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Dear Ryan: Please don't troll me!

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Tiny Toxic joins the Littlelest Libeller for evening study sessions in the PMO

Ryan Leef, Member of Parliament for Yukon

Dear Ryan,

Internet trolls are people who use distortions, false dichotomies, insults, threats and other inflammatory statements to disrupt online debate.  Comments from trolls are cries for attention from furious outcasts and are best ignored.

However, troll-speak is common in certain professions.  Professionals who use troll-speak are coldly calculating manipulators of public opinion.  Some of them troll-speak because their held ideologies are indefensible in reasoned debate.  Others behave like trolls because that is where their talents lie and because they are well paid to do it.

Journalistic trolls have always worked in what is referred to as “yellow press”, a term describing misleading and slanderous newspapers.  The Sun Newspaper chain publishes inflammatory opinion pieces by writers such as Ezra Levant who is well known for his virulent brand of troll-speak and has, on occasion, been sued for libel and hate-speech.

Right wing talk radio shows encourage troll-speak designed to influence those with poor reasoning abilities.  On Open Line, a show on CFOS radio station in Owen Sound, MP Larry Miller, repeating the Prime Minister's misleading comments, denounced a woman who wished to wear niqab at a citizenship swearing in ceremony.  What the PM and Mr. Miller failed to say, was that the woman had willingly shown her face in order to be identified when signing the citizenship papers, as she had always done when necessary.  For her, the niqab was an expression of her faith and culture.

But troll-speak works well with Stupid!   A caller to this episode of Open Line said, "I don't think, I know it's wrong."

Clever trolls work for political parties as propagandists.  Jenni Byrne is co-Deputy Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister's Office, (PMO), and was recently appointed the campaign manager for Stephen Harper in the next election.  Her staff, "the boys in short pants," write speeches and talking points for Conservative MPs that distil complex issues into you-are-either-with-us-or-you-are-on-the-side-of-the-terrorists arguments.  The PMO is responsible for compelling Conservative politicians to repetitively use idiotic catch phrases such as "job killing carbon tax."

A questionnaire, in a Conservative Party taxpayer funded mail out has the PMO's fingerprints all over it.  Here were the two choices facing citizens of Elmwood-Transcona.

1. "I agree with my MP Lawrence Toet.  We must take additional action to protect Canada from terrorism."

2. "I disagree. Terrorists are victims too."

Some politicians are natural trolls and need no coaching. Former MP Vic Toews said of Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia, who questioned an earlier attempt to legalize Internet spying by the RCMP on Canadians, "He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

Here are recent examples of troll-speak from you.

"Job killing carbon tax" is a way to divert attention away from mature conversations about the need for action to counteract the life killing effects of climate change.  (I could be wrong about this example.  It could also be a virus induced tick that plagues only members of the Conservative caucus.)

“We will oppose any attempts to bring back the (gun) registry. Trolls always want to bring up old grievances when they can't find current ones.

"Omar Ahmed Khadr is a convicted murderer."  Scapegoats are vote magnets. How else to rally support from stupid?

The above quote is designed to discourage deeper conversations about why a purportedly civilized country would persecute and allow the incarceration and torture of a child soldier.

It is also copycat troll-speak. Republican trolls insisted on referring to the U.S. president as “Barack Hussein Obama."  The use of the middle name emphasises the Arab-ness and otherness of Obama, (and Khadr). 

When two Conservative MPs, such as you and Roxanne James, read virtually identical speeches a few minutes apart, it is apparent that your propaganda trolls are getting sloppy.  (Or they think Stupid is so stupid that he’s not going to notice.)

Ryan, the Conservative Party is full of otherwise decent people who are behaving like trolls.  Why? 

Your intelligent Conservative supporters hold their noses when you speak like a troll.  And troll-speak is not going to help you win the next election.  But it might do permanent harm your reputation. 

Why not just refuse to do it?

Linda Leon


Linda Leon is not now, nor has she ever been, a member of any federal political party.  Letters to Ryan Leef are published monthly in the Whitehorse Daily Star and in rabble.ca.

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