An open letter to Rona 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 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. Stephane Dion was belittled for his thick accent. Slander sheets variously accused opponents of being supporters of the Taliban, ISIL and pedophiles.
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.
Permission to use the photograph was not obtained. Photographer Marnie Recker sent a cease-and-desist order to the Conservative Party. 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.
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. So-called “dog-whistle” politics includes phrases that have additional meaning aimed at certain sectors. For example, the phrase “family values” implies judgement against the LGBT community.
Wedge politics attracts 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.
But going low will eventually backfire.
Republicans spent years inculcating hate and intolerance, against both 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.
Republicans are now 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.
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, Whitehorse