Welcome back to the series of opinion columns written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN. While recent columns have focused on the Ontario provincial election, a few words in the House of Commons merited comment, similar to the previous week…
Progress toward the culture war becoming a permanent fixture of the Canadian political landscape continued apace—even if threats related to the Freedom Convoy protests were evidently driven away.
But before the revocation of the Emergencies Act, both sides eagerly reached for a weapon that has become more and more commonplace in the halls of power around the globe: the laundered conspiracy theory.
It turns out that QAnon, vaccine microchips, Pizzagate, and lizard people are too avant-garde and yes, too antisemitic for most people’s tastes. How is a mainstream political concern supposed to move beyond a core of true believers with this kind of stuff?
Not to worry, because our elected politicians and politically connected experts and talking heads have helpfully constructed some watered down narratives fit for discussion at your local synagogue. These are literally your bubbe and zayde’s conspiracy theories.
When I was growing up in the previous century, these were confined to armchair theories about companies that hadn’t quite outgrown their Nazi-adjacent roots: IG Farben, Volkswagen, Disney, IBM, etc.
After the turn of the millennium, things branched out in new and exciting directions: celebrities like Shakira who were secret antisemites, branches of various churches that were couching a return to ecclesiastical Jew-hatred in the guise of solidarity with Palestinians, or the shawarma restaurant down the road where a percentage of the profits went overseas to Hezbollah.
Now, conspiracy talk has migrated out of email chains shared on the bubbenet and into the daily news churn. Russia can hack any election it pleases. China has conquered the entire corporate sphere. Jeffrey Epstein was murdered by the Clintons.
But even in this fertile climate, we just couldn’t get a homegrown Canadian conspiracy variant that would make elected officials and the bureaucracy tremble. Just mutterings about the Trudeau Foundation, or Jordan Peterson tweeting about cultural Marxism, or rantings about Stephen Harper, Maxime Bernier, and the oilpatch set channeling dark money towards nefarious ends.
At last, Canada will no longer lag behind the rest of the developed world, because Liberal MP Ya’ara Saks declared in the House of Commons that “Honk Honk” is a synonym for “Heil Hitler.” The government has been captured by something called the World Economic Forum who want to turn us all into serfs. Justin Trudeau himself is a satanic, Hannah Arendt-esque figure of evil banality.
Of course, there are all the usual experts who are fearlessly willing to sign off on the above. They’d better. Because the common denominator for all these epic tales is that you, who know this truth, are good, and that everyone else is bad.
And the sole determinant of that goodness, the only yardstick by which morality is measured, is how loudly and forcefully you are willing to proclaim that everyone opposed to you is Bad. You’re not one of the Bad People, are you?
Some might reply that everyone who’s paying attention knows by now that the truckers are kind of white supremacist-y, and that Trudeau’s a little too eager to use legislative sledgehammers to crush peanuts. But—and this is how we can tell that we are in the realm of conspiracy theory—these frameworks cannot be challenged, because any criticism of the theory becomes a criticism of the person expounding on it.
I’m no psychologist, but chances are that if you probe a bit with these believers, you will hear them talk about some kind of trauma they’ve either experienced or witnessed, and that this framework offers them some way to fight back, or not feel so powerless against the Bad People.
That’s understandable, but what’s less so is the desire to hold and exert the same power—political power—over the Bad People, or others who’ve been similarly harmed.
Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.