There's Something Happening Here
what it is ain't exactly clear, but....
Agents of accountability are fighting to prevent it. And they may succeed, but it’ll be quite a show along the way.
I conducted a dignified survey of a number of politically savvy people this evening, by which I mean I staggered around a bar and slurred questions at friends, and I was surprised to discover that no one has noticed the POEC. At all. Similarly, the US news media appears to have taken a nearly complete pass on covering the thing. The New York Times offered a single story, more than a month ago, describing the fact that it would be happening, and then lapsed into silence. I left some blank space at the bottom of this image so you can see all the nothing down there:
But the spectacle has been extraordinary, and it opens the curtains on the world of high-status malevolence, elite mediocrity, and news media cravenness. For background, remember that the Canadian government led by Prime Minister Derek Zoolander responded to the peaceful truckers’ “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa and anti-Covid-measure blockades at several border crossing areas this February — the infamous bouncy castle protests — by invoking Canada’s Emergencies Act, for the first time since that law was created in 1988. That declaration of a national emergency allowed the government to exercise extraordinary power, most infamously in the form of an order to Canadian banks to completely freeze the bank accounts of protest participants. Zoolander lost his state of emergency as the Canadian Senate signaled its growing alarm at the decision, after a shameful vote in the House of Commons to affirm the declaration. The state of emergency was declared on February 14, and revoked on February 23.
Now comes the second act. The invocation of the Emergencies Act triggers a legal duty to review that decision after the fact. Here’s the directive calling the Public Order Emergency Commission into being.
So the commission is meeting, with testimony from government officials, and — this is the important part — with cross-examination from lawyers representing the targets of the declaration of emergency. In effect, the truckers are in the room; their representatives can ask questions of the government officials who did things like ordering banks to take their money because they disagreed with the government.
If you read the mainstream Canadian press, which pisses me off every time I try to do it, this means that the moronic lawyers for a bunch of idiotic terrorists are being pointlessly mean to senior government officials. Conspiracy theories! Debunked claims! I mean, truck drivers versus respectable figures, amirite? All the usual deployment of marking language is in effect, telling readers what to think about what’s happening while carefully limiting their description of what’s actually happening.
But the hearings are being livestreamed, and that means that people are capturing pieces and putting them online. And they’re frequently extraordinary in what they reveal. Here, in just a minute and a half, a lawyer calmly burns MP Bill Blair — a former Toronto police chief, and the national Minister of Public Safety during the invocation of the Emergencies Act — to the waterline:
Here’s a moment from the cross-examination of Jody Thomas, Prime Minister Zoolander’s national security adviser, in which Thomas says that the Canadian government has power that the Parliament hasn’t given it:
Thomas sort-of-acknowledged, in the evasive manner of a bureaucrat, that the government declared a national emergency on the basis of conditions not defined by law as emergency conditions. Here’s how the Canadian press framed that admission:
See, the law should be fixed to say that what the government did actually fits it. They didn’t break the law — the law is broken.
Here’s where it starts to get very strange. Convoy senior counsel Brendan Miller was thrown out of the hearings after asking for a ruling regarding heavy redactions in government-provided documents. I see the framing in this obnoxious tweet, but it captures the video in a helpful way:
And finally, most remarkably, if you followed the Emergencies Act debate in the House of Commons back in February, you’ll recall that Prime Minister Zoolander and his ministers responded to every criticism and question regarding their handling of the convoy by saying that Canadians won’t stand with people who carry Confederate flags, and with “those who fly swastikas.”
That’s how they framed the entire event, full stop: the truckers, the swastika people. The anti-vaccine-mandate Nazis!
The news media picked up that framing and ran with it, non-stop, pounding the message that the truckers were flying Nazi symbols and Confederate flags:
Now: Miller said, before the commission, that he knows the identity of the people who carried those Nazi and Confederate flags in Ottawa — and that they’re employees of a public relations firm that was working on behalf of officials in the Canadian government.
If he’s made that claim without being able to nail it down, the POEC will implode. If he has the evidence to prove it, Canada will have some interesting days ahead. “Tell me how this ends.”
I’ve been watching this very long and involved process from a great distance, through many layers of middlemen, in clips and snippets on social media. And through reporting in the Canadian press that reeks of sycophancy and bootlicking. So I welcome insight from Canadian readers who’ve had a closer view of the hearings. A shocking break from Canadian political norms, and a descent into governmental abuse — you disagree with the government, so we ordered the bank to turn off your money — deserves more attention than this.
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