There has been a bunch of skeletons coming out of Andrew Scheer’s closet recently. The word on the street is that he’s not too enthusiastically supportive of certain rights for queer people or women.
And this seems very consistent with what we saw of Andrew Scheer during his Conservative Party leadership bid. On 2017 May 17, during the Conservative Party leadership race, Andrew Scheer bragged about his conservative credentials:
… I’m a real conservative who stands for lower taxes, stronger borders, supporting families and a principled foreign policy. Specific policy ideas I’ve laid out include:(Andrew Scheer, 2017 May 17)
*Withdrawing federal funding from universities that fail to protect free speech …
As an academic myself, I’m mostly focused on the “free speech in universities” part, although the rest could probably bear scrutiny.
Let me start by begging you not to be so naive as to think that Scheer actually has any legitimate concerns over freedom of speech in universities. Such theatrical hand-wringing over “free speech” is very often nothing more than what is known as a right-wing “dog-whistle.” By this, I mean that they are a way for unscrupulous politicians to signal support to those who have Nazi or Nazi-adjacent ideology, while still maintaining deniability.
It makes sense that “free speech” would be a rallying cry for right-wing extremists when you think about how bad an idea would have to be before one has to invoke the defense that “it is not literally illegal to express this thought.”
For context, these comments from Scheer came during the heyday of extreme right-wing agitators such as Milo Yiannopoulos, whose appearances were being protested at universities in the United States. Yiannopoulos, you may recall, is an anti-feminist with anti-queer and openly racist views. To give you an idea of the level of discourse that we’re talking about here, one proposed speech of his that was protested was entitled “10 things I hate about Mexico.” This was the sort of speech that would have been inappropriate at a high school debate club, and so the idea that a university must allow and invite it on pain of doing violence to freedom of speech, is laughable.
Yiannopoulos later fell out of favour with conservatives when his book deal was cancelled because of an interview that resurfaced at an inopportune time for Yiannopoulos, in which he praised aspects of pedophilia. He has been nearly completely forgotten since then. As an aside, from this we can learn: 1) the extent of dehumanizing hate that conservatives will put up with before they say “too far,” and 2) that de-platforming those with Nazi or Nazi-adjacent ideology, rather than debating them, is a good strategy.
This is the kind of person that Scheer was dog-whistling support for when he was trying to get Conservatives to vote for him as the party leader in 2017. These are not positions he held decades ago. This was part of his “Hey fellow Tories, put me in charge of the country because this is what I support and where I’ll actually be leading you in 2019, regardless of what I openly say to the rest of the country” speech.
You might be thinking, “But he didn’t actually do or say those things himself. Dog-whistling support is not the same as being a pedophile apologist, anti-queer, racist or anti-feminist, himself.”
Okay, fair enough, point taken. But please ask yourself, How much do you really want to play with that particular Nazi-adjacent fire?