In my last missive I explained how things are going to get a lot worse in Canadian politics before they get better, with louder and less sane voices on both sides of the aisle gaining ground at the expense of faltering centrists.
Today I am going to break the double game that the ideologues play into its component parts, and lay out just what it is about their rantings that people find so objectionable that it paralyzes the political discourse.
It isn’t just that these nutters inject darkness into some mythical, pastoral Canadian landscape, ruining it for everybody. It isn’t just that they are “divisive”. Lots of people (myself included) raise a hue and cry about how our country is going to hell in a handbasket, and they are duly ignored in favour of legacy columnists.
However, if you’re going to effectively traffic in controversy, there are a few occupational hazards you have to look out for, and without fail the talking heads who have been ratioed to hell and back on Twitter lately have missed every single one.
First of all, unless you have the extremely good fortune of being one of those legacy columnists, the sad fact is that your opinion is not part of the mainstream. You don’t get to be a Rex Murphy or a Margaret Wente without being able to unfailingly hit the sweet spot of being just slightly skeptical of the official narrative.
Secondly, even if you are a legacy columnist, you can’t go taking yourself as seriously as you’d like to. You write about Canadian politics, for heaven’s sake.
And finally – and perhaps most importantly – if you’re trying to get people riled up, you absolutely cannot take it personally when they do get riled up, and possibly get riled up at you.
Let’s review how three repeat social media offenders from varying points on the Canadian ideological sliding scale – Nora Loreto, Faith Goldy, and Jonathan Kay – fail each one of these three tests. I include Kay so as to demonstrate that even someone who is active in the so-called struggle against “ideological mobs” falls victim to some of the same tropes as the other two more unapologetic ideologues.
Test #1 is the easiest. Loretta is someone who thinks Canadian society is deeply racist – nothing mainstream about that. Goldy is someone who doesn’t see the harm in repeating the white supremacist “14 words” aloud, something I’m willing to bet most Canadians wouldn’t be so comfortable with. And most of Kay’s broadsides come from a rather confused place of criticizing mainstream Canadian institutions like CanLit and university campuses, but only because they have been infected (in his view) with identity politics. So, all three are kind of down on the way things are done, albeit for different reasons.
As for #2, while none of the three are legacy columnists themselves (thought it may have been correct to categorize Kay as one at one point) they are – as far as their public personas are concerned – completely unwilling to poke fun at themselves. I’m not sure what Kay is trying to do by posting receipts of his fast food orders on Twitter, or why Goldy tries to appropriate the glib and self-aware language of memes for her otherwise completely dead serious video appeals to close Canada’s borders. There’s quite a bit of unintentional comedy to be had there, to be sure. No such luck with Loreto, whose level of self-seriousness is summed up pretty well by her Twitter description, which reads “my beat is correct“.
And thus we move to Test #3, which is the real reason why Nora’s infamous tweet of some weeks ago rankled so. Because Nora’s beat is correct, it cannot be questioned. She is right, the way God is right. It isn’t just that she thinks Canada is a racist settler state – it’s that everyone else who doesn’t agree with her is wrong. There is no debating Nora and her correct beat, because once you do disagree with her, it matters little whether you do so calmly or by flinging sexist, racist and homophobic abuse at her.
Of our three subjects Nora is the worst offender on this score, but the other two fail in different ways. Kay criticizes thin skinned ideologues while lashing out at his critics, and whatever you do, don’t call Faith a National Socialist.
You can spend countless hours wondering whether these three are comparing notes behind the scenes. (I have.) But if you take anything away from this thought experiment, let it be this: The ideological “playbook” may be just as codified as its centrist counterpart.