08.07.2011 08:44 AM

In today’s Sun: just playin’ dumb

In political circles these days, there is apparently nothing more coveted than the very thing we all hope our kids will never be.

You know, a hayseed. A bumpkin. Political scientists have a fancy moniker for it, a “populist.” But whatever you call it, it’s certainly in political vogue these days.

And the simplest route to political power, it seems, is the one that involves appearing, well, simple. Feel like mocking books and art? Go to it, pardner! Think higher education – or even education – are overrated? Speak your mind!

Most usefully, are y’all in the mood to bash nameless “elites”? Fill yer boots! Give ‘er!

It’s a tad ironic, given we all presumably send our kids to school so they can read books and learn and use their minds and succeed where we didn’t. But it’s a fact, nonetheless: Aspirants for high office now widely regard education and knowledge as an impediment to political success. That’s the “populist” credo at work.


  1. ed says:

    I thought the look at Harper was especially revealing of this trend. Ignore the hpye and cult of Stephen, and what you have is an economist, family-man born and raised in Toronto with an MBA and a love of playing the piano. Put someone with that description up in an election and watch them get torn apart. So they construct an alternate personality, which is actually sad for them, because they live this life that is not truly who they are and sad for voters because so many on the right wing have to buy this load of crap (and they know it’s a load of crap) just to bring themselves to vote for the guy they already like.

    • JStanton says:

      Well, certainly, the core argument is valid – that Mr. Harper is being deceitful , and is fundamentally dishonest and cynically manipulative, in advancing himself as a “populist” or “everyman”, with the experiences, views and values of those whose votes he intends to capture.

      But to suggest that he is instead the antithesis of “everyman” – a thoughtful man with an adequate mind; an “economist “, no less, is hyperbolic.

      Firstly, in order to be an “economist”, he would have had to have practiced in a professional capacity, and to have been recognized as such by peers. In fact, Mr. Harper simply studied economics in university, like thousands of other kids do every school term. Moreover, his utter failure at understanding and developing the Canadian economy – in fact his undermining of it – reflects a poor grasp of basic economics, and of Canada as a whole.

      Secondly, to suggest that somehow his mind is sharper than the poor rubes he hopes to deceive, is nonsensical. This is a man who eschews facts, science, and intellectualism. Mr. Harper has opinions, and that is all anybody has to know. What are being passed off as the thoughtful, measured actions of an intellectual, are instead the arbitrary behaviors of a bully and a sociopath.

      Yes, it’s true that Mr. Harper did better than his intellectual superiors at the polls – men who are widely recognized internationally by the intelligencia for high achievement. But this does not equate to intellectual superiority; it merely reflects greater cunning, lower ethical standards, and access to the entire resources of the Canadian state, to enlist the services of international mercenary political operatives willing to subvert the Canadian political process.

      While Mr. Harper may be clever like a fox, one can be sure that the farmer will not sit idly by losing chickens for very long.


  2. Bill M. says:

    The Ruling Rubes of their day thought the earth was flat and that the earth was the center of all. Galileo was accused of being a heretic.

    We’ve come full circle. Today’s rubes laud Ford Nation and reality TV.

    We get the government we deserve.

  3. RN200 says:

    Reductio ad absurdum would be then that only PhD’s should be allowed to vote. Then all of our tax dollars can be re-directed to fund studies by PhD’s that are so helpful to the non-voting “moron class” such as:


    This would be the Canada ruled by the tall foreheads you so desire.

    • Attack! says:

      no reductio, there, just “absurdum”

      WK wasn’t making an argument about the characteristics of the Voters here, at all, but about the Politicians — and their Mis-characterizations of themselves, and was sort of implying that their should be more truth in advertising, about who they really are.

      So a reductio of that would be more like: in addition to a proper CV and independent profile, like by the RCMP for their enhanced security clearances, being publicly posted, there should be a reality show, following them around 24/7 for a year or something, like Ozzy Osborne, to show whether they really go to Tim’s in real life, or even drink coffee, or know how to skate, etc…. or whether it’s all a put-on.

      And, hmm, maybe that wouldn’t be so absurd, after all.

    • Philip says:

      Or you could intentionally stretch WK’s point past any logical threshold (which you freely admit doing) and then use that point as the basis for your argument. Why? What possible reason would you have to think that this is any way meaningful?

  4. Mike says:

    Did we read the same article Gord? Warren clearly called Harper, Manning and Klein “keenly intelligent and quite thoughtful”….How is that less educated or more crass? His point, by my reading anyways, was that these intelligent people find it wiser to politick as “everyman” as opposed to what they clearly are – intelligent people.

  5. frmr disgruntled Con, now Happy Lib says:

    A quote for you Mr. Tulk: “There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.”
    — Andrew Carnegie

    Last time I checked, Mr. Carnegie, the unbridled capitalist, founded many public libraries in North America and the UK with his philanthropy, including my own Fraser Valley Regional Library, and numerous other libraries in British Columbia, and I would presume in Ontario as well.

    Mr. Carnegie was not a man of letters, he was a self-taught man who believed in the value of education, and this is why he believed in the public library.

    He was many things: laissez-faire capitalist, union buster, philanthropist ….but there was one thing he was not……a bumpkin..

    And if you think Mr. Tulk that you can garner the same amount of information from the internet on a particular subject, rather than reading books on the subject(perhaps borrowed from your local public library), or if you dont think it is wise for those less fortunate amongst us to have a place of refuge and respite, a place where one might garner the knowledge and access the skills to better oneself, where it doesnt matter what you look like, or what kind of clothes you wear to be admitted, then you Sir are a bumpkin too….

    Disgraceful, and I rue the day I had anything to do with your stinking party……

    • ben burd says:

      And just where will the marginalised and non-affluent access the internet from duh – the bloody library that’s where!

    • frmr disgruntled Con, now Happy Lib says:

      Mr Tulk….and what would this central library user fees be?…..I have gone online to find articles of substance, and as we know, there is no free lunch.

      Steam trains yes may be antiquated, but rail is still the most efficient way on land to move large amount of goods and people…..and the last time I checked, most advanced countries were looking to have high speed rail links throughout their countries…..they havent abandoned rail, they are looking at ways to enhance it. So you say could say that the “central library archive” could be the equivalent of the Shikansen or TGV…… but libraries serve a far larger role than the simple dissemination of information, for many communities it is the only civic centre available.

      I am curious Mr. Tulk who would provide the central system but some cronies of your party who stand to make a potfull by basically privatizing the “central library archive” and having a monopoly on information services?

      Mr. Tulk, where I live the library is an essential place for the poor, the mentally and physically challenged, and otherwise people down on their luck….these are people who may not have money for Tim Hortons, definately not Starbucks, and at best would looked down upon or at worst probably chased out of Chapters, or any other up market book-sellers. Did you ever think that many folks cant afford a PC or laptop, let alone the server fees, nor the fees charged at internet cafes? In a free public library they can at least get away and have a quiet space where no one bothers or hassles them, allowing them to clear their minds, and maybe be able to access information that assists them in their recovery, job search, or career change.

      You and your party’s “Im allright Jack” attitude is one of the main reasons I left your party.
      You dont give a rats behind about the down and out, or the less fortunate,…..just as long as your little world is secure, and you can make a buck for you or your cronies along the way.

      And if conventional libraries are an anachronism, I do wonder where my Conservative MP Randy Kamp would hold his executive meetings, aside from the very large meeting room at the Maple Ridge Library which charges a nominal fee of $25(or did the last time I sat in on one of the meetings{{shudder}})….or where he would hold his passport information sessions aside from the Mission Library, for exactly zero charge for the room rental….Hotel meeting room space isnt exactly cheap……Easy access to donuts might appeal to your crowd, but Timmy’s isnt exactly conducive to a productive meeting, either…

      I do find it a bit rich for the resident Con apologist to talk about literacy programs when one of the first acts of the Stephen Harper govt was to axe funding for literacy programs.

      And I still rue the day I had anything to do with the likes of you or your stinking party.

      Patrick Hamilton

      • Pat says:

        Gord – What the hell are you talking about? “Central soup kitchen”? I’m pretty sure what Happy Lib was referring to is their use as a “community centre” not a soup kitchen (though I didn’t read his/her whole post – keep it short for God’s sake). In my community the local library branch is used for vaccines/inoculations, as a seniors centre (it has a great meeting room), as a place for children to learn to read and socialize with their peers (pre-school), as a place for various community groups to meet, and as a place for those who don’t want to buy books to get something interesting to keep them occupied (not everyone owns a kindle or buys everything they read – for instance, based on averages my parents will live for another 30 years or so, but they don’t want to do either). This isn’t even about the down and out, the poor, or the destitute. The majority of people who use the library in my community are none of those things – instead they are people who honestly see the value in having all of those things in their community.

  6. Anne Peterson says:

    There is a new study. It is called agnotology and it is the study of ignorance iself and the means employed to generate sustain and broadcast it and those who study it are studying tobacco damage denial and climate change denial and how these states of mind are encouraged in citizens. Though they are seeminly intelligent, the people going about this creating and fostering of ignorance business, they are really very dumb because they are following ideological patterns, not logic. Does this have anything to do with this topic?

    And it does puzzle me that some think that it is good to have a guy like the one down the street running the country. All I can think about that is HELP US!

  7. Attack! says:

    So I trust you led the charge to try to shut down your own town of Innisfail’s getting $6-M in federal taxpayer money (and another $3 presumably from provincial & municipal services) to build a brand new library and gathering place for a pop. of just 7,000ish (even tho’, um, it already has one)?


    And way to misrepresent WK’s article: he didn’t say the populist leaders he was naming ARE dumb, he’s saying they’re shamelessly ACTING it to curry votes with the mouth breathers: i.e., being the type of stinking hypocrites that you usually get so indignant about, yourself.

  8. moose gemmell says:

    What is distressing is when this appeal to the lowest common denomiinater by the Conservatives
    is put into law.Building bigger prisons when the crime rate is going down is a prime example.
    And the appeal ironically is to the rural voters when the crimes are largely urban.Conrad Black has commented on this cynical Conservative policy.The cities in both the U.S. and Canada vote against the conservative parties.

  9. Jan says:

    Anyone know where Ford’s cost/benefit analysis of the Toronto Public Library can be found? Because if he hasn’t done one he’s just playing to people like you, Gord. And I’ve sent a note off to my grandchildren – those little elitists- to stop using the library.

    • Jan says:

      Which page are the library costs on? I assume you’re read it…

    • Attack! says:

      So you’re out of step with even one of the most conservative places in the country… where they know the value of their library, which appears to be well used by young families, among others (3 ‘storytimes’ a week), and they even want to pay millions for another one (even though the national standard is 1 per 25,000 residents).

      Seniors also use them, as much to meet with other live, talking people, as to get the actual books;

      As do job seekers: the article “Use of Public Libraries In Hard Economic Times” notes a 20% increase in usage during the recession.

      And the KPMG report actually provides more of a case FOR its value to the Toronto community, than anything:

      – Total Collection Size: 11,124,279.
      – Circulation: 31,271,072.
      – In-library use: 7,959,07.
      – Circulation per capita at 12.49 above average in Canada and one of the highest in North America.
      – Survey indicates 73% of residents use the libraries.
      -17,544,470 visits per year
      – Program Attendance for all [literacy programs]: 750,220
      – 60% of all Toronto Public Library programs are for children and youth with annual attendance of 519,187.

      • frmr disgruntled Con, now Happy Lib says:

        Liars, aka Cons, can figure, but figures dont lie…..god bless you, attack!……

  10. allegra fortissima says:

    What I miss most in politics nowadays is the classic ideal of the “education of the heart”, very well outlined by Thomas Taaffe in his essay “Education Of The Heart”.

    “A guide to educational practice generated by sensitivity to the education of the heart might include aims like these:

    – to encourage habits of critical self-awareness
    – to valorize openness to interiority
    – to accept the equal right of all individuals to the autonomy of their emotional lives
    – to encourage the development of individual voice; and, as the practical condition of its
    possibility, develop the capacity for hearing the voice of the other
    – to learn what and how the other wants (the real justification of multi-culturalism is equality
    of access to one’s own emotional life; simple empathy for each other is not enough)
    – to accept mutuality as the form of the learning environment
    – to acknowledge the educability of emotional life and develop its practice
    – to acknowledge the limits of conceptualizable vision
    – to encourage openness to the unknown, and hum,ility and courage in its presence
    – to develop appropriate tolerance for ambiguity to fully integrate expressive creation into
    the educational mainstream to study the requirements of democratic responsibility
    – to promote habits and techniques of collaboration
    – to focus assessments of educational quality on citizens’ capacities to function within the
    requirements of democratic responsibility”

  11. Joe says:

    Well moose gemmell its nice to know that the education you received was a waste. I don’t suppose you know the difference between rates and actual numbers do you. The crime rate may be falling for all kinds of reasons including changing the reportage and classification of crime, but the fact is that it is a rate. It is in relation to the number of people in the population. I don’t know if you are capable of grasping it but 50 crimes in a population of 100 is the same rate as 100 crimes in a population of 200 except that in the latter instance there are twice as many actual crimes being committed. If we were to carry this to an extreme and assume that each crime carries a jail sentence then the scenario I drew up would require twice the number of jails. In today’s Canada the crime rate is dropping. The number of crimes is increasing.

    • moose gemmell says:

      I assume that education was wasted on Conrad as well.It is morons like Joe who are easily duped
      by the mob rule appeal of the Conservatives.

    • Attack! says:

      uh-huh. But contrary to your hyperbolizing examples, the population rate isn’t exactly doubling in today’s Canada, now, is it?

      In fact, it’s only been increasing by about 1% a year, on average, since the CPC took office in 2006 (a 5% increase from 32,723,000 then to 34,349,236 now).

      Meanwhile, the police-reported crime rate (which is the only one that matters, for this partic. discussion, since it’s the only one that leads to arrests, convictions and imprisonment) has been declining at an even faster rate (e.g., by -5% in a single year!).

      Which is why, oh, math wizard, StatCan reported that even in absolute terms, “Canadian police services reported close to 2.1 million Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic) [in 2010], approximately 77,000 fewer than in 2009”


  12. Brammer says:

    ““The mere moralistic expression of approval or disapproval, preference or detestation, is currently being used in our world as a substitute for observation and a substitute for study.”

    – Marshall McLuhan, 1967

  13. Eric-Vancouver says:

    All the education, all the reading, all the books, whatever have you; mean absolutely nothing without results. If you haven’t made a difference, if you haven’t contributed, then your education really is entirely beside the point. Heck, even if you have contributed, your education is beside the point. Aside from making you feel good about yourself, its is useless to everyone. It exists in your mind, inaccessible to us all unless it appears as accomplishment. As a lawyer this should be abundantly clear to you.

    If you have the education, but have made no contribution, the you should definitely be marginalized. If you have made a contribution, then speak of that, otherwise, do not apply. Unless of course, you are applying for an entry level position, in which case, speak freely of your education.

    I have noticed that whenever people are promoted on the basis of education, or any other non achievement related basis, it means they have no meaningful achievements.

  14. Bob Dobalina says:

    I think there is real value to re-opening the discussion of why libraries exist and how they do what they do, in light of the digital era, and finding efficiencies and re-inventing for a new age – and this is coming from a progressive leaning, pinko do-onto-others kind of guy. I imagine Margret Atwood – inventor of the virtual signature – would be okay with this, too. And Kudos to the smart thinking right-of-centre folks who want to have this conversation. The problem is, however, that the Ford’s don’t have this point of view. They have no vision other than small government. They want to cut – full stop. They don’t want to have a real discussion about how we can do things better. They just want to cut. And, as a father with two young children, and working hard to pay the mortgage and find ways to make sure my kids grow up to be smart, successful, contributing members of society, it’s just plain disappointing. It makes me sad about the city we are building – or taking apart – for them to grow up in.

  15. JH says:

    Well all this preaching to the choir is just wonderful, but as a hayseed I have to ask, who cares? Not us country bumpkins, who are in the majority. Mostly we’re voting none of the above, the elites of all parties have turned us off.
    And I still miss namesake, such an incisive scintillating personality!

    • Philip says:

      You really enjoy playing that “country bumpkin” card don’t you? If politics turns you off so much, then why drop by an explicitly political proto-blog and post how meaningless and droll it all is to you. It’s a bit like showing up at a party you weren’t invited to and loudly telling everyone how boring and pointless it all is.

      As to your contention that: “us country bumpkins, who are in the majority”, not so much. Rural populations have been in decline, Canada wide, for decades. Young Canadians are voting with their feet, leaving the small towns and farms to find jobs and opportunity.

    • The Doctor says:

      You don’t find that Attack! provides the same fix?

      • Philip says:

        In some respects yes. I just called this one as I saw it.

      • JH says:

        Nah Attack! hasn’t got the delicate touch of Namesake. And Phil given recent election results all of us country bumpkins don’t live in the rural population obviously. 🙂

        • Philip says:

          Again with the “country bumpkin” card? Really? I’m sure you will concede that the vast bulk of Canada’s population lives in urban centers. Just because you self identify as a country bumpkin doesn’t mean the voters in urban centers who went Conservative do. It’s your little identity crisis JH, try to avoid tarring others with that brush.

  16. Jason says:

    Hey Warren,

    This is not your best work. You can be populist without being stupid. In fact, I wish more of our politician, from all parties, were more populist. It is possible to engage people in an intelligent manner, and many of us voters do like the politicians that don’t treat us like dumbasses.

    One other thing, the reason that many politicians resort to stupid one liners isn’t because they are populists. It’s because they don’t understand the issues and are poor communicators.

  17. Herta says:

    Hi Craig,
    Value for money is all well and good, so is analysis, but let me tell you that many agencies are now spending more time and money “reporting” than they are in serving the public. One example was a federally funded project for which the feds flew two youngsters from Ottawa to Toronto, then drove them north to audit the books every 6 months including scrambling through every petty cash slip. Like most non-profits, we have reliable, audited statements. I don’t have a problem with opening our books to anyone who wants it, but you have to wonder when the cost of another level of government’s oversight actually equals or exceeds the so-called”grant.”

    At the provincial level especially in health, reporting is reaching ludicrous levels. Small Meals on Wheels that provide key services for isolated communities are somehow having to wade their way through a reporting system that is not only complex, but not designed for the community as the system used has been largely cribbed from the hospital sector.

    Again, I’m all for transparency and openness and value for money, but at some point you wonder just where we’re headed. Also, there are things that a “value” cannot easily be established. Personally, I think we close libraries at our peril. It’s not just about books. Someone talked about sending people to Timmy’s, Chapters or a Starbucks instead if they need a place to “be”. What this person doesn’t get is that that will cost some poor soul money and you need your own computer to log on to find a job or do some research. Libraries have gone far beyond just providing reading material in the form of books. If we really want to sentence underprivileged families to a “Mike Harris” kind of world….you know the kind of place where a pregnant young woman can die alone in a hot tiny apartment with an ankle bracelet on because she received both welfare and money for tuition. Yes sir, that’s the kind of Ontario/Canada we’re aiming for.

  18. Anne Peterson says:

    “Wisdom, like compassion often seems to require that we hold multiple realities in our consciousness at once.” It is wisdom that we don’t see in recent decision making. Look at what conservative ideology has wroght in the US and Britain. And don’t try to tell me the Blair and Clinton didn’t operate as neo conservatives. Rich folks got much, much richer and ordinary citizens got poorer and poorer and the poor got depressed and violent. Contrast this to the social democracies of northern Europe which weren’t touched by the financial crisis and aside from the recent episode in Sweden have remained fairly stable socially and economially. If we forget to be our brother’s keeper everything will get worse and worse and crash around us. It’s happening in London.

    • The Doctor says:

      2 things:

      1. “the social democracies of northern Europe which weren’t touched by the financial crisis”. Umm, apparently you haven’t heard of this place called Iceland.

      2. Secondly, you can label Tony Blair (and apparently Gordon Brown as well) neocons if you like, but the fact is that under Labour, government spending (including spending on social programs) and the size of government expanded massively.

      You seem to be positing that only “neocon” states were adversely affected by, or played a role in, the financial crisis. That’s highly debatable — is Greece “neocon”? Spain?

  19. Joe says:

    If the existence of libraries = educational levels then Edmonton has to have the greatest number of phd drunks, druggies and homeless in Canada. I along with a goodly number of reading fanatic friends avoid public libraries for fear of being mugged, spat upon or hit upon for money 15 times a minute. Fortunately there are a number of very good book stores and of course the internet to keep the intellectually curious occupied with out the hazards of the public library.

    • The Doctor says:

      Of course In Edmonton, a library has the added benefit of being a warm place to stay, which may help account for some of the clientele you describe . . .

      • Attack! says:

        Or Joe may’ve just stumbled onto an Edmonton Area Narcotics Anonymous meeting, which has a newcomers meeting every Monday night at the Edmonton Public Library … and be making a hasty conclusion as the prejudiced and fearful sort he appears to be. (Not only here, but in the other thread, when he insists without evidence that crimes are going up in absolute terms, despite the falling rate.)

        (and guess what, they also meet at, gasp, churches: better stay away from them, too:

        Not so oddly enough, his fellow Edmontonians don’t seem to agree with him, about wanting to avoid libraries because of the seedy elements.

        While I couldn’t find a stat like the Toronto one noted in the KPMG report that fully 73% of all the residents have used the public libraries (sorry, don’t know the time frame), there has been sufficient public demand to cause them to open most of the branches on Sundays, during the school year.


        p.s., joe: maybe if you don’t show such contempt and disdain to people less fortunate than you, they won’t feel compelled to spit at you.

  20. Eric-Vancouver says:

    So thats it? Go to mechanics school and they are good to work on your car? Education gets you in the door, if still can’t actually fix cars then you won’t be there for long. This is so hard to understand?

    You dont want experience, or a track record? Really? The point I am trying to make is pointed towards those that want superior results. Ditto the doctor. Do you really want one with education and not experience? Education is it? No record of having cured people, just the education is good for you? Lol.

    As I said, but with a little more clarity; your education means nothing to anyone expect for you, maybe your mother, and a prospective employer. Until it manifests itself as a desirable result, it is useless.

  21. Eric-Vancouver says:

    Eric-Vancouver. I don’t know what you’re smoking out there, but
    it’s not working.- graham watt

    Did you have a point small G graham? Please share.

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