I gave it a week to simmer, to allow my outrage to die down. It hasn’t. What concerns me though is that no-one I have spoken with recently has mentioned to me that we have been part of a military experiment. Do Canadians not care?
I have been asked dozens of times since returning to Canada (in June) how it feels to be back after four years overseas. My response has been the same: this is not the Canada I left. Primarily I have attributed that to COVID-19.
Germany and Canada, I explain, had similar rates of infection and dissimilar responses from the people. Germans seemed to handle it better, adopting masks and social distancing but not letting the virus rule their lives. Canadians, as I observed them, seemed consumed by irrational fear, even as rates dropped and vaccines bcame available. I couldn’t understand where the fear was coming from.
Last week though it was revealed that the Canadian military were using the pandemic for propaganda experiments, “shaping” the message to reinforce government policy. The news articles I read weren’t explicit, but to me it seems quite possible the fears Canadians feel may be more due to this attempt to manipulate them than due to genuine scientific concerns about COVID-19.
French sociologist Jacques Ellul warned that propaganda was inevitable in our lives and is practiced by both democracies and dictatorships. He reminds us that we must become aware of propaganda in order to master it. And if, as he says, propaganda is a weapon of war between states, what then is it when the state uses it on its own citizens?
Why has this not been a bigger news story? Is Canada still a democracy, or does the military set the rules? Does the stated intent of the officers involved, to support government messaging, mean they are not held accountable for exceeding their mandate, for essentially warring against the people?
As Canadians we have a sometimes naive view of our democracy. It works, as far as we can tell, so we don’t spend much time thinking about how it works. We just know we are better than all those other countries, dictatorships with civilian or military rule.
When the politcians and the people are silent in cases like this, I have to wonder.