Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mr. Brown Turns Things Around

So just a short little update on this post, wherein I took Canadaland podcaster Jesse Brown to task over what I saw as unwillingness to engage conservatives on issues where their input might prove useful and might even cause the public to learn something.

I legitimately thought he wouldn't listen, and he did. I thought he wouldn't reach out to conservatives, and he did. And guess what? The response on Twitter and elsewhere, from otherwise skeptical conservatives, wasn't horrible!

And what have we learned? That when journalists engage conservatives as people instead of scary monsters with big teeth and sharp claws, you get good-ass debate and interesting stuff.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The News That's Fit To Print

On a dark and stormy night, evil, brooding Stephen Harper sits behind his castle walls, plotting his next attempt to twist the fabric of the virginal, paradisiacal Canadian landscape. Down below, the meek peasantry toils upon the soil, eking out just enough to feed their big-eyed kids, all of them paralyzed with fear of the Dark Lord who none of them voted for and who stole the election with robocalls despite only earning negative 27% of the popular vote. Lightning flashes as maniacal laughter emanates from within the keep! Oh, what horrors shall next be visited upon the undeserving public, who I must remind you all had nothing to do with Harper's reign of terror????

We are closing in on a decade of CPC government and if Harper's opposition doesn't believe every word of the paragraph I just wrote above, they believe some watered-down, slightly more realistic version of the same.

It has never occurred to Harper haters that they cannot defeat what they cannot understand. They can list for you the myriad sins of the Harper government. They can talk ad nauseam about how they invent policy on the fly, about how they are corroding our democracy, how they don't live up to their own principles, about how every word out of their mouths is a dirty stinking lie, and are continually stunned by how the vast majority of it sails right over the heads of the Canadian public. How is this happening? they wonder. How can he get away with it?

I have been listening to Jesse Brown's superlative Canadaland podcasts. I say "superlative" because his stuff is the best out there at this moment in time. For example he does a better job of exposing the CBC than Brian Lilley and the Rebel Media crew could ever hope to do.

Despite Brown's genuine attempt to look outside the box when it comes to the Canadian press, however he is so utterly trapped by the trappings of his profession that he runs into the same walls as all his other journalist buddies, even the ones he claims to be calling out.

You've gotta love a dissident journalist who's trying to break down barriers who books an interview with Ezra Levant just to be a badass, and instead of getting Ezra to spill his guts on what makes him tick, for his lead-off question he asks Ezra whether he actually believes any of the craaaaaaaazy stuff he speaks and writes, and then goes on to tackle the pressing issue of whether Ezra is a paid oil sands shill or not.

Unless I've completely lost the plot, journalists like Brown are supposed to be educators who do research and conduct interviews and ask questions with the intent of explaining to their readers exactly why politicians like Ford and Harper and Netanyahu exist and why a large enough segment of the population will vote for them and look to them for guidance.

Yet I have been listening to media heads babble for what seems like forever about the whys and hows of conservative thinking without bothering to treat the phenomenon with enough respect to explain it beyond arguing over Harper's "tactics" as if they are amateur theologians trying to understand the mind of God.

They come to, say, a Ford Fest, and stand absolutely agog staring at the line of people and the fact that it isn't just a bunch of crackers out to drink beer and sing The Maple Leaf Forever, and then file some column inches about internalized racism and why, oh why, don't poor people understand their own best interests?

Given this massive gulf between the stated intentions of fancy-pants journalists and what they actually do, it's really no surprise that they have figured out so very little about the conservatives they spend so much time venting their spleens about. I, and others, get the distinct impression that they don't want to figure out anything about conservatives that would advance the national discourse and actually tell us something useful about what goes on in Stephen Harper's brain.

There are two reasons for this that I can think of off the top of my head. First of all, Harper and Ford and whoever else are the villains that we all need. Despite what the social justice warriors tell you, Jesse Brown rolled out of his momma's womb with the same capacity for hatred as the rest of us, and when he saw that there was this guy Stephen Harper whom he could hate on all he wanted and call a racist with no repercussions, he went "Ho-yeah!" and joined right in.

But there's a bigger problem, and it speaks to the nature of journalism as a profession. You see, I don't expect Jesse Brown to read this, or take it seriously, because no matter how edgy he thinks he is, he's still a fancy-pants journalist, and fancy-pants journalists don't actually think that someone who didn't come up through their ranks is worth listening to, no matter how interesting or worthwhile the things they say or write are.

It's outside Jesse Brown's frame of reference, just like Harper and the CPC are out of his frame of reference, and that is why he finds himself in the state of bewilderment that he is and why he is reduced to babbling on air about Harper's tactics.

We live in a multicultural, provincial, segmented Canadaland wherein white and black, Jewish and not Jewish, anglo and franco, Muslim and Christian, Native and settler, are in a state of total and perpetual war with one another despite the very best intentions, in a lovely and very neat proof of the conservative way of thinking.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rush To Judgement

Conservatives in Canada are responding to Benjamin Netanyahu's victory this week with that special kind of vindicated, fervid glee they reserve for occasions where their deepest held convictions are proven right. The response is Ford-quality, ladies and gentlemen.

There are just too many things for the right to be excited about here. Bibi was written off by the Israeli establishment and pulled out the win anyway. Obama's day was pretty well ruined by the result. Netanyahu's sheer chutzpah, taking his election campaign to the floor of Congress, was entertaining. And then there's that other thing- the little bit about how the Israeli PM got his vote out. By terrifying them with the spectre of invading hordes.

And really: Is there a more bedrock conservative message than the one Netanyahu sent to voters? The message that says, "They mean us harm and want to take our stuff"?

Would that we in Canada, goes the unspoken wish amidst all this backslapping over an election on the other side of the planet, be able to speak so clearly, so truthfully, to this anxiety that everyone (and totally not just a tiny subset of conservatives, you guys) feels. Something like that was no doubt going through Larry Miller's mind when he bluntly told women who won't take off the niqab during a citizenship ceremony to stay they hell where they came from.

So-called moderates such as Christine Elliott can finesse this essential point as "socially compassionate fiscal conservatism" all they like, but what she's saying still isn't that far off. Despite her niceness, there's still the essential element of us vs. them. She may not believe the poor mean any harm, but the rich certainly can't go on paying for them forever.

Unfortunately, because these moderates are in a constant and futile struggle to keep themselves from making Larry Miller-style eruptions, they get into a state where they suppress everything they believe in favour of stuff other people said or thought of first. This is how you get a John Tory, and this is how the Christine Elliott campaign manages to go from criticizing Monte McNaughton for distracting from Liberal scandals to trying and failing to call out Patrick Brown on non-disclosure of donations in the space of a month.

They look like complete hypocrites, but the reality is a lot sadder: they can't even remember what they were thinking last month because they don't have any thoughts of their own. Rest assured, though, that underneath all the fear and confusion, a part of them will always be sympathetic to the Larry Millers and their keeping of the flame.

The tension between the confused and muddled moderates and the clear and unapologetic Principled Conservatives is an old story, but the point is moot. Canada is not Israel, and there is no group of radicalized minorities openly calling for the country's destruction anywhere to be found within our borders. As such, searching for a group of voters that will rush to the voting booths to protect "Canadian values" when they are deemed to be under attack is a little like searching for Bigfoot.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon conservatives of all shapes and sizes to get it through their heads that unless rockets are raining down upon Canadian cities the way they do upon Israeli cities, or unless the garbage isn't being picked up for weeks on end the way it was that fateful summer in Toronto, or unless women are being executed in broad daylight on Boxing Day, you're not going to get a positive response from the public at large when you tell women wearing a niqab during a citizenship ceremony to go back where they came from. 

Now this does not mean that we will never get to a point where comments like Miller's enjoy widespread support. In the face of a possible Justin Trudeau government, continual decline of the provinces under Liberal-friendly regimes, and further "retributive" attacks by ISIS and their allies within Canada for the crime of just existing, the mood amongst Canadian voters will begin to resemble that of Israeli voters, and that of voters around the world who are tired of the insiders running the show at their expense.