Categories for Feature

The police, the Crown and the AG “have done nothing” about that Nazi rag

Your Ward News, to be precise. And the Toronto Police Service, and the Crown, and the Attorney-General, HAVE DONE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT THAT FOUL NAZI HATE RAG.

And many, many of us ARE SICK OF WAITING FOR ACTION.

AND WE ARE GOING TO MAKE THIS INTO AN ELECTION ISSUE, MUNICIPALLY AND PROVINCIALLY, IF SOMETHING DOESN’T HAPPEN DAMN SOON.

(Sorry for the all caps, folks, but I am so tired of waiting for these people to do their jobs.)

The CJN story is here:

“Hell just got a little more crowded,” author, lawyer and political consultant Warren Kinsella declared during a panel discussion on confronting Holocaust denial on Nov. 6.

Kinsella was referring to the death earlier this year of the infamous Holocaust denier, Ernst Zundel, who lived in Canada from 1958 to 2000 and founded a publishing house that issued neo-Nazi pamphlets with titles like, Did Six Million Really Die? The Truth At Last.

The talk, which was part of the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre’s Holocaust Education Week programming, was held at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Kinsella, whose 1994 book Web of Hate: Inside Canada’s Far Right Network is considered a seminal work on white supremacy in Canada, argued that the tactic of ignoring Zundel and his kind is dangerous.

“He wouldn’t and he didn’t go away,” Kinsella stressed, “and his foul legacy is still felt in this city and this country today.”

He showed the audience photocopied pages from the Toronto-area publication Your Ward News, which is known for publishing vitriolic content that attacks Jews, Muslims, women and other minority groups.

Kinsella and his wife have launched a private prosecution against the paper’s publisher and editor.

Pointing out pro-Hitler images in the publication, Kinsella said that, “This isn’t from Zundel’s presses. It’s happening right now … and the Toronto Police Service has done nothing about it.”


Column: when going neg goes wrong

Go neg, sure.

But don’t fib.

The Working Families group has a new ad out.  If you live in Ontario, you’ve likely seen it.  If you don’t, you haven’t.  But the ad is worth talking about, because of the issues it raises.

Working Families describes itself as a group that was “created by members of the labour movement with the goal of making voters aware of policies that were threatening the well-being of working families across Ontario.”  It doesn’t like conservatives very much.

Working Families has been around for a while.  Before and during Ontario elections, it ran lots of ads going after the Progressive Conservatives.  Even though I was the guy who ran Dalton McGuinty’s war rooms in 2003, 2007 and 2011, I can tell you that I was never a big fan.

The media assumed, wrongly, that we Ontario Liberals were secretly working with Working Families.  I’d never met the shadowy figures behind Working Families, however. I couldn’t pick them out of a police line-up – which is where most PCs thought they belonged.

Their ads, I thought, were ham-fisted and off-message.  As the Ontario Liberal war room guy, I didn’t need the media always suggesting that we were covertly conspiring with some US-style dirty tricks operation to get around Ontario election law.  But that’s what Working Families ad campaigns did, more than anything else: they made our job harder.

For Ontario Liberals, Working Families new ad campaign is going to create even more trouble.  Among other things, it’s dumb.

It’s only 30 second long, but it packs a lot of bullshit into that half-minute.

Now, it says, correctly, that Donald Trump’s election has caused “suffering.” It says, accurately, that Brexit is causing “chaos.”

But then the spot shows an unflattering photo of Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown, over ominous-sounding music.  It says he’s against marriage equality and increasing the minimum wage and working families.  “Now Patrick Brown promises change,” goes the ad.  You know: Donald Trump-style “change.”

So.

Forget about the fact that Brown has lately marched in innumerable pride parades, now loudly favours gay marriage, and wants to see the minimum wage increased, too.  Forget about all that.

The main allegation in the Working Families ad is that Patrick Brown is basically the Great White North version of Donald Trump, the Mango Mussolini.

I’m a big fan of tough campaign ads.  I’ve put together quite a few of them over the years.  I’ve written books about them. When polled, people will always say they don’t like “negative political ads.”

But that, to me, is letting language do our thinking for us.  If you ask any sentient being if something “negative” is “positive,” they’ll obviously say no.  Nobody likes car crashes, either, I like to say.  But they always slow down to take a look, don’t they?

Because the media scrutinize attack ads like no other form of political communication – and because voters don’t want to admit they’ve been motivated by an attack – attack ads must be 100 per cent accurate.  There can’t be anything in them that is factually wrong.  Nothing.

In the 2000 federal Liberal campaign, for example, a colleague and I spent an entire day agonizing over whether the placement of an ellipsis in a quote in an attack ad was going to get us in trouble.  And it did.  The impact of the ad was lost to a ton of process stories.

The campaign crew helping out Kathleen Wynne are the ones who cooked up the federal Grits’ “soldiers in the streets” spots in 2006.  Those ads, more than any other factor, contributed to Stephen Harper’s subsequent victory.  Because they were bullshit.

The Working Families ad is bullshit.  The notion that Patrick Brown – who has voted with the Liberals on every single tolerance/diversity issue in the Legislature – is Donald Trump is, well, crazy.  And anyone making that claim, with a straight face, is either fibbing or stupid.  Or both.

Go neg, for sure.  It isn’t ever wrong to criticize the public record of an opponent seeking high public office.

But don’t lie about it. Because those rotten eggs you want to throw at your opponent?

They’re going to bounce off him, and hit you.

 

 

 


Baby, you’re a rich man

It’s hard to keep track of political revelations in the Trump era, true.  But back in August. you may recall that The New Yorker’s award-winning political writer, Ryan Lizza, published a big story about Donald Trump’s anti-Semitic, white supremacist muse, Steve Bannon:

Bannon has become friends with Gerald Butts, a longtime political adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. They met in New York during the transition and now talk regularly. Bannon sees Butts as a sort of left-wing version of himself. Last year, as the Prime Minister’s popularity was in decline, Trudeau pushed through a tax hike on the rich, and it helped him rebound.

Bannon wants to sell the idea politically by arguing that it would actually hit left-wing millionaires in Silicon Valley, on Wall Street, and in Hollywood. Bannon is one of the few Republicans in Washington actually to consider what has long been backed up by polling: many working-class voters who support Republicans are in favor of higher taxes on the rich. “There’s nothing better for a populist than a rich guy raising taxes on rich guys,” Butts told Bannon.

PMO never disavowed that story, and Butts didn’t tell The New Yorker’s fact-checkers what Lizza wrote was wrong.  So we can accept it as the truth.

The notion that Gerald would “become friends” with a known white supremacist and anti-Semite actually broke my heart, but that’s a story for another day.  The part that really interested me was that quote:  “There’s nothing better for a populist than a rich guy raising taxes on rich guys.”

Practice what you preach, goes the saying.  So, up here in The Great White North, of course, what Justin Trudeau’s top advisor was telling Donald Trump’s then-top-advisor to do was exactly what the Trudeau Liberals were doing – they were rich guys, raising taxes on other rich guys.

They said they’d do it in their platform, and in their budget, and on the hustings, they reminded us: rich guys were going to be targeted.

The Trudeau guys are not noted for their subtlety.  If they could get away with printing a budget on a pair of Star Wars socks, they’d do it, and then they’d put it up on Instagram.  So, to ensure we didn’t miss the arc of their narrative, Trudeau dressed up as Superman for Halloween, and Bill Morneau actually likened himself to Batman.  They were the millionaire superheroes, you see, saving the middle class from millionaires less philanthropic than them.

But the details got in the way, as they always do.  Morneau’s tax changes unfairly targeted small business, not big businesses like his.  Revenue Canada said it would start going after waitresses for their tips, and retail clerks for the clothes on their backs.  And then the whole thing ended in farce, with a secret French villa, set up to avoid the reach of tax collectors back here in the colonies.

The Conservatives, being led by a remarkably unremarkable fellow who also plays footsie with white supremacists and anti-Semites, shouldn’t be benefitting from all this.  He’s a dud, a nobody who has done nothing.  But, according to not a few pollsters, now, he’s competitive.  A Forum poll, this morning, says he’s been ahead of Justin Trudeau for months – right around the time that Bill Morneau started advocating against millionaires like him.

Voters will forgive lots of stuff.  But, to them, no sin is greater than hypocrisy.  As that pedophilic Republican Roy Moore is discovering the hard way, your personal life better reflect your public life, or else. Voters hate hypocrites.

That’s why Messrs. Trudeau and Morneau are in some trouble: they are rich guys who said they’d go after other rich guys.  But they went after the little guys instead.

There are a lot more votes on Main Street than Bay Street, as the smart progressive populists – Bill Clinton, Jean Chretien, Barack Obama – knew.  They always took care to be seen in Harvey’s and McDonald’s, and not the Ritz.

The Trudeau government is in some trouble.  It’s true.  And they’re in trouble not because they’re rich guys.  Politics is full of rich guys.

They’re in trouble because they didn’t, you know, hide it very well. And they’re in trouble because they said they’d do one thing – to Steve Bannon, no less! – and then they did precisely the opposite.

Can they recover? Sure.  But they need to smarten up.


Go neg, sure. But don’t lie.

Here’s a little snippet from next week’s column, about this ad.

Because the media scrutinize attack ads like no other form of political communication – and because voters don’t want to admit they’ve been motivated by an attack – attack ads must be 100 per cent accurate.  There can’t be anything in them that is factually wrong.  Nothing.

In the 2000 federal Liberal campaign, for example, a colleague and I spent an entire day agonizing over whether the placement of an ellipsis in a quote in an attack ad was going to get us in trouble.  And it did.  The impact of the ad was lost to a ton of process stories.

The campaign crew helping out Kathleen Wynne are the ones who cooked up the federal Grits’ “soldiers in the streets” spots in 2006.  Those ads, more than any other factor, contributed to Stephen Harper’s subsequent victory.  Because they were bullshit.

The Working Families ad is bullshit.  The notion that Patrick Brown – who has voted with the Liberals on every single tolerance/diversity issue in the Legislature – is Donald Trump is, well, crazy.  And anyone making that claim, with a straight face, is either a liar or stupid.  Or both.


#RecipeForHate featured in Publisher’s Weekly!

Their story below – and their review, which called my new book a “riveting, unflinching page-turner,” here.

YA Novel Inspired by 1980s Punks Who Brought Down Neo-Nazis

Warren Kinsella has been a persistent figure in Canadian politics and media for decades, as a strategist for various Liberal Party politicians, and even working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He has also been a commentator in newspapers including the Globe and Mail and the National Post, and is now a partner with Daisy Consulting Group, a consulting and crisis management firm in Toronto. But as a teenager in mid-’70s Calgary, Kinsella was deeply entrenched in the punk music scene, as a member of a band called the Hot Nasties. 

He has written a handful of adult nonfiction books over the years — Web of Hate: Inside Canada’s Far Right Network and Fury’s Hour: A (sort-of) Punk-Rock Manifesto, among others — whose titles form a logical path to his newest book, his first young adult novel. Recipe for Hate (Dundurn), available now in Canada and next month in the U.S., is a murder mystery set in Portland, Maine, about a group of punks in the ’70s dealing with their community’s “anti-punk hysteria” and the fallout after two of their friends are murdered by a gang of neo-Nazis.

According to Kinsella, the book is inspired by the Silent Brotherhood, a white supremacist terrorist group that he covered in the 1980s as a reporter for the Calgary Herald. The theme of neo-Nazis, however, is one that he’s unfortunately seeing echoes of again today. 

“The election of Trump and the passage of Brexit have obviously made it easier for these hate groups to be active and prominent. They’re bolder now than ever before,” Kinsella said. “And that’s because, in my opinion, Trump is a white supremacist and a bigot, and many of the people who supported him and are involved with him have the same views. The book’s timing is perfect to warn people about how these groups work and how they are a danger to civil society.”

Recipe for Hate — named for a Bad Religion song — launches a trilogy of books, with the second title, New Dark Ages, expected next fall. Kinsella said it takes place with the same group of people at a later period in time, and features a character “who looks and sounds an awful lot like Donald Trump.”


The intangible, impracticable, irrational National: ten reasons it fails

The missus was away.  The dogs had been let out.  I had a Man Cold. I’d finished the Holocaust Week panel at the ROM.  So I collapsed on the couch at Chez Kinsella and turned on the new and improved National on CBC.

So.

Here are my ten observations, in no particular order.

  1. Four anchors?  Seriously?  That’s not a newscast, that’s a sequel to Split, the movie.  Multiple personality disorder makes for memorable horror flicks, but not so much a serious newscast.
  2. The sum of the four is less than one part.  I’m sorry, CBC, but Ian Hanomansing is not just better than the other three – he’s actually one of the best newsreaders on Earth. He is authentic, he is authoritative.  The others simply aren’t.  Sorry.
  3. It’s too busy.  It feels disjointed and disorganized.  It feels chaotic. Just when you get the hang of one of the anchors, another one would pop up on your screen.  That’s not a newscast – that’s 90s-era MTV, folks.  Which, um, no longer exists.
  4. The graphics bugged me.  They are too big, and too simplistic. I could almost picture the moderator at the CBC focus groups: “Hey! Our viewers are vision-impaired mental defectives, so let’s communicate with them with two-syllable words in 100-point fonts!”
  5. It was seriously unserious.  Why did viewers stick with folks like Walter Cronkite or Lloyd Robertson or Knowlton Nash or Lisa LaFlamme?  Because, per above, those people radiate authenticity and authority.  They are serious people, talking about serious stuff.  They have gravitas. Precious few people have that – and Hanomansing is one.
  6. It was CNN-y. And possibly not in a good way.  On CNN, everything is BREAKING NEWS, which eventually means that nothing is BREAKING NEWS.  CBC isn’t making that mistake, yet, but it has already adopted another regrettable CNN tactic: journalists interviewing journalists, instead of having journalists doing, you know, journalism.  The segments with Paul Hunter, Keith Boag and Gillian Findlay were like that, and therefore kind of meh.  Ipso facto: stop talking about the news.  Show me the news.
  7. The set looks like it was designed by Sprockets.  (Am I dating myself? You remember Sprockets, don’t you? Mike Myers on SCTV, black turtlenecks, all Bauhaus-y. Funny. Okay, I am dating myself.)  It was all blacks and blues and angular and about as inviting as a two-day celebration of Blank Verse.  Probably cost a jillion dollars.
  8. Click schtick.  Early on, CBC seemed to be intent on making the National a revolutionary new content provider for its myriad online platforms.  They may still be planning to do that, but – to be sure – I clicked over the main CBC web page this morning, and it looks the same as it did yesterday.  No change.
  9. TV is pictures. That’s what George Frajkor taught me long ago at Cartoon U., and I never forgot it.  TV IS PICTURES, he’d holler, and we’d all nod.  TV is an emotional medium, one that works best when it is delivering powerful visuals.  Not, I note, journalists talking with journalists about the news, instead showing us the news.
  10. It didn’t blow me away.  And, with their ratings plummeting ever-downward, it needed to.  The new and improved National looked like the tall foreheads at CBC didn’t want to make any actual decisions – about one anchor, about one format, about one feel to it all – so they just threw everything into the blender, and are expecting us all to consume the results.

My hunch?  We won’t.


In the Sun: the Recipe For Hate

Life imitates fiction, sometimes, and not in ways that you’d expect.

This week, for example, I published a book called Recipe For Hate. It’s a novel.

Without giving away the plot, I can reveal that Recipe For Hate is about fanatics insinuating themselves into positions of power and influence. It’s about radicals clashing in the streets. And it’s about some people believing that extremism can be a virtue.

Sound familiar?

As I was writing the book, I would love to say that I foresaw Brexit, President Donald Trump, and the rise of extremism on the Left and the Right – extremism that resulted in murder in places like Charlottesville. But I didn’t. 

Last week, when touring to promote Recipe For Hate, I ran into my friend Adrienne Batra, editor-in-chief of the Toronto Sun. She suggested I write a column about how, nowadays, life is indeed imitating art.  
There are three reasons for the political and social upheaval we are seeing across the Americas and Western Europe. Three reasons for why our assumptions about politics have been upended.

One, the racist Right – whose leaders this newspaper has long been at the forefront of exposing, by the way – have gotten smarter. Starting with Knights of the Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, far Right haters have dispensed with the Klansmen’s robes and the cross burnings. They have changed their public image. Now, they march in polo shirts and carry Tiki torches – and they offer slogans that are “pro white” and not “anti” minorities.

These racist leaders have studied, and copied, the proven PR techniques of mainstream political parties. They have presented a kinder, gentler face to the media and the voting public, and it has paid off (see Trump, Brexit, above).

Two, their timing has been impeccable. In the Seventies, the extremists railed against fluoridation and the metric system. In the Eighties, it was abortion and gay rights. In the nineties and beyond, however, the racist Right have targeted immigrants and refugees. And it’s paid dividends, in a big, big way.

It isn’t racist, of course, to oppose higher levels of immigration. It isn’t intolerant to want to debate how many refugees a country wishes to welcome.

But a variety of factors – Middle Eastern wars, Islamic extremism, severe climate change – have resulted in millions of immigrants and refugees looking for better places to live. Many North Americans and Western Europeans have grown uneasy about the immigrant wave. And that, more than any other factor, has resulted in stunning political change – from Brexit in the U.K., to the National Front in France, to Trump in the U.S. 

Thirdly and finally, the fanatics at the fringes know that solutions, these days, are pretty hard to come by. In 2017, the challenges we all face are complex, as are the solutions. So, the “alt-Rightists” and the “white nationalists” offer simple and seductive promises. They push emotional buttons, not moral ones.

And that’s why the haters are on the march, everywhere.

I wish I had foreseen all of that when I wrote Recipe For Hate, but I didn’t.

Now that Western society is being shaken to its foundations, however, all of us will be affected, in one way or another.

And that’s not fiction.

Warren Kinsella is the author of Recipe For Hate, published across North America and Europe by Dundurn Press.


Holocaust Education Week event, in pictures


Sold dozens of books, and had the great honour to meet some extraordinary people, including Holocaust survivors. Quite a night.