to 3,000 as of Saturday night). The protestors did not get weeks to protest unaffected by policing. They did not get to block bridges and close businesses. They did not get to occupy anything. They didn’t get written warnings, they did not have bouncy castles or hot tubs. Quickly they were arrested and their future was placed in doubt. Meanwhile, Putin’s propaganda sources were doing their work to qualify invading and bombing their neighbour.
So, there is no comparison.
Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Tucker Carlson, these are entirely dishonest men who place no value on any human virtue or life. Conquest, acquisition, gluttony, are their only interests. If the question is- Why is Vladimir Putin interested in conquering Ukraine? The answer is greed with some vanity mixed in. The lives of decent human beings, men, women, children, that will be lost means nothing to him. And like Trump lying about, “tyranny,” Putin has long sought to promote the lie of Ukraine being a fascist state.
Which brings us back to Fox News, Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump’s fixation with dishonestly praising the Freedom Convoy while demonizing Canada’s democratically elected government.
This was the big reveal. The dishonest coverage of the convoy, the failure to report on the fraudulent nature of the Freedom Convoy wasn’t limited to Fox News and Russian State TV– it encompassed Newsweek, The New York Times, a myriad of American and global news outlets not to mention Canadian outlets owned by American hedge funds, i.e. The National Post and The Toronto Sun. You were told the convoy was about mandates, it was not. You were told they were peaceful, they were not. You were told they represented average Canadians, they did not. Suggesting the convoy was peaceful and virtuous is not being able to see the forest for the trees.
Remember, for the most part, the Freedom Convoy was organized by established white nationalists and separatists. It was supported and promoted by Canadian Conservatives looking to destabilize the Federal government and at the very least increase their voting block for the next election. Canadian Conservatives are at this point an entirely corrupt front for the same type of wealthy and powerful interests that back Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. The convoy was simply a tool to drive division and manufacture consent for access to power, power that allows for the pillaging of Canada’s resources and institutions. The vaccine mandates and Covid protections the convoy suggested inspired their protests were almost entirely provincial or American regulations. That, that was just a cover to try and connect with understandably tired, frustrated, Canadians. By design the Conservative provincial Premiers chose to not exercise their powers to disassemble blockades. This was a ploy to force the Prime Minister to use the Emergencies Act to protect citizens, businesses and trade at large. The illegal occupiers had weeks of free reign in Ottawa- they were provided numerous warnings. During that time the same Premiers whose lack of action created the need for the Emergencies act removed most all the protections and mandates the convoy claimed to be protesting (likely more due to the declining impact of Omicron than anything).
So, why were they there?
It was a Conservative party publicity stunt. An exercise in propaganda. Forcing Justin Trudeau to use the Emergencies Act was the goal. There was a photo in the last days of the protest that sums the whole swindle up. Protestors freely walked up in front of police and knelt with their hands behind their back for photo ops. For the appearance of oppression. It was a choreographed play. The Act meanwhile was only in place for a matter of days.
Right now there’s a real war going on. Ukrainians are fighting for the lives of their friends and their family, of their community, of their nation. It is a real, life and death matter that should not be cheapened for use in an argument. But we have to consider how right-wing media’s excusing of actual oppression and wanton violence by an established tyrant contrasts with the fake outrage applied to the convoy’s treatment by authorities using kid gloves and allowing occupiers free reign to hold a nation’s capital and many trade junctures hostage for weeks. We have to recognize that behind these merchants of propaganda is a war machine fuelled by greed.
In the end whether it be corporations, oligarchs or authoritarian governments like the one in China, it’s all about the endless pursuit of power and wealth. It’s right wing parties, in Canada, the US, across the globe, aided by increasingly corrupted right wing media sources as a means to allow the ultra wealthy access to even more wealth and power. In recent years we have been given an education in how the designs of these merchants of wealth inequity- people like Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, how their interests run counter to those of the average person. We have seen laid bare how their tools of power- Conservative parties, right-wing media, Christian voting blocks, convoys and those open to being shaped by misinformation, are the enemy of the best interests of good people everywhere. Good people have never been so openly and savagely warred upon as right now.
But there’s hope.
In contrast to these illustrations of craven and ignorant men I received a message from a friend of mine Saturday telling me of a group of her friends in Poland going to the border to help disenfranchised Ukrainians. I was deeply moved by that. I was reminded that there are good, beautiful, brave people out there. People like the protestors in Russia who took to the streets knowing they would face the wrath of a madman. People like the brave Ukrainians fighting for their lives and their right to self-determination at this moment. I know that good people are here in Canada too. We all have a choice. Canadians have a choice right now. To stand with the truth, with the beautiful and brave, or to stand with lies, to stand with those who would have us commit atrocities.