Less than four months until a federal election, the Harper government looks desperate. It’s not pretty.
With Dean Del Mastro, the former MP the prime minister once trusted enough to appoint as his parliamentary secretary and representative on the ethics committee, doing the perp walk in cuffs and leg irons, and new poll numbers showing the Conservatives trailing the NDP, Harper is pulling out all the stops to cling to power.
First and foremost, this means attack ads. Harper’s been down this road before, inundating the airwaves with ads discrediting former contenders to his throne including Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. Previous attacks have always been crass, negative and a little unfair. But nothing compares to the crude and inappropriate content of these latest ads, which feature clips from propaganda films produced by ISIS and international terrorist networks sympathizing with the group, to suggest that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s position on ISIS is soft.
The ads are indecent and, it turns out, possibly even illegal under the provisions of the government’s new Bill C-51 anti-terror legislation.
“The ad uses Islamic State propaganda, including gruesome images of prisoners facing death by drowning and beheading -- and those images may actually violate the government’s own anti-terror law,” reported CTV today. “The new C-51 legislation gives a judge ‘the power to order the seizure of terrorist propaganda or, if the propaganda is in electronic form, to order the deletion of the propaganda from a computer system.’”
The Conservatives are amplifying the propaganda of a terrorist group in order to frighten Canadians and discredit a political opponent. ISIS’ grisly films are elaborately produced and edited for maximum effect. But I doubt even the most ambitious propagandist in their ranks ever suspected they’d be providing campaign ad B-roll for a Western politician.
As well as being indecent, the use of the footage and the argument that Trudeau is soft on ISIS is also incoherent. On whose watch did the wars out of which ISIS emerged occur? It was Harper who wished Canada had joined the original 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and it was Harper who in 2011 sent Canadian CF-18s to join the NATO bombing of Libya. If that country had not been smashed by NATO, there’s no way Harper would have been able to remix ISIS videos filmed there.
Along with the charge that Trudeau is soft on ISIS, Harper lumped in criticism of Trudeau’s stated position in favour of Western negotiation with Iran. But this is apples and oranges. The regime in Iran is one of the main enemies of ISIS. For years Harper and his foreign ministers have simplistically echoed the Israeli government by calling Iran the biggest threat to world peace, while cozying up to the Gulf dictatorships that have helped (covertly, and sometimes more overtly) fuel the rise of sectarian militias and terror groups like ISIS.
Advertising executive Tony Chapman told CTV that he doubted the efficacy of the ads. “Not only are they providing free advertising for ISIS, they’re completely offside and driving Canadian politics to a new low.”
With 115 days to go to election day, Harper’s negative campaigning game of limbo may just be getting started. Who knows how low he’ll go. Once you’re at the point of using ISIS snuff films to take down a political opponent, anything is possible.