Olivier Niquet studied urban planning before becoming a radio host for Radio-Canada in 2009 for the programs Le Sportnographe and La soiree est (encore) jeune. He is also a columnist, author, speaker, screenwriter and all sorts of things. He is mainly interested in the media, but describes himself as an expert in versatility.
According to my sources in ancient Greece, it is to Philip II of Macedonia that we owe the maxim “divide and conquer” (and perhaps the mixture of vegetables cut into small pieces, but I’m not sure). The strategy of the king of Macedonia and his Machiavellian emulators was to sow dissension in the public mind to prevent the population from uniting against them. Because as Patrice L’Ecuyer said: unity is strength.
However, the concept slips out of reality with division killer multiplication (looks like I did my math 536?). Some politicians and some news commentators are now posing as great defenders of unity and accusing governments of trying to divide the population by imposing health measures that restrict the freedom of those who are recalcitrant to vaccination.
They are of course right. The decisions of a government cannot be unanimous. It is inevitable that we will become divided. As Professor Patrick Moreau said in The dutythere is no escaping the division: […] this refusal of division turns politics into a simple management of what is, rather than making there, as it should be, an example of freedom where the future can be invented. ‘Dividing’, as the well-known ‘controversial’ is, is therefore a trick word. Only what is completely indifferent does not cause division or controversy. “There’s no topic that everyone agrees on, except maybe that sledding in pairs at the Olympics doesn’t look very comfortable.
Despite the reproaches of these proponents of unity and peace on Earth, it seems to me that our governments do not really benefit from maintaining measures. You will tell me I am naive, but I believe that their goal is not to impose totalitarian rule, but rather it is a matter of allowing the health system to survive before it is re-established, redesigned or reconstructed ( what better said?). Moreover, the magnitude of the population split is not sufficient to consolidate the split. If it’s from . is wedge politicswe’ve seen better.
Moreover, those who play the offended virgins for the division are strangely the same ones who have always relied on discord to increase their fame. “Stop dividing us,” the arsonists tell us. Éric Duhaime, leader of the Quebec Conservative Party, has already said that “controversy in politics is the oxygen that feeds the flame”. Mr. Duhaime and his acolytes have no shortage of oxygen and their rhetorical strategies are reminiscent of the schoolyard. It’s “the one who says it, the one who it is”.
I wish I had invented this concept: the “who says it, who is it” method. I was already imagining a Wikipedia page devoted to his studies. But others have found something simpler (albeit less eye-catching): specular rhetoric. According to Cécile Alduy, an expert researcher in semiotics at Stanford, the idea is “to send the adversary the accusations of fascism or violence to pull the carpet from under him and, above all, to drown the meaning of these expressions”. For years we have heard analysts say in the media that anti-racists are racist. That anti-fascists are essentially fascists. Recently, a radio host claimed that Justin Trudeau is nasty and violent, while the majority of people agree that he is too soft. I’ve heard that the CAQ is a left-wing party. I have read that those who get vaccinated are selfish. We just say the opposite of what is usually agreed upon. This is an effective strategy that I regularly use with my kids when I want them to believe that tofu is a very sexy food.
A former TV author turned author of misinformed tweets even stated that the truck driver’s convoy was proof that the movement represented the majority and that it was “a unique moment in the history of mankind.” This is not an anecdote, it is the prevailing discourse in these circles. Because reality doesn’t agree with what some say cantors of freedom, they form a parallel reality.
Those who enjoy manipulating public opinion in the hope that it will submit to their ideas are therefore reinventing the definition of “majority”. During the headquartered in Ottawa, some took to #wearethemajority via social media, claiming that the truck drivers’ display of power was proof that the majority of the population was on their side. The fanatics who revolt against the measures also have this discourse (I use the word “fanatics” to describe and distinguish a vocal minority from those who legitimately and peacefully oppose health measures on non-imaginary grounds). Except that even if they repeat it constantly, they are not the majority. Those who argue otherwise should look at the first poll on the party in Marie-Victorin to find that 92% of voters intend to vote for parties that support the measures.
In short, the defenders of individual freedoms claim to be in solidarity and the supporters of public order are now spokespersons for the anarchist occupation of the streets of our capitals. If you’re confused, that’s normal. That is the goal: to involve everyone. There is a kind of cognitive dissonance, as we saw in the United States after the defeat of Donald Trump. His supporters lived in a universe so much as to suggest that everyone like them thought they had no choice but to believe the election was rigged against their idol.
And democracy suffers. Because the problem is that it is difficult to argue on such grounds. Just like in the schoolyard, it’s impossible to respond to someone who throws you: the one who says it, the one who is.