Sunday, September 28, 2008

And now ladies and germs,

... your special Harper appearance scripted for an exclusive audience.

There’s something entertaining about the limited range of Stephen Harper’s performances during the course of this election campaign. As October 14 looms nearer, it becomes quite apparent that a decision was made regarding which particular acts should be punched up in order to reach and reassure ambivalent voters.

Indeed the scripting, staging and styling of Stephen Harper was anticipated well ahead of the moment chosen to call the elections. For example Michelle Muntean has been on board for a while. Requests for information made to disclose who has been paying for her styling skills are deflected. L’idée du jour says she is paid through some undisclosed discretionary slush fund that every elected member of the House of Commons is allowed.

Famous blue sweater. Leading up to the drop of the writ for the elections, Harper was cleverly portrayed in political advertisements and in ‘candid shots’ as a home-spun, piano-playing, kitten-patting warm fuzzy guy. Many agreed with my impression that this incarnation was creepy and phony, yet some took exception to my description of the cringe factor.

The object of lust. In a truly bizarre move, Mashline, the online news/social media website owned by Conservative supporters, paid out a large sum of money to secure the rights to a Canadian version of "I have a crush on Obama". It was a weird marketing ruse for the former Reformers (they count the faux-doctor Charles McVety among their staunch supporters). After all, the girl who crooned this insipid little ditty was definitely not Harper’s wife.

Was it a lame attempt to convince women of Harper’s charms? Unlike brilliant YouTube creations that went viral upon their release – Culture en Péril, even in its 9 minute version got more hits – this gimmick quickly flopped out of sight.

Bad Con, Faux Con. At an overtly scripted event staged for the purpose of announcing the Conservatives' changes to the Young Offenders' Act, Harper appeared in a suit jacket & sweater vest combo. He was posed holding the hand of Theresa McCuaig who clutched a photo of her dead grandson, conveniently killed by young offenders (convenient that is, for the Cons' photo opportunity, not for Sylvain Leduc and those who mourn him).

The veneer of Harper’s smoothly orchestrated public appearances and sound bites cracked last week when he lashed out at the insubordinate and insurgent artists who continue to voice criticism of his policies. The nasty and real Stephen Harper – not the well-crafted façade – held forth about culture and those he labeled rich gala-goers. So unlike the ordinary working people”, he sneered. Not that Harper has anything in common with ordinary working people.

The nasty flip side of ‘Family Man’ emerged. Shortly after Harper exploded with bitter remarks, his generous and hard-working spouse Laureen put an end to her volunteer responsibilities as chair of the National Arts Centre Gala. No doubt her continued participation in the organization of a cultural event of the type held in contempt by her husband would seem to undermine his authority. His children were removed from field trips organized by their schools, since attending theatre or any cultural event would not be congruent with their father’s crude opinion of the arts.

Like any carefully constructed Con game, the purpose is to manipulate the outcome. Any detail that contradicts or detracts from the purposeful image must be removed. Absolute control over the audience is also a key element to the success of this strategy.

Watching the contrived transformations of Stephen Harper into divertissement that draws attention away from the real man behind the masks, but especially from the real issues of this election, is evocative of .... no, not old-style vaudeville or carnival tent shows, though that would be delicious irony. Harper’s calculated displays are similar to those found in old-fashioned National Geographic documentaries – the ones about predatory animals and the various guises they adopt to fool their prey.

Un grand merci to alison - your blogpost provided an important perspective.

Update: Go read Nothing could be further from the truth for an excoriating analysis of the commercial media's complicity in this Con game show.

No comments: