Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Politics is a show.

I think, by now, that's something we all know. At least, those of us who are engaged enough to pay attention between elections - which is a small, SMALL minority of us. (Lucky for me, most of the people who read this blog would fall into that category, so the hatemail should be minimized)

It's a carefully scripted dance, played out for us in front of the cameras to inspire us to cheer for the "good guys", vilify the "bad guys", and - most importantly - convince us to put our cash and our ballot towards our favourites.

Don't get me wrong - the acts of governance and opposition DO matter. When the lights are on and the cops are still doing their jobs, that's a sign that the system is working, despite the fact that the way we CHOOSE our leaders is akin to the way we choose the next Canadian Idol winner - with the notable exception that a lot more of us tend to get much more excited about and more interested in the Canadian Idol contestants. The jobs these people do matter - just ask the Greeks.

But the scripted interplay and faux outrage in the political game is still just that - scripted, and put-on for the cameras.

Take one incident this week, when Danielle Smith, Leader of the Official Opposition, publicly agreed with a Twitter user who had wondered aloud why XL Foods would throw out beef that it wasn't allowed to sell, rather than cook it thoroughly and donate it to shelters and food banks.

The response - which you've no doubt heard by now - was almost immediate.

"Wildrose leader suggests feeding tainted meat to the poor!"

"'Let them eat (tainted) beef!', cries Danielle Antoinette."

"Feed the poor the meat that rich people like Danielle wouldn't touch with a 10-metre pole - what a snob!"

... and the list goes on.

The thing is...  Danielle didn't mean that at all. And nobody - not even her ideological opposite, NDP Leader Brian Mason, ACTUALLY thought she meant that. Mason started the outrage and backlash on Twitter, and other New Democrats picked up on it before it took on a life of its own, but even Mason would admit he knew exactly what Smith meant.

But this isn't about what she MEANT. It's about the APPEARANCE of what she meant. Because politics is a show, and Mason saw an opening, and he took it.

Nobody I've talked to, of any political persuasion, actually thinks Smith wants to feed tainted meat to Alberta's poor. But of course, those admissions are all off-the-record. ON-the-record, she's a reckless right-winger who doesn't understand the poor in this province. Because politics is a show. It's a game, and the object is to score points with the uninformed majority which decides elections.

The really appalling part of this for me, though, isn't that representatives of the other parties aren't willing to stand up and get Smith's back on this. It'd be the HONEST thing to do, but that's not the way politics works, and I get that (though, it SHOULD be how politics works). After all, if the shoe were on the other foot, and it had been Brian Mason or Raj Sherman or Alison Redford making the PR gaffe, the Wildrose twitter warriors would have been screaming to high heaven, with Smith at the front of the line.

The part that disturbs me the most about this is that, if the shoe WERE on the other foot, a lot of the Wildrose folks criticizing Redford would actually believe they were telling the truth.

Not ALL of them, to be sure. I'm lucky to call several long-time Wildrose members friends, and they're perfectly rational people who honestly want what's best for Alberta. I'd like to think the majority of their fellow party members are the same way.

But SOME of them - hopefully, none of the ones who successfully won election in April - honestly believe that Alison Redford wants to destroy Alberta. I've talked to some of these people, too. They actually believe that she intends to embezzle public funds, and funnel them to her friends. They believe she wants the province to take your children away, and brainwash them. They believe she wants to spend the Heritage Trust Fund on a provincial gun registry, before taking away all guns completely. They believe she wants to force your kids to attend gay weddings, and raise taxes to 60%, and that she wants to HURT Alberta so she can run for the Federal Liberal Leadership.

I don't know how you deal with someone who has so completely committed them self to drinking the kool-aid.

These are the talking points you throw at undecideds. They're the comments you post at the bottom of an article on the Sun's website. They're the toss-away lines you include in your phone call to Rutherford when you know you're the last caller and it's the top of the hour and the subject is changing after the news.

I get that. It's part of the game. And the PC's played that game just as well as - if not better than - anyone else during the provincial campaign.

But to actually BELIEVE this stuff...

THAT is the tragic inevitability of this show.

When you get so used to spewing bullcrap that you can't remember what the truth is anymore.

These are flawed humans honestly trying to improve the province. They disagree on details, and how to manage things, but they're all trying to make things better. Alison, Danielle, Raj, Brian... ALL of them.

If you're so wrapped up in the show that you start to believe what you're hearing is REAL... then you've got "Dome Disease", as Ralph called it, and you need to focus on more realistic shows.

Like professional wrestling.

And even in THAT, the performers, and most of the fans, know it's a "work".

And if you DON'T understand it's just a show, they have a word for you, too...

It's "mark". An old carny term for "sucker".

Don't be one.

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