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Beware of ‘proud’ in politics. Sometimes it should make you ashamed.
Remember the time when Canada was considered not overtly proud enough or patriotic enough to fly a flag or utter a single “God Bless Canada?” I do remember it and I occasionally decried our lack of button-busting national pride, which led to us mounting a Canadian flag on the peak of our house.
Lately though, I’ve been missing those days when we just quietly, politely loved our country and kept it to ourselves. This peevishness originated with the emergence of the word ‘proud’ as an introduction to a couple of semi-political organizations that make me more than a little uneasy.
The Proud Boys is a fairly obvious symbol of far right, white male entitlement. They describe themselves as ‘Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world’, who ‘venerate the housewife’ and refuse to feel ‘racial guilt’. When I look at their website I feel as though I’ve fallen into a 1950s worm-hole.
The founder of this historically challenged group of misfits is Gavin McInnes, a right-wing provocateur who may or may not have started out by pulling our leg but who now embraces an I-refuse-to-be-politically-correct shtick which allows him to pursue a racist and misogynist agenda. He tends to chuckle as he says outrageous things, including that “domestic violence is usually just some c*** trying to ruin a guy’s life” – which I guess is supposed to tell us that he’s only half kidding? Are you kidding me?
McInnes writes and does podcasts for Rebel Media, which has its own creepy founder in Ezra Levant, who among other oddball proposals suggests limiting masturbation. (He sees that activity as a waste of sperm which could better be used to impregnate the little woman.) The trouble with saying silly things is that it has the effect of diverting us from things that are important – like his numerous anti-Semitic rants. To paint a picture quickly, Levant is the Canadian answer to the equally detestable Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh in the US.
Media expert Angelo Carusone says that “the problem is people like McInnes, in pursuit of that edgy vibe, have made themselves into gateway drugs for white nationalism.” When you have groups of disaffected white men looking for somewhere to take their alt-right views, neo-Nazis see them as ripe for recruitment and they move from being a bit of a joke to a potential threat. In other words they start to believe their own hype.
So, when a small group of frat-boy types from the military sneered and strutted in Halifax on Canada Day and interrupted a Mi’kmaq ceremony of mourning, it was no surprise to learn that they are the part of the Maritime Chapter of the Proud Boys Network. As Tabitha Southey brilliantly pointed out in The Globe and Mail, “If much of what you see on the alt-right side looks and sounds so ridiculous, such jocular goose-stepping, these days, that’s deliberate. Share a photograph of you and your be-polo-shirted buddies flashing the Nazi salute, and the popular discourse knows just what to do with you. Substitute the “okay” gesture – unofficially but lovingly adopted by this crowd – and anyone who points out the white-supremacist imagery is just a crazy leftist snowflake who probably thinks a cartoon frog is a hate symbol too.”
And as if we didn’t have enough pride masquerading as something else, we now have Ontario Proud targeting Kathleen Wynne and occasionally throwing shade federally. It calls itself non-partisan although the stated goal is to unseat Wynne and the Liberals in the next election. It is as popular on Facebook as Ms. Wynne is not. In fact, the Ontario Proud Facebook site has more ‘Likes’ than all of the provincial parties combined. “Goes to show you that Ontarians are really fed up with the status quo, and they want change,” said Ontario Proud’s founder, Jeff Ballingall. “I’m trying to showcase that people have a right to feel grievance and outrage that they’re essentially being trampled on by this government that’s so out of touch,” Ballingall said in an interview with CBC Toronto.
Once again, this sounds reasonable enough at first blush. Ballingall has far more credibility and is much less odious than Gavin McInnes, but – like with the Trump followers – the sentiment is attracting a hateful element that seems to speak to a swelling populist movement here in Ontario that could easily spread through the country.
CBC Toronto asked Wynne’s office for a comment on Ontario Proud. A spokesperson responded: “We’re not going to comment on a website that supports profane, hateful and abusive comments.”
The reason is these comments, which were on the Ontario Proud Facebook page recently:
- “That ugly nasty greedy no good money grubbing snot faced witch.”
- “The ugliest human dyke who ever existed.”
- “I’m surprised that no one has shot her but maybe the bullets cost too much.”
- “The most lying, cheating, selfish, self centred, uncaring, mean ugly bitch that ever was in power in Ontario.”
Ballingall said, “I try my best to police comments and put filters up but I can’t obviously catch everything.” Okay, fair enough on that but I noticed that he didn’t unequivocally condemn the comments either. He should have.
A survey by Ontario Proud indicates the 20 per cent of those who voted Liberal last time are supporting the Ontario Proud Facebook on-line community. Personally, I think they just saw the word ‘proud’ and got all verklempt.
Ballingall opines, “If you see your uncle, your cousin or your neighbour sharing a political message, you’re way more likely to engage with it than a television commercial. It’s much less passive.” Judging by some of the comments – and commenters – on the OP site I think all it means is that some people are taking the easy way out and not thinking for themselves.
I enjoy the give and take of Facebook and the chance to share my nature and food photos. I like sharing opinions too but I still think it is imperative to read and listen extensively and intently before taking a position and certainly before sharing one. But a growing number of people access most of their political and other news via Facebook groups. That’s scary because along with the good stuff there is far too much misinformation.
I think for the foreseeable future, if I see the word ‘Proud’ in front of almost anything, I’ll steer clear. Much in the same way that I avoid any restaurants along the interstate that promise ‘food like Grandma used to make’.
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Following a career in the hospitality sector and the acquisition of a law and justice degree in her 50s, Dale embarked on a writing career armed with the fanciful idea that a living could be made as a freelancer. To her own great surprise she was right. The proof lies in hundreds of published works on almost any topic but favourites include travel, humour & satire, feature writing, environment, politics and entrepreneurship. Having re-invented herself half a dozen times, Dale doesn’t rule anything out. Her time is divided equally between Muskoka and Tampa Bay with Jim, her husband of 8 years and partner of 32 years. Two grown ‘kids’ and their spouses receive double doses of love and attention when she’s at home.