10 February 2020

Erin O'Toole's Proud Disgrace

Yo! Conservative guys and Conservative gals,
You wanna lead this party, you gotta be like our pals,
You gotta talk into the mike,
You gotta tell us what you're like.
– MP Arnold Viersen, "Conservative Rap" (2017)*
Jeff Ballingall's is not a household name, not even in households that follow his Ontario Proud, Canada Proud, and BC Proud Facebook pages.

My only interaction with the man came in June 2018. A few days after the Ontario general election, I asked how it was that Ontario Proud, a page dedicated to the defeat of Kathleen Wynne, a page that had raised funds with the expressed purpose of defeating Kathleen Wynne, had then spent that money on attack ads targeting Andrea Horwath.

There was no answer. My query was deleted. I was blocked from posting.

More recently, in response to a Canada Proud post that criticized the treatment of women and gays in Iran, I asked why Proud Facebook pages allowed misogynistic and homophobic comments.

There was no answer. My query was deleted. I was blocked from posting.

Thus far, questions addressed to BC Proud have gone unanswered.

A former Sun News and Conservative Research Group employee, Jeff Ballingall is a man of many hats. In 2016, he founded Mobilize Media Group, an organization not terribly keen on letting you know what they're all about. Ballingall co-owns and is Chief Marketing Officer of The Post Millennial, home to faux-journalists who rewrite news stories from legitimate sources so as to inflame right-wing snowflakes.

This past October, following the Conservative's electoral loss, Ballingall joined fellow Sun News evacuee Kory Teneycke in founding Conservative Victory, a group dedicated to ousting Andrew Scheer as leader. In November, Ballingall was afforded a full hour on the CBC – what his Proud followers refer to as the "Communist Broadcasting Corporation " – to speak out against Scheer. In December, Scheer stepped down. In January, it was announced that Ballingall had joined leadership candidate Erin O'Toole's team. According to the National Post, he has been tasked to "oversee digital strategy."

The effect of this new position on the Ontario Proud, Canada Proud, and BC Proud has been immediate. And I do mean immediate.

New posts on Erin O'Toole's Facebook page are shared within minutes on Proud pages, complete with links encouraging donations to the candidate's leadership campaign. Not one Proud page has shared a post from fellow front runner Peter MacKay, never mind any other leadership contender. This is not to say that there haven't been posts featuring MacKay.

Further examples will be provided upon request.

With Ballingall onboard, O'Toole's posts have taken on the look and character – half-truths, disinformation, disingenuous editing – of his Proud pages. That the comments they prompt are similar and in some cases identical to those left on those pages is explained by the aforementioned sharing and the use of Mobilize Media Group's database in micro-targetting Facebook ads.

The result is a cesspool made up of lunacy and conspiracy. The prime minister is referred to as both a communist and a Nazi,

ignorance of the human reproductive system and basic English is on display,

Islamophobia runs rampant,

and, as is habit within the Conservative Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau's murder is encouraged.

And on it goes.

Not four months ago, in a Toronto Life interview, Ballingall sniffed: "They stereotype us – they think we’re all bigoted, racist rednecks. We’re not."

Who is "they," I wonder.

Never mind.

I don't believe Proud followers are all bigoted racists, just as I don't believe Erin O'Toole's followers are all bigoted, racist rednecks, though I do recognize that bigoted, racist rednecks exist within their number.

Does Ballingall?

More importantly, does O'Toole?

Why, after all these years, does Ballingall allow these comments? How is it that Erin O'Toole has hired a man who allows these these comments? More to the point, how is it that Erin O'Toole allows these comments?

Last week, on his Facebook page, I accused Erin O'Toole of scaremongering. I went on to suggest that he was soiling his campaign and his reputation.

Erin O'Toole hasn't blocked me. It may be that he's leaving that decision to Jeff Ballingall.

* MP Arnold Viersen's "Conservative Rap", played at the 2017 Conservative leadership convention. Enjoy!


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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this suprisingly informative piece Brian!