This is a special edition of a series of opinion columns written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.
For reasons that will hopefully become clear quickly, I’d like to give you all a peek behind the curtain of the political column I write for The Canadian Jewish News.
It usually takes me a couple of hours to produce one of these thinkpieces. The catalyst is someone, like Alberta premier Danielle Smith, making some wild comment about how vaccine mandates were in the same universe as what Hitler tried to do, on a podcast from some years back, that was dug up and flung at her by a party interested in booting her out and forming government.
I don’t get into the back-and-forth over what she meant and what her intentions are or were or whether the timeframe between when she said it and now matters because (a) IT DOESN’T MATTER and (b) the back-and-forth is the intended result, with the inevitable apology proffered to keep the distraction from getting out of hand.
Instead, I try to point out how strings are being pulled to try and get you to have one kind of reaction or another—or how this exact thing has been tried by people on the other side of the aisle, or in a different province.
While I generally favour conservative parties, I’m lucky enough to not have to rely on keeping some assembled gang of hacks happy to put food on the table or to get likes on social media (but that’s mostly because I almost never use it). Therefore ,it’s a relatively simple act for me to drag some nominal conservative like Smith for trying to do a balancing act between her more radical supporters and the so-called mainstream votes she needs to stay elected.
For the premier to have to wake up in the morning, believing that she is some sort of freedom-fighter—and then have to spend the duration of an election campaign obeying the whims of people who won’t put their pants on left leg first if the polls tell them otherwise—is a much worse punishment than anything I or any of her supposed enemies could dream up.
The perspective comes in handy in observing Ontario politics, too, as Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama nuked her own account and her party issued another AI-generated walk-back message. Jama’s latest blunder involved retweeting a message in support of an Islamic Jihad-affiliated hunger striker who passed away—a few weeks after issuing a robo-apology for similar expressions on the same day she won the byelection. (We also observed Quebec premier François Legault doing the same hokey-pokey.)
Not only don’t I have to try and pretend that it’s somehow better or worse when a conservative does it (because it isn’t), it serves my greater point—that the bigger issue is less about antisemitism problems on both sides of the spectrum than about how antiemitism is now just another political football.
Other people being Mad Online about Smith’s comments could step up to the plate at any time and do exactly as I do. Hilariously, there are columnists in this country who believe themselves indispensable to the national conversation—and then there are the even sadder sacks who wouldn’t know what to think about politics before they read whatever inches these columnists have filed.
For me, this is an entirely feelings-free endeavour. I do not fret over being “cancelled”. I serve at the pleasure of The CJN. If management ever got sick of me and gave me my walking papers, I wouldn’t be thrilled but I would respect their decision instead of acting like I had been harmed in some way.
However, because I back up my statements, correct mistakes when they’re brought to my attention, and criticize people’s behaviour instead of who they are, I don’t expect that I will be cancelled anytime soon. It’s the difference between saying, “A workshop that just so happens to be a financial benefit to the person promoting probably isn’t going to fix Premier Smith’s tendency to invoke Hitler when people’s freedoms get abrogated,” and attacking the person doing the promoting.
You, too, can be a Political Opinion-Haver if you follow the path laid out above. I’d prefer to read more such people in the nation’s most prominent Jewish publication. But there are reasons, valid and not-so-valid, why it falls to me to comment on a happening in an election in a province that I’ve never lived in. Someone’s feelings might be hurt. Someone might attack you online. People with power might take actions against you. You don’t want to get involved. All are fair enough in my opinion.
But if you choose not to comment, don’t be surprised when politicians keep getting away with statements that offend you. If I were them, I wouldn’t concern myself with what Josh Lieblein says, either!
Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.