When haters’ hate targets the vulnerable

Ya gotta feel for Maxime Bernier. The leader of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) is pretty pissed I imagine. He cannot get a seat at the upcoming debate that will feature the leaders of the other parties (even Green Party chief Elizabeth May – and she only has two seats in Parliament! – will be there). Billboards his party put up outlining its position on immigration have been taken down. Poor Max is shouting from the parapets and it is not obvious that anyone is really listening.

It is thus high time to bring out the big guns: go after a 16-year old.

Mr. Bernier has launched a vicious diatribe against Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen environmental activist who is getting a lot of attention of late. In a series of tweets on Monday he wrote: ” @GretaThunberg is clearly mentally unstable. Not only autistic, but obsessive-compulsive, eating disorder, depression and lethargy, and she lives in a constant state of fear.” and “She has become an influential figure in a movement that is a threat to our prosperity and civilisation. If she wants to play that role, she should be denounced and attacked.”

Let me point out again that Mr. Bernier is directing his bile at a SIXTEEN-YEAR OLD. Does this remind you of anything? Maybe the jerks in grade 12 who bullied the grade 9s? Does ANYONE think this is ok? (As an aside have a gander at two excellent op-eds in today’s (September 4) Globe and Mail on why his actions are so disgusting by John Ibbotson and Gary Mason).

There is a larger issue here, beyond the puerile schoolyard tactics of a supposed political party leader. This behaviour points to a trend among hate and terrorist groups: they target those they can dominate and hurt. Whether it is jihadis who rape Yazidi girls or Jewish settlers who firebomb Palestinian homes in the West Bank or Hindu terrorists who beat and kill Muslims who consume beef or Buddhist extremists who massacre Rohingya civilians in Myanmar or neo-Nazis who attack transgender people the theme is the same: hit those who cannot hit back. A theme that is as old as the hills.

For the record I am NOT calling Maxime Bernier a terrorist or a violent extremist, although I am comfortable calling his views extreme (extreme as defined by Canadian politics). But I am calling him a bully and his actions against Greta Thunberg despicable. We can agree to disagree on climate change (although those who think it is not happening find themselves on increasingly shrinking ice floes – how was that for an analogy?) or what to do about it but we must not descend to insulting well-intentioned youth who want to help. Or draw attention to their Asperger’s Syndrome. It is hard to get any lower than that. Then again maybe that is why he did it – to get the attention he craves and is not receiving.

We collectively have a responsibility to denounce and reject messages of this ilk. We need to return to civil debates and eschew personal attacks against the vulnerable. Why? Because we are Canadians and we are decent people, that’s why.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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