In a column in the Toronto Star, Tim Harper attempts to put Vikileaks -- the Twitter account that broadcasted portions of the affidavits from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews' divorce proceedings -- in perspective.
His conclusion is a simple one: a mean town -- Ottawa -- just getting meaner. And it could be as simple as that.
Or not. There could be more.
What was Vikileaks about, really?
In reality, it wasn't about privacy. It certainly wasn't about giving Toews any kind of just desert. The latter of these two propositions is not only patently absurd, but patently insane. The purpose of the "lawful access" bill was never to make the information sought public.
Rather, it was about political tribalism. Full stop.
The parading of Toews' divorce in public wasn't by any means spontaneous. There have been those on the far left who have been both longing and eager to refer to Toews' divorce as a means on doing with politics as they have always wanted: making it personal. Deeply personal.
German philosopher George Wilhelm Fredrich Hegel considered pre-historical human society to be inherently tribal -- a time when competing tribes sought to conquer or destroy one another. At that time societies didn't triumph over each other by advancing beyond each other in scientific or social pursuits, but with what Hegel described as "superior strength, superior ruthlessness, and superior cruelty."
Make no mistake about it, there are those among the left -- in Canada and around teh world -- who intend to triumph over their adversaries using these precise means.
They're easy to identify if you look hard enough. They are the ones who, faced with a complex public debate, rush not to attack their adversaries' ideas, but to attack them personally. They're the ones who hunger to destroy their opponents, not merely as political actors, but as people.
They aren't that hard to find. I could even name names.
That the IP address used to operate the Vikileaks Twitter account was traced not only to a House of Commons IP address, but to one routinely used to make pro-NDP wikipedia edits, is of little surprise. (It also raises some serious questions about how the NDP have been making use of HoC resources, but that's a question many in the media prefer not to ask; the NDP would prefer not to answer.)
As individuals like John Gormley have made it crystal clear, the NDP has spent decades peddling the idea that they're morally superior to their opponents. Over the years, this has fed a culture of hate- and contempt-based politics that has dwelled just under the surface of many NDPers.
Embracing that toxic political culture has emboldened some of them to think that it's morally permissible to do virtually anything to an opponent. In their eyes, cruelty and ruthelessness are no longer vices -- rather, they believe these are virtues, and even some of those who pretend to be benign political actors are often inexorably drawn to those who employ the most ruthless, cruel, and hateful tactics against their opponents.
It's hard to accept many of them as benign politicos considering the amount of admiration they show for some of these people.
This kind of tribalism pre-dated modern history, and was supposed to have been abolished by the advent of civil society. Make no mistake about it, it's civil society that's at stake in these sorts of matters.
A civil society that accepts or tolerates this kind of politicized cruelty is one that has turned its back on what its historical legacy was purported to be. It's not just a step backward for political discourse, but potentially a step backward for civil society as a whole.
The NDP's complicity in this latest episode is undeniable. Don't think the NDP doesn't know which of their staffers is responsible for Vikileaks. At the very least, some of them know. The kind of politico who commits acts of cruelty like Vikileaks is hungry for the recognition of their peers, particularly those of their peers who they know to share their own simmering hatred.
Moreover, these individuals have embraced these kinds of acts with a fervour that is simply Pavlovian in nature. They have become adept at ignoring, justifying, defending, or simply rationalizing these kinds of acts.
Unless those of their peers who truly do value a benign and constructive politics finds the will to stand up to them and ensure they pay the penalty for their actions, it will continue unabated. But don't hold your breath waiting for the Canadian left to do what is right.
They've shown time and time again that they either lack the will or lack the courage to stand up to the villains in their midst. Either that, or a third alternative: they simply enjoy it.
Vic Towes himself is no angel. Because there are serious issues at stake in the lawful access bill -- which I support in principle, but I've also been looking to the amendment process to temper some of its overeaches -- his declaration that opponents either stand with the government, or stand with child pornographers was not only uncalled for, but a disservice to the business of governing.
More than that, it, too, was cruel.
But two wrongs don't make a right. And it doesn't help that this is a wrong the left has just been itching to commit. Nor was it the only one. When John Baird made an "it gets better" video, the left leaped at the opportunity to use his sexuality as a battering ram with which to attack him personally.
And while fellow conservatives can stop Toews' acts of cruelty, only fellow left-wingers can put a stop to the cruelty of Vikileaks. Whether or not they will is up to them to decide: are their demagogic ambitions more important than the health of civil society?
That's the real question.