Hardline Progressives Are Enabling Milo Yiannopoulos

By:James Di Fiore

He’s repugnant. He’s a vicious Internet troll. And he just happens to be right about mainstream left wingers in North America.

Milo Yiannopoulos, the gay conservative online provocateur is widely reviled, and for good reason. A contributing editor for Breitbart News, Milo’s modus operandi is to offend, annoy, and attack the left, as well as the groups seen as marginalized by society. He’s often well beyond vitriolic, ranting about how feminism is a cancer or how Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group. His whole career centers around one main pillar; that the left is determined to destroy free speech for those who do not subscribe to their rigid ideology.


And, tragically, he’s not just correct, he’s infallible on that point.This week Milo was scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley, the campus where the free speech movement was born, a reaction to the university faculty’s decision to ban on-campus political activities. Throughout the 60s and for decades, Berkeley was considered to be the main guardian of the 1st amendment.

My, how times have changed.

Milo and his controversial shtick were cancelled after students and other ultra-progressives fired rocks, Molotov cocktails, and industrial fireworks at police and security in a successful bid to shut down the event. By doing so, they not only made Milo more infamous, and probably more wealthy and influential, but they also excoriated their own campus’ legacy for being all about liberty and justice.

But it isn’t just Milo and American progressives battling to see whose side can be most influential. This battle is now an omni-present engagement between the two fringes of the right and left, as well as those of us in the middle who can’t stomach either side.

A strange phenomenon has been happening over the past decade or so that has stifled great debates, great conversation. I did not truly understand the magnitude of the problem until I began receiving messages from people on Facebook after getting into debates with strangers about identity politics. The messages are almost always identical; ‘Hey James, just wanted to let you know that I agree with a lot of the points you made today. But I can’t jump in because I don’t want to get fired from my job.’

They sometimes don’t want their families to give them a hard time, or they are afraid they will lose friends over their opinions. Depressingly, these are both very plausible outcomes, the aftermath of a polarized society where you must wave one of two flags, and by doing so you are required to parrot certain viewpoints or you will find yourself without a flag to wave.

I know about this first hand. Most of my friends lean left on nearly everything. And that’s fine, but many of them have opinions that are not in line with hard left ideology, and they are far too afraid to talk about those positions in public. Things like gender politics, for example. I would estimate that at least 80% of my female friends over the age of 30 refuse to call themselves feminists. They feel infantilized by modern feminists, embarrassed that they are being told to constantly place themselves in the role of a victim. And just as an aside, it is beyond sad that their views are met with rage and reflexive dismissals from their fellow women.

Milo uses the word ‘cancer’ to describe feminism, but I would say the modern movement is more like a caricature of itself, applying several litmus tests as a way to gauge whether or not a person can join the club.

It should be reassuring for activists to know that a growing number of women already feel like equals in our society, empowered by a healthy work life balance and a staunch confidence that their futures are centered around their belief that they have as many opportunities to thrive as their fellow male citizens. They believe they can negotiate a higher wage, and do not feel bogged down by the belief that the wage gap can be explained by misogyny alone. But many men and women know from experience that discussing topics like the wage gap is booby trapped with ideological talking points, accompanied by a visceral reaction that cites questionable statistics as if they were as ironclad as the colour of the sky or where babies come from. But the people I know who might disagree about the causes and size of the wage gap are all people who believe in gender equality, and many of them are strong, intelligent women.

Nobody wants to hear from these women though. The hardliners will dismiss their experiences as anecdotal, a symptom of a patriarchal shell game that isn’t indicative of most women’s experiences. And why would they acknowledge this progress? After all, it undermines their entire identity as the fighters of ingrained oppression. Like hardline conservatives and their cult-like faith in free market capitalism, there is no room for negotiation. Both progressives and conservatives engage in echo chamber activism born out of polarization that defines the other side as the enemy while branding their own side as unerring. There is never any compromise, never any debate to water down the dogma. Facts that contradict the radical positions of either side are off-limits, viewed through a lens tinted with the notion that the ends always justify the means, especially when those ends are all about justice.

I still consider myself a person with strong progressive ideals. I am on the centre/left of every issue I can think of, except one: political correctness. That a notorious troll like Milo concurs with my assessment of who is stifling free speech does not mean I endorse his brand, but I’m not about to stop him from speaking either. It’s paradoxical, and my daughter shouldn’t have to choose between a demagogue and a side too afraid to admit they’ve already won a few battles in the fight against inequality.


Election 2011: How Canada is Replicating America’s Hyper Partisan Politics


 NDP surge means more than a political shift – it completes the national polarization process

By: James Di Fiore

As far as Parliamentary systems go, Canada once had an international reputation of demonstrating fiscal prudence, strong social policies and a peacekeeping military. It wasn’t too long ago when our national identity was predicated on our ability to differentiate ourselves, respectfully of course, from our American cousins. Canadians, a patchwork of various political leanings, had a reputation of not letting ideology trump civil discourse, even while their politicians took cheap shots or when Question Period looked like Romper Room. Americans, by contrast, treat politics like a blood sport, a tug of war between polar opposites fueled by cable news, conspiracy and the tendency to vilify opposing views. And while the two countries are easily separated by this political distinction, that gap is shrinking ominously.

The 2011 election has been preempted by deliberate tactics of aspersions meant to reinforce political differences rather than spotlight honest disagreements. This reinforcement seems logical on the surface; after all, this is an election of partisan ideas and genuine dissimilarities between the parties. But the tactical trends indicate an increase in hyperbole, demonization and vitriol between regular people, not just the leaders they support. Evidence of this new mindset among voters can be seen on social networking sites, the opinion sections of news outlets and in pubs and coffee shops across the country. The two sides are drifting from the center, espousing far right and far left ideals while warning their fellow Canadians of the perils of political views opposite from their own.

By attacking Stephen Harper on military spending, corporate tax cuts and perceived government secrecy, the Liberals and NDP are inciting reactionary rhetoric from their loyalists rather than a frank discussion on policy differences. Rooted in these talking points may be reasonable concerns, but the conversation is routinely fertilized with fear mongering and allegations of conspiracy.

The far right, disciplined in their ability to robotically stay on message, firebomb the left with labels like ‘socialist’, ‘fiberal’ and ‘anti-Semite’. The latter smear is telegraphed and eerily reminiscent of Evangelical America, the slur being delivered arbitrarily and deliberate. The term socialism, as the Obama era has demonstrated, is now the political equivalent of calling a person a Brownshirt, stoking a reaction among those conservatives who still cynically dub Canada ‘Canuckistan.’

Identical to American politicos in tone and delivery, these two groups have become the loudest voices during this campaign. Television broadcasts may not espouse or endorse the same kind of language, but journalists and pundits quietly recognize the behind the scenes trend of tar and feathering political opponents. As the Conservative base digs in, the rise of the NDP marches on. Ideologies are continuing to drift farther apart. The rhetoric provides the kind of cover that helps avoid the effective discourse needed to reconcile opposing views. You might never hear Stephen Harper publicly utter the word Canuckistan, but you can hear his base cackle enthusiastically when the term is used. Jack Layton probably won’t point and yell ‘Fascist!’ if Harper wins a majority government, but many of his minions are already wearing t-shirts bearing the message.

The chances of further polarization among Canadians is high. Engagement in politics is rising, moods are shifting and party strategists are encouraging an ongoing spirit of anger among their respective loyalists. Torches and pitchforks have been replaced with internet trolling and reactionary, inflammatory language.

Disinformation. Relentless name-calling. A dangerous and tragic replication of American discourse is being born, and many Canadians are unwitting, tragic accomplices.

Elizabeth May Too Politically Green to be Leader

Exclusion from debates a self fulfilling prophecy for Greens

By: James Di Fiore

Imagine if Elizabeth May were a far right leader who espoused ideas like eliminating the corporate tax altogether, privatizing daycare centers and making abortion illegal. Imagine she had the support of nearly 1 million voters in the last election but still did not hold a seat in Parliament.

Now, if you can, try to imagine all of her current boosters rallying to allow her air time during the televised, federal debates. Can’t do it, can you? Don’t feel bad, most of May’s supporters are left leaning, which is fine on the surface, but scratch away and you’ll find a facet of the electorate as important as voter apathy; complete and utter hypocrisy born from an ideological bent dressed up as a fight for democracy.

This new cause celebre is the latest example of Canada’s continuous erosion of political consistency, spotlighting a hyper partisan yet fractured electorate in the run up to the fourth election the nation has seen in the past 7 years. Say this to May’s boosters and you will be met with the disingenuous claim that they would fight the good fight even if Ann Coulter were the shafted leader of a seatless party. ‘We want proportional representation,’ they claim, and have no qualms over pretending the system is already changed before actually trying to change it. In other words, they insist on circumnavigating the process while simultaneously stating the process is unfair. How’s that for double speak?

This is an issue of process, not fairness. Proportional representation is a fight worth having, but allowing May to debate before winning that fight would be an act of collective civil disobedience rather than an exercise in democratic fairness. Indeed, this fight begins and ends with Elections Canada, an organization ripe for criticism by all federal parties, especially the current government who believe Elections Canada are out to get them. But the Greens, who sat on their hands since the 2008 election when they should have been trying to work cooperatively with the other federal parties to evolve our Canadian system, now expect to be given special treatment as they describe their exclusion as “arbitrary” and an “outrage”. Outrageous is an apt description for May’s claim that Canadians will be deprived of real democracy, implying that the debates are the best way for Canadians to make an educated choice in the election. Assuming this is true, it speaks volumes of May’s leadership when one considers her inclusion last time around garnered exactly zero seats in Parliament. And while a million voters are nothing to sneeze at, the actual number could be much lower if some Green supporters are now tired of a disorganized party with fractured support and no official voice in Ottawa. If May had been active in the pursuit of proportional representation she would be coming off more credible. As it stands, her old antics of flailing her political limbs and screaming ‘democracy now!’ is getting old…and obvious.

But hey, let’s not let something as arbitrary as ‘the system’ get in the way of a good publicity stunt. If support for the Greens decreases this time around then May’s days as leader will be numbered, and whoever replaces her will have to decide what’s more important: a chance to participate in televised debates, or spending the next few years championing the very system they need to justify their participation. Choose the latter and they will not only increase their political capital for the next election, but possibly save their party in the process.

This Week in Question Period – December 11th, 2009

By: James Di Fiore

Poor Peter MacKay.

Not since his heartbreaking split with nepotism-soaked heiress Belinda Stronach a few years ago have we seen such a flustered Minister of Defense. Peter McKay faced loud and sometimes obnoxious calls to resign by members of the opposition this week, capping off a week that brought the prisoner abuse scandal to a new level.

After years of steadfast claims that Canada has never acted improperly when handing detainees over to Afghan officials on the battlefield, a field report surfaced that showed one detainee had been photographed with Canadian soldiers before being handed over and subsequently abused at the hands of his Afghan captors. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff lambasted both Prime Minister Harper and MacKay after General Walter Natynczyk acknowledged that the military had been aware that transferred prisoners risked being abused. The report contained a note from a Canadian soldier stating the following – “we then photographed the individual prior to handing him over to ensure that if the Afghan National Police did assault him, as has happened in the past, that we would have a visual record of his condition.” The field report is dated 2006 and was apparently only discovered on Wednesday morning by General Natynczyk.

The opposition leaders and back-benchers took turns calling for MacKay’s resignation both directly and through the PM.

Coincidentally, MacKay was scheduled to appear in front of a parliamentary committee concerning Afghanistan on Wednesday afternoon, where he once again faced scathing criticism from opposition members. The government has consistently stated they have no credible evidence of detainees being tortured after being in Canadian custody, and attempted to spin the controversy into ‘military bashing’ by the Liberals and other opposition parties.

This desperation tactic may be a watershed moment for the parliament as they head into the holidays. The new developments related to the military police complaints commission’s stated determination to begin hearings in March over Afghan detainees, but many on the Hill feel the Conservative government will not appoint a new commissioner in time. 340, 000 documents currently being reviewed and redacted may thwart the committee’s ability to uncover the underlying issues. The government has stated the redacted material are a matter of “operational safety” for the troops still stationed overseas. Michael Ignatieff sees it differently.

“This is a government that tried to strangle the military police commission from the beginning,” Ingatieff stated. He added, “The risk of putting anybody in operational danger is about zero . . . It’s too ridiculous to discuss.”