Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fake Outrage - Klander

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(cross-posted at BlueGrit)

I'm a big fan of Bill Maher. He coined a term a while back that I just loved - it's called "fake outrage". It's a bottled version of the real thing that politicians and partisans use when they want to make it seem like someone has done something deplorable, or when they want to manufacture as much anger towards someone as possible. It's all a big show, of course - that's the nature of the game. It works well politically for politicians and their hacks to look like they're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore - it rallies the troops, not to mention the voters. Maher used the term to describe the reaction of a nameless Alabama congressman to his comments about the US military's recruiting problems; said Congressman called him a "traitor" for noting the troop recruitment problems in order to get his name-recognition up by manufacturing a small scandal.

The reaction I've seen from Tories thus far to Mike Klander has been, to be blunt, as pathetic an example of fake outrage as any I've ever seen. Fake outrage allows some... creative license. So for example, Bill Maher pointing out the obvious recruiting problems of the US military in a humourous and politically incorrect way (does anyone remember the name of his old show...?) as a politically incorrect comedian could be expected to do, can be conflated into him being a "traitor". Get how it works? Great, so let's see here, what were Klander's sins?

  • He compared Olivia Chow to a Chow Chow. Okay, not the most original attack (actually a bit childish), but that's about it. But wait, enter fake outrage and all of a sudden it's racist! You heard me. Conservatives have been calling Klander's comments racist. One can only assume it's because "Chow" is a common Chinese last name. Okay, so was the "Jack-o-Layton" racist? Needless to say, it takes a pretty big jump to go from "Chow Chow" to "card-carrying member of the KKK". For this alone, people making this ridiculous charge collectively should receive the Volpe Award for Outrageous Hyperbole and Overreaction
  • He called Jack Layton an "asshole". Again, crude. But nothing most of us haven't said about one politician or another at some point (if not all of them). Ill-advised? Yes. Childish? Yes. But have a little perspective - it's not as if he was breaking new ground.
  • He claimed that he'd never be a politician because he would have to pretend to like stupid people. Maybe I'm a misanthrope, but when I read that I laughed, because it's true. There are a lot of very, very stupid people in this world, and by association in this country, and yes, politicians do have to be nice to them. Is this news? Next.
  • Pointing out that Harper is using the attractive and female Rona Ambrose and the attractive and ethnic Rahim Jaffer as campaign props to demonstrate diversity within the Conservative caucus. Again, is this news? But of course, enter fake outrage, and all of a sudden he's a racist and a sexist. Right. So it's not racist or sexist for Harper to blatantly use Ambrose and Jaffer as campaign props, but it's racist and sexist to point that out?
  • He said Dalton McGuinty and Michael Ignatieff look like Martin Landau and Anthony Perkins. Okay, and we're outraged about this why? They DO look like Martin Landau and Anthony Perkins. I wasn't aware that pointing out similarities between politicians and actors was worthy of a full-frontal assault.
  • He pointed out that cowboy hats make Stephen Harper look "gay". Many people, including Paul Martin at the Press Gallery Dinner, have pointed this out. Did we all see Harper in that ridiculous village-people get-up? Oh, just to inform you - village people? Gay poster boys. Shocked? Cowboy get-up has been a primarily gay subculture for decades now. Yet this is an indication that Klander is homophobic. Oh, make me laugh and gag at the same time. This has got to be the most pathetic line of attack I've seen from Conservatives ever. Okay, so it's "homophobic" to make a humourous observation about someone wearing a cowboy costume (and it is a costume, let's be serious here, there are no real cowboys left) makes them look "gay". (Well, DUH.) And yet, Stockwell Day calling homosexuality a mental disorder, John Williams saying gays are "repulsive", Art Hanger calling it a "repudiation of nature", Dave Chatters saying "society has a right to discriminate against them", and Myron Thompson calling gays "unnatural and totally immoral", is completely acceptable!? Who are these people trying to kid? The Conservatives have no business calling anybody homophobic. Conservatives, let's not forget, are the only party running on a platform that seeks to deny gays their constitutionally-determined civil rights.
  • Pointing out that if Irwin Cotler, John Efford, and Chuck Cadman hadn't had funerals and medical procedures, they would have been in the House to make a tie out of those pseudo-confidence motions back in May.
  • Elaborating on well-known Liberal strategy of promising an election 30 days after the Gomery report.
Did I miss anything?

Well, honestly, it seems to me that what Mike Klander was most guilty of was giving the Conservatives ammunition to fire with their fake outrage guns, unforgivable during an election campaign, but just fine any other time.

Half of that stuff shouldn't even be controversial (like comparing Dalton McGuinty to Martin Landau appearance-wise), and the most of it is blown out of proportion (like comparing Olivia Chow to a funny-looking dog.) The rest of it just seems to be the random musings of someone with a foul mouth and a politically incorrect sense of humour. I'm not ashamed to say that I fit that definition, and frankly, seeing Klander assaulted the way he has been makes me wonder whether or not people like me have any place in the political discourse, or if we'll always be attacked with manufactured outrage every time we say something "offensive".


At 5:24 p.m., Canadian Politico Blogger Dr. Dawg said:

It wasn't only Conservatives who were outraged, and, believe me, nothing fake about it in my case. What I did remrak on at the time, though, was that Cons rising up throughout the blogosphere to complain about racism was a fairly rare event, and might have had something to do with the current election campaign.

But lest there be any doubt, Klander revealed himself to be a homophobic, racist, ableist jerk. I wouldn't waste too much time trying to damage-control him out of a tough spot.

At 3:36 a.m., Canadian Politico Blogger Stephen Taylor said:

NDP spokesperson Brad Lavigne said the blog "borders on racism, there's no question about it."

Please do not assume that because I am a Conservative that I don't care about tolerance. That would be an unfortunate stereotype. Stereotypes hurt... you should know that.

I'm also one of those conservative that supported amending the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

So, please... do not make assumptions about me based upon my party affiliation. You don't know me personally and such a generalization is hurtful.

At 4:19 a.m., Canadian Politico Blogger lecentre said:

You make a good point. People, especially politicians, make messes out of nothing. It bothers me that they waste their time on this trivial crap rather than thinking up good policy for Canadians. As to someone making the gay comment, they may have meant it was homophobic for using "gay" as an insult, which would naturally sting someone most people think is opposed to gay marriage.

At 11:28 a.m., Canadian Politico Blogger Wonder Woman said:

I agree...His statements were ignorant and crude, but racist and misogynistic is an over-reaction.

I will however, make mention that the caterwauling from the left would have been significantly more resonant - had the person who made these statements been a Conservative Party operative.

It doesn't make it ok, but it does give a little more perspective.

Good post.


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