07.13.2012 08:07 AM

Harper hate

I don’t hate Stephen Harper. (Don’t really hate anyone, in fact: when I hate someone, I’m not content to simply stew about it. I go out and do something about it.)

I was thinking about this yesterday, as I laboured to build a floating dock. (It’ll be fine as long as none of you step on it, BTW.) Harper had been very kind to my family when my Dad died, and we will never forget that.

That doesn’t mean we agree with many of his policies – we of course don’t – but we don’t see the man as evil incarnate, either.

Dan Gardner this morn on the Harper Haters:

“This [Calgary-is-best remark] reveals the prime minister’s divisiveness, people said. His arrogance. His insensitivity. Why, it’s yet more evidence that Stephen Harper is the worst prime minister. Ever. The word “fascist” may even have slipped in there somewhere. It usually does.”

Gardner goes on to say that social media is to blame for a lot of this. Unless I’m reading him wrong, he’s saying social media largely created Harper hate.

If so, he’s wrong on three counts.

One, social media doesn’t actually create anything. It’s a noisy, chaotic mirror. It simply reflects what is already there.

Two, “hate” is too strong a word. Writing for the Sun, or being a liberal on the conservative-dominated blogosweird, I get called more nasty names in a day than you will in a lifetime. But I know most of what I get isn’t hate – it’s just bad tempter, or undiagnosed mental illness. Almost always, the critics calm down; sometimes, we even end up being pen pals.

Three, Harper is a unique case. He’s not ever the norm in any baseline social media analysis. With the recent exception of Angry Tom Mulcair, Harper has practiced the politics of division more than any politician in living memory. You reap what you sow, etc.

Anyway, read Gardner. You won’t hate him for it.

I think.


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    JamesHalifax says:

    Warren, Haper hate aside…..

    Used Oil tanks make great floats for docks like that. You can pick them up at a scrapyard for about $75.

    The things are almost impossible to sink……just be sure to give them lots of paint.

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      Zed says:

      Used oil tanks? You’re just full of really, really fucking bad advice.

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        JamesHalifax says:

        Zed…one simply has to go to cottage country…there are hundreds of them used just like that. Please note…..you have to take the oil out of them first.

        I assumed anyone reading that would have the common sense to realize it. I guess I should have spelled it out for the slow folks.

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    DanO says:

    Agreed. I don’t know why people hate those with opposing viewpoints. You are entitled to your opinion as am I. I don’t think Harper is out to ruin Canada, just has a different vision for what Canada is than what I do.

    Re: Gardner, not his best column.
    But Gardner, IMO has written some of the best/ interesting articles over the last few months.

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    TDotRome says:

    I don’t think you’re completely correct on point one. Yes, social media is a mirror. Indeed, a noisy chaotic one. But, it, and all media do create, as well. Many people’s opinions are easily influenced by all media. Even set by it. Not everybody, of course. But, the first thing we hear about something is the most influential, and is often accepted as truth. It’s human nature, no? We have to teach ourselves let more information in.

    For an example, I point to Mike Wilner, who hosts Blue Jays Talk after games. He’ll says time and again that he’s amazed at how many people’s opinions are ripped right from the newspaper articles published that day.

    I think it’s easy to see how the same principle applies to social media.

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      Tim Sullivan says:

      Maybe the opinion “ripped” from the newspaper article is the article being “ripped” from the people’s opinion. Maybe that is journalism doing its job. Advertisers will tell you that ads and branding only reinforce existing viewpoints, biases and prejudices, preconceived notions, and do not create an opinion.

      The Blue Jays sports reader upon whom you rely, I doubt, is the new Marshall Mcluhan.

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    Tiger says:

    Harper played the hand he was dealt.

    He was demonized more than any Canadian pol since Brian Mulroney, and he wasn’t about to roll over and take it.

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    Ted H says:

    It has been said that love and hate are the same in the sense that you care one way or another what happens to the object of that emotion. The vitriol some people spout against Harper is no different than the vitriol ( even greater I think) that conservative minded people still spout against Pierre Trudeau. No one has to hate Harper, it fact it is better to be indifferent to him, he doesn’t matter and someday he will be gone. That doesn’t mean we cannot discuss vociferously and emotionally the long term damage he is doing to Canadian society if that is the view we hold.

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      JamesHalifax says:

      Ted H……

      I think Harper hate is misguided, but at least it shows some folks still have a passion for this country and what is going on. That can’t be said for many folks who couldn’t name a single MP, or MPP for that matter.

      It shows some people still care I suppose. At least they’re engaged.

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    GFMD says:

    There may very well be some truth to that article. but when Harper does big things like pro-rogue parliament for weeks so he can avoid following the actual will of parliament as expressed in passed motions, maybe the little things start to take on the same anti-Canadian appearance.

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    Np says:

    Warren, I agree with everything you’ve written in this post except your point about social media not creating anything. I don’t think that’s completely accurate. Perhaps “create” is a strong word but social media can and does add something. You describe social media as a “noisy, chaotic mirror” that “reflects what is already there”. I would argue it’s more accurate to describe social media (and media in general for that matter) as a guitar distortion pedal. Different distortion pedals do different things, but they all add something to the original signal: reverb, overdrive, compression, fuzz, EQ, wawa, the list goes on. Simply reflecting what’s there is one thing. What social media does (for issues and characters other than politics and politicians) is often amplification to the point of distortion. If you’re hitting an E power chord on an electric guitar, a distortion pedal WILL add something to the sound; it will add distortion and make it sound like Rock and Roll. However, if you try to play a C#maj7 Sus2 through a Big Muff, it’s just going to sound bad. And that’s Stephen Harper right there: a C#maj7 Sus2 being played through an elaborate pedal board.

    Is social media to blame for the Harper hate? Not directly. I blame Harper’s communication’s team for the lion’s share of that. However, I will say that social media has not contributed to making things any clearer (with the exception of this humble blog, of course). The overwhelmingly vast majority of social media sites and contributors are just over-driven effects pedals with their gain knobs set to 11. And if you think that doesn’t create anything, then I invite you take an electric guitar, plug it into a heavy distortion pedal, turn the volume knob on the guitar up to ten, turn the gain knobs up to 11 and stand next to an amp. Ain’t feedback a bitch? At this point, a skilled musician (read the Harper communications team) should be able to actually play something worth listening to given the instrument in hand, the effects board it’s being running it through, and audience being playing to. Or, failing that, they should at least be able to put their hands on the strings and stop the feedback from deafening everyone on stage and in the audience. For failing at that, they are to blame.

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    Darren says:

    I agree that social media doesn’t really create these things but what it does is amplify (moreso than mirror, in my opinion) what is already out there by being a system that allows for the creation of like-minded communities which foster groupthink on a huge scale. Facebook has become a giant echo-chamber generator so when these like-minded people express opinions, those opinions morph into fact. Someone says he thinks Harper is a fascist and all of a sudden it’s simply accepted as fact.
    I agree that there are many valid criticisms of Harper’s government but he’s no the End of Canada incarnate. Nor is he the “best PM Ever!”
    And a Simpsons reference is always a plus

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      The Doctor says:

      I agree, Darren, I find the groupthink aspect of political websites, blogs and social media to be very off-putting. That’s why I found Gardner’s last few paragraphs to be interesting.

      One of the things I really notice about political blogs and comment boards is how a lot of the partisans and highly opinionated types NEVER concede anything, not an inch, and NEVER admit they’re wrong about anything, even when they clearly, to any objective observer, make a factual error or grossly overstate something. That’s much less likely to happen in a real face-to-face social setting, where there tends to be more of an incentive for people to be halfway decent and respectful towards one another. There is an “uncivilizing” aspect to the internet, where people drop a lot of the trappings of plain old common decency, such as admitting when you’re clearly wrong about something, when you’ve made a mistake and when you’ve crossed the line.

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    Greg from Calgary says:

    Hey Warren

    I like your comment on the nasty things said to you online. I’ve read some of the vile stuff thrown your way on the Sun website and I’m sorry you have to put up with that stuff but I do like how you shrug it off.

    However, I came across this a few years ago and I think it explains why so many people act so crazy online.


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      Philip says:

      Now that is epic! I’m not sure an actual audience has to exist for some people. There are some who seem to have no problem screeching whatever burst of consciousness comes their way directly into the Internet. Others aspire to greater heights of fuckwadery whenever any attention (particularly negative) is sent their way.

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    smelter rat says:

    Harper is not worth hating. I do despise him though. Of course, he may simply be sociopathic, in which case I could probably muster up a sliver of sympathy for him.

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    que sera sera says:

    Dismissing the legitimate criticisms of government policies and actions by demeaning the commenters as ‘Harper haters’, ‘soar loosers’, ‘left-tards’, etc. etc. is just another form of government sanctioned abuse of democracy and citizenry.

    The fact that a Minister of the Crown saw fit to call Canadians “child pornographers” for expressing legitimate concern about a government bill tells everyone how this Conservative government views citizens commentary that isn’t bought & paid for, crafted, endorsed by and filtered through the Conservatives.

    In fact, view how another Minister of the Crown publicly attacked a private citizen over his personal living arrangements.

    Dissent and criticism of government is every Canadian citizen’s right. The government criticizing & attacking citizens is what is WRONG and raises legitimate concerns about the fascist tendencies of the Conservative government and is a reflection of their gross sense of disproportionate entitlement.

    The fact that this Conservative government obsessively & repetitively demonizes, insults & criticizes citizens & organizations (dishing it out) but can’t take any criticism in return is a further example of their puerile ineffectiveness and disruption of democracy. No government is ever paid by citizens to orchestrate attacks on citizens. Good grief.

    Harper haters? No, not at all. Another mealy-mouthed lying vindictive politician never inspires the kind of commitment “hate” requires.

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    KP says:

    I’m not sure I understand Gardner’s point here. Hatred isn’t rational.

    Harper said what any small-town politician would say to rile up his base and lord knows Stephen Taylor’s Blogging Dunning-Krugers lapped it up like turkey gravy. Stephen Harper is disliked – for a whole variety of reasons – across just about every age and interest group in Canada, which makes him unique, even among politicians.

    That said, social media isn’t to blame. He’s was a divisive figure before social media was even a twinkle in a usenet troll’s eye. I work with social media for a living and what I’ve noticed in my years of working with the medium, there is no ‘silent majority,’ everyone from every angle is pelting the landscape with their views. The majority is the majority and the fact is the majority (quite a wide one, in fact) of Canadians did not vote for Stephen Harper or his party.

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    Dan says:

    You keep repeating that Angry Tom Mulcair thing, but no one knows what the heck you’re talking about. Is this still because he repeated something he read in the Economist about the Dutch Disease?

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      JamesHalifax says:

      Dan, everyone who’s ever met Mulcair outside of the TV camera think’s the guy is perpetually angry. They used to say the same thing about Harper (and still do).

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    Terry says:

    Agreed on all three counts … I merely despise him for his divisive politics, and it’s got nothing to do with social media.

    Nice to hear he’s got a semblance of a soul, though … all those kitten had me wondering.

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    Swervin' Merv says:

    Yes, it can take the form of hate–in response to his “politics of division” and incremental dismantling of core Canadian principles and policies. (As Scott Brison once quipped, we now have “a finance minister who can’t add and a PM who can only divide.”)

    Perhaps it’s time for progressive spinners in Canada to repurpose the pop-up video, as in this latest anti-Romney one south of the border:


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    Tim Sullivan says:

    Social media, if we are talking about electronic media, like blogs, email and IM, permits anonymity, so it reduces civility. Conversely, people more quickly become attached, gain affection, over electronic media. Sites like Lava Life and Ashley Madison work better to speed up one’s feelings for the other as opposed to newspaper or introductions followed by paper writing. There is a false sense of intimacy communicated through electronic media (feelings).

    In my own experience, in its untested, non-published and not peer-reviewed observation, electronic communication (medium: email), email invokes a more emotional response than the written word on paper. My theory is that the source of the light, like a monitor or television which emits light, as opposed to paper or a chalkboard which relies on light bouncing off it and into the eye, affects different parts of the brain. My wholly untested and non-scientific theory is that email will elicit an emotional response more readily than does paper. Paper, with its indirect light source, elicits a more rational response. Email will elicit emotion (anger) while a newspaper will make one think (critical analysis).

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    Inge says:

    I don’t usually hate anyone either, but if someone so obviously despises and wants to destroy all I cherish and hold dear, what else can I do but hate back (yes, I can leave and I am seriously considering it). The meek? Far from inheriting the earth, they go straight to destruction and oblivion – see Mr. Dion and Mr. Ignatieff who were hated personally and did not hate back. If you enjoy becoming a defeated doormat, by all means, be meek in response to born haters like Harper.

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