Friday, March 1, 2013

Flanagan, Harper and Keeping Things on the DL. . .

Like most people, I don't feel sorry for Tom Flanagan. He was the author of his own demise and given his ego and big mouth, the only surprise is how long it took him to self-destruct.

Flanagan's self-destruction seems to me to be a microcosm of how the current generation of rightwingers in Canada are gradually cutting their own throats. As usually happens, these politicos have been riding a wave for too long now and if scandal or incompetence doesn't get them then they get themselves as a result of typical arrogance and over-confidence.

But while over-confidence of some politicos seem to grow out of the the comfort of power, the current cohort of Canadian conservatives are prone to self-destruction because they are inherently convinced of their own rightness and wisdom. While my experience is that the left has, if anything, been too self-reflective over the years, and "liberals" are, because they inherently occupy the centre of the political spectrum, always waffling back and forth within an admittedly narrow spectrum, the modern conservatives are dangerously convinced that they can do no wrong.  And when circumstance proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are, indeed, wrong, they simply lie about it or blame someone else. [It sort of reminds me of that old academic story of an idea's development (I can't remember off-hand who originally said it), that a new ideas goes through three stages - first people attack it as being beyond the pale, then the critics admit that it is true but is prosaic and self-evident anyway, then the critics admit that it is true and that they thought of it first.]

Anyway, I have been familiar with Tom Flanagan for a long time and I even audited a few of his classes at the U of C back in the early 90s. I have always found him to be an arrogant wing-nut, a man who is often wrong but never in doubt. He is a racist blowhard whose political theories verge on laughable (if they weren't so dangerous) and he has never been reluctant to share his opinions. These elements of his personality made Flanagan's fall inevitable. Anyone who is that foolish but convinced of his own wisdom that has regular access to an audience, is going to eventually over-reach himself. And by addressing what is, arguably, the most sensitive issue in society, Flanagan was bound to orchestrate his own demise. Ironically, it was, typically, not really the issue that brought him down but his inability to speak about the subtleties of an issue that destroyed him. Having sat in classes with Flanagan when he was twenty years younger and surprisingly a little more cautious about how he said things, my experience suggests that, if one were being generous, we might suspect that what he really wanted to say was probably lost in his typically rightwing glibness. At the heart of Flanagan's discourse was, perhaps, the legal question of the efficacy, expedience, and import of prosecuting people who consume illegal material verses those who are actually involved in the production of illegality. One might argue that it is not unlike the question of dealing with those who consume an illegal product like, say, heroin versus dealing with those who produce it an distribute it. Now, no matter how sensitive an issue is one might need to address this basic legal question, particularly in circumstances of limited legal resources. But it would be impossible for someone as glib and impertinent as Flanagan to actually discuss such an issue. Rather, Flanagan always has a knee-jerk, extremist reaction to any issue. Flanagan never actually wants to discuss an issue, rather he just wants to pontificat as loud as he can to anyone who will listen.

In other words Flanagan doesn't know when to properly tailor his discorse or just keep his mouth shut. And in the end this is why Flanagan split with Harper. If Harper learned anything during his time in public life it is to say as little as possible and even if one has controversial  (some might say offensive) opinions, keep them on the DL. And this is why Harper has always jettisoned political alies who he can't control, and also why his government is a grand exercise in keeping everyone around him quiet. And even those close to Harper who are regularly in the media spotlight are continually coached and controlled concerning government message.

Flanagan fell from grace because he is a man full of deeply offensive opinions who is convinced his is a scholar and a genius. It was inevitable that he would shoot his mouth off in a way that would undermine any authority he may have had. Other Harper allies like Brazeau and Duffy are similarly obsessed with their own perceived wisdom and authority. Meanwhile, other allies are just headed to jail.

If Harper has learned how to keep quiet himself, the offensiveness of his opinions and the opinions of his alies eventually slips through the cracks with catastrophic results. Today Tom Flanagan is rightly suffering from an appropriate backlash to a lifetime of offensive opinions. And as the screws come gradually looser on Harper's political machine, it won't be long until the whole generation of modern Canadian conservatives is similarly in the public dog-house.

10 comments:

Steve W said...

Last night on CBC's Power and Politics I lost whatever very little respect I had for the NP's John Ivison when he stated he was disappointed with the fact Flanagan was unable to appear on the show to defend himself. Defend himself? Defend himself from what exactly. These people literally make me ill.

Owen Gray said...

Michael Harris suggests that Flanagan lacks emotional intelligence, Kirby.

That flaw seems to be present in most modern Canadian conservatives -- including the prime minister.

thwap said...

Great analysis. I think that another reason harper senses (and insists) that his followers keep their mouths shut, is because he's dimly aware of how repugnant their values are.

Oh, certainly, harper (and the right-wing) will console themselves that the majority's loathing of them is due to Liberal-CBC brainwashing, or some other stupid conspiracy theory. But the fact is that they know that their racism, sexism, militarism, and overall thuggishness and hypocrisy, are just inherent character flaws that no amount of counter-propaganda is going to make respectable.

Nadine Lumley said...

repost from comment board: Mr. Harris, I am a computer forensic examiner that works for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in the USA. Having been chronically exposed to child exploitation material for years during the performance of my job duties, I can only gather from Mr. Flanagan's statements that either, a) he is severely ignorant of what "child pornography" really is (not generally cutsie naked kids, but instead graphic depictions of the true rape and assault of children as young as infants in diapers)

or, b) he is making a very poor attempt (as pedophiles often do) of masking his own predilections. In either case, his statements were disgusting, though my gut instinct (which is very finely tuned these days) tells me the professor has dabbled in this type of material way more than he is stating, and has the warped sense of a true pedophile who does not classify the memorialization of sexual abuse as a big deal. His statements, I venture, had nothing to do with politics, but an ill attempt to justify his own "tastes." It's too bad that search warrants can't be based on pure observational experience, because Mr. Flanagan would not only lose his jobs, but his personal freedoms as well. Thank you very much for the article.

http://www.ipolitics.ca/2013/02/28/where-does-tom-flanagan-think-child-porn-comes-from/

fern hill said...

Excellent analysis. Best I've read yet.

Dr.Dawg said...

Good stuff, kirby. Let me just observe that

At the heart of Flanagan's discourse was the legal question of the efficacy, expedience, and import of prosecuting people who consume illegal material verses those who are actually involved in the production of illegality. It is not unlike the question of dealing with those who consume an illegal product like, say, heroin versus dealing with those who produce it and distribute it.

...may be comparing apples and oranges. In one case, it's harvesting and processing a plant. In the other case, it's torturing children. One seems to call for more of an urgent response than the other.

A market for heroin, in other words, certainly creates its problems, particularly here at home. But creating and maintaining a market for child porn here facilitates a particularly dreadful form of abuse somewhere else. Flanagan's sheer glibness is gravely exceptionable.

kirbycairo said...

Of Course there are differences as you say, and comparison is never identity. My point was that one could debate such an issue but it is very typical of a guy like Flanagan (and the rightwing in general) that all subtlety is lost because of a thoughtless tendency toward glibness and egoism. In this case his glibness worked against him because of the very sensitivity of the issue. But such attitudes and practices often work in the Conservatives favor as when, say, Kenny shoots his racist mouth off about some immigration issue.

Anonymous said...

A comment left at National Post:

"Consider Flanagan and associates' whole history on this issue and similar issues in which he has blamed victims publicly. For instance Flanagan's advocacy of assassinating Julian Assange, is characteristic of someone who favours secrecy and brutal suppression of truth by powerful rights abusers.

Yes, yes, there are legitimate arguments about teenagers taking pictures of themselves to share, and non-photographic imagery, and the use of existing images to dilute or destroy any market for new ones... but none of that is relevant to what Flanagan said. What he said has to be taken in context of his total failure to comprehend the victim's position and psychopathic lack of empathy towards that victim's experience in future.

Tom Flanagan has a long history of not only stating but encouraging positions in others that lack empathy and encourage re-victimization. Remember Tom Flanagan is the primary author of Conservative Party of Canada and Wildrose Party of Alberta native policy.

For some time his Conservative Party proteges have expressed an open lack of empathy for sex-abused native children. Here are some disgusting examples including the most disgusting, MP and current Harper parliamentary secretary Pierre Poilievre.

http://harpercrusade.blogspot.ca/2010/05/pierre-poilievre-continued-callousness.html?showComment=1362190711802#c4845887465974181660

http://www2.macleans.ca/2008/06/11/pierre-poilievre-shows-his-empathy-for-residential-school-survivors/

How can one justify referring to child sex abuse victims as having "partook" in the system that abused them?

How can one justify an abuser's demand for "value for money" accounting from his victims, which is a new form of victimization, similar to the re-distribution of an image of an abused child. Worse, actually, as it may be possible to never know that one's image is out there, but it's not possible to ignore a sneering triumphant abuser poring over your private financial accounts and demanding you justify how you spent your court-ordered compensation. Flanagan has not suggested anything so intrusive or racist or evil as Poilievre did.

Yet, they are birds of a feather, sharing a common contempt and disregard for native children similar to the disregard Flanagan has displayed for children in general who are sexually victimized. There is no surprise in any of this, except sadly that Canadians do not recognize Poilievre's comments as being worse than Flanagan's, and of the same ilk."

deBeauxOs said...

Hey, it was great tweeting up your post, the best one of the day. It cut through the shrieking about "moral panics" and zeroed in on the significance of this, for the CPC.

I sent it to someone who was once a progressive conservative and was dumped when she objected to the Harper Cons' dodgy accounting practices.

She said it confirmed everything she observed about the way the party operates.

Nadine Lumley said...

repost from comment board: Mr. Harris, I am a computer forensic examiner that works for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in the USA. Having been chronically exposed to child exploitation material for years during the performance of my job duties, I can only gather from Mr. Flanagan's statements that either, a) he is severely ignorant of what "child pornography" really is (not generally cutsie naked kids, but instead graphic depictions of the true rape and assault of children as young as infants in diapers)

or, b) he is making a very poor attempt (as pedophiles often do) of masking his own predilections. In either case, his statements were disgusting, though my gut instinct (which is very finely tuned these days) tells me the professor has dabbled in this type of material way more than he is stating, and has the warped sense of a true pedophile who does not classify the memorialization of sexual abuse as a big deal. His statements, I venture, had nothing to do with politics, but an ill attempt to justify his own "tastes." It's too bad that search warrants can't be based on pure observational experience, because Mr. Flanagan would not only lose his jobs, but his personal freedoms as well. Thank you very much for the article.

http://www.ipolitics.ca/2013/02/28/where-does-tom-flanagan-think-child-porn-comes-from/



.@pmHarper's Mentor, USA born Tom Flanagan, thinks a-okay to look at these young girls on pornish site http://nn1.biz/ #cdnpoli #inm