Like the proverbial bad penny (or is pimple a better metaphor) that keeps turning up, Tom Flanagan is back. This time he’s flogging his self-serving book which is a shameless defence of his own behaviour since what he calls the “incident” that saw his life as a major national political pundit come tumbling down. He was ambushed by a Idle No More activist at a University of Lethbridge event where he was asked about his views on child pornography and described those who consume it as causing “no harm” to society.
Shortly after the video went viral and in the space of a few hours, Flanagan’s life (like some character from a Philip Roth novel) was turned upside down, with former political allies Danielle Smith kicking him out of the Wild Rose Party and Prime Minister Harper condemning his views. Flanagan then lost his job as a resident right wing crank on CBCs Power & Politics but remains a tenured prof at the University of Calgary, ironically a form of labour law that helps protect academic freedom that he generally disapproves of because it interferes with the free market.
In the book Persona Non Grata that Flanagan has been plugging on his old show, Q and any number of otherwise respectable programs that would ordinarily not touch a man who is a public apologist for the pedophiles that help sustain an industry based on the sexual exploitation of children, he accuses the aboriginal activists of setting him up and the media of engaging in an hysterical public lynching (he even supposedly compares himself to a certain notorious mayor of Toronto) and argues that a lifetime of public and political service shouldn’t be wiped out because of a simple brain-cramp that he has since apologized for.
My answer: yes and no. He hasn’t lost his job as a professor merely for saying something heinous, nor should he. But he can’t simply hide behind that same academic privilege when it comes to his work for our national broadcaster as a very high profile media commentator or as a political adviser to the Tories and Harper until 2004 (read his famous analysis of the ’04 election campaign to see just how much influence he once had on the Prime Minister). Nor should he remain a campaign and policy adviser to the leader of Alberta’s Wild Rose Party, when that party is trying to shed some of the extreme libertarianism that probably cost it a great deal of votes in the last Alberta election.
Also, Flanagan’s statement was far from being a slip of the tongue. He has made similar comments about the excessive punishment for something he considers being a matter of personal freedom and, as a fierce American style libertarian, views these child pornography laws as an infringement on the fundamental liberty of the individual. He has made this and other logically consistent but morally repugnant arguments in his crusade to promote his libertarian ideals in academia and elsewhere over the years. It’s more than a little hypocritical for him to now disavow these same ideas today because of the political uproar and damage they caused his personal career as a result of his indiscretion in the “incident.” It may be unpleasant, but Flanagan’s views on child pornography are the product of a radically libertarian worldview that he continues to adhere to.
Proving that when it rains in politics, it pours, another Harper confidant and former advisor, Bruce Carson, has also been flogging his latest book which purports to reveal secrets about his former boss (it’s funny, but I can’t recall any other former chiefs of staff writing tell-all books after leaving the Prime Minister’s office, before Stephen Harper came to power!) Carson is the former advisor to Stephen Harper who was part of the PM’s inner circle between 2006 and 2009, until it was discovered that he was a convicted fraudster with a criminal record (his latest trial for influence peddling, is pending), so we should definitely take his statements about his relationship with Ian Brodie (the chief of staff at the time) and especially with Harper, with a sprinkling of salt.
The most laughable part of Carson’s claims to the media was the notion that if only he and Brodie were still in charge of the office, the PMO and current chief of staff (Nigel Wright) would never have caused the Senate Scandal by surreptitiously offering to pay Senator Duffy’s illegal expenses or that his old boss would have never have railed against Supreme Court Justice Beverly McLachlin over the failed appointment of Justice Marc Nadon to the bench.
While I agree that these were both major errors in judgement on the part of the Prime Minister and his staff, I find it borders on the ridiculous for one man, an ex-staffer at that, to pretend to have that much influence over a notoriously stubborn and difficult leader like Harper. In politics, Monday morning quarterbacks abound, and they seldom have the discretion to keep their opinions to themselves. But that doesn’t mean you and I have to take them seriously. Especially when neither one of these men has been anywhere close to the corridors of power in a very long time.
Other articles by David DesBaillets
Supreme Court Chief latest victim of the Harper shoot-the-messenger policy
Chickens coming home to roost on “open nominations” promise
What’s really behind the silence of Harper on the trial of Fahmy in Egypt
Harper has a bad day in court
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