Those infernal Russians are spreading their interfering tentacles wider and wider. At least, that’s what the Washington Post would have us believe, with a screeching headline this week: ‘Russia has turned its interfering attentions to Africa’. Meanwhile, the long-running saga of alleged Russian interference in Brexit is making news due to a refusal by the British government to release a report on the topic. Buzzfeed says that anonymous sources within British intelligence told it that the report will say that no evidence was found of Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum, But do you trust anonymous Buzzfeed sources? We shall have to wait and see.
But if there are some doubts about Russia’s role in Brexit, we now have evidence of something just as bad, and for Canadians like me, closer to home – Russian interference in Wexit.
WEXIT??? What’s Wexit, you ask. As well you might. For no doubt by now you’re more than a little confused.
Wexit is ‘Western exit’ – that’s to say the idea of the Western provinces of Canada splitting off to form a country of their own. It’s an idea which pops up every now and again, especially when Canadians have a Liberal government. Westerners, you see – especially the good folks of Alberta and Saskatchewan – don’t like the Liberal Party very much, and tend to the view that Liberals want to screw them over for the benefit of Ontario and Quebec. As a result, whenever the Liberals are in power, you get a few chaps out west who start muttering about secession.
The situation is particularly bad right now because in last month’s general election, the Liberals failed to win a single seat in either Alberta or Saskatchewan, but nonetheless managed to form a government. Those two provinces are, therefore, entirely shut out of power, and Wexit has become headline news. Indeed, today the organization Wexit Canada officially applied to be registered as a federal political party. ‘The Conservative Party of Canada is finished. Live under Trudeau or separate,’ posted party leader Peter Downing on Facebook.
Western alienation is hardly a new phenomenon in Canada. And you don’t need to point to outside influences to explain it. But in the current political climate, we all know that whenever something happens, somebody else is to blame, and that somebody, of course, is the Russians. And so it was that today the Toronto Sun blessed us all with the following story: ‘Canada, Wexit targeted in Russian disinformation campaign, experts say.’
The Sun then clarified the situation with this helpful picture, allegedly a ‘tweet in plain text format that Twitter identified as being misinformation originating in Russia’.
I have to say that this graphic totally convinced me. I’m sure it convinced you too. Oddly, though, the article doesn’t actually say that this Tweet has anything to do with Canada or Wexit. For all we know, it could have been about Trump or Africa or Brexit, or anything else. As you can see, the Sun was obviously struggling to come up with something solid. For its only actual ‘evidence ’ of Russian interference in Wexit is this: the Russian-funded Sputnik news agency sent a correspondent to Canada to cover the general election last month, and one of his articles ‘highlighted a separatist movement led by Albertan Peter Downing and dubbed Wexit’.
That’s it. That’s the ‘interference’. That’s the justification for this entire piece. Sputnik wrote one article about Wexit, one! I’ve been reading about it almost daily in my morning Canadian newspaper for a couple of weeks now, but what the hell, there was an article about it in Sputnik, it must be the Russians’ fault. This is despite the fact that the Sun tells us that Downing says ‘he’s also spoken with journalists from Spain, the UK, and elsewhere.’ Really? So why isn’t the Toronto Sun reporting about Spanish, British, and other ‘interference’ too??
The only explanation I can think of is that when Brits and Spaniards report on something, it’s ok, but when Russians do it, it’s malign. How do we know that? Because Benjamin Decker of the British government-funded Global Disinformation Index told the Sun so. As Decker put it:
What the Russians will often do via RT and Sputnik is to highlight and amplify fringe voices that are not accepted by either mainstream research, or mainstream politics … And by amplifying them, it in turn creates a perception that something is more popular than it actually is.
I wonder then why Decker thinks that the British, Spanish, and other journalists were also covering this story, or why there’s a whole ton of stories about Wexit in the Canadian press, on CBC, CTV, Global News, TVO, and all the rest of them?? Come on Benjamin, just Google it. It will only take you a few seconds. You’ll find the Canadian press all over this story. So, if they’re covering it, why is it so obviously malign for Sputnik to be doing it too? I have to say that I’m more than a little baffled.
Marcus Kolga, however, has an answer. It’s because when the Russians do it, it’s part of a devious plan dreamed up personally by Vladimir Putin and his associates in the Kremlin. As the Sun tells us:
Marcus Kolga, a Canadian expert in Russia and disinformation, said it [the Sputnik article] was an article likely commissioned by the Russian government. ‘These are agencies that are directly linked to the Kremlin — and if they’re linked to the Kremlin, they’re directly linked to Vladimir Putin and the president’s office in Russia,’ said Kolga.
Yes, that’s got to be why this article was written – because the Vladimir Putin and the president’s office are personally commissioning every little article that the Russian media is writing. You can see them in the Kremlin talking to themselves – ‘Forget Syria. Forget Ukraine. Forget our stagnating economy. Let’s talk about Canada! What shall we do about it? It’s important, it needs to top our agenda. I know, comrades, let’s commission an article about Wexit!! That will show them!’
Yup. That must be it. Of course the Kremlin is directly organizing interference in our political system.
Except that apparently it’s not. After an entire article telling us how the Russians were meddling in Canadian affairs, Toronto Sun reporter Zach Laing seems to have had some pangs of conscience, and wrapped up his piece with this final bombshell.
Ahead of the 2019 election, a protocol overseen by five senior civil servants was established to inform Canadians about potential incidents that could threaten the country’s ability to have a free and fair election. ‘The Panel did not observe any activities that met the threshold for public announcement or affected Canada’s ability to have a free and fair election,’ Government of Canada Privy Council Office spokesperson Stephane Shank said in a statement.
Oh! I’m lost for words.