Comedy as spin


Like many Canadians I am a big fan of This Hour Has 22 Minutes. The sketches are bang on and the comedians know exactly where the Canadian funny-bone is. This Hour and Air Farce began a fad where actual politicians would appear in skits and help make fun of themselves. On the bright side, such a ploy can make politicians – who we usually only see on TV – seem more like one of us. I thought the idea was funny at first, and now I am rather worried. Comedic farce may have morphed into cynical Public Relations spin. Has even comedy as a communication forum succumbed to PR spin techniques?

On a recent show, comedian Rick Mercer did a skit in which he was just another kid in the Stephen Harper household. Harper read
goodnight stories (his own policy papers) and made lunches and saw the ‘kids’ off to school. Most Canadians know that Stephen Harper is not a gifted speaker with a talent for putting people at ease. He is not known for a sense of humour; yet how many of us would not appreciate Harper, or any politician, making a joke about policy papers which induce sleep? See? It’s working already – Harper knows his policies are boring – he is just another politician; one might say. How bad could he be?

I ask, why would Stephen Harper bother to appear on a satirical comedy show? A recent poll puts the Harper conservatives ahead of the liberals in Ontario. Ontario voters – notably those in the area of Greater Toronto – are unsure about Stephane Dion. They are also less likely to be able to tell the Layton NDP from a liberal these days. If Harper can sweeten up his public image, it may translate into a majority government. What better way than to appear on one of the most popular Canadian comedy shows?

If Harper were a werewolf (I said IF), then a majority government is his full moon. He will suddenly transform, and the smiling, everyman image he has perfected will disappear. He will suddenly have no use for frivolities like the Rick Mercer show. He will be very busy working on his law and order agenda, on increasing military spending, and on filling Canadian prisons. He will be touting, as loudly as possible, the Security and Prosperity Partnership; a behind closed doors initiative with elites in Mexico and the U.S. The CBC should be investigating this deal with at least as much enthusiasm as they invest in their comedies.

Also in his sights will be the CBC, the CRTC, The Canada Labour Code, and federal transfer payments to the provinces. In short, every tool we’ve developed over the decades to regulate the destructive aspects of capitalism in this country will be in the cross-hairs of neo-conservatives. He will see to it that as much Canadian industry as possible will be exempt from Kyoto. We’ll also start to hear, in great detail, about how assimilation will be the best option for Aboriginals. This will come at a critical juncture, as Aboriginals will be making 2007 the year of putting their issues on the front burner – and rightly so.

We will quickly move from comedy to drama in this country. As in the theatre, there will be a massive reaction akin to throwing tomatoes at the actors on stage. If we think we have seen regional conflict before, a majority Harper government may finally open the eyes of Canadians. Perhaps it will take serious civil strife to occur in this country for us to look behind the veil of PR spin, and see danger for what it is – a smiling Stephen Harper.

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Filed under 2007 Federal election, Air Farce, Canadian Politics, Comedy, Left Politics, Politics, PR Spin, Rick Mercer, This Hour has 22 minutes

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