The mayhem in Ottawa has a dark purpose

By Craig Westcott

One of the books I most remember reading as a teenager was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer.

Shirer was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Universal News Service in Berlin in the 1930s and the book was based on his newspaper despatches, observations, diaries and research. It chronicles the creation of Naziism from its beginnings to its end.

In university, I did a double major in history and political science. Most of my history courses focused on Germany. I guess I got hooked as a kid in trying to figure out how one of the most civilized, educated, industrious peoples in the world could embrace fascism and Naziism and end up trying to exterminate another race of people. As a wise man said, if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere.

Watching the four years of the Donald Trump presidency as it unfolded in the United States I was constantly reminded of events and personalities in Nazi Germany. Tuning into the nightly news was like watching the early chapters of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in real time.

America escaped, at least temporarily, a disaster when it managed to squeeze Trump out of office last year. Unfortunately, the final chapters are yet to be written in that story and nobody knows the outcome.

The events in Ottawa the past two weeks, meanwhile, show that Naziism has crossed our border. The occupation of Ottawa was organized by political groups dedicated to fascism and the destruction of democracy. They used the poor, naieve, willing clods of antivaxx truck drivers as a pretense to push their own aims. With millions of dollars from our foreign enemies as well as fascists inside Canada and the United States, who are working to destroy our democracy, the organizers managed to gather a motley assortment of misfits and agitators; anti-vaxxers, Quebec and Alberta separatists, religious freaks from a variety of evangelical cults (they really aren’t Christian), malcontents, the mentally ill, the indolent and even Q-Anon to lay siege to the capital of our country. They’ve harassed the peaceful, taxpaying citizens of Ottawa, closed the downtown to commerce, costing hundreds of businesses and thousands of employees their incomes, threatened people for adhering to Ontario’s mask mandate (in at least one case threatening rape), assaulted a homeless person, stole from a homeless shelter, defecated and urinated over people’s lawns and doorsteps, desecrated the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, mocked the legacy and memory of Canadian hero Terry Fox, delayed for hours a four year old boy with a brain tumour from getting his chemo treatment, and effectively shuttered services for homeless youth and battered women.

And they think they are heroes for doing it.

Footage emerged Monday of some of these nutbars gathered together like a Bizarro World version of the founding fathers stating they are willing to work with the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Quebecois and the Governor General to take over the government. It seems laughable that these unelected clowns are so self-deluded they think they have a right to overthrow and set up their own government.

But this is how fascism starts. By the banding together of malcontents, kooks, and sociopaths into a cohesive group big enough to wield power and affect the operation of society. They deliberately cause disorder so that they can claim to be the only force capable of restoring order.

So, never mind that the actions of the Ottawa police have been an abject failure and that the chief and his deputies should be fired, deservedly, for incompetence; or that the federal Conservatives, deservedly, ruined their chances of ever winning an election for a generation by embracing these nutbars; the bigger concern is that this even happened, that a democracy as old as Canada’s, in a country as rich and civilized as Canada, is being threatened by a fascist movement that has grown strong enough to challenge law and order.

The blame for much of this lies with social media and the giant corporations that own it. Social media has given these freaks a place to meet and unite and organize. Even their funding flows through social media. For years, the social media companies have been ginning up the algorithms on their online networks to prey on and amplify mankind’s worst fantasies, fears, biases and emotions to whip up “traffic” to sell more online ads, which means billions and billions in profits for them. They employ armies of social psychologists to figure out what gets under people’s skin and they build that data into the algorithms to stir and hold people’s attention. These companies are not allowed to operate in China and other totalitarian states, because the leaders there know how dangerous and disruptive such activities are to peace and order. But those same countries are happy to take advantage of social media here to manipulate opinion and drive wedges between Canadians.

Canada and some other western democracies such as France and Australia are only getting around now to possibly regulating and taxing the social media behemoths. But it’s too late here. They have done their damage.

The lessons I learned from studying fascism in Germany is that you can give it no quarter. You must treat it as a crime, period. You cannot let its leaders use the benefits of democracy – freedom of speech and assembly, for example – to defeat democracy itself. That would be like giving a mugger the very stick he uses to beat you with.

The Government of Canada should criminalize the groups that organized the siege of Ottawa, freeze and seize their assets and funds, arrest the leaders for sedition, identify as many of the participants as possible and start building dossiers on them.

Some 70 years ago, my grandfather and thousands of other Newfoundlanders and Canadians ventured overseas and risked their lives to put an end to Naziism in Europe. I don’t want our sons and daughters to have to fight those same battles here at home. But make no mistake; the debacle in Ottawa shows the battle has started.

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