Of Course There Are Freedom Convoys

Since I am a long way from Canada I can’t very well speak for Canadians. But I get the impression that most Canadians aren’t that happy with the trucker protests in Ottawa and elsewhere. See Majority of Ottawa residents oppose ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest, poll finds.

See also After weekend of protests, Ottawa residents are feeling the effects at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. My impression is most people are way over having their lives disrupted. Businesses have closed, people can’t get to work, it’s a mess. And now I’m reading that “freedom convoys” are starting up in other countries, including Europe.

J.J. McCullough, a Canadian writing in the Washington Post, wrote,

On television and social media, representatives of both the right and left frequently seem to be on the brink of tears when discussing the event, suggesting that in just a few short days the irate convoy has already achieved a totemic importance in Canadian political culture far exceeding technical debates over what exactly the protesters “want” or whether they represent the interests of the broader Canadian trucker community.

In many ways, the protest feels almost exquisitely designed to inflame every current anxiety in the Canadian psyche.

And Gary Mason writes in the Toronto Globe and Mail,

MAGA hats and Trump signs have been ubiquitous at the Freedom Convoy occupation in Ottawa, which has attracted donations and political support from the U.S. One man rode a horse through the downtown streets carrying a flag emblazoned with the word “Trump.” The word ‘freedom’ could be found on most signs being touted by the protesters. For many, it’s a word that has become code for white-identity politics and the far-right’s weapon of choice in the culture wars.

Now even Canada won’t be a safe place to escape to. The Times of Israel reports that the “protesters” have displayed swastikas and Confederate flags also. Yes, swastikas and Confederate flags say so much about vaccination mandates.

Times of Israel photo

I understand a “freedom convoy” is being organized to converge on Washington DC, although I don’t know when. Right now the organizers are upset because their Facebook page was taken down. So sad.

See also Paul Waldman, The American right’s hypocritical embrace of the anti-vaccine Canadian truckers.

Turn on Fox today and you’ll find one host after another — Sean HannityLaura IngrahamTucker Carlson — waxing poetic on the noble cause of the “Freedom Convoy.” This is a group of Canadian truckers who descended on the capital city of Ottawa to protest a requirement that those who cross back and forth over the U.S. border be vaccinated.

Not only have they shut down large portions of the city, but they’ve also been honking their horns at all hours, in an apparent attempt to drive residents out of their minds.

Now Republican politicians are getting into the act: After GoFundMe announced that it would be returning money raised for the truckers, whose ranks include a variety of far-right cranks, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas announced they’d be mounting investigations of the company. And of course, Donald Trump — who as president loved nothing more than sitting in a truck like a big boy — expressed his support for the truckers.

It’s somewhat ironic that DeSantis would come to the defense of these protesters, because in the past he hasn’t looked on the exercise of that particular right with a great deal of sympathy. Last April, he enthusiastically signed a bill that makes it a felony to block traffic in a protest and “grants civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road,” as the Orlando Sentinel put it.

A similar law passed in Texas, as it has in a number of conservative states. Oklahoma’s version gives drivers both civil and criminal immunity for injuring or killing protesters.

I do have a quibble with this analysis, which is this: The Right is all about punching down. Right-wing “humor” is nearly always aggressive, punching down on women, minorities, and whomever they don’t like. Anger is praised in right-wing white men and deplored as “unhinged” or “dangerous” or “hysteria” in anyone else. Last year I wrote about gun-carrier privilege, which allows people with guns more privilege to claim self-defense than unarmed people they are menacing. And, of course, so far when protesters are run over by car drivers, the driver has been a rightie and the pedestrian was a leftie. Were it reversed, the driver probably wouldn’t be given immunity no matter what the law says. To a wingnut, privilege belongs to the individual in a position of power, whether that power is social, cultural, financial, or who is in a car or has the gun. So yes, it’s hypocritical, but it also fits a long-established pattern.

On the other hand, it seems to me the percentage of the U.S. population that holds this perspective is shrinking. The Ahmaud Arbery verdict seemed to me to be something of a breakthrough, as was the conviction of George Floyd’s killer.

And then, there is the Bigger Asshole rule, . From Stupid Protesting, a Primer, November 2015:

The Bigger Asshole Rule

Effective demonstrations are those that make them look like bigger assholes than us.

It’s important to be clear how mass demonstrations “work.” Demonstrations should be viewed as a form of public relations. The point of them is not to somehow intimidate or change the minds of the people you are protesting. The point is to win public sympathy to your cause. Demonstrations can also be tools for organizing, among other things. But demonstrations are a dangerous tool, because they can just as easily work against you as for you.

The really great mass protest movements — the prototypes are Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement — worked because the public at large sympathized with the protesters. The protesters behaved in a way that demonstrated they were worthy of respect, and the Powers Than Be they were protesting — whether redneck southern sheriffs or the British Empire — behaved like assholes. Eventually it was public sympathy — not the protests themselves —  that forced the Powers That Be to step down.

In short, if your demonstrations don’t win public sympathy, you are shooting yourself in the foot and hurting your cause more than helping it.


Trump supporters take assholery to levels rarely seen before in human history, so there is no way they aren’t going to shoot themselves in all their feet if they go ahead with “freedom convoys.” Bring it.