Oligarchy’s Response to the Freedom Convoy Bodes Ill for Them

As I write, Canadian police, many dressed in military garb and supported by armored vehicles and snipers(!), are moving in to enforce several court orders and demands of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and others that the “Freedom Convoy” of Canadian truckers stop blocking the Ambassador Bridge, the major artery between the United States and Canada, and disperse. Some of the protestors are leaving while many others are standing their ground

Will the heavy hand of the state succeed in crushing the protest? In the short term, perhaps. 

On Friday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson presented a montage of Canadian and American officials berating the truckers and threatening all sorts of dire retribution should they fail to obey their masters. Carlson was right: the hysterical squeaking of Justin Trudeau, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and the other political mannequins was pathetic—a sign of impotence, not strength. 

But impotence comes in long-term and short-term varieties. Long-term, I think Carlson is right. Officialdom’s response to the Freedom Convey is a desperate effort to put the genie of liberty back in the bottle. Ultimately, it will not work. But on the way to that failure there will be plenty of opportunities for the coercive power of the state to manifest itself. 

As General Mark “White Rage” Milley, the anti-Trump chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put it when commenting on the January 6, 2021 protest in Washington, D.C., “We’re the guys with the guns.” Well, some of them, anyway. Joe Biden was trespassing on the same territory when he said that if you want to take on the government, you’ll need “some nukes and F15s.” 

I do not think that is true. In fact, I would say we are rapidly approaching a situation that the columnist Matt Taibbi evoked when he suggested that Justin Trudeau’s response to the Freedom Convey might be his “Ceaușescu moment.” After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the oxygen of legitimacy rapidly went out of Communist dictatorships throughout Eastern Europe. Romania’s Nicolae Ceaușescu was one of the unlucky tyrants. He went from delivering a speech to an angry populace to facing, along with his wife Elena, a firing squad four days later on Christmas Day. 

According to the media, the Canadian truckers, and their imitators around the globe, are protesting COVID vaccine mandates. That’s only part of their complaint. They don’t like the government ordering them to inject substances into their bodies that have not been shown to be safe (or effective), made by drug companies that are protected from liability for years. 

But the standoff is more basic. It is like the standoff between the American colonists and the British authorities in the late 1760s and early 1770s. That standoff turned on the question “Who rules?” So, ultimately, does the conflict between the established regimes and the truckers and other protestors. Legitimacy does not proceed from the barrel of a gun, although Western “democracies” everywhere seem to have ignored the lessons of history. Consider this scene from Paris, where the police just savagely beat a protestor. Juliette Kayyem, a CNN contributor, Harvard professor (of course it would be Harvard) and Obama’s former assistant secretary of homeland security for intergovernmental affairs, suggested on Twitter that Canadian police should  “slash the tires, empty gas tanks, arrest the drivers” of the protesting truckers. (As one internet wit observed, it would be amusing to watch what would happen should she manage to slash a 100-psi steel-belted tire on an 18-wheel rig.) 

There are several ironies regarding the Canadian chapter of this uprising against the self-appointed elites who wish to rule us. For one thing, although Canadian officialdom is bemoaning the fact that the truckers had, in effect, closed the U.S.-Canada border, Trudeau had essentially sealed the border between the two countries for more than a year. The Babylon Bee captured this side of the situation brilliantly with a story headlined “Trudeau Demands Protesters Stop Shutting Down City So That He Can Shut Down City.”

For another thing, the trucker protest has been conspicuous for its pacific nature.  Unlike the riots that raged across the United States in the aftermath of the death of career criminal George Floyd, no police stations were torched, no property was destroyed, no one was killed or maimed. And yet the truckers get the armored vehicles, the SWAT teams, the snipers. 

Who rules? The hissing sound you hear is the sound of political legitimacy escaping from the institutions that, bloated with too much power and too little accountability, are beginning to deflate in the face of widespread popular unrest. At this point, it is not clear what will happen to the truckers in Ottawa. 

Perhaps the regime will manage to disband this upsurge of discontent. But if so, the discontent itself will not dissipate. It will fester and spread. Preposterous beta males like Justin Trudeau are happy to bluster and threaten. For now the military and security services (most of them) remain loyal. I recommend Fidel fils read up on the fate of the Ceaușescus. The deposition of Canada’s prime minister is unlikely to be so sanguinary, granted. But I suspect it will be no less definitive. 

About Roger Kimball

Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).

Photo: JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images

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