Editorial: The Age of Unreason

Dec. 3, 2020

We get texts, we get emails and we get letters. Very often, the communications take to task a published op-ed or story. However, over the past months, we have also heard from pandemic deniers, conspiracy theorists, and assorted loons, many of whom are hell-bent to convince us that our reality is a lie and theirs is real.

One such writer (unidentified, for obvious reasons) is not a bad sort. He is in his 60s, self-described as having a “worthless degree in music performance” with “30 years of dead end jobs.” He seems, sadly, grist for the growing mill of what Hillary Clinton once called the “basket of deplorables.”

Let’s call him “Reggie.” Here is a small sampling of Reggie’s messages to us:

“I see ‘Covid-19’ for the abominable fraud that it is… Why are you so determined to believe that ‘Covid-19’ – if it exists and that is debatable – is some pestilence on a par with Ebola, Small Pox and The Black Death combined? You’re a leader of the community. You have a duty to provide people with an accurate perception of what’s really going on out there…and sorry…I don’t think you’re doing that.”

And: “Forgive me for this: Are you really this dense? I don’t NEED to visit an emergency ward! WHERE, are the sick? WHERE are the dead? 9 months of this BS story, I’ve yet to see 98 percent of the people I talk to have not seen, first-hand, ONE credible case. ‘Covid-19!!’ Turn off your telescreen, go outside, and LOOK AROUND YOU!”

By now, the reader’s eyeballs must be bouncing off the floor. However, it seems that Reggie is not one of a very tiny community of subterraneans who have burrowed deep into the ground to avoid what is right before their eyes. He is tragically among a growing group in what some are calling a new age of unreason.

How else to explain Toronto restaurateur Adam Skelly defiantly ignoring lockdown rules in order to keep open for indoor dining? (That it took authorities days to act is another story). Skelly, who has become the poster boy of the so-called “hoaxademic” crowd, has less than savoury support from extreme right-wing racists like Kevin Johnston, who’s awaiting trial on hate charges; white nationalist Christopher Vandeweide, convicted of assault in Hamilton and recently arrested for breaching his probation and threatening assault; and the granddaddy of the far right in Canada, Paul Fromm.

This convergence of right-wing extremism and virus denial is not confined to Toronto. Kingston, Ottawa, London, Montreal, Edmonton, and Vancouver have all seen the “hoaxademic” crowd gather, sometimes in large numbers, and, naturally, without masks.

Those who have dared to speak out publicly against these marches have found themselves threatened in online platforms. Just ask Stephen Hargreaves of Windsor Ont., who posted his concerns following a recent anti-mask event to his Instagram account. According to a CBC story, he received threats of violence posted to his account that were so horrific, the CBC refused to publish them because of its “disturbing content.” Windsor police are investigating.

In the end, these pandemic deniers are still a minuscule number. The vast majority of Canadians understand the real danger posed to our health, but we cannot turn a blind eye. It is here where we count on authorities to ensure that health regulations are followed.

We count on police not to dither. Businesses breaking the law need to be held to account. If fines are not severe enough, make them more punitive until people understand that society will simply not put up with endangering our collective health.

This is deadly serious and it’s time we all take responsibility in calling out the deniers. Your life and health may very well depend on it.