Much to learn from a true fight for freedom overseas

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Sometimes, column-writing is like getting into a car and going for a drive, not quite knowing where you are going to end up.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/03/2022 (330 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Sometimes, column-writing is like getting into a car and going for a drive, not quite knowing where you are going to end up.

That was the case for me a few weeks ago amid the Ottawa occupation, when truckers and assorted other protesters took their unhappiness on a whole bunch of issues to Canada’s capital, set up camp and refused to leave.

As I mentioned in the column that emerged, it was the sight of farm equipment mixed in with transport trucks, campers and assorted other vehicles at the city events and at the border-crossing protests that prompted me to collect my thoughts around this cheeky display.

I felt then, as I do now, that it reflected poorly on farmers and that it threatened to undermine the millions of dollars the industry has invested defending agriculture’s image to an increasingly skeptical public.

I wrote with trepidation, wondering how representative those rallies were of the rural and farming community at large.

The morning the column published in this newspaper, I watched outside my window as a convoy of 50 or so vehicles passed by on the highway, presumably on its way to the protests planned in Winnipeg for that day.

Led by an RCMP escort and with their four-way flashers blinking, it resembled a funeral procession, except for the Canadian and “F— Trudeau” flags rippling in the wind as they picked up speed on the open highway.

In a way, it was a funeral of sorts. The sense of pride I used to feel when I saw our Maple Leaf died that day, making me sad.

Sure enough, not long after that parade passed by my window, the emails started coming — more responses to one column than I’ve ever experienced.

However, to my surprise, the vast majority of people who took the time to write were supportive and thankful to hear someone say out loud what they were thinking in private. They also confirmed my fears about how it reflected on farmers.

“I appreciate all that farmers do for society, but you are right that their involvement in the protest does not put them in a favourable light,” wrote one reader.

“Now, I have an incredibly negative view of farmers for being selfish even if they are vital for our survival as the food bearers. I cannot help but think: unintelligent rednecks,” wrote another.

“People have long memories. When the next ‘farmer crisis’ comes along, my support for them will not be what it was,” wrote another.

Readers who did not agree with the column were also motivated to write, especially once it was picked up by farm publications in the Glacier FarmMedia network. One Farmtario reader felt so strongly about that one article, he wants his subscription cancelled, which is awkward because that publication isn’t subscriber-based.

“Why would you not stand up for freedom?” wrote another.

Some felt I was overly divisive and that I misrepresented the true spirit of the protests, which, based on what they had heard were “peaceful and caring” and actually provided a service to the people of Ottawa because the streets were cleaner and crime dropped during their presence.

Several cited their own information channels to dispute the mainstream media’s “fake news” version of events.

Interestingly, news sources that I find credible are now reporting that some of those trucker-convoy channels have switched to promoting a pro-Russian perspective on the invasion of Ukraine.

In this age of conspiracy theories, and knowing what we now know about how Russian-based organizations have used cyber-tactics to meddle in foreign affairs before, I’m left wondering whether the alt-info network that arose around the convoy protests wasn’t just opening up the channels for other disinformation campaigns to come.

At its core, column-writing is not about telling people what to think. It’s about inspiring them to think and I appreciate hearing from readers, whether they like or dislike what I write.

Ultimately, I think we can learn a lot from what’s happening in another part of the world right now about what it means to stand up for freedom versus tyranny.

Laura Rance is vice-president of content for Glacier FarmMedia. She can be reached at lrance@farmmedia.com

Laura Rance

Laura Rance
Columnist

Laura Rance is editorial director at Farm Business Communications.

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