Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Political Deception and the Ford/Harper Nation. . .

The fundamental thrust of the contemporary rightwing ideology in our country, whether found in the form of the Ford Brothers or the Harper cabal, is multifold. While the overarching narrative of this movement is an entirely deceptive notion of "working for the people," (an ideological sleight of hand that variously uses the facade of populism or the 'sober,' steady-hand on the economic tiller), behind this illusory notion of public interest lies a sinister agenda of systematically reorganizing society and the economy away from all notions of political, economic, and social equality which grew largely out of the trade union movement in the first half of the 20th century. What is arguably most disturbing about this shift is not the drive toward greater inequality that emerges from the corporatist agenda per se, but the degree of blatant deception involved at every level of this effort.

The Ford phenomenon in Toronto involves the typically deceptive practices of much of populist politics from the Peróns in Argentina to much of the European fascism of the 1930s. Such practices almost always involve some appeal to "cleaning up politics," undercutting some vague and never specified "leftist" conspiracy, and a claim for the need to return to some kind of fiscal sanity in the face of a supposed history of left-wing waste and over indulgence. Inevitably, these claims are almost always universally false and don't stand up to even the most superficial factual exploration. However, the falseness of the rightwing, populist claims almost never disuades their practitioners from maintaining the charade. Perhaps the most blatant example of this in modern times has been the Reagan phenomenon. Despite the fact that by the time it had left office the Reagan administration had radically increased the size of government, increased overall taxes, exclusively delivered deficit budgets, and significantly increased the US's debt to GNP ratio, Reagan supporters continue to this day to blatantly lie about what Reagan achieved and what the administration's goals really were.

In the case of the Ford brothers in Toronto, these boorish slobs have sought to gain public support with continual appeals to a non-existant 'gravy-train' and fiscal irresponsibility of the previous (more left-leaning administration), while the real goals hidden behind these claims have always been (beside the obvious self-glorification) to both centralize power around a pro-corporate cabal and to gut the very notion of government as a meaningful provider of service.

This idea of a retreat from government as a provider has been central to almost all the efforts of the Harpercon regime. By gutting government services the Harpercons hope to create the illusion that government is essentially incapable (whether at a simple fiscal level or a more fundamentally ideological level) from contributing to making meaningful improvements to people's lives. While attempting to universalize this falsehood, the Harpercons have quietly shifted the tax burden away from  corporations and the rich and placed it squarely on the shoulders of the middle and working-class.

But besides the shift to a corporatist ideology, the rightwing (whether of the falsely-populist type of the Ford brothers or the more blatantly elitist type of the Harper regime) have used this political phenomenon which relies on a systematic appeal to a political style of deception, scapegoating, marginalizing, extreme secrecy, denial, trickery, information control, a lack of transparency, and just plain lying. And men like Ford and Harper rely profoundly on fear, public ignorance, a sympathetic corporate media, and the gradual breakdown of education standards. As the rise of fascism once demonstrated, an ill-informed, fearful public can be easily appealed to by strategies of scapegoating and lying.

Inevitably, most deceptive politicians eventually fall to their own dishonesty and hubris. The Ford conviction is a very typical example of such a fall. It was not simply the fact that he acted improperly in using his office to solicit funds (such malfeasance could easily have been overlooking in this case), rather it was the culture of denial and deception that really created the problem. He extended his initial mistake into a systematic refusal to face up to the problem and correct it. And this is a telling event for the rightwing in this country as a whole. When one relies heavily on deception and information control, the web of malfeasance usually becomes ever more complex until it comes crashing down on your head.

1 comment:

Owen Gray said...

Oh, what a tangled web they weave, Kirby.