This crowd is mostly friendly. But anyone telling you there's no dark edge here is either blind, or lying to you.
You won't sell subscriptions with articles like this. Work in some sensationalism.
I first heard the phrase "The hard men" in an article about Northern Ireland, and how the shopkeepers would have either one side or the other hitting them up to 'support the cause', and it was just protection money. Thing was the "hard men" on both sides looked identical: practically a uniform of T-shirt, leather jacket, gold chains.
I just wondered if anybody had to do a "hard men/friendly guys" ratio check on "Occupy", and found that I cracked up at the very idea.
What it all adds up to, for me, is that this protest will be peaceful ... as long as there are no counter-protests that piss off the hard men, no BLM to drive a car into; as long as the long-suffering citizens of Ottawa don't start pouring out jerry cans by themselves, or offering any other physical resistance.
This is the best flavour-of-the-streets piece I've seen, the last 10 days. Many thanks.
These observations accord well with other, generally balanced accounts available elsewhere on the internet, but not at all with the picture painted by institutional media. What should we infer from the disparity? That institutional media aren't to be trusted is a hypothesis confirmed by plenty of evidence before the truck convoy ever hit the road (indeed, it's one reason why sites like The Line exist, and why people turn to them). That men exuding an aura of menace should clump together in their natural habitat of bars also isn't news, and it's hard to see what significance this fact has for truck convoy supporters in particular. One bit of hypocrisy anyone can observe is that media talking heads currently trying to discredit the protesters on this inferential ground are the same ones who label as 'Islamophobes' anyone who suggests Islam has its own fair share of men with a hard edge. If we can't deduce the general from the particular in the latter case (and we can't: it's a logical fallacy), we can't do it in the former.
The reality is that the protesters have a valid point, and if violence and disruption are the criteria, their mode of expressing it compares favourably with many activist-driven demos for which Trudeau has expressed sympathy in the past. I don't share the author's view that Trudeau should keep playing the evasion game: it's irresponsible and makes him look less civil and reasonable--even less Prime Ministerial--than several well-informed, articulate 'Freedom Convoy' spokesmen (you have to go online to see this, of course: the spokesmen don't get much air time on CBC). If Trudeau is willing to speak directly with aboriginal activists sitting in front of a teepee (great politically correct photo op, that), he can show the same courtesy to fellow citizens who have traversed half the country to see him. This is a political problem requiring political dialogue and compromise, not military intervention as some have urged; and it's no part of political wisdom simply to demonize critics of your policies.
Kudos. This sounds honest, including about personal perceptions and biases rather than portraying these observations as facts. Well, maybe a few times implying personal beliefs are unquestionable facts, but it's hard for many people to separate the two, especially in contemporary journalism.
"Hard men". Sure, yep. You'll find them in downtown anycity every weekend and, as mentioned, in a lot of bars. You definitely find them at points of tension like protests, looking to cause trouble or get involved when they can. But, of course, that has nothing specific to do with this protest.
"Mentally ill". Another fixture of downtown anycity, and Ottawa is no exception. I've had many an interaction with some very interesting characters in downtown Ottawa over the years. Also not specific to the protests.
"Anti-vaxxers". Sure. That's not what this protest is about, but it's about vaccine mandates and passports, so of course most of the anti-vaxxers will be supporting it. (The reverse is not true, that supporters are mostly anti-vaxxers. All crows are birds, but only a tiny fraction of birds are crows.) This one is certainly more specific to protest, though doesn't define its purpose or objectives.
I'll even let slide the bit of biased interpretation:
"...it's just a big friendly group of patriotic Canadians, you can pick and choose from many examples to support that case. But that's a lie. There’s a nasty edge to this group — small, but real."
Well sure, agreed. But that isn't a description of the protest, that's true of any downtown crowd on any weekend, any protest, or any large event. Still, it's fair not to mislead that every individual is a jolly old elf.
"If you believe that it's a crowd full of dangerous people, well, that's true, too, but it's not the majority, not even close. "
OK, I see you mean well. I note the different phrasing: "big friendly group" = "that's a lie" versus "crowd full of dangerous people" = "that's true". Both the asymmetric phrasing both leaning toward the crowds as being bad gives away the bias, and the mismatch between not even close to a majority, but still "full of" dangerous people.
I get it. You don't like the protest. You disagree with it. You want to highlight the negatives, but you are trying to be fair and acknowledge the positives.
This looks like ... well, no bullshit. I appreciate that. Thank you.
I take issue with the idea of "hard men." I became politicized after my mother's horrendous experience with the Ontario healthcare system. She and I were treated as less than equal, as too demanding, as trouble-making pains-in-the-behind who had to be managed. It made me hard too as I learned to put on my best bulldozer face to deal with gate-keeping healthcare workers. It hardened my heart because I felt that the idea that healthcare was "universal" didn't seem to apply to our family. Putting the blame on the "hard men" without understanding how they got that way misses the point. When people feel dispossessed, this is what happens
Nobody looks more like a hard man than an off-duty or plain clothed or undercover police officer.
This seems plausible. I was there this weekend, so there were obviously way more friendly types, and I never made a habit of going to rough bars, so maybe I didn't spot the hard men. It still seems like lifting the mandates, as well as being obviously right on its own, is the easy way to resolve this situation. Expelling people from society has worked poorly.
Great journalism in a world otherwise littered with bullet points adjusted for the reporters own beliefs. My only point of contention is your indication that Trudeau should not meet with them. Had he not met with others in the past I could understand your position. Understand, not fully agree, but understand. By choosing sides in which causes he will entertain he becomes a leader of some while excluding others so he reestablishes himself up as a polarizing figure and not a leader of all the people. His fawning attention to other causes only steels the resolve of future protest movements and with the name calling just adds fuel to their fire. Some leader.
“The hard men” sounds very Stephen King. I was looking forward to your comments after listening to The Daily Edition this morning. Well done! One of the first balanced descriptions I’ve read. Sleep well tonight.
Fantastic coverage - well worth my five bucks a month, keep up the good work!
I lived in Ottawa, mostly Sandy Hill very close to Parliament for a few decades, so very familiar terrain. Yes small and tight heritage downtown surrounded and insinuated with mixed residential. A terrorist's dream opportunity.
The crowd sounds like a carnival of nonsense. I would suggest it has no lasting political significance despite pols attempting to profit from it. A carnival has no centre, a melange of hucksters, assessing the hand-to-mouth opportunities available. I suspect this will disperse in inconsequence when their enthusiasm dissipates, as any party does, and the weight of the meaninglessness of it all folds its weight down upon them.
Just caught video of a new spokesperson desperately attempting to pull something from the chaos. Clearly putting a brave face on the fact the tide is turning against them and they are about to face the consequences for what they have unleashed. He wants to form a coalition of Cons, NDP, BQ, the GG. He should be begging for a team of psychotherapists.
Parties don't go on forever. The enthusiastic delusion will evaporate all of a sudden, like some kind of magical moment, with no announcement or prologue. Expect tears and depression.
The most important part of all this? The brazen and open display of corruption by the Ottawa Police. It is in this context that Matt's cryptic allusion to 'hard men' may be the more telling of a conspiracy of complicitous mentalities if not outright seditious coordination. This is what needs to be the object of intense scrutiny going forward.
The behaviour of the Ottawa Police chief is incomprehensible unless, in fact, he's aware his force is compromised and he is begging for an external intervention but he's too afraid to say why.
There needs to be serious legal action that will scrutinize all the parties to this fiasco. Why is the mayor and council not pursuing the legal action the young woman, and Ottawa resident, launched and who may turn out to be the true democratic hero in all this?
I won’t pretend that I have read everything you’ve ever written Matt. but I will say this is one of the most vivid and memorable I have read. On the war zone thing I think it’s more that it sounds like one at times rather than it is one. My late mother who grew up in England during WWII would definitely have been triggered by the noise if she were there. I imagine there are Centretown residents who feel that way too.
Now do the same analysis on Media and Government or Government adjacent (Unions, Butts, Carney, etc). Try going after power centers if you have the stomach for it. If I keep seeing these story choices, I will know that the Line chooses to only punch down.
I remember enjoying Matt's article the day it came out. It provided the clarity that enthusiastic mobile-cameras-which-talked on You Tube failed to do.
Is all good with you both and yours? Just wondering if there is going to be a dispatch this week.
All the best and missing you.