Saturday, April 24, 2010

What Frank Graves Is Not:


Ever since it was revealed that EKOS President Frank Graves recommended to the Liberal Party that they start a culture war, a great deal of intellectual and rhetorical energy has been expended trying to figure out precisely what Graves is.

Very little such energy has been spent trying to elucidate what Graves is not.

So much so that Graves himself doesn't seem to know, as revealled by some of his recent comments.

“Whether or not I am a centre-moderate in my political beliefs – which I am, which I didn’t think was a matter of great shame in this country – is irrelevant to the question of whether or not I can conduct myself as a sociologist or pollster in a fair and neutral fashion,” Graves insisted.

After suggesting that the Liberal Party spark a culture war for political gain, Frank Graves has the temerity to insist that he is a moderate.

No one who would so much as dare recommend turning Canadians against one another for political gain is a moderate.

One need only look south of the border to see the divisive and destructive nature of what Graves has recommended to the Liberal Party: partisan ideologues casting vapid aspersions of racism at fellow citizens simply because they dislike and actually fear what those citizens have to say.

It takes a particularly dangerous brand of ideologue to look at that conflict and believe that we need the same in Canada, just so their political party of preference can govern.

"In reflection, it was inappropriate and I should have used more measured terms and I don’t think the Prime Minister’s racist or a homophobe, nor do I think members of his cabinet or his caucus are," Graves continued. "I do believe, and this gets more subtle, that there is a higher incidence of people who are less tolerant to homosexuals and more wary of other races, within the Conservative Party. I can demonstrate that empirically."

First off, this reminds one that Graves work is now highly suspect. Graves has revealled himself to be a consumate cultural warrior. When one is examining polling to determine whether or not it's biased, it isn't at all unreasonable to start with the evident bias of the individuals crafting the polling questions.

This becomes especially apparent when one considers the extent to which the questions asked during a poll influences the results that poll will produce -- the very same complaint that Graves levied against a recent poll commissioned by the Manning Centre.

Moreover, some Canadians may even recognize the insinuation present in Graves' words.

It's nearly precisely the same phrase Warren Kinsella wrote about Preston Manning in Web of Hate. Kinsella remarked that Manning had done a great job of removing any racial supremacists from the ranks of the Reform Party. But he continued to cast aspersions against Manning based on the number of racists that his party had attracted, despite the fact that it became clear that their beliefs were not welcome in that party.

Some of the efforts to attribute racism to the Reform Party were actually rather remarkable. In Slumming it at the Rodeo, Gordon Laird put then-Reform Party MP (now embattled and disgraced former Conservative MP) Rahim Jaffer into the spotlight with an account of alleged racism at a Reform Party Stampede barbecue that reads as if it were fictionalized.

(The account is written as if it were a first-hand account of an event that Laird makes it clear he would not be caught dead at, and declined to identify any sources who had been present.)

But this has proven to be the remarkable quality of such accusations. When one doesn't have to name any names, one can claim nearly anything. The sources referenced could be anyone... or no one.

Likewise, the "empirical evidence" that Graves cites could be conclusive or largely inconclusive.

Because Frank Graves has made his motivations perfectly clear in this matter, there is simply no reason to trust his data on this subject. Many pollsters have demonstrated, time and time again, that they can get the results they want -- both in a general and more specific sense.

After all, it's clear that Frank Graves is not at least one other thing:

An impartial pollster.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Montreal Simon - "Frank Graves and the Con Homophobes"

Officially Screwed - "Liberal Pollster Frank Graves (or Frank Graves’s) Mistake"

Lee Hamilton - "Morning Brew: 'Invoke a Culture War'"

Edmund James - "A Culture War in Canada?"

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