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Scapegoating the new deplorables

Craig A. Carter | How cynical politicians are debasing public discourse

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau getting his COVID-19 vaccine booster shot last week Associated Press/Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Scapegoating the new deplorables
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The rhetoric of political leaders in the United States and Canada is increasingly polarizing and bordering on violent. Close elections in heavily divided countries are being decided by enthusiasm. Stoking anger at the other side is increasingly seen as an effective tool in driving up voter turnout and can be the difference between winning and losing an election. In short, dividing people into groups and against each other works—at least if your goals are short-term power-grabbing rather than statesmanship.

Politicians like French President Emmanuel Macron increasingly follow Hillary Clinton and her “basket of deplorables” explanation for how a figure like Donald Trump could get elected. The temptation to portray the voters of the other party as stupid, stubborn, and evil seems to be too much to resist.

Here in Canada, we were reminded of that this week when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shifted blame for all our COVID frustrations onto the designated scapegoats of the hour: the unvaccinated.

Last week, the CBC (never yet suspected of trying to paint a Liberal leader in a bad light on purpose) said: “With the Omicron-driven pandemic wave sweeping the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians are growing more angry and frustrated with people who still refuse to get vaccinated.”

In the National Post, political commentator Rex Murphey set this statement in the context of past Trudeau comments by going back to last fall’s election campaign when Trudeau “launched a strident, angry, ugly fusillade against ‘anti-vaxxers’ in a French-language TV interview,” in which he painted “these people” as “often” being “women-haters, racists, and science-deniers, as well.” Murphey notes that Trudeau asked rhetorically should we “tolerate them?” One can find shockingly derisive language directed to the unvaccinated from politicians all around the world. Indeed, it is the one group of people for whom “polite” society has deemed it OK to not consider worthy of respect.

One wonders what alternative the prime minister might have had in mind to “tolerating” them. What else does a liberal democracy do with people who think differently from the majority? Is this rhetoric even compatible with liberal democracy as we have known it in the West for the past few centuries? Or is it the rhetoric of the Weimar Republic in the process of falling into totalitarianism?

To use an emotional issue to lump all individuals into a group of undesirables and then to demonize that group to manipulate public opinion for political gain is ugly politics.

It is now clear that vaccines are very good at keeping people from getting extremely sick but not very good at keeping people from contracting a mild dose of the virus and possibly even passing it on. Thus, we have hordes of people in isolation who are desperately needed in the workplace but who are not available despite not being sick themselves.

What this means is that now, with more than 87 percent of the Canadian population over age 12 fully vaccinated, the main danger of any given individual refusing to be vaccinated is that the person him- or herself is more in danger of ending up very sick. But such people are not the main cause for the pandemic’s continuation.

It is possible to be in favor of being vaccinated and yet be troubled by the demonization of those who, for often very well-thought-out reasons, or even for reasons we do not understand, decide not to be vaccinated. We may disagree with them, but these individuals do not deserve our scorn and humiliation. I know it is possible because I am personally vaccinated but have friends and family who are not, and I am very uncomfortable with the tendency to demonize them for political purposes.

To use an emotional issue to lump all individuals into a group of undesirables and then to demonize that group to manipulate public opinion for political gain is ugly politics. It is not driven by concern for sick people or for the common good. It is a power grab. It is undemocratic.

In an age when demonizing certain minorities is practically the worst sin one can commit, it is worth pondering how it is that politicians like Trudeau are allowed to get away with such behavior. Does he operate by his own set of rules?

Craig A. Carter

Craig A. Carter is Research Professor of Theology at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario, and theologian in residence at Westney Heights Baptist Church in Ajax, Ontario.


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My heart goes out to all as we search for truth. I had COVID before the vaccine. I have been searching for truth ever since. I was told to go home and quarantine from all. My in-laws had it too. They were supposed to quarantine from all and each other. That set off a red flag to me from the beginning. I stayed with them. My mother in law had a heart condition. I am now praising God that I did. She passed out a few times.
Why has the vaccine been the only focus?
Can you tell me why Dr. Malone and Dr. McCullough have been canceled?
I now get my news from the Epoch Times because it seems more open to thought, knowledge and data.
According to these very knowledgeable doctors of Immunology and Cardiology we have become an experiment gone off the rails. All the data should have been collected on early intervention. And more on adverse effects of the vaccine but no other news is talking about that. Truth is not being thoroughly examined. No one want to see anyone die. And Christians do not want use human fetal cells from aborted infants to find a cure or treatment. We need truth spoken in love to understand risks for all.


Perhaps in the future, every doctors visit should have a follow up investigation to make sure the patient wasn't going against the 'known science' so they can be denied coverage and be required to pay their own medical expense for this travesty!

not silent

No one should be treated with contempt, disrespect, or threatening language. We can disagree with each other very strongly but still respect each other’s worth as human beings, right to have opinions, and freedom of choice.

I have written somewhat pointedly on this subject in the past, and I am still very pro vaccine; but I get that there are people who disagree. Everyone, including me, has some kind of bias. The past two years have been frustrating for all of us, and no one likes constantly changing advice or guidelines.

Having been a healthcare provider, I know that medical advice is subject to change with new information; but, having been a patient, I know how frustrating it is to be told different things by different providers and not to know who to believe. The medical system was overwhelmed and dysfunctional and could not possibly meet public expectations BEFORE the virus. It’s much worse now. I wish it were better, and I hope it improves; but right now it’s the system we have.

Life can be really hard at times. It’s human nature to feel frustrated and to want someone to blame; and, unfortunately, it can be easy to lash out at the most attractive or available target, even if that person or group is not at fault. I don’t have all the answers, but I don’t think attacking each other is the best solution.

Hopefully, we, as believers, can extend grace to each other when necessary and continue to seek Gods wisdom above all.


If the anti-vaxxers are vaccinated against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, flu, tetanus, etc etc, then I'm not going to believe their "well thought out reasons." Do they know what's in hot dogs, a McDonald's hamburger, or the infamous Taco Bell meat that may not be pure? We don't know everything we put in our bodies. I hope the Tylenol that I take is pure, but at some point I have to trust. Think of the lines to vaccinate children against polio because people knew that was the way out of a dangerous and deadly illness.

Big JimRPUR1601

" . . . but at some point I have to trust." Exactly. And I don't trust them.

not silentBig Jim

No human being or institution is perfect. I was part of the medical system for many years; and, now that I am on the other side (a patient instead of a provider), I keep getting told to “be your own advocate.” So it winds up as something like, “Trust but verify.”

Big Jimnot silent

I think "trust but verify" is good advice. But it's hard to know who and what to trust (other than scripture, of course, which doesn't directly address this issue). There are very smart people with advanced degrees that disagree on many of the Coronavirus issues. Even countries disagree (see how Sweden treated the pandemic vs. others). And everybody has their facts, figures, charts, etc.

In my mind, for many of those information disseminators, this ceased to be about medicine or science long ago and has just become about politics, like, unfortunately, almost everything else.

not silentBig Jim

You’re not wrong, Big Jim! I wish things were otherwise, but it is what it is. This is really forcing me to lean on the Lord every day and to keep seeking his will.


In the United States, the 1952 polio epidemic was the worst outbreak in the nation's history, and is credited with heightening parents’ fears of the disease and focusing public awareness on the need for a vaccine. Of the 57,628 cases reported that year, 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. Hardly a deadly and dangerous illness by these numbers.


You are making a false comparison here. The traditional vaccines you mentioned were thoroughly tested prior to public dissemination, were pulled out of circulation if only a few significant adverse effects were reported, and actually functioned as vaccines in that they prevented infection/contagion. However, the COVID-19 "vaccines" were rolled out with only a few months of testing (by the pharmaceutical companies themselves, BTW), have been field tested on millions of humans with unknown long-term effects, have produced tens of thousands of reported adverse effects and thousands of deaths (VAERS), and are increasingly ineffective at preventing infection and transmission (Omicron now). These are some of the "well thought-out reasons" that some who choose to not take the COVID "vaccines" consider -- not to mention the lack of transparency from medical/governmental authorities, the insane economic benefit to the pharmaceutical industry and those who support them, and the desperate power plays seen in "vaccine" mandates. Fundamentally, each person should be free to choose, with their trusted physician, the appropriate course of action for their personal health. For some -- especially the elderly and those with co-moridities -- the "vaccine" will be a life-saver, but for others it may be un-necessary -- or worse, it may produce long-lasting medical complications or even death. So, please keep in mind that many who are against THIS "vaccine" are not anti-vax in general. Conflating "apples and oranges" (traditional vaccines with COVID ones) -- and accusing someone of being an anti-vaxxer just because he or she doesn't trust THIS one -- is disingenuous, unthinking, and uncaring. Hopefully my thoughts here sound reasonable to you and will be valuable in your future discussions with those who think differently. Blessings in Christ!


I understand what you're saying. But 99% of those who are dying from Covid are unvaccinated. Our doctors and nurses are exhaused. For the sake of them, and for those who are in danger of things like long Covid, please get vaccinated!

Alan Versaw

"One can find shockingly derisive language directed to the unvaccinated from politicians all around the world. Indeed, it is the one group of people for whom “polite” society has deemed it OK to not consider worthy of respect."
"It is possible to be in favor of being vaccinated and yet be troubled by the demonization of those who, for often very well-thought-out reasons, or even for reasons we do not understand, decide not to be vaccinated."
I've extracted two quotes from Mr. (Dr.?) Carter's article--with which I largely agree--that are troublesome to me. In the first quote, pro-vaxxers are largely villainized for the actions of some (admittedly, in many cases, the actions of some very powerful ones). In the second quote, anti-vaxxers are issued a pass in view of the "very well thought-out reasons" of some. I'm perplexed.
There's a sense in which I lean to the side of the anti-vaxxers because they have neither the help of the press nor many of the politicians. But, there's also a sense in which I know we (all) need to rise above the rhetoric that spends its time and energy villainizing only the other side. Are no positions on the pro-vax side well thought-out? Have no people on the anti-vax side uttered shockingly derisive things of those on the other side?
Maybe the best solution here--if we can drop the incendiary rhetoric long enough to get there--is to let both sides do what they say their conscience tells them to do, but also to let both sides finance their own medical bills (both long and short-term). Make separate insurance pools for vaxxers and anti-vaxxers. But that takes both sides admitting they don't know everything and might not be qualified to sit in judgment on others' thoughts. Even very well thought-out reasons, which are vanishingly scarce on both sides, aren't always correct reasons. Moreover, a set of very well thought-out reasons necessarily implies some time spent wrestling with the points on multiple sides of the issue. Most of us read from a much more limited circle than that.


I remember when smokers were charged double the insurance premiums as non-smokers. But then where do we stop? Obese people have a far greater risk of severe COVID, whether vaxxed or not, and of almost every other disease. Will we make separate insurance pools for them, since they are certainly making behavioral choices that affect their health? How about people who do drugs? Make risky sexual choices? Ride motorcycles? Etc etc etc.

The chances of anyone dying from COVID, vaxxed or not, are quite small. COVID is not what polio was, at least not now. Let people take the risks they want to take, and quit judging. I don't judge vaccinated masking isolationists, and I don't judge unvaccinated, unmasked social butterflies. COVID is a virus; it's here to stay. PS - I'm vaccinated and have had the illness twice.