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The big dumb ballad of Mark Gerretsen: Government Twitter troll
When a backbench attack dog of subnormal intelligence decides to ring in the New Year by flirting with libel, self-respecting Canadians are left to wonder just how low the Liberals may go in 2023.
“He’s a walking embarrassment. Just a dumb oaf of an internet troll.”
These words have stuck with me since November, back when I was shooting the breeze with one of Canada’s top political strategists, who, in the years that I have known him, has had nary a bad word to say about anybody, even those on the ‘other side’ of the aisle.
We were talking about Mark Gerretsen.
“His auditioning for a Cabinet spot is just sad. He dances like a monkey for a job he will never get.”
I haven’t had the pleasure of connecting with this strategist since, although I look forward to this article landing in his inbox, for once again the monkey has danced: this time, by deciding to ring in the New Year with the borderline libel of one-time Ontario MPP Roman Baber, who experienced the banal horrors of Communism as a child, fled to greener pastures, put his career on the line and found himself unceremoniously cast aside by the Ontario PCs for speaking and voting his conscience during the unconscionable harms of lockdowns, and whom has every right to criticize the worst of big government based on his own lived experience.
But no, that would be too nuanced, “a charlatan,” cried the dancing monkey, in a thread that extended into those tired and emotional hours where often only Liberal pollster Frank Graves can be found haunting the #cdnpoli Twitter halls (before always deleting any evidence of his comings and goings once the cold light of day stages its very own Freedom Convoy outside his bedroom window).
(A note for future politicians: nothing good happens on social media after 10 pm.)
Yet the Liberal MP for Kingston and the Islands couldn’t help himself, for that’s just who he is. It’s who he has always been.
The role of backbench attack dog has always held utility — particularly for a party under unprecedented attack for, well, unprecedented overreach, and some really terrible ideas — but this is different.
This isn’t a story of an otherwise decent public servant who had a moment of weakness; this is a daily occurrence, one that speaks to far greater rot inside a Big Red Machine already slowed by rust, faulty parts, and piloted by unqualified and unserious operators who have a Canadian public headed for a managed decline that sounds alarm bells for those who grew up in the Soviet Union, but those bells have yet to ring for your average Toronto voter with a carefully curated ignorance towards the Canada that exists only as a passing field of snow from the vantage point of a Sunwing window seat destined for Cancun.
“If girls cared about political elections as much as they cared about homecoming queens, the world would be a much better place.” (A shared tweet from the account of Mark Gerretsen, then Mayor of Kingston, Ontario, in October of 2013.)
This isn’t Mark Gerretsen’s first rodeo. Gerretsen, a prodigious tweeter, was known for his breathless overreactions to Queen’s Homecoming while serving as the Mayor of Kingston. Warren Kinsella, who once called Gerretsen “one of the stupidest people I have ever encountered in politics, and that’s say something,” made something of an early habit out of teeing off on the lumbering son of John Gerretsen, a provincial Liberal Cabinet member during Ontario’s disastrous McGuinty/Wynne era.
While not without his misses, in hindsight, Kinsella was right to try and warn us.
Lost in the early throes of Extremely Online proclivities, Gerretsen first pet that burning dog in 2013. For his folly, he claimed to have “learned a lesson about paying more attention” to his online behaviours, and that “perhaps a higher standard should be set for me.”
In keeping with the tradition set aside by his now-boss, such a transgression ended up being a “teachable moment” for everyone but the perpetrator.
In the decade to follow, his online behaviours have only grown more eye-rolling and cringe-inducing. When not busy bestowing upon Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre the schoolyard moniker of “PeePee,” Gerretsen has been known to use his constituents’ time in the House to whine about being blocked on Twitter, and has taken to adopting the conversational tone of a moody, inattentive teenager, whose faculties have been ravaged by big tech’s weaponized dopamine feedback loop.
Do you have a legitimate concern to share with Gerretsen? Expect emojis in the reply, a play on the word “con,” garden variety misinformation, an affinity for sophomoric cursing, and maybe a poorly photoshopped World Index Rating that shows that Canadians ackshually have more freedom than the citizens of Mordor, so what are you even complaining about, lowly citizen?
At his very worst, he drifts all the way into the kind of dehumanizing language normally reserved for centuries-old blood feuds, and genocidal zealots.
If you’re lucky, you’re just a “charlatan” who gets a cutesy “you can’t sit with us,” accompanied by a kissing emoji. If his blood pressure is really up, you’re some kind of human “stain” to be lamented and othered.
He may not understand the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but he knows his way around a few Cluster B personality traits, much like many of our finest Twitter trolls, who exist primarily to ‘dunk’ on their enemies, greater meaning or service to the public be damned.
Even in a Liberal Cabinet commercially stocked with actual communists with records of detainment, lumpish authoritarians who reflexively pine for the powers of Tiananmen Square, those who cut sweetheart backroom deals for friends (and CBC contributors, of course), and who are led by a man whose fuhrer-style rant against the unvaccinated continues to age like a fart in an elevator, it’s almost fascinating to note that Gerretsen — for all his Tru-Anon efforts and his willingness to mix it up in the corners with *checks notes* concerned Canadian citizens — has still been left wanting for a promotion. (However imperceptible to the human eye — perhaps a standard of decency and competence actually exists inside this bastardization of the Liberal Party of Canada.)
State media would say otherwise, but beyond the flimsy arguments used to prop up the Canadian experiment as any ‘better’ than the efforts of any of our neighbours lies the reality that for every Q-Anon elected down south, we’ve elected a Tru-Anon up north.
It’s a new era in Canadian politics, and 2023 is off to a most inauspicious start. Forget those dastardly, salt-of-the-earth, law-abiding hunters and sport shooters who find themselves under assault from a group of dilettantes who wouldn’t know a pheasant-hunting shotgun from a super-soaker, it somehow managed to be Gerretsen who fired the first shots in 2023.
He cannot be expected to change. There remains no cure for arrested development. But on the off chance that the Liberals have any interest in no longer insulting both the intelligence and the principles of millions of Canadians, they could start by taking his phone away.
Or perhaps, better yet, they could open up his Twitter replies.
We come bearing notes, Mark. Consider it constructive criticism.
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