Ask people for their opinions concerning those Conservative Party pre-election ads directed against Stephane Dion and the reaction you’ll receive is usually one of absolute disgust. Like someone has been forced to watch the worst kind of porn. Pure filth. “How low can the Tories go”, they’ll protest, or it’s “American style attack ads”, as a means to condemn the party while connecting it to that horrible neighbour to Canada’s south. “Is this where political decorum has fallen to in Canada”, people will rhetorically ask before they warn that, “it’s going to backfire on Harper.”
Please. The Dion ads were amusing, and they were hardly as offensive as some repulsive things we’re surrounded by in our everyday lives that ought to make people outraged. “Do you think it’s easy to make priorities“, the Liberal Leader famously whined. Apparently, you can download that quote off the Internet and program it as a cell phone ring.
To me it’s hard to condemn these so-called “attack ads” on politicians when it’s a cartoonist’s job to go after them daily in cartoons. Isn’t adversarial jousting supposed to be part of our Parliamentary system?
In my mind our political forums have two key ingredients:
a) the boring part — a forum for thoughtful intellectual debate (behind the scenes in committee rooms and on the floor of the legislatures which would send most people to sleep);
b) the exciting part — a theatre which provides a verbal battleground for outwitting your adversary — be they put downs during Question Period, or commercials aimed against your adversary on tv in 20 second soundbites or newsclips.
I suppose there are limits to the art of playful chiding when it starts to look like bullying because the other side can’t/won’t play the wits game. The Libs think they’re taking the high road by not striking back, but instead they’re just looking like wimps. This weeks’ episode of This Hour Had 22 Minutes did a perfect parody ad of where the Liberals find themselves right now. The Liberal’s simply need to play the game.