Sticks and stones

Peter Jackson
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Politics is full of glass houses. But that doesn’t stop anyone from throwing stones. Far from it.

Last week, a firestorm of protest broke out over Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ proposed legislation to allow greater police access to online activity by private citizens.

Several people sent tongue-in-cheek tweets to Toews revealing mundane details of their private lives. There were also letters, petitions and blog postings.

But one campaign took a decidedly nasty tone. Someone armed with records of Toews’ divorce proceedings, as well as his public spending habits, issued a steady stream of tweets under the Twitter name Vikileaks30.

It was ugly and personal.

When the tweets were traced to the Parliament building, Toews decried it as gutter politics. He even asked police to investigate. So far, the RCMP have not said anything about the “leaks” of public information, though they are looking into an apparent death threat against the minister.

Toews, meanwhile, has indicated he would entertain amendments to the legislation.

Nonetheless, a new online campaign surfaced this week from an underground group calling itself “Anonymous.” As well as reviving the Vikileaks tweets, the group posted an ominous video displaying its mysterious logo. Sinister music swells as a computer-generated voice taunts the minister with more threats of exposure.

“You cannot run; you cannot hide,” the halting, female voice says.

“You will pry the Internet, our most valued and precious weapon against oppression, from our cold, dead hands.”

It’s meant to be clever, but it’s actually quite creepy.

What makes it even more disturbing is that it may signal a new approach for opposition forces in this country: fight sleaze with sleaze.

Bottom of the barrel

All parties have their low points, but there is no question the Tories have taken the prize for underhandedness over the past seven years.

You can forget the little mini-scandals that come and go: Maxime Bernier’s mislaid documents, or Lisa Raitt finding cancer “sexy.” But the bigger transgressions are hard to ignore.

The famous “in-and-out” election spending scandal looms large. Despite vehement denials and an initial court victory, the country’s top court found the party guilty of violating regulations.

Then there’s last fall’s prank phone calls in Irwin Cotler’s Montreal district. Tory staffers hired a polling firm to call constituents and suggest, falsely, that the Liberal MP was stepping down.

There was the direct order for departments to change “Government of Canada” to “The Harper Government” on public documents. (Harper denied any such order until proof surfaced in the form of emails from the Privy Council Office.)

And then there’s Harper’s growing legacy of shutting down democracy. National Post columnist Lawrence Martin summed it up this way:

“The stifling of dissent featured such measures as the shutting down of Peter Tinsley’s Afghan detainees’ probe, the removal of the head of the RCMP Complaints Commission and the removal of the head of the Nuclear Safety Commission. There was the ransacking of Rights & Democracy, the disregarding of a fixed-date election law, the issuance of a secret manual instructing Conservatives on how to disrupt parliamentary committees, and a dozen other examples of authoritarian measures more befitting a one-party state than a 21st-century democracy.”

It’s a little rich, therefore, for a Tory minister to point fingers over clandestine manoeuvres.

But that still doesn’t make it right.

The problem with the Anonymous campaign is right the there in the group’s name.

Anonymous attacks are beneath contempt.

This is one instance where two wrongs don’t make a right.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor.


Twitter: pjackson_NL

Organizations: RCMP, Liberal MP, Privy Council Office National Post RCMP Complaints Commission Nuclear Safety Commission

Geographic location: Montreal, Canada

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Recent comments

    February 24, 2012 - 14:13

    Mr. Morrison, Marc Emery is a Canadian Icon who is respected by many people and politicians across this country. The fact that you could call him a common criminal is insulting to your own intelligence. The man puts every one of his working dollars into the cannabis community and helps to preserve and protect the rights of Canadians everywhere. In Canada, selling cannabis seeds would net him a couple months prison OR a fine. In which case he would take prison so as to leave the fine in the coffers of the Marijuana Party of Canada so as to better help legalization efforts. Mr. Toews was instrumental in signing his release to the Americans so to imprison him in a foreign country for a sentence that would in this country be constituted as cruel and unusual. You could only hope to be half the man Marc Emery is. Good day to you sir.

  • Anon
    February 24, 2012 - 14:09

    Case-in-point: in October the hacker group Anonymous took down one of the largest hosts of child pornography, which was being run over a concealed “darknet”, or anonymized network. The government’s proposed “lawful access” bills would likely not have discovered this kind of online activity to begin with; under the new regime, the Anonymous brand of online vigilante justice will still be needed to combat this kind of illegal activity. One might want to ask the question then, just what exactly does the government hope to achieve with its online spying agenda, if it can’t address more sophisticated and nefarious forms of Internet crime? It'd be no trouble to look up both your numbers, addresses, get your records, spam you, deliver numerous pizzas to your house and otherwise harrass you if someone wanted to. This is why I don't put my real name online. Enjoy your police state guys.

  • Anon
    February 23, 2012 - 23:42

    Herb Morison, you can't put a mortgage on a tent. Occupy isn't failing. If it were, they wouldn't be beating us up and pepper spraying our pregnant women. If you want to sit back and let the Patriot act be brought in to this country, piece by piece go to it. If not, then that's fine too. Ideologies and tactics may differ but as long as the goal is the same, society will effect the change that it wants. Debating which tactics or ideology will prevail is futile, nature will pick her own winner, but he who can observe the weather will seek shelter first. - Sincerely, whatever I say my name is. Ask the citizens of Greece how they feel about Anonymous.

  • Herb Morrison
    February 23, 2012 - 21:01

    Mr. Winters, you appear to be totally out of touch with reality. Once again your latest rant filled with barely intelligible rhetoric leaves me baffled. Mind you, I could be mistaken, but the way I've got it figured you could possibly be the victim of some serious brainwashing. Then again, perhaps you have been either smoking, snorting or shooiting yourself up with too much of what Marc Emery has been found guilty of peddling. Anyone who views Marc Emery as either a victim of any kind of injustice or a candidate for martyrdom of any description, when infact he is nothing more than a common crimminal who has made a fortune by preying on the weaknesses of others, needs to do some serious rethinking when it comes to who they choose to put on a pedestal or look to for leadership. The amount of paranoia reflected in your latest post is also interesting. If you feel that you are on the fringe of society, does this mean that you have the same indifference and contempt for everyone who doesn't embrace your beliefs as you feel toward Mr Toews? If so, you pose a far greater threat to the well-being of society than Mr. Toews or anyone else in authority could ever pose. In my opinion, your twisted ideas of what constitutes either justice or reason leaves something to be desired.

  • Cyril Rogers
    February 23, 2012 - 16:07

    I do not nor would I want to ever cause problems for any other person with the same name as mine. To my knowledge, there are only three or four of us with that full name in Newfoundland. I would never want to cause harm to any of the other individuals with whom I do share this name. For those who would like to inquire, I let it be known that my email address is: I am also a resident of the Green Bays South area and would be happy to debate with or hear from any of the posters here who do not wish to provide their full name.

  • Herb Morrison
    February 23, 2012 - 14:07

    Mr Rogers, Anon, or whatever pseudonym you are hiding behind today, the fact that you sign your name, in itself, means nothing. It is your unwllingness to be accountable for your posts by properly identifying yourself which is the issue here. An act of Cowardice is readily identifiable, despite the fact that the coward who precipitates the act of cowardice remains Anonymous. You statement "Freedoms and rights are not something that famous leaders have provided to us is inaccurate , to say the least. It is a well known fact that the majority of humans are not leaders. At best, most humans are followers. At worst, humans are apathetic. Both the hippie and yippie movements of yesteryear, and the occupy movement of today have failed miserably for two reasons. One of those reasons is the fact that participants in these movements knew what they didn't want but, not unlike you and your fellow Anons; didn't know what they did want. The other reason these movements failed is because they lacked leaders who were willing to take a risk, stand up, identify themselves and motivate others to action by leading by example. In the case of yourself and your fellow Anons, who in their right mind would choose to follow anyone or take a risk of any description, to follow someone like yourself, who is so obviously afraid to take a risk yourself. Furthermore, I do not determine how valuable my opinions are, within any context, including the posts I make. The value of my opion is determined by the fact that I am willing to identify myself (despite you unsubstantiated assertion that I lack any semblence of integrity and would choose to use a false identity.) Considering the fact that you don't know me personally such an assessment doesn't have a shred of credibility. At the risk (you might consider looking up the meaning of the word as it appears to me that you have no clue what it means, considering your definition of the word.) of repeating myself, in order to lead effectively one needs to be willing to stand up and be identified an be willing to risk pain, suffering, or even physical death for your cause. If that makes your fear of risking your loss of personal privacy seem trivial by comparison - that's because it is trivial.

    • Herb Morrison
      February 23, 2012 - 22:49

      Herb my son you're missing the point, you can't or refuse to grasp it. Let me make it easier for you by just saying prove that you really are Herb Morrison. Now do you get it? Fact is, no matter what name you want to give yourself, you're still anonymous. Call yourself Abraham Lincoln if you want, it means nothing. See I posted under the same name you use. Am I really Herb Morrison, of course not. I don't mean to burst your bubble but nobody knows who you are. So you are, unknowingly, anonymous as well. Cheers.

  • Anon
    February 23, 2012 - 13:29

    Herb Morrison, you could be Anon with a fake name for all I know. I assume everyone online is Anonymous unless I know for sure otherwise. The right to free speech was eradicated offline before it was eradicated online. Ask one of the hippies from the G8/G20 summit in Toronto what freedom of speech is? A free speech zone to keep protesters from making their point? Mah man, please. You confuse my indifference or lack of sympathy for Vic Toews as a motivation to do him some sort of harm. I don't care what happens to the man. He's nothing to me and he's certainly not family so I could care less what happens to him. There's lots of people in this world our government could care less about. Newfies are one,Libyan civillians are another, but I digress. If you believe that free speech should be held in a fair and open public square, then that's fine. But the fringe need anonymity to get their points heard. Case in point? Any nation in the arab spring uprising had used social media to organize and effect change in their country. So what happens when this bill is being used to pursue political means? Vic Toews already let one fringe politician (Marc Emery) be arrested by AMERICAN FORCES (DEA) and brought out of the country to be prosecuted in the US against his Charter Rights. The conservatives have already demonstrated they are not afraid of taking political prisoners, so why in anyone's right mind would they want them to have even MORE power to do that? It's ludacris and it's dangerous to our democracy. Cyber crimes exist and that's why we have warrants. My real name is Bryan Winters by the way and I could care less who knows it. Now if you'll excuse me, I have other matters to attend to, so I must cut this short.

  • Herb Morrison
    February 23, 2012 - 10:46

    Anon, first of all, along with the right to free speech comes the obligation to be willing to be held accountable for what a person says or writes utilizing a public medium. You decry what you perceive as a display of lack of honour on the part of Mr. Toews and I quote: “ There is no honour in what he is doing. There is plenty of honour in trying to stop him,” all the while ignoring what in my opinion constitutes a flagrant display of dishonour, not to mention cowardice and a lack of integrity, on your part, as you choose to attempt to evade accountability for your posts by hiding behind a pseudonym. A prerequisite to being able to make a difference in our society, is a willingness to suffer hardship and even death in order to further the cause in which we profess to believe. There is a price to be paid when one wants to make a difference, which will result in the betterment of our society, or the world at large. You don’t need to believe me. Just ask Nelson Mandela, who spent more than twenty years in a labour camp because of his opposition to apartheid in South Africa, or the family of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was murdered because of his belief that racism is wrong and his belief that as he said: “a person should be judged not because of the colour of their skin, but because of the content of their character.” You need to be willing to die, if that’s what it takes to make a difference. Anon, when I consider the fact that, by your own admission, a threat to your personal privacy appears to be too painful a consequence for you to bear, I seriously question whether or not you or any of the other Anons out there (you are legion, right?) have either the necessary capacity to endure pain, hardship, or even physical death which, as I said earlier, are necessary prerequisites, if anyone is to be a viable force in the implementation of social change which will benefit our own society or the world at large.

    • Herb Rogers
      February 23, 2012 - 11:07

      As you said, it's all an opinion, and you are entitled to it. You are as right as you are wrong. Freedoms and rights are not something that famous leaders have provided to us, it's from the sacrifices of thousands of unknown individuals. Just because a person wants to use a name that appears to be real does not make their opinion any more valuable. Do you really think my name is Herb Rogers? No, of course not, I could have posted my comment under the name Herb Morrison or Cyril Rogers.. It would not have mattered because is still only an opinion worth as much as anyone would pay for any opinion on these forums.

  • Anon
    February 23, 2012 - 08:39

    I advocate nothing that will disturb the peace but if people feel inclined to post Vic Toews personal information, including his baby-mama's name and whatever, then I won't bat an eye to it. He made his bed when he tried to take away our rights and now he can lie in it. There is no honor in what he is doing, there is plenty of honor in trying to stop him. It's clear by now that peaceful protests do nothing. The banks still enslave us and the cops still beat up the occupy protesters who have been so slandered and ridiculed by the media that the common man no longer sympathizes with them. It truly has been a winter of discontent hasn't it? When the new bill is passed, comments such as mine will warrant me as a suspect of sorts and they'll be able to pull up whatever basic info from my subscriber that they want in order spy on me. So much for freedom of speech, and so much for the freedom against unwarranted search.

  • R U Cyril Rogers
    February 23, 2012 - 08:39

    Is it your real name? How do we know - how can it be verified? Are you the only one with that name? Do you speak for everyone named "Cyril Rogers"? What is there to stop anyone from posting under the same name? There are other reasons why people don't use their name. Some do so because anyone can post a comment using any name - even your name and there's nothing to stop them.

  • Herb Morrison
    February 22, 2012 - 18:50

    Well said Mr. Rogers.

  • Cyril Rogers
    February 22, 2012 - 15:43

    Should I fear an attack from Anonymous or any other group for submitting comments with my real name attached? Therein lies the problem with anonymity. Who is controlling it? If there is no one controlling it, what is it's motive? I see "Anonymous" comments all the time on local and national political issues and, in cases where the writer is being derogatory and attacking the person, they do it under the guise of anonymity. If newspapers or other media are going to allow anonymous comments, the onus is on the newspaper to take us back to the source if slander is involved. If not, they should refuse to publish nasty personal comments. I despise the Harperites in Ottawa, and view their approach to government as a cult-like one, but I do not believe in exposing a person's private life. The ends do not justify the means, as much as it is very tempting at times.

  • Herb Morrison
    February 22, 2012 - 15:13

    Anon, the eye for an eye philosophy which you advocate will no lead to any type of enlightenment. Eventually everyone who embraces your tactics will be blinded to even the simplest truths. Your tactic of countering the unethical practices of others by employing equally unethical tactics reminds me of something said during the social revolution of the sixties and seventies. Someone said "fighting for peace is like engaging in sexual intercourse in order to perserve virginity." Countering what you precieve to be unethical behaviour by those in power, by employing equally unethical tactics, is indeed comaprable to what happened during the social revolution of the sixties and seventies. A revolution which, for all intents and purposes failed. Interesting how human history has a habit of repeating itself.

  • Anon
    February 22, 2012 - 13:25

    My name isn't Anon for nothing. Anonymous has been front and center in the Occupy movement, and came on the scene notably, first as outers of scientology, exposing the abuse, and leaking financial documents that resulted in the arrest of some church members for fraud, larceny and money laundering. Anonymous is neither a force for good nor a force for evil. It is merely a force, and the operations are not organized as the media has you believe but are loosely woven around a structure containing a core of serious, legitimate people concerned for the matter at hand, while that core is surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of Anon's who simply do it for the lulz. That's what makes this group so powerful and have earned Anonymous the nickname "Guardians of the internet" You don't hear about Anonymous's good deeds but you hear about the atrocities (perpetrated by a few) to distract from the real activist work they do. Vic Toews is trying to introduce a key component of the Patriot act into Canada. The plan eventually is to name sites like Facebook and Twitter as Internet service providers in the sense that they provide a service ON the internet. Facebook is the ultimate intelligence cache and many governments are already tapping into it. Ours is taking the long road - but nevertheless they have wiretapping and electronic snooping. Section 8 of the charter of rights and freedoms has gone out the window. Anonymous won't forgive and Anonymous won't forget. Anon is a legion. The elite have secret societies, now so do we. I hope Vic Toews has his private phone calls released to the public as well. Maybe he won't be so quick to try and take away everyone elses freedom then. Regardless of what the bill says NOW. It will become more authortiarian over time. These things tend to work out slowly or in a reactionary measure. Since we don't have any 9/11 attacks to get everyone riled up, our conservative overlords introduce the patriot act slowly but surely. And we will be bombing Iran and Syria whether you (the Canadian public) likes it or not.

  • Townie
    February 22, 2012 - 07:46

    The only problem is that the sycophant media have given CRAP the first swing and this leaves no way to defend your self in public opinion. I really wonder what purpose the media service in this country except to broadcast propaganda. Perhaps you should address whether there is any chance of saving this increasingly useless form of communication.

  • Herb Morrison
    February 22, 2012 - 07:40

    Mr. Jackson, I agree wholeheartedly that anonymous attacks are beneath contempt in any context. I would go further and suggest that anyone utilizing a public medium should be required to have their real name published along with their post unless they have a valid reason for remaining anonymous such as threats to personal safety, possible job loss, or fear of any other form of undeserved or just retribution. When you consider that anonymous attacks, which usually take the form of disparaging personal remarks, not threats, are published on this particular website and others, with disturbing regularity; it is inevitable that someone or some group would sink even deeper into the gutter, and make anonymous death threats. Obviously, a way needs to be found whereby persons utilizing public media can be held accountable for what they say while using a public medium, while at the same time preserving any person’s right to freedom of speech.

    • Townie
      February 22, 2012 - 07:50

      Remember Herb after the communists and unionists then there is only you.