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Dear Kellie Leitch: fear tactics will not work

By: M. Stockland | January 31, 2017

Using divisive tactics, inflammatory language and nationalist rhetoric to further your proposed policies will place you firmly on the wrong side of history.

Dear Kellie Leitch, MP for Simcoe-Grey and Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate:

I’d like to start off by thanking you for running for office and for the time you dedicate to Canadian politics and public service. It’s important that women take on a greater share of the burden of governance and policy-making at all levels. I believe we are going to see this happening from this point on.

However, I would like to offer a word of warning: using divisive tactics, inflammatory language and nationalist rhetoric to further your proposed policies will place you firmly on the wrong side of history. After years of such tactics aimed squarely at citizens by previous administrations (nine years under the Harper Government, for instance), the people are no longer willing to be manipulated by fear. They will resist because they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so.

We are seeing the effects of this as I write these very words. Fear has been used to justify the ascendency of fascism to the head of the U.S. Government, and I use the word fascism in its specific historical sense (rather than the current diluted sense of something generally restrictive or unpleasant). The result is that citizens of that country are now collectively and spontaneously rising up against those who are attempting to violate their rights. Last weekend they occupied airports in public protest. They are shouting at the tops of their lungs in places where the very buildings themselves are designed to control through anxiety and fear.

Using divisive tactics, inflammatory language and nationalist rhetoric to further your proposed policies will place you firmly on the wrong side of history.

The words you use seem initially couched in terms of tolerance, freedom and acceptance as “Canadian values” (an empty phrase which means nothing at all and would make Orwell shudder). However, it becomes clear that you are deliberately using these words as a pacifier for an underlying core message of suspicion, paranoia and isolation. Though this may have worked to advance conservative and right-wing political agendas in the past, it won’t fool anyone any longer. And it won’t work for you.

What I hear in rhetoric like yours is a massive panic at the shift away from institutions, facilitated by technology, that instead places power in the hands of individuals as agents of change. We are now speaking, organizing and sharing experiences with other humans across the globe in real-time, and this makes us powerful. This global connection isn’t something in the future — it’s here, happening right at this moment. Maybe casting yourself as a political Luddite is a badge of honour for some, but it means little in the end. The Luddites lost; the Industrial Revolution happened anyway.

Perhaps you are simply riding the wave of permissiveness that was unleashed by the election of a brutalist, unthinking, incompetent bully who has zero knowledge of the public good; who has been unfortunate enough to have served no one but himself in his lifetime; who was born and lived his entire life steeped in a world warped by extreme wealth, greed, and glorification of psychological violence.

Don’t make the same mistake of building your political life on the same foundations; they are shaky at the best of times and they are about to get swept away.

M. Stockland / St. John’s

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