A Canadian Conservative Politician Promises ‘Revenge of the Comment Section'

We need to take this seriously.

Nov 30 2016, 7:39pm

Image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards

During the election campaign, pundits frequently derided Donald Trump as an online comment section come to life. Now, a politician in Canada has rebranded her Conservative leadership bid as "revenge of the comment section."

The implication of this criticism, when it's been thrown at Trump, has been clear: anonymous commenters are unhinged, block-headed, un-PC, undesirable, "deplorable," and so on. Comments sections have become increasingly unfashionable—they're seen as cesspools where humanity goes to die, and some say they should be cast off entirely.

"Ignore the comments" is a maxim of living online, and perhaps for good reason. Many sites, including Motherboard, have done away with comment sections in part due to the amount of vitriol directed at writers, particularly women, that they often contain.

Yet Trump, the human comment section, won. Now, Conservative Kellie Leitch is aiming to duplicate Trump's success and harness the power of what she calls the "silent majority." In a Facebook post on Wednesday, she branded her campaign "revenge of the comment section."

Read More: Understanding Trump's Troll Army

Leitch is a Conservative politician running for party leadership, and in many ways her platform mirrors Trump's. She doesn't want to ban Muslims from entering the country, but she does want to screen every immigrant to make sure they hold "Canadian values." She also shares the president-elect's distaste for mainstream media, and has made completely dismantling the country's public broadcaster, the CBC, into a core platform point.

But while Trump keeps his association with aggressive online trolls—many of whom are overtly racist and anti-semitic—at a distance, Leitch is now making her connection explicit.

When Motherboard turned off its own comments section, the response to the decision by popular webcomic Penny Arcade perhaps best summed up the Trumpian point of view: that the media is full of effete liberal elites who don't want to hear what the average person has to say. And this is exactly what Leitch is attempting to tap into.

"Are you tired of being ignored or mocked by the Liberal and media elites?" Leitch's post states. "If you are, join the revenge of the comment section!"

Leitch goes on in the post to highlight what she interprets as a snarky response from establishment media to her policy proposals, and ties it into the experience of comment sections being ignored.

"It's time to say enough to this condescending, elitist sarcasm that we get from the Liberal and media elites," Leitch's post states. "It is the ultimate left-wing hypocrisy: they rally and rail for tolerance and respect and then their behavior and attacks are the epitome of intolerance and disrespect."

Read More: How Trump Could Screw Up Trudeau's Climate Plans

Leitch is likely hoping that pitting a supposed silent majority deemed undesirable thanks to their, ahem, "controversial" opinions against a dismissive liberal media elite will be a winning strategy in Canada, much like it was in the US.

"Send a clear message to the elites of this country that there is a silent majority in Canada who will not be disrespected and who will fight back!" she wrote.

It would be easy to write off Leitch's campaign branding as hopeless—nobody reads the comments, right?—but she might be onto something. The prevailing narrative in the media establishment is that everything's just peachy up here in sleepy, comfortably liberal Canada. We've been told for decades by white politicians that this is a happy multicultural society.

But not everybody believes this is true. Some people hate Justin Trudeau's big promises and weak follow-through, and the adulation he nonetheless receives from the mainstream press. Some people think their neighbourhood or school is not as white as it used to be, and that's a bad thing. Some, and maybe even many, people want Muslims and non-white folks to "go back to their country." Some people put up posters inciting white hatred against immigrants.

Some people read another ostensibly liberal writer casually dismissing the awful power contained in their toxic beliefs with a sarcastic comment, and know in their hearts that this is simply not how most people around them think.

These people are the comment section, that which was cast off from the mainstream of acceptable opinion. They've been ignored, they feel, and if Leitch is to be believed, now it's time for revenge.

Every sarcastic comment, every casual writing-off of their plot, every self-satisfied pronouncement that their cause is dead on arrival only gives them strength. As we've seen now in the US, none of this is a joke.

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