#Flanagan again

Tom Flanagan  in front of a Fraser Institute backdrop

Is it just me?

Am I the only one angry that the current administration of the University of Calgary doesn’t think Tom Flanagan has done anything wrong?

In case you missed it, Tom Flanagan, formerly a mentor/adviser to our sitting Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, currently a Political Science professor at the University of Calgary, broke the law while on the CBC news program “Power and Politics with Evan Solomon” when he “counsel[ed] other persons to commit offences.” The indictable offence he advocated was the assassination of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

at New Media Days

Some people think Tom Flanagan’s remarks are a joking matter.

Julian Assange does not

find this assassination threat amusing, particularly in light of other threats of physical harm leveled at himself and his family.

Some, like the National Post’s George Jonas, think Tom Flanagan can be excused because they say he intended it as a joke.

Maybe it could be taken as a joke if Tom Flanagan was a telephone lineman, a museum curator, or a manicurist.

But he’s not. The media is downplaying Tom Flanagan’s strong ties to the Canadian government. Flanagan wasn’t just “a Harper aid.”

Tom Flanagan was a chief of staff and policy adviser for the Prime Minister of Canada.

Jack Bauer is played by actor Kiefer Sutherland, pictured holding a gun, standing in front of a California map, with digital clock style numeral 24 inset

Tom Flanagan has been described as a mentor/adviser/strategist to the Prime Minister.  He ran political campaigns and walked the halls of Parliament.

This is a man who most certainly knows better.

Tom Flanagan would very likely know and be known by the Canadian CSIS equivalent to Jack Bauer, and almost certainly have contacts within the American government security forces.

I do not know Tom Flanagan, but he comments regularly on CBC and Evan Solomon clearly took Tom Flanagan’s statements seriously, in fact giving Flanagan an opportunity to back down by making it a joke. That an astute political player like Flanagan did not strongly indicates how serious he was.

Evan Solomon was not soliciting a man-in-the-street opinion from a computer programmer or a supermarket cashier or a priest, he was conducting an expert interview with one of his “regular cast of star panelists“.  Tom Flanagan was on the program to provide credible expert commentary.

Tom Flanagan’s commentary is credible BECAUSE he is a professor of Political Science, employed to teach some of the best and brightest Canadian students, at the University of Calgary.

Tom Flanagan’s commentary is credible BECAUSE of his strong ties to the sitting government.

THIS is what qualifies him as an expert, and this is WHY he must be charged for this crime.

ethics & reputation

The only response offered by the University administration has been this weak statement made December 7:

“The University of Calgary’s position remains that the opinions expressed by Dr. Tom Flanagan on CBC news last week were made as an individual. Dr. Flanagan spoke on a matter unrelated to the university, and his comments, for which Dr. Flanagan has expressed regret, do not represent the view of the University of Calgary. “

Yet the University of Calgary has declined to administer even a slap on the wrist to Tom Flanagan for his unacceptable behavior. The University’s position of refusing to make the barest of reprimands to Flanagan implies University support of Flanagan’s crime. A school that unquestioningly supports an educator who blatantly commits a crime television is simply not qualified to speak about “ethics.”

My child will not attend a school that condones assassination.

What does Tom Flanagan teach at the University of Calgary:  Assassinate the opposition? 
His words have certainly assassinated the University’s reputation internationally.

Left unchallenged, Canada’s reputation both at home and abroad is seriously damaged. As a citizen, I am furious.

If you have any doubt about whether there has been damage to our national reputation as a result of Flanagan’s crime, all you need do is watch the animated video titled Wikileaks Keeps Publishing despite arrest” published on YouTube December 7th, 2010. I first saw it on a Dutch web page. Two weeks later the video has had nearly 300,000 page views. That doesn’t count the web pages like this one that have embedded it. That’s a lot of of page views, particularly considering that it doesn’t top the WikiLeaks list:

For those with accessibility issues, I am also hosting the OGG version here.
crest above words University of Calgary Alumni with woman's hands above and below

Reading the comments on the YouTube page, and all over the Internet, citizens around the world have expressed dismay and outrage over this reprehensible incident.

U of C Community Outrage

Clearly, the University of Calgary community is not happy with the current state of affairs. 60 U of C alumni along with 25 others (current U of C students/staff/supporters across Canada & abroad) sent an open letter asking the University to address the situation. To date there has been none.

You can read their original letter and the follow up on the dedicated blog: Censure Tom Flanagan: Open letter to University of Calgary President Dr. Elizabeth Cannon regarding Dr. Tom Flanagan’s remarks

There is also an online Petition that anyone can sign here:

Graffiti portrait on a brick wall

To: University of calgary

Dr. Elizabeth Cannon
University of Calgary

Dr. Cannon,

The last time there was a live televised order to assassinate someone was the religious edict issued by Ayatollah Khomeini to kill Salman Rushdie, the Author of Satanic Verses. Unfortunately in November 2010, Dr. Tom Flanagan called for the assassination of Mr. Julian Assange, the Founder of the Wikileaks website. Based on Canada’s criminal code incitement to commit murder is a crime, not to mention a gross unethical and immoral act.

We, signatories of this petition, demand Dr. Flanagan’s immediate expulsion from University of Calgary. We hope that University of Calgary does not squander its reputation by associating with someone who condones murder in the name of politics.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned
PETITION: Dr. Tom Flanagan’s immediate expulsion from University of Calgary

And there’s a FaceBook page:

Facebook Page: Investigate Tom Flanagan for inciting murder against Julian Assange

People feel strongly about the issue because the University’s implied support casts a pall on the reputations of staff, students and alumni. The institution’s inexplicable silence is only making things worse.

Letter: Dismiss Tom Flanagan

Peter Bowal: Double standard on free speech at U of C

If you wish to write a personal letter, you may do so by writing to:

Elizabeth Cannon, the President of the U of Calgary. Her email is
president@ucalgary.ca
and you might wish to CC this suggested list:
chair@ucalgary.ca
senate@ucalgary.ca
jim.dinning@senate.ucalgary.ca
alumni@ucalgary.ca
eosler@ucalgary.ca

sitting in front of a wine rack and Fraser Institue banner

Compounding the Situation

Because Tom Flanagan said these things on CBC, and because of who he is, his remarks have been heard around the world.

Canada used to have a reputation for being a good world citizen. Allowing these remarks to go unchecked makes us all look bad.

Tom Flanagan didn’t just make an empty threat on CBC, he didn’t just encourage the assassination of someone he disagrees with, he also threatened a woman who sent him an email he didn’t like. One may have been a mistake.  Two makes it a whole different ballgame. I have to wonder, what other things has Tom Flanagan said or done that went away because of his powerful friends and allies?

Tom Flanagan’s “joke defense” goes up in smoke when you add the threatening email into the mix.

This is world class bullying.

Either Flanagan doesn’t get the point, or else is confident he may act as he pleases with impunity.

Apparently he’s right.

All he had to do is say “I’m sorry” and all is well with the world.  Why do we waste money on a criminal justice system if all that’s necessary to get out of criminal charges is an apology? The Toronto Star reports that the Toronto Woman Gets Apology from former Harper Aid

So all is well, right? Except it is not.

The Pirate Party of Canada is planning a “Rally To Support Wikileaks”
Saturday, January 15, 2011 · 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Location University of Calgary, outside the social sciences building.
Calgary, AB
“Join with the Pirate Party of Canada and Pirate Parties around the world in peaceful assembly to support WikiLeaks, open government, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. Take a stand against calls to assassinate journalists and whistleblowers.”
For more information contact mikkel@pirateparty.ca
https://www.pirateparty.ca/

implications of not charging Tom Flanagan

Friendly Media Relations

The law is written clearly and specifically to provide for prosecution whether or not the counseled indictable offence is ever carried out. Counseling assassination breaks the law as much as actually carrying out an assassination.

The media is downplaying Flanagan’s crime as a joke.

And perhaps his friends in our government don’t want him inconvenienced.

Was this “joke” was made with the blessing of our government. Was this a way to publicly threaten WikiLeaks with political deniability?

No one should be above the law.

Since politicians are the usual targets of assassination, I would have thought our governments would be very careful about allowing such cavalier advocacy.

Tom Flanagan has broken the law.  That’s clear enough. Tom Flanagan should NOT be able to break the law on National Television with impunity.

Tom Flanagan must be charged.   If he’s not, it makes a mockery of Canada’s criminal justice system.

A court of law must decide.

“Something has to be done to let the people who have received his message know that assassination is murder, and a crime in every country of the world,”

–Gail Davidson, The Montreal Gazette: Charge ex-Harper aide for ‘assassinate Julian Assange’ comment: lawyer

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves


Image Credits:

Tom Flanagan at OPUS Hotel photo by Urban Mixer / Raj Taneja on Flickr released under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

Julian AssangeThis photo by New Media Days / Peter Erichsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

“Jack Bauer” – Wallpaper by Tim Norris under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License

University of Calgary Alumni photo by damclean under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

Ayatollah Khomeini by travfotos / Terry Feuerborn under an Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License on Flickr

Tom Flanagan at OPUS Hotel photo by Urban Mixer / Raj Taneja on Flickr released under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

Tom Flanagan at OPUS Hotel photo by Urban Mixer / Raj Taneja on Flickr released under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

OGG conversion via TinyOgg

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If I ran the zoo…: Advertising II

Part II: Party Advertising

Inside Ignatieff's Head MacLeans Magazine cover
When an election is called and the candidates are running for office, their platform is of interest to viewers and readers.

The news media will report what they say.

That’s called “news”.

Political parties don’t need to buy advertising. Or at least they shouldn’t have to.

Stephen Harper

Why do the political parties expend so much energy fund raising to purchase advertising when they can get news coverage for free?

What’s the difference between media news coverage and advertising?

News coverage

is supposed to present the facts. News coverage might cover a press conference and select key statements made by a politician to put in the broadcast, or perhaps make a documentary about an issue, candidate, party or a campaign. They might include a panel discussion, a public consultation, or a political debate.

What is covered and the focus is decided by the news media editorial department, not the political party.

a spread of 9 February  newspapers from across Canada

Realistically, the news media is at least partially entertainment, and like anything else carries bias. The bias may be an official policy of the news outlet, or it might be handed down from on high, or it may have developed based on the bias of the people in editorial department, or even informed by the readership. When there is bias, and there is always bias (it’s only human) how the politician or issue is presented will be influenced by that bias to a degree. If the media takes a shine to a politician, they will be careful to present them in a good light, but if they dislike someone, they have the power to show only unflattering angles and emphasize verbal stumbling or contradictions.

The news media will report what they say. Good and bad.

Thus the politicians and/or the political party can not dictate the “spin”.

Advertising Coverage

graphic TV screen which says BUY NOWTo sell a product: in this case, the politician or the party, nothing works like advertising.

Facts are not necessary, the only goal is to make the politicians or the party look good.

Political Party advertising doesn’t have to actually say anything. In fact it is probably better if it doesn’t.

You want your candidate to look their best, and because you can take as long as you need to get it right, your candidate WILL look their best.  Photo Ops are good… baby kissing, cuddling pets, whatever works.

Then there are attack ads designed to make the opposing candidate or party look bad.  I think the assumption is that if the other guy looks bad, our guy looks good.  Unfortunately, these ads don’t come across as “whistle blowing”, they look much more like bullying.  I guess that might work for the bullies of the world, but I think this kind of advertising makes the party paying for it look bad.

I don’t need you to tell me what the other party has done wrong, I need to know what you will do right.

Advertising must be paid for. So yes, the parties need to find the money– this is what they are fund raising for.

Because they pay for the ads, they are the client.   Thus the politicians and/or the political party have control over the “spin”.   Advertisements only tell us what the party wants us to know.   So advertising is good for the party, but not necessarily good for the voter.

Is this really how we want to select our government?   Based on how good their advertising campaign is?

money and money

logo collage of some Canadian broadcasters

There are two different ways advertising money needs to be spent. The obvious part is the money that is spent on the creation of the advertising materials… the writers, producers, actors, camera men…

We don’t often think of the other place advertising money goes… to the media outlets. Space has to be purchased from magazines and newspapers to run print ads, while time slots must be bought from radio and television in order to broadcast commercials.

Political advertising represents an enormous revenue stream for media outlets. The income generated is what pays for the news media. Do you think maybe a TV network that receives a great deal of advertising revenue from a particular political party might be influenced in what news coverage that party receives? Is it unreasonable to think that large advertising budgets may lead to more favorable news coverage for the political parties?

Those are scary enough prospects to begin with, but the one that bothers me the most was the article I read in yesterday’s The Hill Times:

Right now the party is working on solidifying its policy positions, and boosting revenues from fundraising. The Liberals raised $9.6-million in 2009, which is vastly improved from 2008 when they brought in only $5.6-million. But while the Tories’ fundraising haul declined from $21-million in 2008, they were still light years ahead of the other parties, bringing in $18-million last year.

When Mr. Apps became president of the party last year he pledged to match the Conservatives in fundraising by June 30, 2011, and he said the party is on track to meeting that goal.

“In one year we’ve cut the gap in half. If I can cut it in half again this year, so the gap instead of being under $8-million it becomes $4-million, I think it’s very achievable to meet that goal in 2011,” he said.

But the Liberals are not there yet, and after four years in opposition, they have learned to fear the Conservative machine, said one insider.

The Hill Times: Liberals not ready to defeat Tories in spring

Political Cartoon shows Stephen Harper on the Canadian five dollar bill which says vote tory

The upshot certainly seems to be that The Liberal party is afraid to challenge the Conservative party and possibly trigger an election.

Not because they don’t think they are in the right. But for one reason only: they don’t believe they have enough money for advertising, and therefore believe that they cannot win.

Is it really true that our Canadian democracy boils down to the party with the biggest advertising budget will win?

More than anything that is a sign that political advertising needs to be stopped.

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"

If I ran the Zoo er Country…

the only advertising I would allow political parties to engage in would be lawn signs. If the party wanted to appear in the media the candidates would have to do something newsworthy.

Maybe if we got beyond sound bites we could find out what the different parties actually stand for. Instead of throwing all their creative juices into fooling us into voting for them, maybe they could really find out about the issues, and maybe even engage in public consultations and come out with workable platforms.

That’s what I would do if I ran the zoo country.



Write to your Member of Parliament and tell them what you think about premature prorogation or anything else! You can find your MP with this lovely link – it will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know. It’s time that Canadians started letting them know what we think about how they represent us.
Find your Member of Parliament

Write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and tell him too!
Prime Minister/Premier Ministre Stephen Harper <pm@pm.gc.ca>

The government gives more weight to postal mail: you can mail your comments without a stamp!!:

The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
1600 90th Avenue Southwest, suite A-203
Calgary, Alberta
T2V 5A8

Canada badly needs electoral reform. Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get information some ideas of electoral reform. All Canadians need to join in these non-partisan discussions.