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Open Letter to Rona Ambrose,
Interim Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada
Dear Ms. Ambrose,
Since losing the last election, Conservative politicians have been bending over backwards to present a civil, more caring face to Canadians. And many of us have been wondering if we imagined all the sneering, dirty tricks and bullying that came to epitomize the Harper regime. Have all the conservative toughs, now presenting as kind-hearted progressives, reformed? Or is this a false front?
The Conservative Party of Canada, under Mr. Harper, hired a string of professional trolls, also known as communication directors, to create character assassination propaganda ads with the intention of destroying the reputations of political opponents. Michael Ignatieff was falsely accused of being an anti-Semite. Mr. Dion was belittled for his thick accent. Slander sheets variously accused opponents of being supporters of the Taliban, ISIL and pedophiles.
It has come to my attention that the Conservative Party of Canada is once again going low. A recent attack ad shows a photo of a shirtless Justin Trudeau. It asks Canadians why the Prime Minister is on a beach when the jobless rate is rising.
Not only is this ad shabby and misleading, it is also illegal. Permission to use the photograph was not obtained. Photographer Marnie Recker sent a cease and desist order to the Conservative Party of Canada. And communication director, Cory Hann, removed the ad without explanation.
Negative propaganda is a very effective way to damage the credibility of political opponents. It is most effective with the under-educated who lack training in critical thinking. Which would explain why Donald Trump loves the under-educated.
If an ad is crude and the tone belligerent, all the better. It makes those most influenced by this stuff feel at home and with their own kind. Truthfulness is not required.
There are other low road tactics beyond personal slander. A technique called "dog whistles" includes phrases that have additional meaning for certain sectors. For example, the phrase "family values" implies judgement against the LGBT community. The founder of the Klu Klux Klan, Hiram Bingham, first coined the phrase, "old stock". Stephen Harper's use of this phrase was an appeal to white supremacists. Boutique shopping for the bigot vote, while hardly admirable, is not unusual in today's political climate.
Wedge politics attract voters through division. Whole sectors of a population, preferably visible minorities, can be targeted through propaganda as the enemy thereby creating cohesive support amongst the many against the few. It also deflects attention away from leadership failures. The Tsars of Russia, when faced with the prospect of serf revolt due to famine, would blame the Jews and sponsor pogroms. Ms. Ambrose, the only difference between using hate to garner votes and using hate to inspire mob violence is degree.
Which brings me to why going low will eventually backfire.
Republicans spent years inculcating hate and intolerance, against both political opponents and vulnerable groups, amongst their supporters. In doing so they laid a societal foundation of monstrously inaccurate but commonly held beliefs and an appetite for cruelty.
Now the Republican Party is paying the price. Imagine the chagrin in back rooms as they realize that they literally prepared the way, primed the pump if you will, for a Donald Trump.
We are now witnessing the destruction of the Republican Party.
Ms. Ambrose, the role of politicians of all stripes is to provide sound decision-making and leadership. The role of the official opposition is to rigorously study and critique the policies of the sitting government to ensure that the nation is well served. I would urge you, as Interim Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, to fire your trolls and focus on your job.
Linda Leon is not now, nor has she ever been, a member of any federal political party.
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