Saturday, June 24, 2006

Stephen Harper's paranoia

First, two definitions of paranoia, which I think bracket the issue:

A disorder characterized by a continuing and unwarranted suspiciousness, mistrust of people, and hypersensitivity. It is not a psychosis but those affected have great difficulty with interpersonal relations. They are quite critical of others but virtually unable to accept criticism.

A mental state that includes unreasonable suspicions of people and situations. A person who is paranoid may be suspicious, hostile, feel very important, or may become extremely sensitive to rejection by others.

Up until this morning, I had thought that our Prime Minister's odd and obsessive behaviour could only loosely and popularly be called paranoid--even arch-conservative Robert Fulford has used the p-word to describe it, not to mention disgraced former Alliance MP Larry Spencer. Like "terrorism," the word can mean everything and nothing at the same time. Harper's well-known snits, his "hub-and-spoke" management style with its accompanying micromanagement, and his over-all control freakiness, are all symptoms to be observed in a person who, shall we say, is rather too tightly wrapped. But clinically paranoid?

Then (h/t Jane Taber, "Ottawa Notebook," Globe and Mail print edition), I happened upon this frankly bizarre interview in the Western Standard. With his well-known media savvy, Harper might have imagined that he was only chatting with friends, but he's managed to give the whole world more than a glimpse of his dark side. Some highlights:
  • "They say if I don't do it their way, I'll somehow gain more control over my media relations. Well, I've got more control now."

  • "But of course, the problem was that we were getting our message out and a small number of ideologues didn't like that. So they've now basically forbidden all of their colleagues to ask questions, which I think is a fascinating use of press freedom when a small number of journalists can tell others they can't ask questions at a press conference. But that's the position of the left-wing ideologues who are apparently running the show."

  • "The key journalists causing the problem are from CBC, but strictly the ones in Ottawa."
This is precisely the sort of stuff that right-wing, um, ideologues lap up and regurgitate, of course, delusional though it clearly is. The frenzied claim in those quarters is that the evil "MSM" (mainstream media) are in the grip of the Left. It's completely pointless to raise the obvious objections: the Sun chain? CanWest? Quebecor? The talk-show circuit? CTV? Who but the Toronto Star on a good day is left, no pun intended? Fingers in ears, the response is usually some version of, "Nyaah, nyaah, nyaah, I can't hear you, I can't hear you!" As for the hapless CBC, currently being run into the ground by a combination of government strangulation and top-level incompetence, the notion of their reporters controlling all of those other hard-bitten folks up on the Hill is frankly hallucinatory.

What is happening, of course, is a reaction on the part of the Parliamentary Press Gallery to the PM's insistence that only a favoured few will be placed on a list and permitted to ask questions. Their struggle against this obvious attack on freedom of the press is being portrayed by the usual suspects as the very opposite.

Our Prime Minister, not to put too fine a point upon it, is beginning to sound a bit like Captain Queeg. Or Al "I'm in control here" Haig. The insecurity, sense of persecution and simultaneous feelings of self-importance glare from the text. This is exactly the kind of thing you see in psychiatrists' notebooks.


Meanwhile, the PM continues to dodge the hardball questions. Somehow those who want to pose them don't find themselves on The List. The latest example was his refusal to account for his disgraceful snub of the 16th annual International AIDS Conference in Toronto.

This is the man who's bucking for a majority government. Oh, Canada. At least insist on a clinical evaluation first.

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