By Medicine Hat News on September 9, 2017.
After wading through the last four Saturday editions of The News featuring the unabashedly one-sided sales pitch for the UCP by Faron Ellis, I am happy for the opportunity to provide a respite.
Dr. Ellis is, reportedly, an outstanding and inspirational teacher, a winner of teaching awards who, sadly, built his professional life on little more than political necromancy and partisan cheerleading. His professional passion consists of creating questionnaires and then sifting through the resulting entrails to find data that might be useful for boosting right-wing election results. He specializes in the same techniques as those of marketing agencies hired by the makers of breakfast cereals and toothpaste. Find out what consumers want and then pretend to give it to them.
He is not interested in leadership, is not concerned about developing a vision, is not interested in preparing for the future. He focuses instead on the creation and manipulation of partisan talking points. He is, in other words, a party hack for the Reform Party, the Alliance, and ‘The New Conservative Party of Canada (Stephen Harper), and, now, of course, for the UCP. I am disappointed that The News caved and gave this man four weeks of unpaid political advertising. This was not ‘a public service’. It was a snow job.
In one of his articles (Aug. 26) Dr. Ellis warns the fledgling UCP that if they want to be successful they must avoid the twin pitfalls of ‘left-wing social engineering’ and ‘right-wing moral engineering’. Interesting and wise advice, I agree, but Dr Ellis reveals a remarkable degree of willful conceptual blindness. He doesn’t acknowledge that his chosen field of political ‘science’ uses the methods of ‘market engineering’ to manipulate the choices of political consumers. This is as harmful to civil society as social or moral engineering, especially in this new age of ‘social media’ and ‘alternative truth’.
Through the adroit and dishonest manipulation of empty phrases such as ‘fiscally responsible’ (any group except the NDP), ‘socialist’ (NDP), ‘pandering to special interest groups’ (NDP and labour?), ‘identity politics’ (NDP and school washrooms issue?), and similar buzzwords and phrases — the voting public, suffering from an economic downturn that had nothing to do with the present Alberta government, is provided with a right wing liturgy with which to speak without actually thinking.
In actuality, the present government of Rachel Notley adheres less to any identifiable political philosophy and far more to a desperate and courageous pragmatism, championing pipeline construction, oil sands reconstruction and creating jobs while mindfully preparing for a world moving rapidly away from fossil fuels and towards environmental stewardship. Clearly there have been missteps but none as glaringly stupid and shortsighted as those committed by recent Conservative governments of Alberta.
But the talk on the streets, in the bars and BBQs, and in the conservative rags like The Sun, continues to be about putting an end to the ‘socialists’ in Edmonton. The UCP, without structure, without a platform, without a plan, pretends to offer an alternative road to prosperity — $100 oil, pie in the sky, and the ghost of Ralph Klein. The News could do better than to pander to special interests and common popular prejudices by offering this one-sided, four-week-long propaganda exercise by Dr. Ellis.
One very disturbing example that clearly demonstrates the problem with the mindless adherence to ill-defined political narratives is playing out for us in the Gulf Coast of the U.S. right now. America, the land of ‘freedom’, of small government and low taxes, has had years and numerous tragedies to prepare itself for the devastations of repeated hurricanes. New Orleans and now Houston and its surrounding areas, needlessly suffered the wrath of monster hurricanes. Irma is in the wings and hurricane season has just begun. But let’s keep those taxes low.
Where is the foresight? Where is the common sense that should have built defences for these low-lying areas? Of what use are the principles of small government and fiscal responsibility in the face of foreseeable natural disasters? Where’s the cost/benefit analysis, and the market-driven solutions for this reality, Dr. Ellis?
How has Holland, a nation whose people also love liberty, been able to defend against the worst that the seas can throw at it? Can we and the U.S. learn nothing from the Dutch experience? The denial of global warming, the insistence on, and misinterpretation of phrases like ‘fiscally responsible’, and the callous economic logic of the right, suggests that millions will continue to needlessly suffer, and sadly, it’s always the poorest who suffer the most.
But I still have faith that one day we’ll accept the wisdom of balancing our own individual needs with those of society, and we’ll discern a more humane future, in spite of the fog of marketing hype and shiny empty slogans engineered by wizards on the right like Dr. Ellis.
Peter Mueller is a long-time resident of Medicine Hat who, in spite of all the evidence, continues to believe we can build a better world.
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