Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lies that Stephen Harper told us

Let me say this, I would choose, if I had to, instead [of a vegetable], to be a fruit: Just what I am, sweet and colourful.--Stephen Harper

Stephen Harper's factual falsehoods--and they are legion, starting with, golly, fixed election dates, and all-party committees to review judicial appointments--have been more than adequately exposed by others. I want to talk about Harper's image-lies, the soft untruths that are the stock-in-trade of public manipulation.

Start with the current advertisements showing a kinder, gentler Harper: one on a collision course, it seems, with a tougher, nastier Dion. (Will they eventually disappear in a flash of gamma radiation? Stay tuned.)
Ottawa Citizen commentator Randall Denley is characteristically blunt: "He's not a regular guy, so there's no use pretending." Indeed, the very fact that the Tory spinmeisters feel compelled to produce these defensive little family clips reveals the substantial gap between image and substance.

Then there's the promotion of Harper as a "strong leader." Again, it's Denley to the reality rescue:

Look at his record carefully...and you will see that Harper really hasn't had to make many difficult decisions. Most of what he has done is actually easy, crowd-pleasing stuff. Real leadership involves making decisions not everyone likes, or forging consensus on divisive issues.

What about Harper's
image as a fiscally tough Conservative? He came to power with a $13.2 billion surplus in the treasury. Now we're facing a deficit. The Harper regime has spent $8.8 billion since June in an attempt to Con the electors with their own money.

And then there are Harper's photo-op moments of feigned compassion, such as his self-serving apology to Canadian aboriginal people, which I dealt with here. And here. The man has likely never felt genuine compassion in his life. He doesn't have it in him. But some folks are bound to be taken in. That's what the art and science of image-making is all about.

The reality is, of course, that Harper is a micromanaging, intolerant bully and control freak, nasty, anti-intellectual and contemptuous of the arts, a man for whom government is a one-man show and for whom opposition is treason.

But his flacks redefine those harsh realities thus: Harper, they say, is
a real leader, a take-charge guy, a man who can face down the leftist media, a fierce Canadian patriot. You can guarantee that he'll be careful with your tax dollars, which won't go to artists who can't make it on their own, and leftist pointy-heads with their hands out (but will, on the other hand, be dished out with abandon for an organ music festival and a cultural centre in a key province just before an election).

The Harper image is all silk purse, the Harper reality is a sow's ear that wouldn't pass muster
even at the neutered CFIA. The question is: how many voters who have been put off by Harper's hard-right radicalism will be lulled and gulled by this campaign conservatism with a human face?

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