Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Spinning the Absurd

"The Harper government's spin machine," Jeffrey Simpson wrote this week, "is so pervasive and over the top, daily exposure leads to the dilemma of laughing or crying." This is particularly true when the propagandists assume their usual self congratulatory tone and trumpet claims about Canada which are clearly untrue:

As in, Canada is "a clean energy superpower," a claim demonstrably false by any conceivable international measure. As in, Canada is "a free trade leader," a claim belied, among other yardsticks, by being shut out of the Pacific trade talks and being an obstacle to a deal at the World Trade Organization, both courtesy of agricultural supply management. As in, Canada is an economic model for debt management, a claim destroyed last week by the OECD, which lumped personal, provincial and federal debt together and showed Canada to be among the most indebted of member countries.

The Harper crew is nothing if not boastful. But the party line in defence of the purchase of new F-35 fighter jets has taken spinning the absurd to a new level. The new mantra is that we need the jets to defend ourselves from a Russian attack. Thus, we were told that our old CF 18's recently convinced a Russian bomber -- a prop driven aircraft which has been flying patrols in international air space since the beginning of the Cold War -- to head back home, as it has been doing for fifty years.

The story has all the ear marks of little boys showing the other kids in the neighbourhood their new toys -- a clear case of "Mine is bigger than yours." It should be funny. But, in truth, it's offensive. In both Canada and the United States we have elected leaders who have no experience of war. This writer is among those who have not known combat. And, while I would not wish that experience on anyone, it's clear to me that those who have been caught in the middle of a war have a much different mindset than those who now give the orders to dispatch soldiers around the world.

My father's generation -- those who managed to come home from World War II -- were not boastful. They lost spouses, family members and friends to bigger and better weapons. They understood war in terms of human cost and human loss. They saw human cruelty up close. And, having been there, they did not want to return. When he came home, my father refused to keep a gun in the house, saying he had had enough of them during the war. And, he said, he owed his survival to "pure dumb luck."

He passed away last year -- having voted for the Harper government in 2006. But I cannot imagine that he would nod approvingly at the PMO's latest absurdity. He had the kind of experience which is beyond the comprehension of Mr. Harper his silly band of patriots.


Zero said...

Mr. Harper appears to be manufacturing one more reason why Canadians should look to him as their sole protector. In addition to being the only one capable of keeping their country's economy afloat and maintaining law and order, he is keeping their "True North strong, and free" -from the Ruskies.

Suppose it'll win him a majority?

Owen Gray said...

I'm sure that's the plan. Over his four years in power, Harper has tried to "peel away" votes from Liberal and NDP constituencies.

His unbalanced stand in the Middle East is meant to appeal to Jewish voters. His attempt to scrap the gun registry is meant to peal away rural votes in Liberal and NDP ridings.

But his take no prisoners approach to dealing with the opposition has always offended a majority of Canadians.

Harper is his own worst enemy -- and I suspect that Canadians know that.

Anonymous said...

I think we should be more worried about whether or not we--the citizens of Canada--are our own worst enemy.

Harper's strategy might pay off. I think I agree with Elizabeth May on this one.

The theory – shared by few – is that Stephen Harper will call an election this fall. People don’t understand what he is up to, Ms. May said. It doesn’t matter that he’s not even at 35 per cent in the polls and the Liberals are crowding him. The point we’re missing is that “he doesn’t think about elections the way the rest of the world thinks about elections.”

For him, it isn’t “I am trying to become more popular.” Rather, his strategy, she says, rests on “voter abandonment.” He wants to drive the ever-diminishing participation in Canadian elections down further. Then it becomes a matter of which party can get its base to vote in the largest numbers. The Harper base, as she noted, is more committed.

[...]Everybody thinks Mr. Harper’s right-wing manoeuvring, like his move on the census, has been disastrous, Ms. May said. “I bet he doesn’t think so. For his base, which is essentially the tea party of Canada, these are good messages.”

Harper doesn't need more votes to win a majority government, nor does he need to impress the majority of Canadians. He strengthened his majority in the last election with fewer overall votes than he received in the previous election. Chretien (and Rae) needed less than 40% of the popular vote to win strong majorities. Harper might be on his way.

He's accused of "wedge politics". He divides. And he conquers. We might accuse him of being "Machiavellian". If so, he (and we) should consider Chapter 20 of The Prince, where Machiavelli refers to people, "particularly those who were thought wise" who "encouraged divisions in order to have better control." Machiavelli concludes: "I do not believe that any good ever comes of internal conflicts"* and that "such policies, indeed, imply the ruler is weak, for a robust government would never allow such divisions, since you only benefit from them in time of peace."

Given how concerned the Harper government has been with sovereignty, the military, and war, we should be very concerned.

*In fairness, he says in the Discourses that the Ancient Roman Republic benefited from internal divisions... but that was in the context of a Republic, with a certain amount of social equality, and a division of powers... I suspect that Machiavelli might consider Canada today more of a Principality than a Republic.

Owen Gray said...

I read Martin's piece about Ms. May and I agree that her thesis is plausible. Certainly Harper is a wedge politician who lacks scruples.

His goal is power and there is nothing he will not do to get it.

My statement assumes that "we the people" are not the fools he takes us to be. I continue to hope that my faith has not been misplaced.