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Right wing populists want to kill us all

They cry “freedom” for them to smoke, drink, drive really fast and fry the planet. Everyone else, get out of the way.

In Norway, the Minister in charge of public health thinks people should be able to eat, drink and smoke whatever they want. Palko Karasz in the New York Times quotes Sylvi Listhaug:

I think people should be allowed to smoke, drink and eat as much red meat as they like. The government may provide information, but I think people in general know what is healthy and what is not.

She says smokers feel like “pariahs” and asks, “Where do we send these smokers in the end?” After complaints from health advocates and the Cancer Society, she issued a statement, backtracking a bit:

The government believes that people have to take responsibility for their own life, but the government has to make sure that everyone can make healthy and informed choices.

In Austria, the government has backtracked from a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars “in the spirit of entrepreneurial freedom.” In another article in the New York Times, Palko Karasz notes that the Freedom party and right-wing groups in general are inconsistent.

“Freedom of choice” is the flip side of a far-right agenda that otherwise seems inclined to dictate to citizens, especially those from minorities, everything from whether they can wear head coverings to whom they should marry.

One professor of political science says, “It’s a fight against the new enemy, which is called political correctness.”

In Canada, Ontario’s populist right wing government is following much the same path. Premier Doug Ford ran his election campaign on a “buck a beer” platform of lower alcohol taxes and is changing drinking regulations so that people can start drinking at 9 AM and get beer and wine in corner stores. He is increasing the speed limits on highways and cutting funding to public health departments. Even right-wing newspapers like the Sun wonder why:

There has to be some sensible reason, because in the absence of common sense, the measures appear random and potentially dangerous if they lead to high drunk-driving rates or even more alcohol consumption by people who have already had enough.

When he was elected, Doug Ford immediately cancelled the carbon cap and trade deal that his predecessor had set up, probably at a cost of millions in penalties, and is now fighting Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax, at a cost of millions. He has cancelled tree planting programs, fired the environmental watchdogs, cut flood protection funds and is changing the Endangered Species Act to let real estate developers off the hook; instead of leaving the animals alone, they can “slay and pay.” Environmental concerns don’t matter much, but the freedom to party hard does.

And oh, in the USA, the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was asked if he was worried about CO2 levels exceeding 415 parts per million. He said he’s not “losing any sleep over it.”

Everywhere it seems that the definition of “freedom” is changing; it is now the freedom for white men to smoke and drink and speed and burn the whole planet in the process. For women and minorities, for young people worried about their future, it is another story.

Paris© CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images/ March 15 in Paris

It’s also why Greta Thunberg, the strike for climate action, and the Extinction Rebellion are so inspiring and important. At least someone is trying to buck this trend.

They cry “freedom” for them to smoke, drink, drive really fast and fry the planet. Everyone else, get out of the way.

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