Sunday, October 05, 2008

Election Terrorism

Via Impolitical..

Terrorism is defined as the use of fear, often through violence or the threat of violence, with the intent to produce a political outcome. From The Star:

Toronto police patrolled a midtown area overnight, after vandals cut brake lines on at least 10 cars parked at homes with Liberal election signs on their lawns.

"We're investigating. Officers are paying special attention to the designated area and we take this very seriously," Staff-Sgt. Shawn Meloche, from 53 Division, said last night. "This is a danger to life as well as to property. Regardless of the motivation – and there appears to be a connection (to the signs) – this is a public safety issue."

Affected residents live in the riding of St. Paul's, in a swath of the city around Eglinton Ave. between Bathurst St. and Mount Pleasant Rd., and had Carolyn Bennett signs on their property. Although Meloche confirmed 10 cases of vandalism last night, Liberal riding headquarters said the number was going up, reporting 14 by 9 p.m.

The cars were also damaged in other ways; some were scratched and keyed with L signs. Phone and cable lines of some homes were cut.

"There are two child seats in the back of my car," said Andrew Lane, chief financial officer for Bennett's campaign. "To cut the brake line on a car like that is just evil. Awful."

Added Lane, whose children are 6 months and 22 months: "You have to crawl under someone's car and cut the brake line, knowing that it could kill someone, or their whole family."


A while back, a friend of mine pursuing graduate work in Ontario told me about stories going around the department of rightwing students 'freeping' the polling station staff rosters in order to obstruct minorities and others from voting. This is obviously hearsay, but it nevertheless alarmed me because it seemed entirely possible.

In terms of this break-cable cutting by we-don't-know-who-yet-but-I-doubt-it's-ABC, it is possible for similarly minded individuals to mimick this tactic other parts of the country. If that happened, it could derail the electoral and parliamentary process in seconds flat and turn this country into something we don't want to contemplate.

The structural mechanism at work here is sinister and very dangerous. With the Harper government, we've seen a calculated campaign to delegitimise the other parties, and the parliamentary process as we know it. Obstucting parliamentary committees, advertisements with birds shitting the Opposition leader, and preventing candidates from participating in all-candidates meetings may seem silly and cowardly, but it serves the purpose of reducing the other parties to a general "other." It ignores their legitimate right to participate in political discourse as equals; it emasculates their leaders not for their ideas, but for who they are. The labels of Liberal and Left become synonymous with weakness. Direct associations between the ABC parties and the Taleban further this viewpoint, and stoke the fires of ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis. The simple act of suing the Opposition takes the legitmate, public democracy and turns into something bitter and personal. Not firing members and ministers who make outrageous statements furthers the impression among supporters and detractors alike, that these views are acceptable.

As these tactics serve to 'other' the opposition parties, they also legitimise the most extreme of viewpoints. The comments on blogs and online mainstream media articles are full of vicious generalisations coming from both sides of the ailse. In some, there is an implied or directly stated desire for partisan political violence, mostly, in my view, against - not from - non-conservatives.

For now, this sort of rhetoric has been confined to words and text. If the events in Toronto are not denounced by all parties in unison - no wink-nudge pauses from the Cons - and dealt with quickly and severely by police, then we as a country risk opening the door to a literally terrifying new politic.

The last time we had this kind of partisan political terrorism in this country, Trudeau put the army in the streets. I do not trust Stephen 'let me be clear' Harper to take them off.

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