The Crippling Costs of Unseriousness
Nazis in the House! Assassins at the Temple! Fabulists, useful idiots and a whirlwind of dezinformatsiya. That's what's up with Canada right now.
Hey, Canada. How’s that “post-national” experiment working out?
I’m not going to quibble with the way Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre describes the big event (typical headline: Canadian parliament accidentally honours Nazi - with Zelensky and Trudeau applauding), as a thing that has brought “monumental, unprecedented and global shame” upon Canada’s House of Commons.
I’m just not so sure about the “unprecedented” bit. Poilievre might just be lathering it on a little, as in here: “The prime minister is now responsible for the biggest single diplomatic embarrassment in Canadian history.”
In all the antics and imbecilities that get squished into the “foreign policy” envelope in the biggest folder in the bulging filing cabinet that makes up my beat, I can think of quite a few Canadian “world stage” humiliations since 2015 that come pretty damn close to matching the latest blunderfest in the House of Commons.
If Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelenskyy hadn’t been in the House when it happened - and it really did happen by mistake, to be fair to House Speaker Anthony Rota - it would have been just another day in Canada’s long decline into play-acting at being a middle-power G7 country.
This is not to excuse Rota’s unthinking choice to single out the 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka in the visitor’s gallery as a “hero” and to summon standing ovations for him - while Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, was being honoured in the chamber, if you don’t mind. On the eve of Yom Kippur.
In my column in the National Post and the Ottawa Citizen this week, I just scratched the surface of a few comparable national embarassments. National Post version: Better vetting won't stop the Trudeau clown show: It was a farce of worldwide humiliation. Ottawa Citizen: Nazi controversy just the latest evidence Canada is an unserious country. I didn’t even mention the spectacular fallout from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s impromptu Narendra-Modi-Killed-A-Canadian “bombshell” of only a few days earlier.
Do please read the column when you’re done here. Takeaway point: It’s always “optics” with these guys. Trudeau’ fancy-socks neoliberalism, his matinee-idol magazine covers, the Pride parades, the strange fixation with Drag Story Hour fads and teenage gender-reassignment surgery, lowering the flag on all federal buildings for months on end over a “mass grave” that wasn’t, the ill-advised Bollywood haberdashery. . . it’s all optics. Until someone puts an eye out.
Whatever else might be said about the continuing catastrophe of Trudeau’s Modi-Killed-A-Canadian exercise in changing the “foreign interference” channel from the benefits the Liberals accrued from Beijing’s election monkeywrenching in 2019 and 2021 (I’ll have some more backstory to the latest “news” about all that in a later newsletter), here’s something you should notice.
Under the biggest headlines, all these days after Trudeau fashioned himself into the heroic centre of world attention, everything you’ll find still relies on asserted “facts” that remain uncorroborated and sourced solely to Trudeau and to the friends and relatives of the slain Hardeep Singh Nijjar. In other words, to the Khalistanis in Canada that the Government of India has listed as terrorists. And of course, now, the New Democrats’ Jagmeet Singh, who would say that, wouldn’t he.
I can’t find anything that has moved the needle from the direction it was pointing in when I put together last weekend’s Real Story Special, The worst of all possible worlds, or from that Real Story series I assembled in the days and weeks following Nijjar’s gangland-style murder in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Temple on June 14.
Maybe “Indian agents” really were involved. Maybe Nijjar was just another casualty in Metro Vancouver’s interminable gang wars. Maybe that’s a distinction without a difference.
It never ends
I don’t mean to fault Trudeau alone for this pattern. It’s clearly a feature of what Canada has become, and it only occasionally erupts in embarassments noticed by the outside world. Like last year, when Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly’s deputy chief of protocol popped round to the Kremlin’s Ottawa embassy to take in the “Russia Day” party, with vodka and caviar, forgetting, it appeared, that we’re actually not on Russia’s side in this whole Ukraine thing.
Already the outlier in the Five Eyes intelligence partnership, Canada is excluded from the U.S-Australia-United Kingdom Pacific defence pact. Canada is the weakling of a “concerned” NATO alliance owing to Trudeau’s backchannel insistence that Canada will never meet NATO’s two-per-cent GDP military spending floor. NORAD is worried about us. Turkey is “disappointed” with us. Even Haiti is “frustrated” by us.
And now this, just from Friday: After Trudeau denied suggesting that Canada’s defence spending would never be brought up to NATO’s two-per-cent GDP threshold, Canada’s top soldier says he’s being forced to find nearly $1 billion in “savings” that will unavoidably reduce the Armed Forces' already-stretched capabilities.
Chief of defence staff General Wayne Eyre: "I had a very difficult session this afternoon with the commanders of the various services as we attempt to explain this to our people," Eyre said.
And then Defence Minister Bill Blair's office issued a statement saying that really, the cuts aren’t cuts. There’s that optics thing again.
Back to the circus and the main show
Without inviting subscribers to get their hate on with Canada’s “MSM,” I have to say something out loud: The Parliamentary press gallery should share some of the profoundly shy-making discomfort that MPs from every party have been made to endure by becoming objects of worldwide ridicule owing to the Yom Kippur Eve incident.
Go on, I know you want to.
I’ll have some sensitive stuff on the other side of the paywall about all that. We’ve been lurched right back into the “Chrystia Freeland Lied About Her Nazi Past” fiction that was mainlined into the Canadian news media directly from Russia’s embassy in Ottawa on January 11, 2017. And yes, it was and remains a propaganda fiction.
The years pass, and things change, but things also stay the same.
Unfortunately, we’ve all spent a great deal of effort being clever in our elucidations upon how to properly distinguish between a Ukrainian patriot and a Nazi collaborator in the terror time of the 1940s, and about where one might situate the boundaries of Soviet-occupied Eastern Galicia on contemporary maps of the Polish-Ukrainian borderlands, and other such boring ephemera.
This is what Moscow wanted. . .
No, that’s not something I wrote about what’s happening right now. It’s from six years ago, from my deep dive for Maclean’s magazine into the attack on Freeland that was put in play by Moscow’s diplomats in Ottawa, and by their useful Canadians idiots among certain “conservative” groupings and not a few “progressives,” as well as some journalists.
Worse, and even more crazy, Canada is being dragged even further back, to a Soviet-era dezinformatsiya operation aimed at pitting Jews and diaspora Ukrainians against one another. It was called Operation Payback. I’ll be on about its implications, and the sensitivities attending to it, for paying subscribers below.
For all subscribers: full marks go to Lev Golinkin of the Jewish newsmagazine The Forward, in New York. It was Golinkin who broke the story about The Nazi In The Visitors’ Gallery.
Golinkin’s story was nothing like the usual Kremlinoid junk about Nazi puppetmasters running Ukraine and Nazis in high Canadian places. True, Golinkin is a controversial figure in Jewish intellectual circles in that his Nazi-hunting commitments are said to arise from an internalized pathology in a way “that does not help anyone except the producers of Russian propaganda.”
I wouldn’t know. Golinkin is himself a Ukrainian refugee who insists that 99 percent of Ukrainians are nothing like the Nazi diehards you’ll hear about in Russian government press releases, tankie webzines, paleoconservative People’s Party chatrooms and pseudoleft “anti-war” polemics.
Okay, full disclosure, here are my own biases
Yes, I have my own biases here. My own affiliation with the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights hasn’t been an encumbrance, and neither has my affinity with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. But I do worry about the implications for my relationship with certain other leading voices in Jewish advocacy because of the difficult subject addressed in what follows.
When I launched this newsletter in February of last year I made it plain that the project was my response to a crippling epistemic incoherence throughout the Anglosphere that had enfeebled journalism in a terrible way, along with a declining capacity to discern knowlege from belief, fact from fiction and news from propaganda. See: Liftoff. So that’s “where I’m coming from” here.
Only a few weeks later, in the matter of Russia’s barbaric imperialist war of conquest in Ukraine, I wrote this: Let's not be idiots this time, okay? Solidarity, unity and morale are important. Hearts and minds matter. Ukraine matters. I fear I might have been too optimistic, but that’s my standpoint still.
For all my acerbic treatment of the Trudeau government, I’m routinely badgered along these lines: Why are you always defending Chystia Freeland? I’m not, but I do have a history of championing Freeland’s interventions: She saw to the ouster of that Chinese Communist Party sycophant John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, and she forced the ouster of Sergei Lavrov’s friend Stephane Dion, her Eurodweeb predecessor as Canada’s foreign affairs minister.
Also, she came to politics as a journalist and a partisan in the global struggle for liberal democracy. and she has championed one or two of my own interventions. Like the case of Waseem Ramli, a Montreal man-about-town and Liberal Party benefactor with ties to Trudeau and to cabinet minister Marc Miller - and to Syrian mass murderer Bashar Assad.
Unbeknownst to Freeland, her own foreign afffairs bureaucrats had bestowed Ramli with top credentials as Syria’s consul-general in Montreal. This was a guy best known for showing up at Syrian refugee rallies in a scary-looking bright red Humvee with 1SYRIA custom licence plates, a rear window emblazoned with Baathist iconography and a side window obscured by a huge picture of Assad’s face. After I broke the story Freeland pulled his credentials right away. Miller has never forgiven me for it.
Also a bias: I’m among roughly 300 Canadians sanctioned by Russia, forbidden from visiting the country ever again. So is Freeland. She was one of the first Canadians to earn that honour.
And here’s where things get really touchy.
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