Government Intimidation in the Age of the Internet

Hey, Hi, Hello

I want to talk about government intimidation of private citizens on the internet, particularity in Alberta, because that’s where I live and where I’m seeing it.

Recently one of my Twitter friends was singled out by one of our Conservative ministers, he tagged her multiple times while claiming that she had attacked his wife and that his wife was, as a result, being harassed and getting death threats.

Of course, what he’s claimed isn’t true, no part of her statement was provocative or inappropriate, she simply pointed out that the Minister of Health for the Government of Alberta, someone who has been blatantly working to dismantle our public healthcare system and vilify our doctors and nurses, is married to a woman who owns a company that facilitates the supply of private health insurance and that may be considered a conflict of interest.

For more information about the Conservative record of privatization in Alberta and Canada see my previous post and you will see why this concern about the privatization of healthcare is a valid concern.

Now, it would be easy to look at this situation as a one time thing, if it weren’t happening pretty much constantly. Citizens who speak out against our government are dismissed as “NDP staffers” or told that their concerns are invalid because they choose to be anonymous for their safety, (which is an important point that we will come back to) or are simply directly attacked by members of their government.

One trend in particular is troubling, but unsurprising, the majority of those singled out for harassment and intimidation are women. A doctor in Calgary was not only singled out, but she had her ethics and mental stability questioned, publicly by government representatives because she had the nerve to be angry about the attacks on her profession and her patients. They implied that she would provide sub-par care to conservative patients (as if doctors ask people about their political affiliations) and that she would grade conservative students differently. Questioning her ethics, while they themselves engaged in unethical behavior.

There was the political scientist who was singled out for attack by the premier on the floor of the legislature. He attempted to attack and question her credibility because she had, more than a decade prior, participated in our democracy.

A good friend of mine was personally attacked by UCP ministers and “Communications Professionals” for having the audacity to advocate for her young children, who will be seriously affected by cuts to Program Unit Funding and the overall cuts to our education system. They called her a political prop, bitter and implied that she was dishonest regardless of the mountains of evidence that supported her concerns.

Of course there was also a prominent Financial expert and outspoken twitter personality who has received threats of violence as well as the vitriol of online conservatives, to such a degree that she had to involve police.

Those four examples are of women who used their real names, which is incredibly brave of them given what we know to be true of this government and their supporters. Personally, I don’t use my real name anywhere online, because I have been targeted and threatened by conservatives myself and the thing that gives me even the tiniest sense of security is that they don’t know who I am.

Attempts to silence of control the people of Alberta range from all out attacks, like we saw with the women I mentioned previously, to smaller acts like attempting to discredit the experiences of people who once supported the UCP and are stating publicly that they will not support them in the future, or simply blocking people with opinions they dislike. Many of my followers on Twitter are blocked from following or interacting with Conservative politicians, Michelle Rempel being a notable fan of the Block function. I’ve even heard that both the CPC and UCP have engaged in deleting negative facebook comments, silencing people asking questions or voicing their concerns. Personally, I am blocked online by the Conservative Party of Canada for the crime of questioning the man who at the time was leading their party calling our Prime Minister a “Drama teacher” when he, himself has never held a job outside of politics long enough to attain any type of accreditation and why he and his supporters believe that “Teacher” is an insult. I am also blocked by Samantha J. Peck, a “communications professional” in the service of the government of my province because I suggested that it was not a great idea for her grandfather to be driving a golf cart on the sidewalk after having his license revoked. What can I say? I’m a radical.

Now, the intimidation and targeting of certain groups in Canada isn’t new. Historically, and sadly even recently, we’ve seen the LGBTQ+ community subjected to dismissive treatment in regards to their safety and security by officials who are tasked with protecting the public, including some members of government. Of course environmental groups have been under attack since the Harper years of murky governance but to see individuals dragged into the mud by the people who are supposed to represent them, officials who are supposed to work FOR Albertans, makes me very uncomfortable.

When taken individually, all these actions by our Ministers and their representatives seem minor. A block here, a tag here, a dog pile over in the corner, it happens, right? It’s the internet. But when you look at this pattern as a whole, it reveals a blueprint to authoritarian governance that we should all be wary of.

  1. Silencing dissent
  2. Targeting the opposition for attacks
  3. Demanding that people share their personal information in order to be taken seriously
  4. Singling out private citizens and misrepresenting their actions
  5. Harassment of private citizens

Some will say that I’m over reacting, and that “it can’t happen here” but if you pay attention you’ll see that it already is happening. Don’t allow it. Step up, speak out, protect each other.

Calamity out.

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