Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gutter Politics, Defined

Harper not to blame for "gutter politics" -- at least not alone

In a blog post appearing on the website of Vancouver's Georgia Straight, Charlie Smith derides Stephen Harper and the Conservative party for allegedly indulging themselves in "gutter politics":
"This week, I stumbled across another piece of garbage sent through the mail by a Conservative MP.

This one featured a 'pop quiz'. It asked how long Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was away from Canada.

On the flip side, it contained the Conservative slogan 'Ignatieff: Just visiting'.

There was not a word about public policies, plans, or issues--just a vicious personal attack on the Opposition leader.

I wonder what thoughtful conservatives think of these tactics, which are so typical of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper seems to think that if you treat the public like they're idiots, you have a better chance of getting reelected.

It's time for people like Senator Hugh Segal, former federal cabinet ministers John Crosbie and John Fraser, and former prime ministers Kim Campbell and Joe Clark to stand up and condemn this nonsense.

Harper is debasing our political culture. As we've seen in the United States, whenever this occurs, there's a corresponding decline in political literacy.

That's likely followed by reckless policies that can bankrupt the nation and lead it into perpetual war.

It's time for conservatives to say enough is enough. The ends don't always justify the means.
Smith is perfectly right to note the irresponsibility and recklessness of the Conservatives' "Just Visiting" campaign.

But in order to make the argument that Harper, and Harper alone, are responsible for the rise of gutter politics in Canada would be a facetious argument ad extremis.

It would ignore the Liberal party's long, somehow proud history of engaging in gutter politics, embodied in some savagely personal and pernicious attack ads being aired against Harper.

One can say what they will about the "Just Visiting" ads. They don't accuse Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff of plotting to summarily declare martial law upon winning power. While the move to impugn Ignatieff's citizenship based on time spent out of the country is atrociously irresponsible, at least they stay on the right side of accusing a political opponent of plotting treason.

Then, of course, there is the matter of Canada's undisputed king of gutter politics, Warren Kinsella. Even against the testimony of Liberal Senator Noel Kinsella that Harper consumed the allgedly-missing communion wafer, Warren Kinsella has been utterly shameless about using this non-scandal for his party's advantage.

Among the other media sources peddling "Wafergate" as if it were a scandal of any political consequence is the Huffington Post.

Even feverish arch-Liberal blogger Darryl Raymaker is unshockingly eager to get in on the act.


Yet, if one were to ask Charlie Smith, it's Stephen Harper, and Stephen Harper alone, who's responsible for "gutter politics" and the "decline in political literacy" that comes with it.

Those who have actually payed attention to anything over the past 20 years in this country know better. Harper certainly hasn't shied away from gutter politics, but he certainly didn't pioneer it.


  1. "But in order to make the argument that Harper, and Harper alone, are responsible for the rise of gutter politics in Canada..."

    Smith doesn't make that argument, which is why your post is yet another exercise in the usual tilting at windmills.

    (Cue the inevitable "!a, then b" strawman massacre).

  2. This coming from the person who insisted that criticizing a judicial decision amounts to hatred of western justice?

    Aside from the fact that Smith does, indeed make this very argument, you have no credibility with which to lecture anyone on "strawmen arguments".

  3. Now you've not only inaccurately cited Smith's argument, but a completely unrelated one of mine as well. Why, it's almost as if a certain someone's trying to get their CV ready for a run for leader the CPC.

    ...Guess you'll work on the whole acknowledge error/apology thing later?

  4. No, Audrey. That wasn't mischaracterizing your argument at all, and you know it.

    I know that you resent it when people point out the fact that you're extremely prone to the very fallacies you accuse other people of.

    Alas, it is true.


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