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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The political dog-whistle, a call to the faithful

Dog-whistles emit a sound above the range of the human ear but not to that of your dog or domestic cat. It can be very useful if you’re hunting birds and you want to grab the attention of your dog without disturbing the birds. A politician would use a dog whistle to alert his or her the public to a position he or she holds that may be repugnant to the general population. It’s not a literal dog-whistle. The guy doesn’t get on stage and blow a whistle. No, he uses certain words or phrases that make her more radical supporters go, “Hey, is he saying what I think he’s saying?” And the next thing you know you’ve got white supremacists pushing around a black woman at one of your rallies after you tell them to “get her out” and you’re being sued for “inciting violence.”  CNN Footage

You may ask, what brought the white-supremacist to Trump events? Well, it all started with his initial announcement that he was going to be running for president when he said of Mexicans, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Then he proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. If you happen to be white and you believe your race endangered by some existential threat like African Americans, Mexicans, Muslims or Jews, then a message of hate regarding at least two of those groups is going to be appealing.

In July of 2015, he sent out a patriotic tweet featuring his image superimposed over the stars of the American flag. Hundred dollar bills with Benjamin Franklin’s image can be seen through one red stripe, the white house through another and through the third can be seen three Nazi S.S. soldiers. The “mistake” was blamed on an intern and quickly corrected however, many within the white supremacist movement interpreted it as a dog-whistle.

That same month, he retweets a graphic traced back to a white supremacist displaying a graphic greatly exaggerating the level of black crime in the U.S. When the media proved the obvious falsehood of these numbers, Trump defended himself by stating “I retweeted somebody who was supposedly an expert. Am I going to check every statistic?” Nevertheless, he’s blown the whistle and the white supremacists were taking notice.

Then, in January of 2016 he posted a tweet copied from tweet posted by a white supremacist with the hashtag @WhiteGenocideTM. The original post came from an individual using the name “Donald Trumpvitz” that had links to a pro-Hitler documentary, “Get the F--- Out of My Country” in red lettering, a location for “Jewmerica” and a photo George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi party. Now, the white-supremacists were really beginning to take notice.

In July, Trump, now the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, begins his attacks on Hillary Clinton with a tweet that featured her over a pile of money and a Star of David with the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever” emblazoned in the centre. Donald quickly corrected the “mistake” however, not before the whistle reached the white-supremacists and Neo-Nazis. In October, he accused Hillary of colluding “with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers.” In the place of banks, many white supremacists would read Jews.

With these dog whistles came endorsements from many white-supremacists. The first was Andrew Anglin who founded the Neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer in late June of 2015 and culminated with David Duke when, in February of 2016, he stated that voters “have an absolute obligation to vote for Donald Trump, and to vote against Cruz and Rubio. If you vote for Ted Cruz, you are acting in a traitorous way to our people. You are betraying our people. Period.”

In some situations, a candidate blows the whistle and dogs show up in the most embarrassing of circumstances. Take Kellie Leitch, running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. Her website reads, “Kellie has proposed screening immigrants, refugees, and visitors, for anti-Canadian values.” She elaborated on her meaning of “Canadian values” in a CBC interview where she stated that “people who believe women are property—that they can be beaten, bought or sold, or that gays or lesbians can be stoned because of who they love—don’t share Canadian values.” Hmm. Could she be referring to a particular group?

On Sunday, March 26, Ms. Leitch attended a meeting in Brampton organized by the “Keep Religion Out of Public Schools.” Its purpose was to voice concerns about the Peel District School Board's policy of allowing Muslim prayer in public schools. Also in attendance were members of Rise Canada, an organization that calls Islam “a barbaric ideology of hate that must be banned.” It suggests “a permanent ban on all Muslim immigrants PLUS mass deportation of existing Muslims” and recently led a protest outside a mosque in Toronto.

A spokesman for Ms. Leitch claims she had no idea the group was there even though she can be seen shaking hands with a senior advisor for Rise Canada in a video of the event. The video also shows the group taking donations to fight construction of a mosque in Mississauga. Embarrassing or what? Rise Canada encouraged its members to buy a Conservative membership before the deadline so they could support Kellie in her bid for the Conservative leadership. Will the dog-whistle work for Kellie the same way it did for Trump? 

Jason Kenney’s another person who’s had the dog-whistle backfire on him. Like Donald and Kellie, Jason needs to appeal to a broad spectrum of the electorate and like Donald and Kellie, he holds views that are not shared by the majority of the population. He’s an ardent Catholic who studied philosophy at the Jesuit University of San Francisco. As a 44-year-old, he was still living with his mom. He may still be living with her.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Jesuits, they’re a Catholic order created by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in 1540. Loyola was a soldier who discovered religion after his leg was mangled by a cannon ball. In the spirit of the military, he called his new order the “Company of Jesus.” Jesuits possess a staunch allegiance to the papacy and spread his message through education. In New France, they were known as the Black Robes who spread the Pope’s message and disease to the Huron people. Today, the Jesuits are the world’s largest male religious order. 

According to the “Campaign Life Coalition,” Jason has a perfect voting record on life and family issues. Their “campaign” is to make both abortion and euthanasia illegal and to advocate for traditional family values and oppose same-sex marriage. In 2005, Jason voted against the legalization of gay marriage. In 2012, he voted against the wishes of his buddy, Stephen Harper, in favour of a backbencher’s motion for an all-party commission to study when life begins. Of course, the unstated purpose of the motion was to reopen the question of legalized abortion. That bill was defeated by a margin of 203 to 91. (Interesting to note that Rona Ambrose was one of the few cabinet ministers who also voted in favour of the motion.)


The party that he now leads introduced Bill 10 in 2015 that requires the formation of gay-straight alliances upon the students’ request in all Alberta schools; public, private and charter. It passed unanimously.  Seven of ten Canadians approve of gay marriage yet Jason questions the right of students to form gay-straight alliance groups in schools without parental approval. In an interview with the Calgary-Herald editorial board about the gay-straight alliances, Jason that he believes that “parents have a right to know what’s going on with their kids in the schools unless the parents are abusive. I don’t think it’s right to keep secrets from parents about challenges their kids are going through.”  In other words, Jason would require a student to out himself or herself to his or her parents before joining one of these groups. Obviously, he prefers to ignore the fact that according to the Canadian Mental Health Association “LGBTQ youth face approximately 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse than heterosexual peers.”

Jason might have thought the statement an innocuous motherhood statement, a simple dog-whistle to his hard-core Christian base however members of the media and general population were not so easily duped and reacted with outrage and satire. Does he care? The general population may forget but his ultra-right Christian base won’t which is the idea of the dog whistle. It alerts the dog while other animals either don’t notice or don’t hear it.

The political dog-whistle seems like a consequence of divided politics and the message barrage created by social media. Our brain can only attend to so much stimuli so it necessarily filters the messages reaching our consciousness. Many of us are not cognizant of all the messages that Donald, Kellie and Jason send out into the cybersphere through their twitter accounts or Facebook so we necessarily won’t hear it. But, there are those who do and, in the case of these three individuals, those messages are received by individuals who don’t respect the many of the human rights entrenched in the constitutions of our two countries. Fortunately, the media monitors many of these violations however it is incumbent that we all remain vigilant.