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Feb 14 2012

Beyond satire lies true fear

Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows that I am no fan of the sitting government. Frankly, I find them to be ruthlessly authoritarian and so blinded by ideology that they spend half of their time contradicting their own stated principles. Their chief strategy of governance seems to be the exploitation of bullying tactics and name-calling in the service of demonizing any opposition, which is done in the place of enacting any reasonable legislation.

I studied Shakespeare’s King Lear in high school. It is, briefly, the story of a king who gives land away to his children, and then goes mad as they betray him to seize power. While the character of Lear is compelling, I was particularly drawn to the personage of the Fool. In our critical analysis of the play, we learned a great deal about the role that the Fool or Court Jester played throughout history. While nobles and members of the court were fearful of criticizing the king’s decisions, part of the role of the Fool was to expose and satirize the folly of others, including the ruling class. The Fool walked a thin line between laughter and biting political commentary; between wisdom and, well, foolishness.

However, at some point there comes a time when the king is simply beyond satire. Where the actions of a ruler are so monstrous and horrifying that there can be no laughter levied in opposition. Wherever that point is, I can’t help but think that our current government is closing on it quickly.

Federal bureaucrats pose as new citizens on Sun News

Six federal bureaucrats were drafted to pose as new Canadians for a citizenship reaffirmation ceremony broadcast on the Sun News network, an event requested by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office. The bureaucrats smiled and held Canadian flags as the TV hosts referred to a group of 10 people as “new Canadians” that had “finally” received their citizenship. Documents released under Access to Information legislation show that just a few weeks before Canada’s Citizenship Week last October, Kenney’s staff directed departmental officials to add a last-minute citizenship ceremony at the network to their list of scheduled events.

So much as the American Republican Party has a televised propaganda arm in the form of Fox News, the Republican North Party has created Sun News (a.k.a. Fox News North). It is just as much a conservative echo chamber, but has much lower ratings than Fox News does (or, indeed, do CTV and CBC – FNN’s major competitors). However, because of their cozy relationship with the government, they get exclusive access and premium interviews like this one. This time it seems that due to poor event planning, the Immigration Minister was unable to get actual immigrants to pose with him to hype changes to Canadian immigration policy, and had to get ‘fake immigrants’ to stand in.

While this is a pretty embarrassing gaffe, it isn’t much more than that. Insofar as it can be spun to be reflective of the government’s attitude toward immigrants, it could be used as political fodder, but this certainly falls under the umbrella of ‘mockable’. Trust me, dear readers – the rabbit hole goes much deeper.

Tory MP compares Liberals to Hitler

With the Tories making their final push to ditch the long-gun registry, one Conservative MP was speedily forced to retract his comparison of Liberal support for the registry to Adolf Hitler’s policies. Larry Miller, MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, made those remarks in the House of Commons on Tuesday, sparking loud booing and a Twitter explosion of reprimands.

Here is a transcript of Mr. Miller’s comments:

“I would like to share with the House a quote from former Liberal justice minister Allan Rock: ‘I came to Ottawa last year with a firm belief that the only people in Canada who should have firearms are police officers and the military.’ Does that sound familiar? Adolf Hitler, 1939.”

And a few minutes later …

“Similar to Mr. Rock’s comments, another prominent Liberal at the time, Senator Sharon Carstairs, said the following: ‘The registering of hunting rifles is the first step in the social re-engineering of Canadians.’ Can hon. members believe that statement, the social re-engineering of Canadians? That is what Adolf Hitler tried to do in the 1930s.”

Now Mr. Miller has clearly never heard of Godwin’s Law, and obviously does not understand why making absurd Hitler comparisons is actually quite anti-Semitic. It was a foolish, unthinking comment made in the heat of debate. In the sober light of hindsight, after having a moment to consult with his colleagues and reconsider the ramifications of his statement, Mr. Miller issued a retraction and an apology… of sorts:

“While the similarities between the gun registry and what Adolf Hitler did to perpetrate his crimes are very clear and obvious, it was inappropriate for me to point those out in the House of Commons,” he said Wednesday. “And I went on to say that I apologized to anyone who was offended, but the truth is the truth and what he (Hitler) did at the time was his men went around and collected all the guns from the Jews. So I was just pointing out the similarities. That didn’t happen in Canada, but it could have and that’s one of the reasons there’s been such an uproar against the gun registry in this country. So that’s the end of it.”

Aha. So, it’s not that the Liberals are like Hitler, it’s just that it is the truth that their policies are similar. Well, that should take care of that little misunderstanding, right?

Dr. Tyson, your thoughts?

Yeah, so that’s a thing that happened in the House of Commons. This wasn’t a fundraiser or a comment made to a friend or the kind of gaffe we’re more used to seeing from elected officials. This was a prepared speech in Parliament in front of the assembled members. Support the gun registry? You know who else did that? Hitler!

Oh we’re not done yet. We’re not even close.

The federal government is defending itself after more information has come to light about its directions to Canada’s spy agency to use information that may have been extracted through torture in cases where public safety is at stake. The order represents a reversal of policy for the Conservative government, which once insisted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service would discard information if there was any inkling it might be tainted.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews quietly told CSIS the government now expects the spy service to “make the protection of life and property its overriding priority” and may under exceptional circumstances share information based on intelligence that may have been derived from the use of torture. ”Information obtained by torture is always discounted. But the problem is, can one safely ignore it when Canadian lives and property are at stake?” Toews said in question period.

This is, incidentally, the same Vic Toews that decided that facts had no place in a discussion of public policy, and should be replaced with ‘danger’. To be fair to Minister Toews, he is not directing CSIS (the Canadian equivalent of the CIA) to torture suspects – he’s just telling them not to be so fussy about the details when other people torture suspects. Because, as you know, confessions obtained through torture are usually highly reliable (and who gives a fuck about ‘ethics’, amirite?). You know who used torture? Hitler! Well… probably. I honestly have no idea.

We’re probably circling the bowl of ‘beyond satire’ here… but we’re not quite flushed yet. Nope, all the previous stories could be kind of funny if you had a particularly dark sense of humour. In order to sink to the very bottom, we’re going to need one more. Mr. Toews, can you oblige?

Opposition “can either stand with us or with the child pornographers”

Critics of a bill that would give law enforcement new powers to access Canadians’ electronic communications are aligning themselves with child pornographers, Canada’s public safety minister says. ”He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers,” Vic Toews said of Liberal public safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia during question period on Monday, after Scarpaleggia asked about a bill expected to be tabled Tuesday.

Ooh yeah… that’s all the way to the bottom, Vic. Concerned about governmental intrusion into personal privacy? You must be pro-pedophilia! And if you say you aren’t, we’ll get CSIS to torture you until you confess! Still won’t confess? You know who else liked privacy? Hitler!

As much as I desperately want this to be funny, these are not the mutterings of fringe political figures. As much as they seem like the feverish bumblings and verbal diarrhea of nutjob politicos who will never survive an actual election, these are all things said by Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers. Oh, and since I forgot to mention, I should probably point out that all of these stories happened in the past week. This post was not compiled by rummaging through an old file of “horrible shit Conservatives have said over the years” – it’s all fresh news items.

The part that is truly depressing is not that our elected officials show such ineptitude and lack of decency or forethought. That is, indeed, pretty depressing but there’s something far worse – that these are our elected officials. Canadians chose the fake immigrant guy, we chose the “gun control is for Nazis” guy, we chose the “torture and child porn” guy. Any time people who are this heartbreakingly awful can get elected to federal office, we must turn the lens of blame toward the mirror. There is nothing funny about an electoral process that gives men such as these a platform from which to spout their idiocy, and allows that idiocy to carry behind it the force of law.

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25 comments

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  1. 1
    ischemgeek

    It’s bad when the party in power somehow manages to look worse than Glenn Beck.

    2015 can’t come soon enough… assuming Harper hasn’t figured out a way to disenfranchise me by then.

  2. 2
    ischemgeek

    ^ Also, you got to study King Lear? I’m jealous: We were stuck with Romeo & Juliet (ie, Twilight, the original only without vampires).

    As a final note: The way the Tories are going, Canada should hire a Parliament Jester. Maybe they could get Rick Mercer for it!

  3. 3
    ash

    Whew! Thanks for taking the heat off the US for a nanosecond…Nope…It’s back. but thanks for trying Canada!

  4. 4
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    You could demonize anyone if the qualification is “what Hitler did”.

    Hew highways? Hitler.
    Fix an economy? Hitler.
    Hold political office? Hitler.
    Eat, sleep, shit? Hitler.

  5. 5
    Crommunist

    We did Romeo and Juliet in grade 10. King Lear was in our 5th year of high school (essentially the equivalent of AP classes).

  6. 6
    Crommunist

    You’re making a list of things! You know who else did that? HITLER!

  7. 7
    Glenn Davey

    Obama should run Canada too

  8. 8
    Glenn Davey

    Although, what happens in Canada doesn’t really matter, cus, you know, it’s Canada.

  9. 9
    Utakata

    Of coase this means that most of us Canandians outside of those who think what Vic Toews is doing is okay, are now pro-child pornographers. The problem is that likely the most of us are not into children that way, which one would think that its why why child porn would exist in the first place….which seems wholly illogical. However, I can’t say the same thing for Toews who has an apparent thing for inane stupidity and 8 bit sound bites.

  10. 10
    Zugswang

    Love your mother? That’s a Hitlerin’.
    Color-blind? That’s a Hitlerin’.
    Enjoy painting? That’s a Hitlerin’.

  11. 11
    m5

    It matters to us.

  12. 12
    Duke

    I always point out that Hitler was a vegetarian. You should see the veges squirm about that. Some of them even invoke the “No True Vegetarian” argument.

  13. 13
    ischemgeek

    Ah, okay. I don’t feel so bad then.

    I would have done AP, but it wasn’t offered at my school and the nearest school that did offer it was an hour and a half by car away. I probably would have enjoyed high school more if I’d had access to courses that moved at a pace that didn’t have me falling asleep with boredom in class and still somehow managing straight A+ grades.

  14. 14
    Crommunist

    Ontario (where I went to HS) had an optional 5th year for students who were university-bound. You could technically graduate in 4, but most stayed to do what was essentially scaled-down versions of first-year uni courses. It helped a LOT when I got to undergrad.

  15. 15
    Jafafa Hots

    It matters to me too.
    Canada is like… a liberal American’s backup plan.

    Especially having grown up in Buffalo, it was always seen as a “well, if things get too insane here in the US, I could just…”

  16. 16
    peicurmudgeon

    It has often been said that people get the government they deserve, but what the fuck did I do to deserve thise guys. Our governments on PEI consistently deal in the worst type of croneyism and nepotism, and you describe some of the issues with the Feds. And not nearly enough people complain, or worse, don’t speak out about it.

  17. 17
    Pteryxx

    Soo… Canada needs a Jon Stewart and/or Stephen Colbert, RIGHT F*XIN’ NOW.

  18. 18
    jolo5309

    I freely admit I am a Conservative (fiscal) but I am not going to spend my time defending any of these because they are stupid, well more like fucking stupid!

    I live in a swing riding, the CPC won by 538 votes last election, and I think they will lose it if this path continues (Liberals and Green combined for about 1300 votes).

  19. 19
    ambassadorfromverdammt

    “Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the Honorable Member that no one has turned out the lights. If all he can see is darkness, perhaps it is because of where he keeps his head.”

  20. 20
    jolo5309

    Why do we need Stewart of Colbert? We have This Hour has 22 Minutes and the Rick Mercer Report, both of which skewer politicians, Canadian and American.

  21. 21
    Beauzeaux

    Afraid that’s a myth. Hitler was not a vegetarian. But he was a Catholic. He wrote in Mein Kampf that he was born a Catholic and would die as one.

  22. 22
    llewelly

    peicurmudgeon | February 14, 2012 at 7:25 pm:

    It has often been said that people get the government they deserve …

    … and that’s a highly effective way to turn aside efforts to punish perpetrators. Blame the voters. Blame the people who didn’t vote. Blame the people who didn’t surround the King’s house with pitchforks and torches. Blame any fucking body except the abusers.

  23. 23
    Craig

    Any politician will say something stupid to pander to their base. This is just as bad when NDP MP Thomas Mulcair (who most likely will become the NDP leader) implied a conspiracy about Osama Bin Ladens death and stated he thought the US was lying about having photos of Bin Laden’s body.

  24. 24
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    This is the party with a mandate to pass whatever the fuck it likes attempting to justify its policies.

    This goes far beyond mere “pander[ing] to their base”.

  25. 25
    Broggly

    Romeo and Juliet isn’t that bad. Juliet is shown as totally naive, Romeo obviously isn’t using his upper head, and you have everyone from Mercutio to the Priest saying “stop being so stupid and think for a minute”

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