The mainstream news cycle may have long abandoned this story, but I continue to see articles opining that the Canadian pro-freedom (or anti-mandate) rallies are rooted in far right extremist ideology. Typically I commit myself to the DNE (Do Not Engage) principle, but in one such article, I was unable to walk away without saying something.
In the article (linked above), I was accused of being a ‘fascist apologist’ for the simple reason that I respectfully pushed back on the ill-informed and grossly oversimplified belief that the freedom rallies were overwhelmingly fascist in nature and were supported primarily by far right extremists (or ‘far right dipshits’ as one edgy respondent wrote).
For context, the following was the entire exchange (Note: the commenter edited his response, though it’s unclear what exact edits he made):
But my balanced and thoughtful response was clearly not wanted. I was seen as an intruder interrupting the sanctimonious circle jerk comprising of ad hominems, hyperboles, and unverifiable anecdotes — and this made me just as bad as those ‘freedumb’ fighters. But these hate-fuelled circle jerks only serve one purpose: for those in the in-group to signal their moral superiority to others and boost their social standing. They serve absolutely no one and only contribute to the sea of outrage that has contaminated the information ecosystem.
While I agree (and did share my agreement) that we must be skeptical of the “leaders” of the freedom convoy (and any movement for that matter), that doesn’t make the following untrue: an overwhelming number of Canadians against the mandates have been ordinary Canadians, not far right extremists or QAnoners, or (insert latest trending scapegoat here). Some have asked for ‘proof’ of this; all one really had to was pay attention and listen to what they had to say, but there is short supply of that these days. (The hashtag #TrudeauMustGo has trended a few times in which every day Canadians, including stay at home mothers, flight attendants, health care workers, veterans, farmers, immigrants, and people of all political stripes and backgrounds make it even more clear as to who they are and their reasons for criticizing the mandates). These Canadians are concerned — as they have repeatedly expressed — that their fundamental freedoms are being slowly stripped away under the guise of ‘safety.’
To assign the loaded ‘fascist’ label to individuals who primarily care about preserving our freedoms would be a big mistake; it would create more martyrs out of actual extremists as we have seen before (see: the notorious case of Jim Keegstra who achieved martyrdom status after being charged with hate crimes). The more we ostracize others, the more we unintentionally force them to retreat further and seek out other groups who will welcome them and who will further entrench or ‘radialize’ their beliefs.
The problem — and there are many — of calling me a ‘fascist apologist,’ is that it does not come from a place of seeking to understand. The man who called me this embodies the Very Outraged persona we’ve all come across online. As I read his response to me, I imagined a man stewing in his anger, furiously clanking away at his keyboard, readying himself to regale me with all of the reasons I am wrong and he is right and I am a very bad human being. So there.
Emotionally-driven responses like his come from a place of deep-seated insecurity and internal turmoil, like an abusive partner who manipulates and gaslights to maintain control. It’s impossible to defuse a conversation when one party is actively looking for ways to be outraged and displace their own struggles onto someone else.
While typically it’s best to move on from these hostile exchanges, I thought it would be important to address the bigger issue here, and that is the trend of conflating freedom (whether it is freedom of movement, speech, association, etc.), to being ‘fashy’ (for those unfamiliar, ‘fashy’ is a trendy and juvenile way of saying ‘fascist’ — it is commonly used among younger suburban progressives).
The fact that conservatives, libertarians, liberals, or anyone of any political stripe support freedom does not make that fight for freedom suddenly invalid or ‘fashy.’
Progressives who condemn entire movements based on a few bad apples have a tendency to apply this condemnation selectively. Modern progressive movements are chock full of ‘bad apples’ — many who harass, doxx, and assault others to advance their cause, but they conveniently ignore this. If any of these outrage stokers would have bothered to seek to understand, they would have found that many of the people they call extremists have clearly laid out their reasons for supporting the anti-mandate rallies. But instead of listening to them, we put our own stories together based on incorrect or missing information and regurgitate buzzwords until they no longer resemble our own. We reassure ourselves that these people don’t know any better, that they must be fascists—end of story.
But we must acknowledge that strong protections of freedom is the only way we can preserve our democracy and defend ourselves against a government that seeks to encroach on our rights. (And in Canada this has been happening a lot more frequently — some examples include Bill C-11 (that would create an unequal internet), Bill C-18 (that would create a homogenous news industry), and the Online Harms Bill (that would create a more regulated and censored internet)).
Leftists have shamelessly abandoned the fight to preserve our fundamental freedoms and then have the audacity to turn around and condemn anyone else who seeks to preserve these same freedoms they’ve left behind.
The left used to value such things but they seem to forget this; they used to challenge the status quo, criticize the state, and create spaces for open inquiry. Leftists understood how critical these freedoms are for preserving democracy, for protesting injustices, for exposing government corruption, and for safeguarding our rights as citizens. Our rights and freedoms — including freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of association, and so on, are the main things shielding us from nascent authoritarianism. The rights and freedoms bestowed to us in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are the ones we must closely protect with all that we have.
Somewhere along the way the left has abandoned these principles. If you dare be on the side of freedom, you too are a fascist pig. Or so is their line of thought.
To progressives, the fact that I’ve voted for left-leaning parties since I was old enough to vote doesn’t seem to matter (though it’s not something I am proud of given the sad state of, well, every political party).
The left now proudly acts as the government’s mouthpiece, shrieking at anyone who doesn’t blindly obey. Many of them engage in juvenile behavior (as is often seen online) that has become so emblematic of the left. That is nothing to be proud of. Calling freedom ‘freedumb’ is nothing to be proud of. Calling people who seek to defend our fundamental rights ‘fascist’ is nothing to be proud of.
When you call me fascist for wanting to safeguard our freedoms, you’re really only expressing a veiled desire for authoritarianism. We need more people to pick up the torch and fight to protect our fundamental rights and freedoms that are so fragile, but so critical in a democracy.