Danielle Smith's Own Private Alberta
Dispatches from Danielle Smith's members-only social media page. Plus: The Freedom Convoy gets its day in court. And: Candidates for most Bug-eyed and Shameless of the week.
Carl Benjamin had this problem where he couldn’t stop using racial slurs.
On his Patreon page, Benjamin brought on neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, said he doesn’t “give a shit” about the holocaust, and was calling everyone who he didn’t particularly like a “faggot” or deploying the n-word with aplomb.
Patreon, for their part, decided to bump Benjamin off the platform, where he had been earning $12,000 a month (must be nice!)
Naturally, the Free Speech Gang — meat philosopher Jordan B Peterson, faux liberal Dave Rubin, insufferable atheist Sam Harris — lined up to quit Patreon. If this platform is to decide who they want on their platform, they proclaimed, then there is no real free speech.
Despite much kvetching over the supposedly-mounting backlash, Patreon survived the mass exodus of the Intellectual Dark Web.
Those deep thinkers decamped to a platform of Rubin’s own making: One where you are free to fleece your legion of fans who just need to hear racial slurs in order to feel free: Locals.com.
In a word: It didn’t work.
Founded in 2019, Locals has never grown beyond a rump of weirdos and nobodies. When they were bought by far-right Toronto-based Youtube-clone Rumble in 2021, the press release brags(?) that their influencers include names you recognize that make you go “oh, no” like Scott Adams, Greg Gutfeld, and Tulsi Gabbard but, moreso, names that make you go “who the hell?” like ZDoggMD, Max Lugavere, Robert Barnes, Bridget Phetasy, Dr. Drew, Karlyn Borysenko, and Michael Malice.
There’s one name they didn’t boast about: Danielle Smith, the new premier of Alberta.
Smith began her page when she was still, as her bio reads, a “Libertarian conservative commentator.” Last May, however, Smith threw her hat into the ring to lead Alberta’s governing United Conservative Party. Last week: She won!
All the while, Smith has kept up her updates on Locals.com, often holding exclusive members-only ask-me-anythings with her 12,000 paying supporters (including me!)
So this week on a very Canadian-content Bug-eyed and Shameless, let’s see what the new premier is telling her bubble of die-hard supporters.
And: A brief update from the Public Order Emergency Commission, which began its study into the occupation of Ottawa and the government’s efforts to clear the encampments.
Later: Thanks to input from my die-hard supporters, I’m naming the first-ever awards for most Bug-eyed and most Shameless of the week.
Bug-eyed and Shameless will not fight germs that may cause bad breath, but it will keep you updated on the slow fragmentation of our political reality.
I’ll begin with a confession: I kind of like Danielle Smith.
If you’ve been reading the newsletter for awhile, you know I’m no big fan of those who prey on anxieties for their own benefit and who worsen our mounting radicalization problem.
Smith, for all of her faults — and there’s many, we’re getting there — has always pitched a kooky kind of rugged Western libertarianism that certainly has its charms. And it’s hard to deny that she’s been pretty consistent for lo her two-plus decades in politics. (A great primer, if you need one.)
Unfortunately, that brand of libertarianism (beyond being an environmental nightmare) is increasingly infected with the paranoid populism that has seeped into every facet of the political right.
Recently, Smith has taken to the idea that Alberta ought to declare some kind of sovereignty for itself, that could see it become a quasi-independent state.
Fresh off being elected Alberta’s next premier, Smith casually remarked that the unvaccinated are “the most discriminated against group that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime.”
That certainly got some folks, understandably, up in arms. And it provoked a pretty quick climb-down from Smith, who said she “did not intend to trivialize in any way the discrimination faced by minority communities.”
Except if you listen to what Smith has been telling her supporters on Locals.com for months, it starts to feel like she was really into trivializing the discrimination faced by minority communities.
Take one post Smith made in May.
Yesterday I met a self described Liberal woman, late Millennial or early Gen X who joined a freedom group because - having a black grandfather who grew up in segregated Alabama - she was appalled by our government’s policies segregating the unvaxxed.
Worried that people may not have caught her point, she reiterated it on a livestream not long after:
Her grandfather was in Alabama during segregation, and she's appalled that we are now in a position led by the mostly progressive voices, saying that we should be segregating and discriminating against unvaccinated people. So it's outrageous.
Tirades against “segregation” are a common theme on her page. Coupled with that, of course, is heaped a healthy dose of vaccine misinformation on her livestreams, like when she told her followers:
If you look at the actual stats…it's actually those who are triple-vaxx’d who are the ones who are most at risk of hospitalization and death.
A beat later, Smith muses that maybe it’s because people who have three shots of the vaccine are more likely to be at-risk anyway. But her assertion that being more vaccinated makes you more at risk — a wild misunderstanding of the statistics — came out crystal clear.
But Smith’s AMAs went beyond just musing about the vaccines. She wanted to do something about it.
She, in May, proposed:
What we probably need is a hotline going right into the Health Minister's office so that we have the ability to collect the stories of those of you who believe you've been vaccine injured, so that there is no multi-layer processing.
Canada, in fact, has a robust vaccine adverse reaction reporting system — which, critically, involves investigating the source of the reaction, not handing data to political staff. In the American adverse reaction reporting system, for example, there is one reported case of the Moderna vaccine causing “death of pet.” An investigation, I imagine, discovered there was another cause. (One of Smith’s fans wrote in to say that their daughter is “losing her hair, definitely from the vaccine.”)
Smith has posted, entirely wrongly, that “the mRNAs had no obvious effect on COVID deaths and may have actually increased deaths from other causes.”
Smith, in her videos, also endorsed avowedly anti-vaccine groups like Vaccine Choice Canada and Taking Back our Freedoms.
Back in May, both the Canada and the United States maintained a set of border measures that, really, weren’t doing much good. (While Canada dropped its vaccine requirement earlier this month, the U.S. continues to, technically, require proof of vaccine for travellers entering America.)
Smith’s solution to those annoying border measures was to make her own border.
Could we create a border crossing of our own at Coutts [AB] or some other border crossing? And have a special category for Albertans who are coming into Alberta and have pledged that they will not leave our province for 14 days — then we can say: ‘We've made our own judgment, and our own decisions about our own level of risk, and don't you worry, these folks aren't going to get on the plane and go to B.C., or Saskatchewan or out East. So, sorry, federal government, you've got no jurisdiction.’ Or could we charter our own aircraft and say: ‘In chartering our own aircraft, we assert provincial autonomy, and we determine what our level of risk is,’ and then you do rapid testing. I don't know like, it seems to me, we've got to do something other than just sitting back and saying we're going to wait for Ottawa to make these decisions.
I imagine it goes without saying that provinces can’t create special, magical borders that exempt themselves from federal law. It ignores, of course, that the United States maintained basically the same measures. Smith thought of that, too.
Maybe we get a cross border agreement with Ron DeSantis. Maybe he has a little zone in Florida that we would be able to fly direct to. Maybe we can develop bilateral agreements with other free states. So red state jurisdictions in the US, or even internationally, that would allow for us to have a little more autonomy.
The sign of a good leader, even a populist one, is someone who can tamp down their supporters’ baseless anxieties instead of amping them up. Smith doesn’t do that. In June, someone wrote in to express genuine fear that a totalitarian surveillance state is coming to the West. “I believe we will end up in digital handcuffs like China — social credit for government-approved good deeds and punishment for bad behavior,” Smith read aloud. “Will you combat that?” Her answer:
Yes. That, my friends, is why I would say we have to have the Alberta Sovereignty Act. So much of it goes back to that. Because if they do bring through social credit scoring that then increase or decrease what you're allowed to do in society…we won't enforce that. We're not going to turn off your bank account or deny you access to a mortgage, because you put something on Facebook that Justin Trudeau doesn't like.
Over the past year, Smith posted often about this supposed threat of digital currencies, at one point ominously writing: “The issue is not so much whether we will have a digital ID — I think it’s pretty clear we are heading in that direction — but how governments intend to use it.”
Smith had plenty of room in her media diet for Russian disinformation. In March of 2022 she glowingly posted a Tucker Carlson clip — which, as I’ve written in the past, was fully cribbed from a QAnon influencer and the Russian defence ministry.
She also posted nonsense from the conspiracy-laden Centre for Research on Globalization — which often posts about chemtrails, 9/11 conspiracy theories, and has been ID’d by NATO as a Russian propaganda clearing house.
Smith’s media diet is a mess: The Rebel, The Gateway Pundit, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, Robert Malone, and a host of other deranged sources. She posted glowingly about Dinesh D’Souza’s batshit “documentary” 2000 Mules, which claims to prove Donald Trump’s election lies. (It does not.) Smith endorsed the movie with a “Wowza.” and wrote that if it were not for “vote trafficking,” Trump would have won.
This is just a sampling of Smith’s communiqués on Locals.com. There’s hours of AMAs and hundreds of posts.
And her followers? That’s where it gets even worse.
Locals.com also allows for a Facebook-style community where people can start their own conversations.
On the premier of Alberta’s dedicated social media page, you can find such inspiring posts as “Be transphobic. Be proud of it. Save your children” and “Getting my tools, tool belt and a youtube video ‘how to build gallows’ ready Nuremberg 2.0 baby.”
This week was the kick off for the Public Order Emergency Commission, studying how the Canadian government reacted to the so-called Freedom Convoy occupation of Ottawa earlier this year.
Expect more detailed reports from me in the future, but one thing to watch for is how the lawyers for Freedom Corp, the company set up by the convoy organizers, handles cross-examination of witnesses — who, overwhelmingly, will be testifying to the maddening impact of the occupation on the city.
Thus far, it’s not going well for them.
Just take this exchange between Freedom Corp counsel Brendan Miller and Zexi Li, an Ottawa resident and the main plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the convoy organizers.
(This transcript has been edited for clarity)
Miller: OK, and so I just want to take you back as well to that speech you gave…This is how you describe the protest: “It was insane. It was the strangest Twilight Zone, purge scenario — where people weren't quite purging, but the opportunity was there, because there was just no laws being enforced. So it was this crazy, crazy thing with hot tubs, with right wing extremists and right wing moderates as well. And then you’ve got a confused, average grandmother saying, ‘oh, isn't this really a great time? I wonder what the air raid sirens for.’” Those are your statements, is that right?
Li: Yes, that is correct.
Miller: OK, and when you say ‘purge scenario,’ for the folks at home as well as anybody here, I take it you're referring to the film series The Purge, right?
Li: Yes. Just in reference to the lack of laws that were in place.
Miller: Right. And it was your belief that the protests provided purge opportunities that fair?
LI: I would not say that the protest or occupation provided a purge opportunity, but what I witnessed on the streets day to day was very reminiscent of that kind of lawless world — where open fires were being held, laws are being broken in front of police officers who were not doing anything to combat them, and just a general sense and lack of disregard for public areas.
Miller: So you believe that the opportunity was there for a purge-type scenario? Is that right?
Li: I believe the opportunity was there and it was an environment where these people who had been illegally occupying our streets felt that they had the — I don't know if this is the right word — the ability to do anything they wanted as they were not privy to the regulations that the rest of us members of society were. And I came to this conclusion in through my witnessing of these crimes being committed because, really, they were crimes. And even speaking with these individuals directly, they informed me that they were not going to face any consequences because they were protected.
Miller: OK, so in the movie The Purge, you see that for one day in the United States called the Purge, that there are no laws in force and the population can commit murder, which is the purge. Is that right?
Li: That is correct. But I was not referencing the entirety of the purge. It was a purge-like scenario where laws were not enforced.
Miller: So people could potentially commit murder. That was your concern?
Li: I did not make that statement.
Whatever they’re paying him, it’s not enough!
Finally this week, I’m introducing a new recurring segment: The award for most bug-eyed and most shameless of the week!
Thanks to some nominations from my subscribers-only open thread this week, we got some great nominations: The shameless leaders of Hockey Canada, who have finally resigned after presiding over a top-tier clusterfuck; the leadership of the Russian Federation who continue to send their citizens to war as cannonfodder; and of course for the new premier of Alberta herself. (As follower Babe Ruthless put it: “She herself is not bug-eyed; she's merely a carrier.”)
But the clear winners this week are bug-eyed Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre, who was caught adding an Incel hashtag to his Youtube videos and the extraordinarily shameless Alex Jones, who went right back to spreading conspiracy theories about mass shootings right after losing a billion-dollar judgement against him for doing exactly that.
I’ll be holding another open thread next week: Start keeping your eyes peeled for worthy candidates now!
Nice of Justin to leave the comments open so long after the article. I just felt a need to post, at some appropriate location, a fun fact. Global just did a filler listicle piece on "20 richest neighbourhoods in Canada".
Four are in Calgary, though they're a the bottom of the top 20: Roxboro, Mount Royal, Brittania, Elbow Park. The fun fact is that all four are inside the "Calgary Elbow" riding, which means it is the single richest electoral district in Alberta. And THAT is where Danielle Smith was afraid to run for office, literally a Conservative afraid of the votes of millionaires.
I can't recall the like.
Did you catch the exchange this afternoon between Brendan Miller and Ottawa city councillor Mathieu Fleury? Miller wanted Fleury to define micro aggressions. He pushed (rather micro aggressively) and Fleury snapped that he was a francophone and if Miller wanted definitions he’d better ask for them in French. Fleury then proceeded to answer in French and Miller snarked something to the effect of, “can we get him a headset so he understand my question?”
I won’t recap the entire exchange but occupiers and their acolytes are thrilled with him. Hot topic on Twitter tonight.. if he (Fleury) doesn’t know what the word means, why did he use it over and over?
It’s going to be a long six weeks, but I can’t seem to look away.
By the way, I enjoyed your interview on CPAC with Michael Serapio. James Bauder and his MOU is what disturbed me the most during the occupation. I worry that our lack of civics education has spawned tens of thousands of Canadians who simply don’t know that they don’t know the first thing about how government works.
Is there any way to reach them?