Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Justin Trudeau: The Face that Launched a Thousand Attack Ads

In the world of politics, the mud your enemies sling at you can sometimes say more about them than it does about you. Such is the case with the Conservative Party of Canada's ceaseless attack ads aimed at Justin Trudeau. Ever since Trudeau was elected leader of the Liberal Party in April of 2013, the Conservatives have kept up a steady barrage of radio and TV ads that portray him as someone who's unfit to be a leader.

The first item of interest with these ads is that the Tories seem to have no interest in going after Thomas Mulcair, the actual Official Leader of the Opposition. If you weren't familiar with Canadian politics you'd swear that Trudeau was the opposition leader. All of the Harper government's fear and fury is directed at Trudeau, which is an admission that he's the one most likely to cause damage to the Conservative majority in the next election. The Tories were so concerned about Trudeau that they began the attack ads within days of him becoming Liberal leader, which is a bit panicky since the next election won't take place until 2016. But on the other hand it's not very surprising given the Stalinist character of the Stephen Harper regime. Harper seems to be filled with loathing and fear when it comes to opposition or dissent of any kind. He has famously muzzled government scientists from saying anything that might contradict the official Tory line that global warming is a fairy tale, oil pipelines are underground nature trails, and the tar sands are run by Willy Wonka. Harper believes that his real and perceived enemies must be harried and slandered constantly. All this is in addition to the equally constant Tory propaganda ads that masquerade as info pieces about government programs (my piece on that scandal here). The air of cold sweat paranoia that hangs over Harper's government and its attack ads is breathtaking in its intensity. Here's a sample:

The anti-Trudeau attack ads have three goals; the first is to argue that Justin is simply too inexperienced for the role of PM. One ad blends Trudeau quotes that make him sound shallow or clueless with snippets from his CV that purport to show he's unqualified for the country's top job. A comparison with Harper's CV reveals that Harper came into office with even less to recommend him. After graduation from university, Harper went straight into the warm, amniotic fluid of right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups. For a  brief time he headed the National Citizens Coalition, a single-purpose lobbying group that only exists to write screechy press releases about the horrors of big government and taxes. In short, Harper has never callused his hands with anything other than work for various right-wing entities, and his most famous quote from this period is his complaint (to an American audience) that "Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it." And a quick glance through a list of his public utterances before he was elected show that he was happy to flirt with the idea of a separate Alberta. Trudeau has never made any anti-Canadian statements, he has two degrees (he was working on a third when he quit to go into politics) to Harper's one, and he spent a few years working as a high school teacher. Although to be fair, Thomas Mulcair wins any battle of the CVs between the three leaders.

More curious, and more revealing of Harper's psyche, is the attack ad's attempt to portray Trudeau as weak and effeminate by showing him strolling some kind of catwalk (a charity fundraiser for the Canadian Liver Foundation), and then having his name drawn across the screen in a font normally found on the covers of women's romance novels. This is the Justin Trudeau who has a wife and three kids, and who in a charity boxing event beat the crap out of Patrick Brazeau, a senator with the burly body of a bouncer (and a Harper appointee who has since been suspended from the Senate on fraud charges). One look at Harper tells you that the worst beating he ever handed out was to a box of butter tarts. Harper likes to do his manliness by proxy; previous PMs made do with minimal security details, but one of Harper's first moves was to give himself a security crew befitting a Third World tyrant: armoured limos and lots of muscly guys with mics in their ears. Add in the Harper government's fondness for military adventures and ceremonies, and you have a portrait of a PM who seems to be overcompensating for something. And let's not forget his narcissistic rebranding of the Government of Canada as the "Harper Government", or his taste in decorating which includes wall-to-wall portraits of himself on every available surface. Harper comes across as man who never got over being wedgied in high school by members of the football team, and who has troubles on the home front that a deferential Canadian press has swept under the rug. All of Harper's repressed anger and resentment seems to come out in the attack ad, which screams out as an example of the revenge of the nerds against the cool kid in school.

The Dear Leader happily contemplates pictures of Himselfness.
The most recent attack ad (I've only heard the radio version) has a "mother" (actually an actor) worrying that Trudeau wants to make it easier for kids to get marijuana. The worried mom concludes that Justin isn't the kind of person who's fit to be a leader. Ironically, days after the attack ads aired the Tories floated the idea of softer penalties for cannabis possession. Hypocrisy in politics isn't new or exclusive to the Tories, but this latest ad shows their pathological fear and hatred of Trudeau, who is in line with public opinion on the issue of marijuana.

I'm no fan of Justin Trudeau (as usual, I'll be voting NDP in the next election), but the unending vilification of him by the Tories speaks volumes about the bullying, juvenile attitude of the party and its leader. The treatment that's being meted out to Trudeau is just one more symptom of Harper's essentially anti-democratic philosophy. Whether it's proroguing Parliament or bringing in an unfair "Fair Elections Act" or deriding Trudeau's ambition to lead the country, Harper is making it clear that he's the one lacking leadership qualities, but he's perfect in the role of ruler.

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