Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dealing in Absolutes

You know, it sure is thoughtful of the Conservatives - now that they've got a majority in the House of Commons and can thus do whatever the hell they want thanks to the wonderfully broken system we call Westminster-style parliament - to keep giving us reasons why it was such a bad idea to elect them into power in the first place, because they don't have to face the electorate for another three years and by then most people will have forgotten.

The latest was a zinger of a punch delivered by Vic Toews, the Minister of Public Safety - a position, incidentally, that immediately brings to mind Revolutionary France - in response to an opposition MP who attacked the Conservatives for overstepping their bounds with their latest controversial law, which would substantially increase the ability of the police to conduct potentially invasive investigations into Canadians' digital lives without first obtaining a warrant to do so. Michael Geist provides a good look into the implications of this bill - I encourage everyone to check it out.

"He can either stand with us," Toews said of his critic, "or with the child pornographers."

Just don't think about that for a minute - here's a picture of a bunny.

It's rare that things are so utterly black-and-white in politics. Usually people have to dig a bit for things like this. As the Globe and Mail says, though, this is completely in-character for the Conservatives; eight years ago, when they were still trying to crack Liberal fortunes in the House, the party issued press releases claiming that the Liberals and the New Democratic Party supported child pornography. Now that they don't have to worry about the opposition or the electorate, why should we be surprised that this sort of talk is resurfacing?

The way I see it, there are only two options here - Vic Toews is either a manipulator or a shithead. Either he's fully aware of what he's doing and is using the argument to marginalize opposition, or he honestly believes that an ordinary, law-abiding citizen would have no reason to oppose what the Conservatives are putting forward. I can't figure out which is worse.

It's easy to realize why they actually use this charge: it's indefensible, horrific, political poison to touch and thus they toss these claims like grenades. The fact that the Conservatives do use it, and have used it consistently, likewise explains a lot about the way the party as a whole thinks. For the Conservatives, it seems, everything boils down to a binary choice - this or that, us or them, good or evil.

That's no way to run a government. It's a cynical ploy to marginalize their opponents in the eyes of their core supporters, the people who will follow them solely because they are Conservatives - like, say, Alberta, which seems to have an inexplicable political reflex in that it consistently gives absolute majorities of its votes to the big blue machine. It's that kind of automatic support, support given without regard to whether the party acts in a manner to make it worthy of that support, that energizes things like this. If the Conservatives were still a minority government, Harper would likely have already thrown Toews under the bus by now. Here's hoping that this causes at least some of those automatic supporters to consider throwing the Conservatives under the bus instead come 2015.

At its core, it's completely indefensible - equivalent to me saying that either one stands with the opposition or with the fascists. If an opposition MP stood up in the house and suggested that the Conservatives were supporters of fascism, I have no doubt that that MP would shortly find out what it felt like to be raked over the coals.

The ideal of government is consensus, not dominance. Binary choices have no place there. Nevertheless, there are far too many people out there who can only think in terms of one or zero - good or evil.


  1. He's a shithead. AND a manipulator.

    Harper did claim that Canadians wouldn't recognize Canada when he was done, didn't he?

  2. Well I can say that he qualifies as the author of the best response I've received from any MP or minister to date. Not that I agreed with it, but it wasn't just a form letter, it actually addressed the issues I raised, and gave some level of justification for the positions taken (this was in response to a letter I wrote about the omnibus crime bill).
    Also, note that he excluded "lawful access" from that earlier bill.
    My gut feeling is that he doesn't actually know how to justify this bill, but he's been given orders to push it through.

  3. Just gonna leave this link from Dwight Williams here, since he isn't able to post for some reason.