It did not take long for reactions to emerge following the toppling of the Sir John A. Macdonald statue last Saturday. Reactions were equally strong in response to the documentary about the Rose brothers, the two men responsible for the kidnapping (and ultimately death) of Pierre Laporte. Rightly or wrongly associated with the “radical left,” nothing is more frightening than the idea of political violence.
Politicians in particular make a point of decrying such gestures − even minor ones like the defacing of effigies − for fear of appearing to sympathize with the devil. And yet. Chaos reigns, especially at the door of our American neighbors. How many politicians here are moved by this? Where are the voices that deplore the unprecedented violence that is currently taking place in the United States?
Of course, you have to take this phrase with a grain of salt, but if you ever wondered what state fascism is all about, you just have to look at what’s going on in the White House. The four days of the Republican National Convention were telling in this regard. First of all, the lying. Not just the exaggerations and fabrications Donald Trump has us accustomed to, but the distortion of what we even perceive to be the truth. It is this gigantic enterprise of mental manipulation that is frightening and, yes, it does remind us of the darkest years of the last century.
Since coming to power, Trump has worked hard to create a parallel world, a world of “alternative facts,” as Trump’s imperturbable consultant Kellyanne Conway likes to say. A world in which he won the popular vote in 2016, where he gathered the largest crowd at his swearing-in ceremony, where he restored America’s power on the world stage and, of course, where he acted like no one else to curb the pandemic.
Out and out lies, ones that, when repeated, not only by the chief illusionist himself but by his immediate entourage, are never (or so rarely) denied by the Republican members of Congress themselves. All this brainwashing ends up creating the illusion that “what you see and what you read is not really what’s going on.”
The imposition of this parallel world peaked at the Republican National Convention last week. A shameless propaganda show, full of Greek columns and giant flags, that not only portrayed Trump as a good father, a great defender of the advancement of women, black people and minorities, but sowed the illusion of two diametrically opposed Americas: one strong, indestructible and prosperous, Trump’s; the other chaotic and impoverished, encouraging infanticide, plunder and anarchy. “No one will be safe in Biden’s America,” said the current president.
“In this context, the truth doesn’t matter,”* explains Peter Pomerantsev, former Russian television director and author of “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible.” Because the truth is what Trump wants it to be. The genius here (if you can call it that) is not only to make people eat the lies up, but also to convince them not to believe anything other than what they are given as information. In other words, objective reality no longer exists. To achieve such a trick, the conspiracy of a dark and evil world, once again reminiscent of Europe in the 1930s, is crucial. It is an initiative to which Trump has been applying himself for a long time. Let’s not forget one of his first rallying cries, “Lock her up!,” implying that Hillary Clinton, in 2016, deserved to go to prison.
Today, it is the Black Lives Matter demonstrators that Trump’s feverish imagination transforms into vile marauders against whom good “patriots” have a duty to defend themselves. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he threatened earlier this summer. Since then, Trump has raised the stakes for inciting violence by asking his supporters to join his “Trump Army” and telling them that they are “president’s first line of defense when it comes to fighting off the liberal mob.” Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who shot and killed two demonstrators last week, likely answered that call. In the words of historian Christopher Browning, “once people do not accept the ground rules by which democracy operates, (…) then things fall apart.”
So, the toppling of statues? Not ideal, agreed. The taking of hostages, even less so.
Intimidation will always stink. But the causes, at least in these two cases, are legitimate. The “Felquistes” (members of the FLQ Quebec Liberation Front group) were right to fight for the little French-Canadian worker, just as Sir John A. deserves to be debunked today. It’s a big difference from what we see in our neighbors. The violence that is increasingly occurring and has no other justification than the megalomania of a single man. How can we not be worried?
*Editor’s note: This quote, accurately translated from the original, could not be verified.