Is it propaganda or terrorism? 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MEUNIERD / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - The National War Memorial in Ottawa.

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

Barry Goldwater said those words in the 1964 U.S. presidential campaign. They were the opening salvo of the conservative revolution. They didn't get him elected but they did set the tone for much of what followed in the ensuing five decades.

It had been over a decade since senator Joseph McCarthy's red-scare witch hunts had ruined the lives of scores of people, many of them in the arts, who had embraced, however briefly, the nascent Communist party in the U.S. This was not the boogeyman Communist party of the USSR seeking world dominance, it was the party advocating the rights of exploited labour, a social safety net to catch the impoverished and many other issues we now consider fundamental human rights... at least for the moment.

But the Red Under Every Bed scare served its purpose. It kept the fires of fear burning, fires that were in danger of dying out when soldiers returned home after World War II and a sense of normalcy began to creep back into their lives.

Thus it has ever been with politicians who rely more on fear than hope to galvanize support. Thus it is with Prime Minister Harper's inexorable March Towards Fascism.

The blood of Corporal Nathan Cirillo was still wet at the base of the National War Memorial when Mr. Harper declared his killing a terrorist act. It was only moments later the killing eclipsed what was much more likely an act of terrorism committed 48 hours earlier when Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was run down and killed in Quebec.

Let us pause for a moment and consider the value and role of propaganda in the March Towards Fascism. There are several generally agreed upon principles or underlying tenets of fascism, among them militarism, nationalism, social solidarity and authoritarianism.

Propaganda is the glue that holds it all together. At its heart, propaganda is a magician's trick, a dodge to get you focused on the left hand while the real action is being taken by the right hand. It deflects attention while consolidating emotion and through that, action.

"All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. The broad masses... (are) a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another. The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood."

Forgive the length of that quotation. Forgive the source as well. That concise description of propaganda is contained in Mein Kampf, penned by Adolph Hitler.

Now, consider how this is all playing out for a moment. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was in his 50s, wearing his uniform, nearing retirement, Quebecois, run down and killed by a man identified as a "radicalized" Islamic State sympathizer, a man known to Canada's security forces, a man driving a Nissan. For almost 48 hours, his death was the national news.

Corporal Nathan Cirillo was in his early 20s, Ontarian, single father of a young son, shot to death by an alienated young man who seemed to have enough personal issues to keep a team of counsellors in business for decades. In the blink of an eye, Warrant Officer Vincent was dispatched to the pages of yesterday's news, virtually forgotten, rarely mentioned in the mainstream media, overlooked by the government who saw a much more compelling victim with which to whip up nationalistic fervour.

Stop and ask yourself why.

The government and the nation's security apparatus have rushed new legislation to enhance information gathering and allow police agencies to detain — a polite word for arrest — people they suspect, but have insufficient proof, may commit a crime. Calling the crime an act of terrorism is pure propaganda. These are, of course, some of the same agencies who were called out for spying on Canadians in Canada whenever we were sappy enough to log into the Wi-Fi networks in the nation's airports.

Appearing before a Senate committee, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told senators evidentiary thresholds should be lowered to "... potentially exclude some steps." Those steps include things like probably cause and other safeguards.

For example, under Section 810 of the Criminal Code, police can already place restrictions on "terror" suspects even though they don't have the evidence to charge them. All that's required is approval from the attorney-general. What a hassle. Mr. Paulson wants to sidestep that requirement. He argues, "... there's an understanding to be made that cops can handle it." I believe we have all seen enough of what cops can handle within the already broad discretion they enjoy without giving them more powers.

More chilling, Mr. Paulson wants the bar lowered for getting a warrant for information like phone and Internet records. He argues it's enough to "... suspect someone has or will commit a crime."

Of course, if you believe any of the information Edward Snowden has released about what Canadian security entities are up to, all this is academic — they're already regularly intercepting and warehousing that information.

It was bad enough when Mr. Harper's Conservatives were fighting imaginary criminals. Now they're fighting imaginary terrorists while joining the coalition to perpetuate terrorism into the future.

The killings of two Canadian Forces soldiers last week were terrible, shameful crimes. But the real crime, the real act of terrorism is being played out in the PMO and parliament. The only silver lining in this cloud is that it seems most Canadians aren't entirely playing along. For every knee-jerk voice calling for arming the military guard at the War Memorial, there's another asking why we even have a soldier standing sentry there. For every shrill voice shouting terrorist, there are several asking for calm and reason and, yes, even understanding as a more viable path to dealing with the root causes of alienation and fascination with groups advocating terror among a miniscule sliver of our population.

Mr. Harper's brand of extremism will sail through parliament, a victory for his brand of fear-mongering and a shame of his so-called majority government. As with so many of his other get tough measures, Canadians will remember and chances are the highest court in the land will strike it down.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.


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