RATED 2 out of 5 – Because it is deemed a “Polemic”
Since 210 Celsius was published I was invited to be on several podcasts with more coming up this week. Engaging in discussions on your work is the privilege of being an author.
Indeed, reviews both positive and negative advance my goal of raising the profile on the issues that caused the Freedom Convoy 2022 and its continued significance. Many who read the book shared with me their appreciation. Getting accolades from “the choir” is easy. Even when cynicism and negative criticism blows that too is an opportunity to learn and see if the opposition has a point worth considering.
Recently, Foreword Clarion Reviews published a dismissive review of my book rating it only 2 out of 5.
“210° Celsius is a passionate contemporary polemic,” Isaac Randal proclaimed. The book’s “moral posturing is without nuance,” he observes, “..in addressing decisions made by the convoy’s political opponents, the book’s tone is too cynical to be compelling.”
Nothing surprising there – it is a passionate account for sure. It was meant to be. I could not but be passionate about the Prime Minister invoking the Emergencies Act on a peaceful protest!
When we think of “polemic” we are reminded by Websters Dictionary that the word, “… was borrowed into English from French polemique in the mid-17th century, it referred (as it still can) to a type of hostile attack on someone’s ideas. The word traces back to Greek polemikos, which means ‘warlike’ or ‘hostile’ and in turn comes from the Greek noun polemos, meaning ‘war.’”
“Polemic” is often thought of in a negative sense. “Warlike” is a sharp description. It is never my purpose to be “warlike” in the literal sense but certainly when ideas and actions of government stomp on people’s rights it does rouse a certain guttural reaction. Indeed, it was the government that used the “warlike” Emergencies Act on innocent people that had to be confronted. This my book does – it confronts the government’s use of the “warlike” reaction.
To call my book a polemic while not considering the “warlike” government actions is rather rich! Further, the reviewer notes that the book’s “moral posturing is without nuance”. Yes, it is and for good reason. When people have lost homes, jobs, and been ostracized by their country’s leader and then face the riot police when they had the temerity to stand up, peacefully, that calls for a very direct condemnation. Nuance evaluation of such government actions are not necessary at that point.
Mr. Randal says that “the book’s tone is too cynical to be compelling”. I had a number of colleagues read the manuscript prior to it being published and it is rather satisfying to find that the supermajority of them found it to be compelling. However, I admit, they might be referred to as the “choir”. Each time you write you have to ask, “Who am I writing for?” It seemed to me that when it came to the Trucker Freedom Convoy to write for the “cynical” type who were convinced of the Prime Minister’s narrative the best one can do is to cite the statements and evidence of the players involved. If the naysayers are open at all they would at least see that what I presented was not without foundation.
Randal’s criticism that the motivations I “… ascribed to the convoy’s opponents throughout [are] without qualification or evidence.” That is simply not true. Go through the book and you will find ample citations of the various actors saying the very things I ascribe.
He points out that I address “the protesters and their sympathizers … in warm and charitable terms, as if prejudice, corruption, and the quest for power are exclusive to “The Cathedral”; negative examples of the participants’ behavior are dismissed as isolated and unrepresentative incidents, while the book presents isolated depictions of well-intentioned truckers as representative of the entire movement. These polarized characterizations are consistent throughout, inhibiting the book’s ability to present a full and measured look at the convoy.”
I did not seek to “present a full and measured look at the convoy.” I purposely sought to make the case for an opposite view of what the mainstream media, and the government tried cast it as: it was a violent, hate-filled protest with no long term implication. There is plenty of ink for that view. I sought to present a reasonable case that the Convoy was peaceful and remains to be relevant.
Randal continues: “…[T]he book makes a record of the Freedom Convoy not with an analyst’s objectivity, but with an insider’s noblesse oblige. Its prose is passionate and unconvincing beyond the bounds of the convoy’s own political in-group. The book is better grounded when it sticks to the documentary record, as with its account of the convoluted arrests and trials of convoy organizer Tamara Lich. Elsewhere, its committee-by-committee narrative of Trudeau’s testimony in the convoy’s aftermath represents gripping and humane investigative work.”
“In the end, though, far too many chapters revolve around vague, repetitive appeals to the general “heavy-handedness” of the Canadian government’s response, or to the general affability of the protesters. The book’s discussions of issues relating to COVID-19 itself—including the science involved in mRNA vaccines and their efficacy, the accuracy of COVID death totals, and the methods by which vaccine-related injuries are reported—are undersupported and dependent on worn, well-refuted talking points. The result an unreliable and inconsistent account of an event whose ultimate significance is still unclear.”
Mr. Randal’s view is the common view of the mainstream media. The whole reason for writing the book to begin with was to provide “the other view” – a view that seems to ruffle those who struggle with the idea that the truckers might indeed be regular common-sense folk who were and remain tired of an overbearing government. The Trucker protest remains a touchstone moment that politicians have no choice but to address. The recent ascendancy of the Conservative Party under Mr. Poilievre has not and cannot ignore what the Trucker Convoy 2022 stood for. It was also worthy of note that Prime Minister Trudeau referenced the Convoy in his 2023 year-end interviews. No one can ignore this pivotal moment in recent political history.
Certainly, 210 Celsius, is a passionate account of the Convoy, no doubt about it. It is a wake-up call that remains valid.
It was never meant to be a “full and measured look at the convoy”. A full account would take a volume at least three times the size. As to objectivity I did not claim to be unbiased – I wrote as I saw the matter. Further, the “vague, repetitive appeals to the general ‘heavy-handedness'” of government was anything but not “vague” – as I gave ample evidence of just how it was heavy-handed with appropriate documentation. And, as to the book’s discussions on the science of mRNA vaccines, their efficacy, etc being “undersupported and dependent on worn, well-refuted talking points” I agree I am not expert but from my research and the evidence that I cited I maintain they are not “well-refuted talking points” rather such criticism is indicative of the reviewer’s own positions. Of course, he is entitled to have his views but they are just that – his views.
Far from being an “unreliable and inconsistent account of an event whose ultimate significance is still unclear,” in my humble (admittedly biased) opinion, it is indeed a very reliable account. I was there on the ground and saw what I saw. I was living in the country during all of the drastic lockdowns and mandates. I heard firsthand the stories of students denied school; nurses fired; truck drivers who lost their homes and had their bank accounts frozen. The significance of this Convoy is unclear only in the extent of its significance but significant it was and so it remains. Consider that within days of the protest arriving in Ottawa, provincial governments dropped their harshest Covid-19 measures (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Quebec), and the Official Leader of the Opposition lost his leadership.
The shadow of the Convoy continues to grow over the current government. Mr. Poilievre and members of his caucus and supporters continue to invoke imagery of the Convoy for sending a message that he is for “common-sense.”
The Convoy’s significance is not dying down anytime soon! That is the point of the whole book – it will be with us for the long haul.