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Friday, August 20, 2010

Harper's Pravda, the absent opposition, and a little late-summer serendipity

How does the bus even move, with so many people underneath?

Can't remember where I saw this gem* earlier this week.  It was a reference to a noxious habit we've been observing from the PMO: demonize, smear, fire and/or squeeze out people who go off-message. Even if they're professional public servants whose careers have been devoted to impartiality. (Perhaps not "even," but "especially.")

Writing in Thursday's Globe, Lawrence Martin suggests that the latest official in the Harper gunsights is CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein. Something to do with the CRTC not moving quickly enough to grant the kind of broadcasting licence being sought by Sun Media for its new "Fox News North" network. We all know, by now, who's behind that.

This shouldn't, of course, come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the Harper modus operandi. It's not as if he's demonstrated much tolerance for opposing viewpoints, or for people who don't jump fast enough when he snaps. But as one of Martin's sources argues, do we really want a society in which the ruling party gets to decide who gets broadcasting licences? As one observer suggested, this is Maurice Duplessis stuff.

I'd like to think that on top of the G20 clusterfuck, the self-inflicted wounds over the census, the idiocy over Homegrown, and the lies about the coalition, this might be the tipping point, but I'm not going to hold my breath. Least of all because in the current political landscape, I'm not sure what the tipping point is, or whether there even is such a thing any more. It's not as if Harper's drooling base is going to walk over any of these things.

The only thing that gives one pause about Martin's column is his observation that Harper
must have been pleasantly surprised that the developments at the Sun chain caused barely a ripple of opposition from other Canadian media.
Really, why would the rest of the corporate media say anything? So another conglomerate wants to set itself up with a broadcast operation? It's not as if we're going to start hearing new voices and new perspectives that the owners and managers don't want us to hear. The whole script about the "liberal media" ought to be evident as the transparent Rove/Ailes contrivance that it is. 

But back to the tipping point, if there is one. A few days ago Silver Donald Cameron, in a column that will no doubt be caricatured, misrepresented and misinterpreted because of its reference to the Nazis, wondered when Canadians would start to worry about the Harper government's ruthless manipulation, arbitrary proroguing of Parliament, contempt for the Supreme Court, and systematic assaults on the infrastructure of democratic institutions.   

Authoritarian, vindictive, contemptuous, ideologically driven and arbitrary. Not to mention how stupid they clearly think we are. So what can we do? 

The answer clearly isn't in Parliament. The Liberals vote with the government whenever it matters. Collectively, the opposition parties don't have the courage or the organizational wherewithal to force a non-confidence vote (Um, Iggy? You know this is a minority parliament, right?), and in the unlikely event that they actually develop spines (or discover e-mail), Harper can just prorogue again. It's painfully clear how easily he can get away with it.

Back to Mr. Cameron, who suggests, quite reasonably, that the opposition must come from outside parliament. Not sure how easy that's going to be, given that dissent seems to be bringing jackboots on the stairs in the middle of the night or riot-squad gorillas, but it's a start. And yes, he's probably right about how effective signing a petition is going to be, but perhaps he's also onto something when he wonders whether the latest series of embarrassments might nudge more Canadians out of their apathy. As he puts it, 
This is an odd point to be drawing a line in the sand, but if that’s where the push-back begins, so be it.
A critical mass? A coalescence of opposition? A collective realization, finally, of just how dangerous this gang of thugs is?

A guy can dream ...

(Update: tip of the hat to Chet for the Pravda reference, and to *Cameron for the bus analogy.)

(Update 2: reworded to more accurately reflect relationship between Quebecor and Sun Media. Hat tip to Antonia.)

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