Trucker Convoy: All Sides Should Defend Freedom Without Going Insane

By John Robson
John Robson
John Robson
John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”
January 28, 2022Updated: January 28, 2022


Honk if you love freedom. Sneer if you hate the rabble. Tweet an obscenity if you’re insanely tribal. My goodness. What a commotion. Have we all gone mad?

Perhaps. The lockdowns have been hard on everyone. And while folly and abuse were not invented yesterday, I am still very concerned as the trucks converge on Ottawa.

Obviously, my heart is with the convoy. I have been criticizing excessive COVID restrictions since roughly May 2020, as soon as we knew it wasn’t the next Black Death. I cannot believe the harm we’ve inflicted on the children we profess to value above life itself (except when defending abortion) through school lockdowns, cancelling Christmas, etc. And I resent the degree to which the people hissing at anyone who asked questions about science or policy kept changing their story but never changed their tone.

The arrival in the national capital of this large, broad-based “fringe” group actually coincides with an overdue admission that the critics had a point all along. For instance, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Kieran Moore: “We have let our lives be controlled for the last two years in a significant amount of fear” and “we have to learn to live with this virus.” But if it’s true today, it was true a year ago. And those of us who said it then should get some credit.

Instead, the mainstream media are sneering at the convoy as mindless bigots. I know many journalists wish it was 1963 and they were heroically backing Martin Luther King Jr. against Bull Connor. But wishing it isn’t a good excuse for believing it, even if a Confederate flag was spotted and waved triumphantly, recalling the communist cowbirds in Walt Kelly’s Pogo “always happy when we’re filled with loathing.”

Too many journalists are working overtime to confirm Robert Conquest’s Third Law that “The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.” If you wanted to lower the reputation and circulation of newspapers, and inflame the public mood in a way that helped elect Donald Trump in 2016, you’d act as though a college education and a fancy vocabulary made you Marie Antoinette.

One famous Globe columnist just compared the unvaccinated to tax evaders, when he must know it’s not illegal to be unvaccinated. Which helps legitimize, say, paranoia about jailing dissenters, and erupting into incoherent rage.

The prime minister also acted his habitual disgraceful part, smearing the convoy from a safe distance then hiding under the bed, bullies generally also being cowards. Saying he was exposed to COVID and since he’s fully vaccinated and tested negative, he must self-isolate until all the big scary truckers leave isn’t exactly Trudeau Sr. facing down St. Jean Baptiste Day rioters in 1968, is it? And it amounts to saying vaccines don’t work so take them anyway, a splendid way to fuel conspiracy theories.

If I were Erin O’Toole, it’s what I’d want Trudeau to do. Whereas if I were Trudeau, I’d want O’Toole to dither while his caucus goes “Rahr” then flip-flop into an evasive position. And Conquest would expect it.

As for the convoy, we haven’t just had the usual retweeting of obvious stupidities like it stretching 2,400 km, from Ottawa past Winnipeg. We’ve had people insulting and threatening journalists as though life were a race to the bottom. I don’t yet have three rules of politics, but I do have “If people think you’re a clown, don’t show up in a fright wig.” And while the protest is not bureaucratic, its manifesto certainly fits Conquest 3.0.

Many convoy supporters have a healthy sense that freedom is eroding. It’s revealing that their real emblem is Canada’s flag, not the stars and bars. But far too few have made any credible effort to understand how our government works or should (for instance by watching my 2016 documentary “True, Strong and Free”). And far too few of their critics have made any credible effort to understand how it’s not working now (ditto re the documentary). Instead of speaking truth to power, much of the press now speaks power to truth, from climate to COVID.

At the risk of appearing even-handed, I get that there’s a lot of fear and anger out there. Some is directed at the loss of liberty and some at the loss of control. Gone are the days when a CBC panel with Andrew Coyne and Chantal Hebert could define the limits of permissible discussion. And we could order popcorn in a theatre without showing that our papers are in order. And we favoured rational debate over hollering insults and waving shocking obscenities where kids can see them, or retweeting them.

So honk if you love freedom. But stay sane about it.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.