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Belleville protest a symptom of people becoming fed up with their leaders and governments

Michael Taube

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Belleville, Ont. last week. He was to meet with Mayor Neil Ellis, head to a farmers’ market and mark the seventh anniversary of the federal Child Care Benefit.

Pretty innocuous stuff, all things considered. Yet, this political stop developed into an unexpectedly controversial matter.

Close to 100 protesters reportedly surrounded Trudeau’s motorcade on July 20. Some shouted comments and expletives that opposed Trudeau and the Liberal government. A few carried flags of former U.S. President Donald Trump, while others carried signs with messages like “F**K Trudeau” and “The #1 Criminal in Canada.” Two women were pushed back by the PM’s security detail.

belleville protest trudeau

Photo by Dillon Kydd

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Trudeau’s visit was abruptly cut short. The PM and his staff were embarrassed. Belleville received plenty of unwanted media attention, too.

“While every Canadian has the right to protest,” Ellis noted in a July 22 statement, “the hateful and discriminatory behavio(u)r displayed by some during the visit was absolutely unacceptable.”

Clips of Trudeau’s visit circulated on social media. One received plenty of attention.

“A video is being shared widely on social media that depicts a protester in Belleville yelling ‘you’re a pathetic Jew’ at least twice to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,” The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) tweeted on July 21. “Protest is essential to any democracy, but hatred spreads when it is tolerated. We urge any media sharing the video to condemn this vile expression of #antisemitism.”

When I noticed this tweet the following day, it seemed ludicrous. There’s never been a Jewish prime minister in Canada. Trudeau was born Catholic, not Jewish. No Canadian would ever associate him as a member of that faith.

Regardless, I watched it out of curiosity. While figuring out what the protester was saying was difficult, it wasn’t “pathetic Jew.” The word “pathetic” was definitely there, but the second word lacked a J sound and contained a hard K sound.

What was it, then?

I felt it was one of three possibilities, “prick,” “punk,” and the most likely option, “puke.” All crude and rather strange remarks, but different than what the FSWC had suggested.

Liberal MPs, ministers and their minions had predictably motored ahead and concluded it was “pathetic Jew.” It suited the narrative they wanted to sell to the Canadian public about the protesters and how Conservatives viewed them. Most right-leaning and left-leaning Canadians either thought differently or weren’t entirely sure. They debated the issue online for a while, with the majority leaning toward “pathetic puke.”

I listened a few more times in several different ways. When I reached a conclusion, I tweeted, “There’s a debate going on about this repulsive clip. Did the protester say ‘pathetic puke’ or ‘pathetic Jew?’ FWIW, I’ve just listened to it a few times. Increased and decreased the volume for effect. While it’s not easy to discern, I believe the protester said ‘pathetic puke.’”

Liberals naturally went ballistic over my tweet as they had with others. I couldn’t care less and just muted and ignored the noise, which is what I often do on social media.

The original FSWC tweet has over two million views. My tweet has over 143,000 views. The debate is ongoing but slowing down.

Two final amusing observations. Liberal supporters are attacking Twitter users for not hearing what they heard when they’re doing the exact same thing. As for claims that I’m “gaslighting” Jewish groups: while I may have left the faith over 40 years ago, you clearly didn’t attend my bar mitzvah!

Putting this aside, what should we make of Trudeau’s visit to Belleville?

Like politicians of any stripe, the PM should have been allowed to tour the city without incident. The protest was part of the democratic process but went too far in several instances. Some protesters made comments that were crude and repulsive, which negated the effects of their genuine opposition to Trudeau’s leadership and policies.

Alas, this controversy is part of our modern political reality. It wasn’t common to witness these types of events in Canada in the past, but it’s slowly becoming more commonplace. We’re not unique in this regard, either. Many people around the world are becoming more fed up with their leaders and governments. They’re willing to openly express their frustrations more than ever before. They refuse to mince their words, feelings and beliefs.

Will these harsh words ever transform into physical violence? Not necessarily, but Trudeau and his successors will always travel with a security detail when attending conferences, meetings and events. That’s another modern political reality, too.

Like it or not, things aren’t going to revert to the way they once were. Canada’s parties and leaders will always have to change, adapt and be aware of their surroundings. That’s both unfortunate and unavoidable.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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What is Gaslighting?
The term Gaslighting originates from a play and subsequent films titled “Gas Light.” The play was written by Patrick Hamilton and was first performed in 1938. It was later adapted into two films, one in 1940 and another in 1944. The term “gaslighting” derives its meaning from the main plot element of the story.

In the play and films, a manipulative husband tries to convince his wife and those around her that she is going insane by slowly and subtly dimming the gas lights in their home. When the wife notices the dimming lights and questions her sanity, the husband denies any change in the lighting and suggests that she is imagining things. He uses various tactics to undermine her confidence in her own perceptions and reality.

Over time, the term “gaslighting” has evolved to refer to psychological manipulation techniques used by individuals to make someone doubt their own memory, perception, or sanity. Gaslighting can involve denying facts, distorting the truth, or presenting false information with the intention of causing the victim to question their own judgment and reality. The term is commonly used in discussions about emotional abuse and psychological manipulation in personal relationships or even in broader societal and political contexts.

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