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Cold Comfort: The Discussion We Need to Have

user profile picture Barry Silverthorn Feb 05, 2022
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As hundreds of truckers protest in this nation’s frozen capital, Canada is in the news worldwide. What many people associate with Canada are things like maple syrup, back bacon, Tim Hortons, the word “sorry”, beer and toques (thanks Bob & Doug McKenzie), and that elusive Canadian girlfriend who no one has ever met. And hockey sticks. It’s likely that every Canadian has picked one up at some time in their life.

But as a Canadian, I’ve seen a different kind of hockey stick introduced this winter; it’s the chartable, steep increase in fear and division stirred up by some of our leaders and the news media – and the mysterious, gloved hand that manipulates public opinion – to ensure the remaining 21% of the Canadian population get fully vaccinated.

A supporter of the Freedom Convoy expresses her patriotic stance along the 401 highway in Ontario, Canada.

What the H-E-double-hockey sticks is going on here?

As a Peak Prosperity subscriber, I watched Chris Martenson’s videos in early-December of 2021 with optimism. Omicron was the new variant. Since it was milder than previous versions there were good reasons to believe that we might live to see COVID-19 becoming endemic by late-spring. There was speculation that being exposed to it might leave us with the natural immunity that we needed. Just days earlier Omicron had arrived in Canada on a plane from Africa, and the puck was already in play here.

Over the Christmas holidays, the Province of Ontario decided to close schools and reinstate restrictions on restaurants and gyms for another month. On New Year’s Eve, in the Province of Quebec, Premier Francois Legault announced a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew effective immediately. Apparently, the virus in that province was going to stalk its victims in the night like some kind of spiky Nosferatu. We let out a collective, frustrated sigh and went back to the couch to watch more reruns of Schitt’s Creek.

In early January, I started to notice some concerning news articles showing up on social media. The first was “Provinces should consider mandating COVID-19 vaccines, federal health minister says,” from CTV News, a national news network owned by conglomerate Bell Media Inc., a subsidiary of mass media conglomerate BCE Inc. In the article, Canada’s health minister Jean-Yves Duclos stated: “…the only way that we know to get through COVID-19, this variant and any future variant, is through vaccination,” and “PPE, physical distancing, tests…these are all very important tools, but what will make us move through this crisis and end it is vaccination.”

The validity of these statements was questionable, since at the time we were already getting some evidence via the United Kingdom that the current vaccine was not fully effective against the Omicron variant. Also, Omicron is milder and if enough people were exposed with minimal damage, there might be an opportunity for more people to develop a wall of natural immunity. So, the idea that vaccination is the only way to get to endemic stage is debatable.

It was clear to me that the CTV reporter, Rachel Aiello, completely missed several good shots at the net by not following up with important questions. The health minister said, “I’m signaling this as a conversation which I believe provinces and territories, in support with the federal government, will want to have over the next weeks and months.”

That conversation should have begun on the spot. Surely there was an opportunity to ask Duclos some follow-up questions such as:

  • If governments in Canada want everyone to agree to being vaccinated, how would that goal be achieved?
  • There would be a large number of Canadians who would not submit to the mandates. Would you suggest there be fines for such people?
  • If Canadians who refused vaccination also refused to pay the fines, what would the government response be?
  • If Canadians were imprisoned for not paying fines, or imprisoned for not getting vaccinated, would there be a plan to ensure that they did get vaccinated or were segregated from those who are vaccinated?

This reader was left hanging.

There are already instances around the globe where governments are enacting “incentives” for citizens to get vaccinated:

  • In Greece, people over the age of 60 who fail to get vaccinated already face penalties, starting at a 50-euro (US$57) fine in January, followed by a monthly fine of 100 euros ($114) after that.
  • As of January 31, Austrian’s can face fines of up to 3,600 euros ($4,100) from mid-March after an introductory phase. Compulsory vaccination is still on the table in Germany. But the penalties for refusing to pay the fines, and the road to the ultimate goal of getting those people to get vaccinated are less clear.
  • On January 11, the Quebec government announced that it has plans to impose a health tax on unvaccinated residents, although reports of this tax being abandoned surfaced on February 1.
  • Today, the Ugandan government reportedly wants laws that make vaccination compulsory, with fines and/or a six-month jail sentence for refusal to comply.

The next day, I came across a Toronto Star reader poll: “Should Ontario also implement a tax for unvaccinated people?” The poll conveniently left out the choice “Are you out of your %$#&ing mind?!!” but I voted anyway. Most of the voting choices offered seemed to normalize vaccination. It seemed like the same old “Have you stopped beating your wife?” type of leading question. I’m soothed by the fact that 85% of respondents agreed that it’s a bad idea. Only 12% would approve. Perhaps those people also believe that there should be a penalty for those who drink too much alcohol or fall off of horses.

In mid-January, the article “COVID-19: Democratic Voters Support Harsh Measures Against Unvaccinated” was published by Rasmussen Reports, “a nonpartisan electronic media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion polling information.”  According to a national telephone and online survey of 1,016 likely voters in the USA:

  • Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters think federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines on social media, television, radio, or in online or digital publications. Only 27% of all voters – including just 14% of Republicans and 18% of unaffiliated voters – favor criminal punishment of vaccine critics.
  • Forty-five percent (45%) of Democrats would favor governments requiring citizens to temporarily live in designated facilities or locations if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a policy would be opposed by a strong majority (71%) of all voters, with 78% of Republicans and 64% of unaffiliated voters saying they would Strongly Oppose putting the unvaccinated in “designated facilities.”
  • While about two-thirds (66%) of likely voters would be against governments using digital devices to track unvaccinated people to ensure that they are quarantined or socially distancing from others, 47% of Democrats favor a government tracking program for those who won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine.

I found this alarming. But what’s was more disturbing is how far people will go to punish unvaccinated parents:

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Democratic voters would support temporarily removing parents’ custody of their children if parents refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s much more than twice the level of support in the rest of the electorate – seven percent (7%) of Republicans and 11% of unaffiliated voters – for such a policy.

 And what outcome is potentially in store for the rest of us?  Read on:

A plurality of Democrats said governments should “fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines” (48%), and support forcing unvaccinated American citizens “to use a smart phone app or wearable device that tracks unvaccinated people to ensure that they are quarantined or socially distancing from others.” Only 27% of likely voters overall agreed with punishing vaccine skeptics, and only 28% overall supported tracking the unvaccinated.

I read the numbers over and over again. Could Democrats really be that harsh? I had always seen them as the kinder, gentler Americans. The ones who fought for the underdog. Not unlike many Canadians. Had the left turned on the very values they long held dear? Chief among them, the right to life, liberty, and security of the person?

What about personal bodily autonomy and basic human rights? How could so many be pro-choice on abortion and yet pro-forced-vaccination of their fellow human beings.

Not to mention liberals Biden and Trudeau approving clauses in contracts that preclude vaccine recipients from suing vaccine pharmaceutical companies for vaccine-related injury and death. Surely this survey must have somehow been tweaked to disparage Democrats, I thought. There’s a great deal of disparaging in US politics. Whether the numbers are accurate or conjured out of thin air, someone had the balls to push these statistics out into the world; that in and of itself is noteworthy.

On January 19, this National Post article was released: “More than one in four Canadians support jail time for the unvaccinated, poll finds.” Consider the results:

Many Canadians are in favour of harsh punishments for the unvaccinated, with 37% saying in a new poll it would be acceptable to deny them publicly-funded health care — and 27% that it would be OK to go as far as a short jail sentence.

I posted a link to my Facebook feed with the hashtag #MassFormationPsychosis. Just one person gave it a “thumbs up”. That person was one of my friends who thinks everyone should be vaccinated, so I wasn’t quite sure if that was a good sign or not. He invited me to abandon him a week later, saying “Either get your jab or de-friend me.”  Being a polite Canadian, I complied and set him free.

By January 24, CTV News had conducted its own online poll. The survey, conducted on its behalf by Nanos Research, showed that 40% of respondents support the idea of a fine or health tax for the unvaccinated. Another 20% “somewhat supported it.”  This particular poll results pointed out an interesting distinction:

Support for the policy that would give provincial governments the power to fine unvaccinated citizens is stronger among those aged 55 and older.

“This is critical from a political perspective. Only 50% of Canadians that are under 35 years of age support this or somewhat support this, while it jumps up to 72% or more than seven out of every 10 for seniors,” Nanos Research’s Nik Nanos told CTV News Channel’s Power Play on Monday.

“Older Canadians tend to vote more than younger Canadians, which means that for those individuals that are more likely to vote, they’re probably more likely to support this.”

To me, these polls make it feel like there is a movement to increase pressure on the unvaccinated. Is it a program designed to nudge the public into believing that they need to get onboard with other obedient Canadians, regardless of how nonsensical the ideas are? Is there a self-reinforcing loop at work here?

Trudeau drops his gloves

On New Year’s Day, I had watched a clip of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking on the Quebec programme, La semaine des 4 Julie. I know nothing about the show or the host, and I have to admit that my French comprehension is horrible for someone who lives a two-hour drive from the Quebec border. So, I have to rely on the translation I’ve been offered.

Trudeau: “Yes, we will get out of this pandemic by vaccination. We all know people who are a little bit hesitant. We will try to continue to convince them. But there are also people who are fiercely against vaccination…”

Julie: “They are extremists.”

Trudeau: “… who don’t believe in science, they’re often misogynists, also often racists. It’s a small group that muscles in. And we have to make a choice, in terms of leaders, in terms of the country. do we tolerate these people? Or do we say, “Hey, most of the Quebecois people, 80% are vaccinated. We want to come back to things we like doing. It’s not those people [the vaccinated] who are blocking us.”

I see what you did there, Justin. I hadn’t realized I had a prejudice against women or hatred for Peruvians – or any group of his choice. Perhaps a couple doses of Moderna can help me with that. Will the booster shot end my extremism?

By the way, if that wasn’t disturbing enough for you, check out this truly bizarre clip from Julie’s show where she interviews a couple of Quebecois school kids. For full effect, turn the sound off and read the captions with a thick German accent.

On January 26, after a group of Canadian truckers announced that they would be travelling across the country to Ottawa to pressure the Prime Minister to end mandates, Justin had this to say:

“The small fringe minority of people who are on their way to Ottawa, who are holding unacceptable views that they are expressing, do not represent the views of Canadians.”

The current state of that event in Ottawa is proving him to be dead wrong. The news coming out of the protests from the Ontario Provincial Police has been mostly positive, with a few bad actors and incidents that you’ll find anywhere such large numbers gather. Despite the “unacceptable views” of the truckers, a “fringe minority” of thousands of people lined highways from coast to coast to offer support and watch the convoys pass. Before the trucks even arrived at their destination, 28% of Canadians already supported ending cross-border mandates. As of this writing, one CTV poll puts support at over 82%. Based on his characterization of the event, one might think that Trudeau was taken by surprise when they arrived. But his comments were clearly meant to nudge public support of the event into the disapproval zone.

Canadians may be polite, but we’re not stupid. At the beginning of the pandemic, Trudeau praised truckers for helping to keep the shelves stocked. He’s really switched gears on the ol’ Zamboni from ten years ago when with all the blustery drama-teacher delivery he could muster he said:

“This country is a country of openness, of respect, of compassion, of the rule of law, of the rights of individuals, of freedom!  Freedom from fear, freedom from crime, freedom to love who you want and not be judged for it. Freedom to do what you want with your body.”

On the Monday after the first weekend of the truckers’ protest, Trudeau held a press conference where he suggested Canadians “think carefully about where they stand and who they stand with.” Like the Man in The White Lab Coat in Stanley Milgram’s famous 1961 shock experiment, Trudeau seems to be saying, “The experiment must continue.”

Peak Prosperity readers will likely acknowledge that we’ve been manipulated and gaslit by the news media and government for most of our lives, but for the past two years it has been notched into overdrive. Chris Martenson used the term “nudge” but it now feels like a big “push”. How long before we’re careening? And where is such a visceral push coming from?

Skate to where the puck is going to be

There are companies that are paid billions every year to tell the public what to think about every issue imaginable. They’re funded by political parties and corporations to do the dirty work of public persuasion and promotion, influencing the masses and promoting paid opinions. When the nightly news comes on and you see two stories, one about a new law being proposed and another about a new product offered by Pizza Hut, it’s possible that both stories could have originated from offices in the same building. Sometimes the message becomes so murky it’s difficult to tell if the message is political or commercial – or a slick combination of both. Anyone want a handful of politically-correct M&Ms? Try to figure out whether the story is cause or effect. A paradigm is what you think, before you think about a subject, and they are masters at beating you to the punch.  As Wayne Gretzky famously said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Rubicon Strategy Inc. in Ontario is an excellent example. They offer their services to government, and the defence industry, and consult on environmental issues. They also offer training in media communications. A visit to their website tells you everything you need to know about how they work. The animated graphic on their greeting page claims, “When the die is cast…We move opinion. We move policy. We move voters. We win.”  The message on their site goes on to tell us that “Julius Caesar crossed the River Rubicon with a single legion and went on to create an empire that ruled the world for over 400 years,” and “…we are ruthless at finding a pathway to success.”

Rubicon Strategy’s webpage tells you clearly what their mandate is.

What is especially interesting about Rubicon Strategy is the people associated with the company.

Sarah Letersky is Vice-President but has also been Director of Communications and Chief of Staff for two Ontario provincial government ministries. In 2018, she was on the team that helped get Doug Ford, the Ontario provincial leader, elected. According to an article at Canuck Law, one of her Rubicon Strategy clients is AstraZeneca.

Managing partner Patrick Harris also manages AstraZeneca’s account. Previously he was Legislative Advisor to the Ontario Minister of Industry.

Don Newman, executive vice president, was Senior Parliamentary Editor for the CBC.

The most interesting person by far on the Rubicon team is founder and CEO Kory Teneycke.

He was formerly the Director of Communications to the Prime Minister’s Office under Stephen Harper, and was involved with the conservative Sun News Network channel. Currently, he is on a leave of absence, assisting Doug Ford as his Campaign Manager and Chief Election Strategist. If you have 27 minutes to spare you can learn more about some of his questionable exploits on the Wag the Doug podcast.

On the eve of the second weekend of protests, Ottawa police announced that the force is launching a “surge and contain” strategy. They also planned to “contain” the message by hiring a company called Navigator.  A CBC article gives us some insight into the organization:

With the tagline, “When you can’t afford to lose,” Navigator describes itself as “Canada’s leading high-stakes strategic advisory and communications firm.”

It was founded more than 20 years ago and its executive chairman, Jaime Watt, was a Progressive Conservative strategist who worked with former premier Mike Harris, helping him launch his “Common Sense Revolution.” He’s represented high-profile clients — including, briefly, former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi.

These relationships remind me of a quote by General Motors president, Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.:  ”Structure is strategy in slow motion.” It all sounds a bit sketchy. The writer of the Canuck Law article expressed it best:

“It has to be asked: does being a “handler” for a political candidate stop once that person is elected? Or are there favours that need to be paid back. In all honesty, it appears that all politicians are just actors being spoon fed a script by interested parties.”

Rubicon Strategy is just one powerful public relations company in Ontario. There are thousands of them around the world, and I doubt that the political connections are much different elsewhere.

I have questions.

Are these actual polls I am seeing, or are they public relations propaganda being skewed to influence and preform ideas in people’s heads before they even have a chance to form an opinion of their own?  On Friday, news outlets worldwide were quick to report that GoFundMe had “seized” the funds of “Canada’s occupation” based on fears that the money was being used for “violence and other unlawful activity”, with many relating the protest to Donald Trump in their stories. The slander machine is in high gear. We already know that there are Canadians who have dropped their support for the truckers in Ottawa after seeing Nazi and Confederate flags on their TV screens. Are these actual protesters, or are they saboteurs hired by companies like Rubicon Strategy?

If this is the case, I’m with comedian Bill Hicks. He had a lot to say about marketers and people who manipulate others for profit. The bit is commonly known as “Marketers? Kill Yourself.”

Keep your stick on the ice

But we are already too far into this to be mired down in “who dunnits.” We need to address the mass psychosis immediately. I have what I believe is an elegantly-simple question to be answered around every dinner table in the nation, actual and virtual. The answer should be given deep thought and careful consideration as the response will undoubtedly be revealing.

If someone passionately wants the public to be 100% vaccinated, ask them how far they are willing to let the government go to achieve that. Because the ONLY way to get all the resisters to comply will be to financially ruin them, and eventually imprison them, and then force vaccinate them. This would be the endgame. It will violate human rights. It will result in violence. Ask if they are prepared to support that.

There are three options, but really only two answers.

  • They may they cancel you. They may pepper you with unrelated excuses for their stance. You will know then that you have forced them to confront their darkness. Perhaps give them an hour to think about it.
  • If they’re thoughtful, they’ll see how abhorrent the idea is. Ask them to stay for dessert. Let the conversation begin regarding what other solutions we can come up with.
  • If they are still staunchly in favour of forced vaccination, you may have ask them to leave the table and not come back until they realize what they’ve become.

I realize that asking the question has the potential to further divide people, destroy even more friendships, and lives not already in tatters from weathering these past two years. But still ahead of us lie challenges around energy, economy and environment that are going to test the well-being of our tribe even further. Former RCMP Corporal Daniel Bulford of the group Mounties For Freedom, who is now head of the Freedom Convoy security, summed it up. “We can live up to the anthem, the True North, Strong and Free. I have drawn my line in the sand. No more silence and compliance for me. Life will not be the normal of before. Relationships and careers will be sacrificed, but we will learn who we can rely on.”

As we confront these gut-wrenching moral and ethical quandaries around COVID and vaccinations, it occurs to me that we are entering what American playwright, novelist, and political satirist CJ Hopkins referred to in a January 18 piece for Consent Factory called “The Last Days of The Covidian Cult”:

“This isn’t going to be pretty, folks. The downfall of a death cult rarely is. There is going to be wailing and gnashing of teeth, incoherent fanatical jabbering, mass deleting of embarrassing tweets.

“There’s going to be a veritable tsunami of desperate rationalizing, strenuous denying, shameless blame-shifting, and other forms of ass-covering, as suddenly former Covidian Cult members make a last-minute break for the jungle before the fully-vaxxed-and-boosted “Safe and Effective Kool-Aid” servers get to them.

“Yes, that’s right, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the official Covid narrative is finally falling apart, or is being hastily disassembled, or historically revised, right before our eyes.”

I’ll leave you with some words from Jeffery A. Tucker former Editorial Director of the American Institute of Economic Research (AIER) from April of 2020:

“This whole period has been an unconscionable trauma for billions of people, wrecking lives far beyond what even the worst virus could achieve. I’m detecting enormous, unfathomable levels of public fury barely beneath the surface. It will not stay beneath the surface for long. Surely many people have already stopped listening to the news completely because it is nothing but a distraction from the reality on the ground.

“Why and how did this happen? An obvious answer seems almost too simple: the media wants people at home staring at the television. Maybe that’s the whole thing. But it almost seems too cynical to be the full explanation. In any case, I’m not the only one noticing this. I seriously doubt that the credibility of the mainstream media will survive this.

“You do recall, don’t you, [those] who imposed the lockdowns never asked their citizens their views about instantly getting rid of all rights and freedoms. They did not consult legislatures. They didn’t consult a range of expert opinion or pay attention to any serious demographic data that showed how utterly preposterous it was to force non-vulnerable populations into house arrest while trapping vulnerable populations in nursing homes that became Covid-soaked killing fields.”

It is time for the ref to call a game misconduct. While I am hopeful that the vaccine holdouts and protesters will see a win, damage has already been done and will take years to heal. Winning the game will come with some cold comfort.

This was a scene repeated from coast-to-coast last week, as Canadians lined the roadsides and bridges to show their support.

 

About the Author

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Barry Silverthorn produced and edited the award-winning peak oil documentary, "The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and The Collapse of the The American Dream" in 2004. He lives two hours south of the Canadian capital, where he enjoys splitting wood for his stove in the winter and harvesting heirloom tomatoes from his backyard in the summer. He says this is his first official attempt at writing political commentary.