Listen Up! Overt disrespect, outright lying and hate have consumed politics

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Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

I never thought this day would come

I have been a political junkie since I was about twelve years old, when I stepped off of a North Toronto bus, which I had mistakenly taken, and into the campaign headquarters of a man who would soon become Finance Minister of Canada. Since then, I have worked for and with countless politicians, mostly Conservatives, a number of Liberals, and at the municipal level people with no visible party affiliation. I enjoyed those days of cut and thrust debate and witty rejoinders. Yet, with all of that, there was always civility and respect. Sometimes I believed we actually accomplished something.

It never occurred to me that a time would come when I was fed up, indeed disgusted with politics on all sides of the political spectrum, including the media, but I am coming very close to that. Politics, of course, is a blood sport, but there were time-honoured rules for politicians and for the media. In recent years, those rules have gone out the window. Criticism and rigid accountability have always been part of the game, but overt disrespect, outright lying and the politics of hate have, in my opinion, consumed what was once an honorable and productive profession that actually served the people that elected them.

The media, in part, is responsible for some of this, because if some (not all) of them see fit to promote discord, advocate ridicule and  encourage divisionism, why would elected politicians not feel free to do the same? It is behaviour that has effectively been legitimized.

All of this caught my attention because of a terrible article written in the Toronto Star on Saturday by Heather Mallick, When Ivanka ‘sort of’ showed up at the G20. Even by Toronto Star standards, it was sick. Clearly, she doesn’t like the Trump family. For the record I, too, do not like Donald Trump and I have reason to know, as he was once a client of mine. I do believe he is a bully and that he lacks good character and that there is not a Presidential bone in his body.

But this article, about his daughter Ivanka accompanying her father to the G-20 Conference in Japan, was way off the mark. It was personal, it was vindictive and, in my view, it lacked credible substantiation. One needs to read it in its entirety to see how evil it really is, but here are a few quotes.

“Melina, [Trump’s wife] detests her husband, as in he revolts her, his presence peels her nerves like a carrot, she radiates electric dislike at him. She surrounds herself with a Donald wall, that actually works.”  Really? Could be, I guess. But how does she really know this and what is the real purpose of writing about it?

And then there is this. Mallick as much as implies that there could be a sexual aspect to Trump’s relationship with his daughter, Ivanka. First, she says: “Oh is it not the superstructure of the whole Trump domestic arrangement so eerily fraught, [sounds like Shakespeare]far beyond the capacity of American Family Therapists Inc. to take on?”

Now, I do not know who American Family Therapists (AFT) are. I googled them; I could not find them. I wonder if they are real. But if they are real, how does this stuff get in a newspaper and what does it accomplish in the absence of facts?

Jared (Ivanka’s husband): “Do you think my father-in-law is inappropriately drawn to my wife?”

AFT: “Do you think your father-in law is inappropriately drawn to your wife?”

Jared: “He wants me to move to Tel Aviv…”

AFT: “ …Do you think it sounds normal Jared?  

I do not know how much of this is pure hopeful fiction and how much of this is based on actual confirmed fact, although I have my own opinion on that. What I do believe is that it is a hateful, ignorant and spiteful column written for no other reason than to demean the character of Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump. John Hondrich should fire Heather Mallick for that. Sadly, the odds are that he will not.

At this juncture, I can hear our beloved Publisher asking, ‘So what exactly is your point, Hugh?’

My point is this. Although she was writing about the Trumps, Heather Mallick is a Canadian journalist, writing in a Canadian newspaper. If she can write this kind of trash about people in public life in America, what is to stop her and others like her from writing similar trash about Canadian politicians, especially those that don’t fit their partisan bias?

A lack of tolerance, a lack of respect and the vilification of people and political parties with opposing views has already seriously crept in to the Canadian and civic scene. There is no room for compromise. It is now a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to politics. It is even difficult today for elected folks from opposing political parties to go and have a beer together. To me, that is a shame.

We are now on the cusp of a Federal election. All signs point to a no-holds-barred, mud-slinging, character-bashing campaign, short on real policies and long on populism. What I will be looking for, however, as small as they might be, are signs of respect for Canadians, respect for people with different views and a willingness to find a middle ground to issues of serious importance to our country, regardless of where they come from. It puts me in mind of political leaders like Bill Davis, Bob Rae, Paul Martin, Brian Mulroney and, yes, even Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Not much of that around anymore.

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9 Comments

  1. Brian Samuell on

    There is one party that respects values nationally. And they care about the future and they haven’t been bought Hugh.

  2. Dave Kealey on

    Come now Hugh; you are listing some rather lofty politicians, but really do you not think that the last honest PM we had was Mike Pearson? It is shameful that we have devolved into a populist system pitting us against them but then it is what every other elaborate is or has done.

  3. Patrick Craig on

    I agree. What I hate most is the branding. You are either left liberal or right nazi. No in between. Is it not conceivable that someone from a different party may have a good idea.
    I honestly believe that every party should have 3 items on their platform that they put to the people. If they are elected it is reasonable and fair that every member of the party should support that.
    After that every vote should be a free vote. By all means vote with your party, but you individually are accountable to your constituents.
    Perhaps then people may reach across the aisle for the common good. Perhaps not.

  4. Raffaele Occhiuzzi on

    Regretfully Hugh the type of writing that you so rightly condemn is symptomatic of a continuously decrease of social graces. In my opinion we are seeing more and more of in-your-face behaviour, tv shows, movies and press.
    Common courtesies are disappearing both in actions and parlance and to make matters worse we all seem to shrug it off as inevitable.
    I don’t believe that to be the case as long as there are those that speak and write in opposition to the trend, thank you for doing so.

  5. Karen Wehrstein on

    The discourse north of the border is still much milder than south. I participate in this and other Canadian comment sections, and I participate in American comment sections, and there is no comparison. They’ve always done their politics more viciously down there, and with more dirty business; notice we’ve never had a Watergate, or one party cooperating with a hostile foreign power to win a federal election, or the insane gerrymandering you see there. Or a civil war. Even justice is massively politicized in the USA; up here we don’t even know the political affiliations of our Supreme Court judges, because it doesn’t matter.
    .
    I do remember, as a child, conservatives saying that Pierre Trudeau had “destroyed the country,” just as they are saying now of his son, and wondering what they meant, as the country still seemed to be here as far as I could tell. So that accusation is nothing new.
    .
    I think hate is part of what Heather Mallick is so angry about, because Trump, and those of the Trump family who’ve chosen to involve themselves with his presidency, are the culmination of American hate, the embodiment of American white/male/heterosexual supremacy. She has a long way to sink before she even approaches Trump’s level; compare her words to the childish foul name-calling and non-stop lies in his tweets! She is still outraged at the blatant nepotism, as anyone who respects democracy should be. You have to take into account that she is a woman, and woman have to bear witness to the horror that a US president has 20 or so credible accusations of sexual abuse against him from women, and counting, and has been caught on tape bragging about being able to sexually assault women — but is getting away absolutely scot-free, at least so far. (The arrest of Jerry Epstein might change that.) The claim of Trump’s sexualization of Ivanka is not without evidence, and Mallick lists it. (Is it outside your realm of belief, Hugh, that a father can sexually abuse a daughter? You’re reading the words of one who suffered exactly that.) Finally, there’s no “American Family Therapists” because this is not a news article but an opinion piece, that is free therefore to range somewhat into satire. Judging it as if it were a news article is… well, uncivil.
    .
    I would only worry about Heather Mallick if she wrote something so outrageously unfair that it hadn’t already been written by many.
    .
    And all we need to do is stay Canadian: stay polite, stay respectful of those with whom we disagree, not hire Americans to run political campaigns, and remember that we are all Canadians and we live in a country that is great in part because of our mutual respect and civility.

    • Rob Millman on

      Well said, Karen, as usual. You are always even-handed in your thoughtful, intelligent comments. Ivanka had no legitimacy to be there; and several times tried to interject herself into conversations between/among G20 leaders. She was summarily ignored in every instance. Any other President (and country, as well) would have been rightfully embarrassed by her actions. Comparing her to Sophie Trudeau, who was ever gracious, is an apt metaphor for the two countries.
      .
      No Watergate? What about the Airbus affair? Although Lyin’ Brian had a majority government, and could not be ousted by a vote of non-confidence; witness the remains of his party at the next election; two MP’s, if memory serves. He certainly didn’t measure up to the others on Hugh’s list.

  6. Paul Whillans on

    Upon reading the offending article for the fourth time, it is clear to me that this was never intended to be either “news” nor “journalism”. This article was “parody”. While to my mind it was pretty tasteless, and not at all funny. But seriously, I think that you judged it on the wrong metric.

    I have concluded that journalism is dead. Just as the Doppler has people believing that it is a source of news ( ok it does give school bus cancellations). It isn’t….it is simply another social media platform. While Mr Holland tries, there isn’t a word of reviewed fact. If there is a journalist involved with the Doppler they have sold any integrity to the business of getting clics.

    So into this void are all the left and right nasty trolls speaking only to the converted, trying you look clever with their pithy ad hominens.

    Sadly most of the electorate has never seen investigative journalism that we grew up with and has/makes no time for due diligence of their own.

    But I am convinced that one day the truth will matter. I view the Ford’s and Trumps of the world as part of the deconstruction (“blow it up and start again”). Democracy version 2.0 will be a vast improvement

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