Canada is a special place; but Alberta is a little prickly.
The Soapbox family celebrated Canada Day at Olympic Plaza trying to dislodge a Big Red Ball wedged between some girders, admiring children’s art work (our favourite was a mask made by a second grader who said it represented her love of dogs and money), and clapping wildly when a street performer performed the Walk of Death (twirling machetes, a volunteer from the audience, safety glasses, very exciting).
It wasn’t until we returned home that we learned the Prime Minister forgot to mention Alberta in his Canada Day speech. He quickly apologized but his “Sorry Alberta, I love you.” wasn’t good enough for the Wildrose party.
Brian Jean tweeted “Our country is stronger because of Alberta, and unlike our Prime Minister, I won’t ever forget that.”
Derek Fildebrandt tweeted a map of Trudeau’s Canada. Alberta is labelled “Not Canada”, Saskatchewan is “Sort of Canada” and the other provinces and territories are “Canada”.
While the rest of Canada celebrated Canada’s successes and acknowledge the need to do better to address its shortcomings, the Wildrose threw a hissy fit. Why?
Jason Stanley, a philosophy professor at Yale, would say it’s propaganda.
Stanley says we usually think of propaganda in the context of totalitarian regimes but it is equally dangerous to democracies.
His definition of propaganda and how it works sheds some light on the Wildrose’s reaction to Trudeau’s mistake.
Propaganda doesn’t always start with a lie:
Trudeau did forget to name Alberta when he listed the provinces and territories in his speech but Brian Jean’s assertion that Trudeau also “forgot” Alberta’s contribution to Confederation is false. Derek Fildebrandt’s insinuation that Trudeau doesn’t acknowledge or respect Alberta because it’s not a part of Trudeau’s Canada is equally false. And yet their supporters gobbled it up.
Propaganda attempts to redefine reality in order to switch voters’ values to the leader’s values:
It is true that Peter Lougheed battled Ottawa to protect Alberta’s right to control its own resources. It is also true that Pierre Elliot Trudeau exacerbated the economic downturn in Alberta by introducing the National Energy Program, however, all that is ancient history.
Last November Justin Trudeau approved two oilsands pipelines. This May he reaffirmed his support for the Trans Mountain pipeline notwithstanding the impending change in the BC government. Rather than give Trudeau credit for these actions, the WR prefer to rehash policies made by his father over 30 years ago.
Propaganda prevents people from seeing what’s in their own best interest by appealing to their emotions, creating an insider/outsider dynamic, and eroding standards of reasonableness that depend on mutual respect and accountability:
It is in Alberta’s best interests to support Rachel Notley’s Climate Leadership Plan because it was instrumental in getting Justin Trudeau to approve two oilsands pipelines but the Wildrose oppose the CLP because it regulates emissions and introduced a carbon tax, both of which are anathema.
It is also in Alberta’s best interests to support Justin Trudeau so he will use federal power to bring BC’s new government into line if it tries to block the Trans Mountain pipeline. And yet, the Wildrose rail against Trudeau’s government without offering an alternative plan to bring BC on board.
Attempts at civil discourse go up in smoke and the Prime Minister’s honest mistake is transformed into a heinous slur.
Propaganda is used by tyrants who sow fear among the people, then present themselves as the people’s protector with the intention of exploiting them:
The Wildrose have rolled Trudeau’s mistake into a broader propaganda campaign that can be summarized as follows:
- Ottawa hates Alberta because Alberta is rich in resources. Us against them.
- Conservative leaders like Peter Lougheed defended Alberta against Ottawa. We need a protector.
- NDP leader Rachel Notley does not engage in vitriolic attacks on Justin Trudeau. Notley won’t protect us.
- Brian Jean, Jason Kenney and Derek Fildebrandt attack Justin Trudeau on everything from his socks to his slip up on Canada Day. They will protect us.
- Unless Notley is unseated in 2019, the abuse of Alberta by Ottawa will continue. Vote UCP.
- Brian Jean, Derek Fildebrandt, Jason Kenney (pick one) is the only person who can unseat Notley, protect Alberta and make Alberta great again. Vote for [fill in the blank].
Sadly, this propaganda has taken hold in some parts of Alberta.
Either that or Albertans are a bunch of big babies who are easily offended.
Sources: How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley