Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Unberable Lightness of Michael Harris, Part 2: Mowat Logic

Michael Harris' Party of One has finally arrived. And as Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not been the sort of politician that provokes impartial thought -- very few media types have been up to this task, and many who lay claim to a reputation for impartial thought most certainly haven't -- very few impartial reviews of the book are available.

But when I first set myself to the task of examining Harris' "journalistic" work at iPolitics, I made a prediction: that given how stale, banal and amateurish his work at iPolitics was, we could expect his book to be pretty much more of the same.

The book either hasn't disappointed, or has disappointed, based on whether or not you think more of the same stale, banal and amateurish work is a bad thing. Today, the following page of the book was tweeted by a critical reader:
In this excerpt from the book, Harris invokes Farley Mowat -- who served bravely as an officer during the Second World War, God bless his soul -- to rage against the very idea, often attributed to Harper, that Canada is a "warrior nation."

Earlier in the book, Harris makes the case that this so-called "transformation" of Canada into a "warrior nation" was rationalized largely around Canada's participation in the Afghanistan War. Harris also blathers a little about the War of 1812 -- apparently he's rather disturbed that the Canadian government would commemorate a key anniversary in Canadian history -- and a little bit about Libya, but it's mostly about the Afghanistan War.

Mowat fumed that "this son of a bitch incited Canada into becoming a warrior nation."

The logic is altogether absent. If Canada truly has recently become "a warrior nation" -- and has not always been at least partially so all along -- and that transformation was predicated on the Afghanistan War, then that transformation pre-dated Harper's time in office.

After all, it wasn't Harper who was Prime Minister when Canada committed its troops to the decade-plus-long conflict. It was Jean Chretien. He did so without a Parliamentary vote, and without any significant debate. Quite the contrast to how Harper handled the extension of the Afghanistan mission, the Libya mission, and the now-ongoing Iraq mission.

(So much for Harper the anti-democrat.)

Not to mention that Liberals were supportive of the deployment of CF-18s against Muammar al-Ghadaffi in Libya, and against ISIS in Iraq. While Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has chosen to play politics with the latter in hopes of picking up a few stray votes from the NDP, the fractures in his party are crystal clear. It's obvious that were political roles reversed Canada's contribution to the two conflicts would be every bit the same.

So there's a rather glaring factual and logical error. Perhaps we can expect that from Mowat, who for all his writing talent and his iconic Canadian writings was also known to be a little eccentric -- and who was apparently enamoured enough with Pierre Trudeau so as to gift him a dog -- but as a journalist, part of Harris' job is supposed to be to mediate such remarks against facts and against at least basic logic. He seems to have made no effort to perform that vital task in these pages.

Perhaps because if he had the natural and unforced conclusions would hurt his narrative.

All the same, I get the sense that Michael Harris' book has had its 15 minutes of fame. Booksellers don't seem to be especially enthusiastic about it, and I imagine the anti-Harper nutjobs who are the totality of the book's intended audience have already bought their copies.

I don't expect to hear much about the book in future. Excerpts such as the one above make it clear why.

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