Monday, April 23, 2012

Mr. Kinsella and the Poisoning of discourse. . . .

For a long time now we have grown accustomed to the Conservative Party poisoning the political discourse of the nation. It has become so commonplace for the Harpercons to feed the nation pictures of opposition leaders with birds pooping on them or as representing sinister foreign forces that we hardly blink an eye when we see another starkly personal and negative add from our sitting government, thus lowering the standards of politics and the expectations of people, particularly young people who are abandoning the political system in droves.

Of course, poison politics is obviously not the sole realm of the Conservative Party. But the more that a governing party in particular uses Karl Rove style politics, the worse things will get at all levels of our political culture. Poison slowly creeps in at every level of political discourse and it infects us all, particularly when it is subtle and sinisterly noxious.

In recent months it has become clear to me that one of the nation's most famous and recognized Liberal bloggers is gradually being recognized for the negative, toxic discourse in which he engages. The blogger (and he likes to say that his blog site is not a blog site at all) is, of course, the notorious Warren Kinsella. While continually arguing for more political cooperation between the Liberal Party of Canada and the NDP, Mr. Kinsella seldoms tires of aiming his toxic discourse at the very party he seems to want to woo toward a merger.

I actually find the discourse of Mr. Kinsella considerably more offensive than that practiced by the Conservatives because one generally knows where the Conservatives (bloggers as well as professionals) are coming from. Mr. Kinsella's discourse is, however, considerably more subtle and attempts to portray itself as either purely defensive or indignantly justifiable. In one of today's posts we have a typical example of Mr. Kinsella's language. In the face of a looming budget vote here in Ontario Mr. Kinsella is indignant that Andrea Horwath, the leader of the provincial NDP, has the gall to attempt to influence government policy, a practice that I suspect he would be equally swift to defend if it were his party trying to pursue their interests in a generally accepted and traditionally practiced political strategy. Asking for certain policies or spending strategies to be included in a budget in order to receive support for the budget is more than simply common practice during minority governments, it is good practice which encourages discourse and compromise. Mr. Kinsella, however, choses to use the language of criminal activity in relation to this practice, suggesting that Ms Horwath is "issuing randsom notes" to force the government to accept her demands. Language is a powerful thing and the portrayal of the NDP as kidnappers and criminals is profoundly toxic, particularly when we consider the parliamentary traditions and the particular kinds of demands that Ms Horwath is making. Even the Globe and Mail (no particular friend of the NDP) portrays Ms Horwath's actions in a proper light saying "Ms Horwath has taken pains to convey that she prefers to influence policy rather than force another election."  While the G&M is using fairly neutral discourse, Mr. Kinsella's discourse is precisely the kind that has poisoned our political atmosphere. He is not attacking a particular policy of a sitting government or a divisive or unacceptable political strategy, rather he is using language that portrays a perfectly acceptable practice, (and one that he would surely advocate if his party was on the other side), as no less than criminal.

Don't get me wrong, there are times when inflammatory language can be justified and is even, perhaps, necessary, and I have certainly fallen victim to the occasional outburst. However, what we are talking about here is a conscious and concerted effort to discredit a political opponent for actions which Mr. Kinsella would certainly not oppose under different circumstances. And even if one does oppose such actions on principle (which I have never heard anyone do), these are certainly not immoral or unseemly types of actions.

For most people, none of this comes as a surprise. Kinsella is one of many political operatives whose style and approach has always been thus. And such people tend not only to belittle all opponents regardless of the intent or style of those opponents, they also wave off such criticisms with remarks like "if you can't stand the political heat, get out of the kitchen." And this is what such people have reduced our political culture to - a discourse of criminality for any and all disagreement.

We will never heal our political culture as long as such practices are ubiquitous and accepted. And we will never move forward with a society and and a political system that works. When governments and parties practice anti-democratic and abusive strategies and policies, by all means leave no stone unturned when dealing with their abuse. But when people are actively looking for compromise with policies that clearly seek to help the more vulnerable in society, it is nothing short of immoral to paint them with a brush of criminality.

13 comments:

doconnor said...

"a practice that I suspect he would be equally swift to defend if it were his party trying to pursue their interests"

Probably, but curiously during the Federal Conservative minority the Liberals never once tried to influence government policy.

kirbycairo said...

That is not really true doconnor because we must surely consider the threat to bring down the government and form a coalition if the Harpercons refused to bring in a stimulus plan as an effort to "influence government policy." If one was going to call anything a "ransom note" it is surely this. But interestingly, this is probably the only significant example during the period in which the Liberals were the official opposition with Harper as PM. I suspect this is surely a demonstration that the LPC largely agreed with most Conservative policies.

Anonymous said...

Look, pal, nobody (not even family members) is as obsessed by what I write as you are. You seemingly can't help yourself. If it's so awful, fuck off. Simple.

Your good friend,

Warren K

Cliff said...

He is once again displaying the always lovely Liberal sense of entitlement. Remember the indignantly quivering wattles and angry shock that the new Federal official opposition actually expected the Natural Governing Party to give up their Opposition offices when they became the third party? When will the NDP learn to do what the Liberals do - and always put the Liberal Party first?

kirbycairo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kirbycairo said...

Above you see the poison in action, in the expectedly vulgar reaction by Mr. Kinsella. I was simply engaged in a (non-vulgar) and reasoned response to an influential Liberal Blogger, and what do I receive in response, more vulgarity! I guess I touched a nerve.

Though I am hesitant to respond so such typically Liberal vulgarity, I still feel compelled to do so.

First, I have commented on Mr. Kinsella's work a total of twice or three times in hundreds of Blogposts. If this constitutes "obsession" in Mr. Kinsella's mind it is small wonder that he engages so readily in vulgarity. Second, I indeed can't help myself in calling out those who poison our political atmosphere and culture, I should not and will not apologize for that. Third, it is typical of such a political operative to suggest that people should "F**k off" rather than do the responsible thing, ie., question the poison, toxic, vitriol that they spread. I suggest that if Mr. Kinsella is so offended by the few (non-vulgar) words of an insignificant blogger such as myself, that he would be driven to this swift and vitriolic response, he is surely too sensitive to be adopting such a public setting for his political opinions.

I am sure that Karl Rove would have loved all his political opponents to "F**k off. I will not "F**k off, I will continue to be a socially responsible man who is willing to engage in real discourse. But it amazes and saddens me that a successful lawyer, author, and political advisor would be so quickly reduced to swearing at an entirely unknown, little read, blogger with no party political affiliation. Sad is the only word that describes it.

doconnor said...

The coalition plan was a (perfectly legitimate) attempt to replace the government rather then influence it. In a minority both replacing or influencing the government is possible. In Ontario the NDP isn't in the position to replace the government, being the third party with no realistic partners.

It that anonymous poster really Mr. Kinsella or a support (or opponent) posing as him? I find it hard to believe a prominent political commentator would show himself to be such a fool.

kirbycairo said...

I would still disagree with you doconnor for the simple reason that the Liberal Party said that they demanded a stimulus package or they would vote against the Budget and they eventually let the budget pass de facto without opposition, making sure that enough Liberals were absent that the budget would pass.

Furthermore, if we go back one more year, in fact the Liberal Party only agreed to support the 2009 budget if the Conservative agreed to support an amendment that called for regular reports to Parliament on costing. And the Liberal did, in fact, vote for that budget.

Lastly, I have every reason to believe that the reply is actually from Mr. Kinsella. It has all the earmarks of the short, sharp answers that he issues regularly to those who oppose him. I know other bloggers who have been treated in a similar fashion and was once treated to a similar outburst by Mr. Kinsella when I left a comment on his blog that the didn't like.

kirbycairo said...

By the Way doconnor, the funniest aspect of the Kinsella affair was that on the very day that he posted a blog criticizing someone for leaving a comment on his site that contained sloppy English, he left a comment on mine with a grammatical error.

Anonymous said...

Kinsella has anger issues

just the opinion of someone who is relatively new to the blogsophere, he seems to love getting into pissing matches

kirby 1 kinsella 0

oh, and his behaviour is turning me off the liberal party even more!

kirbycairo said...

Thank you for your support Anonymous - indeed there seems to be some anger issues here. I think I will write a blogpost on the vulgar machismo of Canadian politics.

thwap said...

I was going to say that some people might say that you're making a big deal out of nothing, but that they're wrong, and you are right.

Calling acceptable and time-honoured parliamentary traditions "coups" or "crimes" betrays a visceral contempt for our heritage.

Kinsella/anonymous's idiotic comment only shows how debased their democratic sensibilities are.

janfromthebruce said...

KC, just catching up on old posts of yours and I very much liked this post: perhaps their are those political operators who pretend to be indignant about poisoned discourse but in reality, they allows them to act in a way they like. Thus they embrace "any means" justifying the "desired ends".