Article:Why the word 'freedom' is such a useful rallying cry for protesters
Why the word 'freedom' is such a useful rallying cry for protesters is an article that was written in response to the Canadian Freedom Convoy protest (January 22, 2022 – February 23, 2022).  The article focuses on the word ‘freedom’, and its use in the Freedom Convoy protest. The article cites three “expert” opinions: those of Barbara Perry, Evan Balgord, and Elisabeth Anker, all three of whom are Jewish. . Perry’s contribution to the article is to make associations between the word freedom and right-wing groups and protests. Balgord’s contribution to the article is to declare the concept of freedom as “meaningless” when freedom opposes health or well-being of others. Anker’s contribution to the article is to promote the concept of equality over the concept of freedom.
Freedom as associated with far-right politics
The article states that the word freedom has become popular among far-right groups. According to Barbara Perry, the word freedom has thrived among far-right groups due to its “flexibility.” Tangentially, the article also cites Perry as saying that “the presence of far-right group in Canada is growing,” and as speculating that the Freedom Convoy was inspired partly by the rally of January 6th, 2021 at the Capitol in the United States, despite motivations of the events being unrelated to each other. The implicit idea presented by the article is that the reader should be suspicious of all discussion about freedom, lest the reader find himself agreeing with a right-winger.
Although rightly acknowledging the indefiniteness of the term freedom, the article fails to acknowledge the popularity of the word among leftist protestations. The concept of freedom had been utilized as rhetoric to support gay marriage (i.e. the freedom to marry whoever, regardless of the sex of either partner), pro-choice movement in regards to pregnancy (i.e. freedom to choose abortion), decriminalization of drug consumption (i.e. the freedom from State punishment for drug consumption), and the freedom to change one’s gender at whim (i.e. the freedom from traditional gender roles).
Freedom as opposed to well-being
The article quotes its second expert, Evan Balgord, as saying that the end of the COVID-19 mandates could “potentially have a negative impact on others.” Balgord is not a public health professional; he graduated university with a degree in Psychology and Sociology.  Balgord’s lack of confidence in his statement is made evident by the use of the weasel word ‘potentially.’
In the article, Balgord argues that
- "[the protesters are] taking freedoms away from other people who don’t have the same kind of agency as they do."
There is no mention of the freedoms of which protesters are depriving others. The freedoms for which the protesters agitate are not exclusive, are available to everyone. Such freedoms include the freedom to associate, to visit people in hospital, to do commerce, to be sell one’s labour and be employed, all of which have been oppressed by the Government according to their COVID-19 mandates.
The fairest interpretation of Balgord’s statement is rendered thus:
- The unvaccinated constitute a health-risk for certain vulnerable members of the population; moreover, the existence of a respiratory virus, COVID-19, constitutes a similar risk. The mask-mandates, travel-mandates, curfews, vaccine-mandates, are all meant to create a safer environment for the weak members of the population; this safer, more sterile, environment allows the weak access to more spaces, and therefore allows greater freedom, agency, choice, for the weak. Therefore, those who oppose the various mandates are not attempting to create a safer, sterile environment for the weak, and thus are limiting the agency and choice of the weak.
But this presupposes a different freedom – freedom from infection.
Freedom and well-being as inseparable
The article implicitly supports the COVID-19 mandates as beneficial to human well-being. However, the article fails to recognize freedom as a component of human well-being. The comparison of individual freedom and societal welfare creates a false dichotomy, in which individual freedom is viewed as opposing societal welfare/well-being. There is no good reason why the two concepts should be mutually exclusive.
Freedom as ill-defined
Thirdly, the article quotes its third expert, Elisabeth Anker, as saying that freedom is a “slippery concept.” Anker argues that individual freedom is understood on the political far-right as opposition to equality, to political solutions for inequality, whether that inequality be along racial, sexual, or other distinctions. The irony here is that Elisabeth identifies the concept of freedom as "slippery," but does not recognize the concept of equality as likewise "slippery." She fails to acknowledge the natural and irremediable differences between populations. We do not treat all people equally at all times in their lives. In regards to criminal punishment, even the same punishment for two different persons will affect each differently.  Moreover, sexual selection almost guarantees genetic inequality between people, even when those people are siblings that share the same parents. Equality between men is a sophism.
Equality preferred over freedom
Anker characterizes freedoms as “violent freedoms” if such freedoms oppose the attainment of “equality.” According to Anker, the only noble cause of a freedom-fighter is equality. Any social movement or revolution that does not have equality as its highest value is by definition discriminatory and undemocratic. Individual freedoms, which can be enjoyed by everyone, are not satisfactory, because such freedoms fail to address the natural inequality between various demographics.
Anker says that “freedom is often used almost as a national entitlement, as a claim for what people have.” That thing which “people have” is, of course, privilege. Anker views individual freedoms as a right to oppress other underprivileged groups, such as those people possessing weak immune systems that are incapable of surviving a COVID-19 infection. Anker suggests that countries that comply with the COVID-19 mandates do so because there is a general consensus that wearing masks protects “society’s most vulnerable." Again, the freedom from infection is implicitly invoked.
Freedom as a marketing ploy
Lastly, the article, under the sub-section “Concept of freedom can be used to reject equality,” makes an irrelevant turn of direction, and reminds the reader that the word
- freedom (…) is even the focus of merchandise. A bumper sticker that reads ‘Mandate Freedom,’ emblazoned with a Maple Leaf, is available for sale online. So are t-shirts and hats promoting the Freedom Convoy.
Not only is ‘freedom’ meaningless, misused, and selfish in the context of the Freedom Convoy, but those who use it are also grifters seeking to earn a quick dollar. The insinuation is that the Freedom Convoy is a grift; the purpose of this information is to debase the advocacy for freedom by associating such advocacy with something repugnant like cheap marketing, grifting, unscrupulous money-making, and consumerism.
The article is an attempt to undermine the Canadian cause for freedom against the Canadian government’s COVID-19 mandates by use of word magic: say stuff and hope it sticks. The article recognizes how powerful a call for freedom can be; in order to undermine this call for freedom, the article has launched several vectors of attack:
- 1) to associate freedom with the far-right;
- 2) to falsely dichotomize freedom and well-being;
- 3) to promote the value of equality over freedom;
- 4) to associate freedom with repugnant disingenuous grifting.
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, February 13, 2022, Why the word 'freedom' is such a useful rallying cry for protesters, https://www.cbc.ca/radio/checkup/what-s-your-reaction-to-the-ottawa-standoff-and-the-border-blockades-1.6349636/why-the-word-freedom-is-such-a-useful-rallying-cry-for-protesters-1.6349865, last accessed February 16, 2022
- Jewish Scholars Stand with the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, http://jewssupportuncduke.org/, last accessed March 10, 2022
- [insert source for Barbara Perry]
- The Canadian Anti-Hate Network, https://www.antihate.ca/about, last accessed March 10, 2022
- ”Inequality is without remedy. If we suppose the penalty of a corporal one, we shall find the same inequality. Imprisonment or exposure to public shame, is a penalty which a man wanting in education and dignity of sentiments, will suffer with perfect indifference; and a criminal of a certain rank would prefer death a thousand times to it. The penalty should be appreciated, not for what it is in itself, but for the injury it causes the sufferer, and the impression it makes on him; for otherwise the two object of chastisement would disappear – expiation and warning. Therefore, the same penalty, applied to criminals of different ranks, has no equality. You will confess with me that in these difficulties there is much that is irremediable; then let us acknowledge the sad necessity, and give up talking about an equality which is impossible.” James Balmes, The Art of Thinking Well, page 191. (1882)