McGinnis Part 3: Confederates, Nazis and Truckers

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3) Any medium of communication is also a medium for propaganda

Another tool of propaganda Edward Bernays highlighted in his classic manual, as essential for those seeking to manipulate an unsuspecting citizenry, is communication. Today, this includes radio, print, TV, social media, podcasts, audio book services, sports and foreign news channel streaming, and employing Facebook fact-checkers, Big Tech censorship and YouTube banner.

When it came to vaccine hesitant Canadians and the trucker freedom convoy, the Trudeau Liberals already had a cozy relationship with the media. In 2018, the Trudeau Liberals gave $595 million in a “bailout” to over 1,500 Canadian media outlets. [29] Next, they paid the legacy media over $61 million before the September 2021 election to keep them in their corner with coverage friendly to the government. Reporting in the Lake Superior News, Spencer Fernando warned that these payments to the media had potential to subvert democracy. A media happy to receive these hundreds of millions of dollars could be disinclined to report stories troubling to the Liberals. [30]

Media coverage of the freedom convoy framed Trudeau as a noble leader beset by a throng of hoodlums, criminals, “terrorists, mercenaries…” In an effort to variously demean, defame and demonize the truckers, Canadian legacy media employed an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink strategy to agitate their audiences to feel repugnance toward convoy protesters.

At first, the media just ignored news about formation of the convoy. Next on January 22, there were reports of tie-ups on BC-Highway 99, from the US border to Vancouver. These were allegedly due to truckers protesting the conditions of highways in British Columbia. This despite truck drivers in the province who knew damage from November rainstorms had washed out parts of highways, bridges in seven major provincial routes. The Department of Highways had opened highways before the year was through. Purportedly, a truck convoy from Surrey to Vancouver was protesting “ineffective” use of “de-icing equipment.” [31] Suddenly, the convoy protest about provincial highways morphed into one heading to Ottawa.

In the following weeks the bribed, bailed out, media described convoy protesters as angry, “Russian actors,” “fascists,” unimportant, [32] pyromaniacs, Confederates, white supremacists, Nazis, an embarrassment to the trucking industry, and more.

As the convoy headed east, on Jan 25, CTV ran this headline: “’So many angry people’: Experts say online conversation around trucker convoy veering into dangerous territory.” The network interviewed Kurt Phillips, founder of Anti-Racist Canada, who warned that he’d “seen people online calling the trucker convoy Canada’s version of the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan 6, 2021, for the truckers to ram their trucks into Parliament, and people encouraging the hanging of politicians.” Peter Smith with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network warned that “the largest groups…have been organized and managed by people who have connections to…the Yellow Vests, the separatist Western movements. So right from the start, this began as part of fringe politics.” [32]

Turning from alleged racist motives, the Convoy was next framed as inspired by Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Russian actors” had instigated the convoy. CBC reporter Nil Koksal mused, “Given Canada’s support of Ukraine in this current crisis with Russia…there is a concern that Russian actors could be continuing to fuel things as this protest grows, perhaps even instigating it from the outside.” The CBC retracted the statement on February 4th. [33]

Washington Post cartoonist Michael de Adder published a cartoon illustrating a convoy of trucks, each with the word “FASCISM” written on its side. The phrase “Supply Chain” was written on the bottom of the frame. The truckers weren’t to be understood as asking the government to back up their claims that cross-border trucking would not have any impact on spread of COVID-19. After two years of shouting “we’ve got the science” in order to close down debate, the convoy protest was to be understood as a sudden eruption of fascism.

On January 29, CTV journalist Mackenzie Gray posted a photo of an individual carrying a confederate flag. Gray tweeted above the photo, “We’ve got our first confederate flag of the day here on Parliament Hill.” Florida governor Ron Desantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw responded on Twitter to Gray’s tweet observing “You claim to be a journalist, so why don’t you interview him? You can ask him who he is – and why he is flying a Confederate flag. If you just post a picture like this with no context, it looks like you’re implying the entire convoy are racists. How do you know he isn’t a plant?” [35]

Why would Canadian truckers, pissed off at having their ability to make a living due to imposition of cross-border vaccine mandates, want to bring a Confederate flag, a symbol of pre-American Civil War defense of slavery? It was convenient for media to use the photo of a Confederate flag to switch discussion from the merits of cross-border vaccination mandates. Instead, reporters could conjure the ghost of Robert E. Lee, inferring convoy protesters wanted to establish slavery in Canada.

On January 29, the Globe & Mail ran this headline: “Almost one in five Canadian truckers is South Asian, but many don’t see themselves represented in the trucker convoy.”  Reporter Uday Rana claimed Sikh truck drivers hadn’t been invited to take part in the convoy. [36] Yet, it was clear from video taken by those attending the convoy protests that there were many South Asian and Sikh truck drivers present. [37] Numerous tweets and posts online underscored the ethnic diversity of the convoy protesters. Indigenous drummers were leading the crowd by Parliament Hill in singing O Canada. [38]

On January 28, CTV ran a story with the headline ‘Embarrassment for the industry’: Not all truckers support the ‘freedom convoy’” The story began, “A so-called ‘freedom convoy’ of truckers and supporters is on its way to Ottawa…” A trucker from London, Ontario was interviewed who thought the convoy was “an embarrassment for the industry.” Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada told CTV “Our organization’s become very concerned about…racist remarks comparing (the mandate) to Nazis and communism – things that are not compatible to what’s going on right now.” Video playing in the background on CTV showed truck after truck with Canadian flags, and a sea of supporters with Canadian flags everywhere.  [39] The previous week Millian had decried the “state of chaos” and “mass confusion” the Trudeau Liberals had thrown the trucking industry into by enforcing a vaccine mandate on drivers to cross the US-Canada border. [40]

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