Screen capture from Twitter.com/PierrePoilievre. Text and insert added by Brian Zinchuk. 

Some things happen in politics by accident, or coincidence.

But the placement of George Orwell’s 1984 on the bookshelf immediately to the right of Pierre Poilievre in the video where he announced he was “running for prime minister” was no accident.

And his motivations in doing so were clearly indicated in his Feb. 5 announcement, which came at a time when Ottawa is pulling its hair out over the ongoing “Freedom Convoy” protest. I spent the evening arguing with two friends who live in Ottawa that were becoming increasingly apoplectic about the incessant horns and occasional boorish behavior they were concerned about. You would have thought the Visigoths had set up camp on Wellington Street, from their comments.

 

Here’s the verbatim text of Poilievre’s announcement:

Governments have gotten big and bossy. They’re spending more than at any time since World War II. So they control more of what you earn, and you control less. They caused inflation, by borrowing and printing a half trillion dollars, which has ballooned the assets of the billionaires, the debts of our children and the cost of living of the working class.

Over half of families now say they struggle just to feed themselves. And more 30-year-olds live in their parents’ basements because they can’t afford the now-typical cost of a home: $800,000. Meanwhile, a small financial elite, with access to all that printed money, buy up real estate and rent out to a growing class of permanent tenants; people who may never be able to afford a home.

And when people speak up, the powerful clamp down. They silence and slander anyone who dares dissent, including with laws censoring what you see and say online. Using COVID as a political opportunity, the Trudeau government has attacked small businesses, truckers and other hardworking Canadians. They target law abiding hunters and farmers, while letting gangsters and gun smugglers run free.

See, here’s the problem: Trudeau thinks he’s your boss. He’s got it backwards. You are the boss. That’s why I’m running for prime minister, to put you back in charge of your life.

Together, we will make Canadians the freest people on earth, with freedom to build a business without red tape. or heavy tax. Freedom to keep the fruits of your labor and share them with loved ones, and neighbors. Freedom from the invisible thief of inflation. Freedom to raise your kids with your values. Freedom to make your own health and vaccine choices. Freedom to speak without fear. And freedom to worship God in your own way.

See, in a free country, smaller government makes room for bigger citizens. People have room to take responsibility for themselves and each other. Neighbors care for neighbors. A job is the best anti-poverty programs, and family and community are the best safety net.

Now, the people with power: the media, interest groups, corporate giants and government authorities will fight tooth and nail to keep on top. So it won’t be easy. But Easy Street leads to a dead end. And hard roads lead to the best destinations. Our destination is a Canada where the government is servant, not master. As Henley might say, “You are the master of your fate. You are the captain of your soul.”

It closed with a text box saying “Pierre Poilievre for prime minister.”

See what I mean? The presence of 1984 is a not-so-subtle hint that the current government is increasingly acting like Big Brother. His paragraph on freedom is an obvious contrast. “They silence and slander anyone who dares dissent, including with laws censoring what you see and say online,” Poilievre said. 1984, indeed.

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I finally got around to listening to the audiobook last year, and recommend it to all. For those who haven’t read it, 1984 is a dystopian novel published in 1949 in which government controls all aspects of life, even thought, with a persistent surveillance state. The ever-present Big Brother watches over all. “Thought police,” “thoughtcrime,” “newspeak,” and “doublethink” are just some of the terms coined by Orwell in his masterpiece.

The previous leader of the Conservatives, Andrew Scheer, prefaced a question to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Feb. 6, 2020, with “George Orwell’s 1984 was supposed to be a cautionary tale about the evils of big government, not an instruction manual for this prime minister.”

The discussion was on the licensing of news media, by the way.

Did any of the other books on the shelf carry a message? Zooming in with Photoshop on a 27-inch monitor I could make out books whose complete or partial titles included Reagan, 100 photos that changed Canada. Canadian Wings, Geography, and Caesar. But really, the only ones you can kind of see with the naked eye without zooming in is 1984 and Caesar.

Nowhere in his announcement did he say he was running for the Conservative leadership. Indeed, he didn’t even say “Conservative” once. He’s swinging for the fences. He’s running for prime minister, and stepping on third base, the Conservative leadership, is just another base along the way to home plate.

So, when a right-wing politician announces he’s running on a platform of freedom for the people, and says big government is a problem, there’s absolutely no question as to why 1984 is visible just to his right.

He’s got something to say about that.

P.S. One of the most famous TV commercials of all time was Apple’s take on 1984. It ran during the Superbowl that year and only appeared once on television. The commercial launched the Mac line of computers, and said, “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’”

Coincidentally, there is an extremely high probability your iPhone is listening to your every conversation within earshot, recording your online interactions, and tracking your every movement. It turns out 2022 is very much like 1984.

 

 

Brian Zinchuk is editor and owner of Pipeline Online. He can be reached at brian.zinchuk@pipelineonline.ca.

 

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