Appalled maybe, but no one should be surprised by the ugly threats against Rachel Notley

Posted on February 15, 2017, 12:55 am
8 mins

PHOTOS: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. She has been threatened more than any other Alberta premier, and she reacts with aplomb. Below: British politician Jo Cox, murdered last year by a right-wing extremist for her beliefs; federal Conservative leadership candidate Chris Alexander while a right-wing crowd chanted “lock her up” about Ms. Notley; U.S. President Donald Trump; and former PC leadership candidate Sandra Jansen.

No one should be surprised that Alberta’s NDP premier, Rachel Notley, has been subject to constant and often serious threats of violence.

New statistics from the Alberta Justice Department have revealed what everybody who’s paying attention already knew: Premier Notley receives more threats of physical harm than any of her predecessors in Alberta’s top political job.

She reacts with remarkable aplomb as many of the people who contribute to this problem shrug their shoulders and say, “Who? Me?”

These troubling numbers arrived in the form of verifiable statistics. The resulting reaction among mainstream news organizations across Canada was to report it in a serious way. This offers a reassuring sense facts may still matter, even in our supposedly post-factual era.

Statistics by themselves, of course, don’t categorically prove anything about the reasons for social a problem such as threatening online rhetoric, often of a highly misogynistic and sexualized nature, and in particular direct threats of violence against politicians or open advocacy of the same.

That said, there are some reasonable suppositions that can be made about why this social problem is getting worse and won’t be easy to eradicate.

Just for starters, we live in a society where misogyny is bred in the bone. So there is the deeply ingrained dislike of successful women in public, political roles by the social conservative right, especially its atavistic, activist arm that is bent not only on perpetuating its belief system but forcing others to bend to its will, through harassment if necessary.

Moreover, the Internet and social media in particular have contributed mightily to a decline in political discourse from a situation in which polite policy disagreements prevailed to one in which abuse to outright threats have become commonplace. The anonymity offered by online social media sites makes it easy for the worst among us to feel they can behave this way with little risk of consequences.

Then there is the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the United States, empowering the bigots in our midst with hope of similar success. Remember, though, this trend was already well established here in Alberta long before Mr. Trump’s campaign seemed likely to succeed in the Republic next door – in other words, he touched on something real in North American society, not just south of the 49th Parallel.

More serious is the cynicism of so many politicians on the political right who stand piously by pretending they know nothing while their supporters bully and harass their opponents. Case in point: the successful effort to drive former candidate Sandra Jansen out of the PC leadership race by supporters of another candidate. Or those who allow violent and threatening commentary to be placed on their social media sites without any effort to police or moderate their supporters’ behaviour.

History makes it clear there is a clear connection between advocacy of violence by cynical extremists and actual violence by their weak-minded fellow travellers. This caused the death of Jo Cox in Britain last June, and let’s not pretend the same thing can’t happen here.

In Alberta today there is also notable tolerance for abusive attitudes and violent metaphors by right-wing commentators.

Remember when federal Conservative leadership candidate Chris Alexander egged on a crowd at a right-wing rally as they chanted of “lock her up” at Ms. Notley for daring to implement policies different than those they wanted? Later he claimed he was mortified by this pathetic imitation of the Trump campaign.

One well-known mainstream media commentator in Alberta dismissed this as just “a throwaway gag.” Another whimpered that criticism of the chant was the work of “speech bullies masquerading as victims.”

Mind you, the same easily offended little snowflake of the right was bloviating in reference to the NDP yesterday that his allies must “never turn your back on a vampire until the stake has been driven through its heart.” It read to me like he had a particular politician in mind.

A couple of things should be clear, regardless.

While there are always a few exceptions the right can point to, this kind of ugliness is not typical of political progressives in Canada. What would be the point for a philosophy that consciously advocates inclusiveness, instead of exclusion, that unlike the market-fundamentalist right, actually believes in the marketplace of ideas, not the Shock Doctrine? So don’t fall for the they-do-it-too game.

For another, you can’t blame this ugly rhetoric on the policies of Ms. Notley and her NDP Government, since those policies aren’t really all that different from those advocated by previous Progressive Conservative governments, back in the days when progressives could still be conservatives.

Mind you, in the event we had another PC government – especially one led by a woman – I wouldn’t be at all surprised this kind of rhetoric and threatening behaviour by the same people would persist or even get worse.

So, shock? Maybe. Surprise? No.

Jason Kenney Juggernaut rumbles on

As predicted in this space, members of the Progressive Conservative Party’s Leadership Election Committee last weekend unanimously rejected the idea that wanting to destroy the party is not in the party’s interest.

The committee rejected out of hand a complaint brought by a long-time party activist against candidate Jason Kenney – who has been so open about his plan to shut down the party and roll it into the Wildrose Opposition that we’ve been joking here about his “double reverse hostile takeover” plan for months.

Last week’s rumour that the PCs were finally going to do something about the existential threat presented to their party by Mr. Kenney turned out, of course, to be a triumph of PC hope over Tory experience. Party officials didn’t have the fortitude to do the right thing, or they would have done it long ago.

Mr. Kenney will win on the first ballot on March 18. As a result, no matter what the Wildrosers do or do not agree to, the PC Party is done like dinner.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

27 Comments to: Appalled maybe, but no one should be surprised by the ugly threats against Rachel Notley

  1. Jim

    February 15th, 2017

    We are witnessing a dangerous trend where people seem incapable of having anything that resembles an intelligent conversation with others having opposing views. It immediately degrades into name calling and quickly threats of violence if not actual violence.
    The side that loses power quickly goes nuts, we see it here in Alberta and Canada with the right. South of the border the left is following the same pattern making threats and violently lashing out.
    The MSM seems to be slanted to the losing side in both cases and fans the flames. Perhaps we are now reaping the fruits of all those participation ribbons handed out in school. People don’t seem to know how to deal with failure as adults should.

    Reply
    • K. Larsen

      February 15th, 2017

      Well, we all had fair warning that is how the right wing works in Canada when they set about to destroy the largest collective bargaining unit in the country – the Canadian Wheat Board. Do you really think they played fair doing that? Did no one pay attention to the defamatory lies, physical, and verbal assaults endorsed by Klein and the Conservative thugs before and after him?

      Reply
    • Death and Gravity

      February 15th, 2017

      How exactly is “the left” lashing out and making threats. This both-sides-doit-ism is in most cases a pernicious form of concern trolling, because the plain fact is that both sides don’t do it.

      Reply
      • Jim

        February 16th, 2017

        Well De Niro wants to punch Trump in the face. Michael Moore is spouting off about Trump being a Russian traitor. Madonna’s thoughts about blowing up the Whitehouse. Not to mention the thousands of Twitter threats. As the MSM works to minimize the threats against Notley here the same is being done south of the border.
        Who was behind the violence at Berkeley?

        Reply
        • Expat Albertan

          February 16th, 2017

          De Niro and Madonna are the opposition, they are not the left. Easy to get confused these days.

          Reply
          • Jim

            February 17th, 2017

            When referring to the left and right in the interest of space I usually leave out, “the so called”. Their fund raising activities would put them firmly on, for the sake of space, what could be called the left.

  2. TENET

    February 15th, 2017

    “In Alberta today there is also notable tolerance for abusive attitudes and violent metaphors by right-wing commentators.”

    Your line continued to resonate a long time after I closed the page on your commentary this early AM. So I had to return to it.

    In a larger context, Kenney, O’Leary, Trump and their right-wing surrogates, betray the fact that Alberta is not an isolated case, and you make that clear. We have scoffed at the fire drills, now we ignore the fire alarms.

    Close to home, Premier Notley, and MLA Jansen continue to earn more of my admiration, but that does nothing to improve their safety in the public forum. I fear that things are getting worse.

    In the tug-of-war between fear and hope, the “ugly rhetoric” of fear is the bully on the block in Alberta. The battle against the bullies at home has been diminished by the Trump presidency and the alternate reality, but If we surrender the fight, reality will bite.

    I hope.

    Reply
  3. Gail

    February 15th, 2017

    Look, if they can find people in random places in Saskatchewan threatening Trudeau on social media I don’t see why they can’t have the same standard when it comes to Notley. It’s ridiculous they haven’t been taking the threats to her seriously.

    Reply
  4. RW.Smith

    February 15th, 2017

    Great word DC…”atavistic”. Aptly describes the right wing of this province, specifically, the WRP and their mindless leaders and of course Mr J. Kenney as well.

    Reply
  5. David Khan

    February 15th, 2017

    I love the Edmonton Sun’s “disclosure” at the bottom of Gunter’s piece claiming the criticism of the chant was the work of “speech bullies masquerading as victims”:

    “Disclosure: Lorne Gunter recently appeared on a cruise hosted by Rebel Media, which organized the rally, as a guest speaker, participating in panel discussions, and engaging with guests.”

    What kind of cruise was this? And is it appropriate for a columnist at the Edmonton Sun to be “appearing” at (ostensibly at least) a competitor’s event?

    Reply
    • Death and Gravity

      February 15th, 2017

      Rebel Media is not a competitor to Post Media. It functions for them as the Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh and such do for Fox News. Pushes the window right, gets the crazy-cakes vicious lies out there so that Serious Right Wing Publications can propagate them safely, as if they were news rather than the product of a systematic propaganda machine dedicated to subverting the realm.

      Reply
  6. CuJo Calgary

    February 15th, 2017

    Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.

    – Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

    The RWNJs are winning their war on reason and civility. We must resist.

    Reply
  7. David

    February 15th, 2017

    First, I too agree that the right wing extremists are going way too far toward vilifying Ms. Notley.

    Now slightly off the topic of this article.

    I don’t have any problem with Jason Kenney shutting down the PC Party. Indeed if they want to close it down who but the leader and members could decided to do it.

    But if Kenney wins the leadership and then closes it down that effectively makes him a leader of nothing.

    The question is will the Wild Rose Party accept him as a member of Wild Rose and if they do since the Wild Rose already have a leader who would like to continue as leader, will he agree to a leadership contest against a person who just closed down a party he sought to lead. Is there a danger that he would also move to close down the Wild Rose? Perhaps not until the Alberta public beat him to it.

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      February 15th, 2017

      Interesting observations. I would add that the conservative movement in Alberta has been in crisis since Ed Stalmach’s actions led to the ‘creation’ of the Wildrose. That’s a long time for a political movement to have been dragging around an albatross in public. It makes me wonder what Albertans might be thinking, perhaps even subconsciously, about the viability of whatever emerges from the ashes. I mean, you might be jonesing for an apple after eating nothing but bananas, but if all the apples in the store are bruised, you might think twice.

      Reply
  8. Michael Irvine

    February 15th, 2017

    Law and Order CONservatives love threatening physical violence and then carrying it out more than anyone on Earth .

    .

    Reply
  9. Val

    February 15th, 2017

    but unlike “sunny boy”, she does handle this issue quite well instead of waste of time and resources. after all it’s just anonymous internet “heroes”, nothing more.
    as have been said – “never argue with idiots, they will only drag you down to their level and then beat you by their experience”.

    Reply
    • anon

      February 16th, 2017

      the point isn’t to argue with them, the point is to jail them for breaking the law by making written and verbal threats of violence. If that does not happen it undermines the rule of law itself which suits the CONservatives just fine.

      Reply
      • Val

        February 16th, 2017

        what undermines the rule of law itself it’s when killers, pedophiles, sex offenders, thieves, drug dealers, crooked banks and corporations executives, corrupted politicians, etc. freely walks among us even after their wrong doing have been exposed.
        when system prefer to dedicate already scarce resources to hunt down and punish an idiots on facebook or tweeter, it’s nothing else but muscle play showcase for ones, who isn’t agree for some reasons with those, who’s in power.

        Reply
        • Robert Wm

          February 17th, 2017

          Seriously? These are not idiots on Facebook, these are prime examples of the devolution of civil discourse in favour of rhetoric induced by extremism among right wing political establishments and supporters. Fildebrandt and Kennedy come to mind,

          Reply
          • Val

            February 18th, 2017

            can you point to case, when non-idiot (MPs or political celebs) have been punished for their tweets and messages?

  10. J.E. Molnar

    February 15th, 2017

    “Still, never turn your back on a vampire until the stake has been driven through its heart.” Lorne Gunter (Edm Sun Feb. 14/17)

    That is the quote of a noted Postmedia columnist in describing the NDP in a recent column. This highly incendiary comment evokes hatred and gives license to every RWNJ to practice virulent commentary and literally puts a stamp of approval on intolerable public discourse. It should embarrass Postmedia editors and executives to be party to such outrageous depiction of a sitting government. I get it, they call it free speech, while the rest of us call it editorial depravity. Postmedia needs to set an example and not lead a vitriolic ambush. I guess we know now where people get the ideas for malicious posts on Postmedia websites and Facebook accounts.

    Reply
  11. Sam Gunsch

    February 15th, 2017

    Not only do they make extreme threats against the NDP, they continue to eat their own.

    FWIW
    Some of the most extreme of the RW are again flipping out simply because Rath’s got the temerity to challenge Kenney using the PC’s own rules.

    excerpt: ‘Rath said that since he made the complaint his law office has been “inundated with abusive telephone calls and emails.”

    http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/politics/jason+kenney+faces+another+motion+disqualify+from+leadership/12922908/story.html

    Reply
  12. Farmer B

    February 16th, 2017

    I think it has nothing to do with ideology and more to do with access. Today with social media there is far less privacy for our elected officials and it is much easier for members of the public to express our agreement or disagreement.

    The Trump effect is always trotted out as the latest cause of intolerance, does that mean that progressives will be demonstrating in the street in Canada next? I don’t remember the Republican supporters demonstrating in the streets after Obama won his first mandate.

    As for the PC’s, there ridiculous at times leadership race continues to become more ridiculous.

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      February 16th, 2017

      Then you missed the Tea Party and the birthers, my friend. The former were certainly demonstrating in the streets and the latter were just nuts.

      Reply
      • David Khan

        February 17th, 2017

        I would also point out, for example, that Congressman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and six others killed in 2011 near Tucson where she was meeting with constituents. “Demonstrating in the streets”? There was far worse.

        Reply
  13. Me

    February 16th, 2017

    Obama’s election in 2008 was preceded and followed by violent attacks and property destruction targeted against minorities.

    Kaylon Johnson, an African American campaign worker for Obama, was physically assaulted for wearing an Obama T-shirt in Louisiana following the 2008 election. The three white male attackers shouted “Fuck Obama!” and “Nigger president!” as they broke Johnson’s nose and fractured his eye-socket, requiring surgery.

    More frequently, Obama’s presidency was marked by effigies of our first black president hanging from nooses across the country, for example in Kentucky, Washington State, and Maine, or being burned around the world. What Trump supporters fail to remember is that following Obama’s election, property was destroyed across the country, for example in Pennsylvania, Texas, and North Carolina, and a predominately black church was torched in Massachusetts.

    Reply

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