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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Taking Back The Language

The defining moment for me during last night's election results was this one: Newly elected Liberal MP in Kings-Hants (NS), Scott Brison:

"There's not a lot of room for Red Tories in a party with a lot of red necks."

This morning, I'm wondering where the outrage is.

There is none, of course, because it's acceptable in the media to use cultural slurs against Western Canadians.

And sadly, it's been acceptable to us for too long. Or it never occurs to us that the slur is serious, intentionally dehumanizing and directly aimed at core conservative values and belief systems integral to our heritage and western history. A couple of weeks ago I took a swipe at the CBC's Michael Enright for "criticizing the media for assuming" that the conservative Fraser Institute was the Droolers and Knuckledraggers Association. He never did "get" it. He was incapable of recognizing that his use of those terms, in and of themselves, to describe conservative thought was dehumanizing, whether or not he was defending the Fraser Institute in this instance. He wasn't criticizing the marginalization of conservatives by the media, he was criticizing them for automatically dismissing the Fraser Institute as part of that "drooler" crowd.

The biased conduct by the national media during this campaign has been brazen. From day one, a blatant double standard has been applied to the Conservative party members who dared open their mouths and express personal conservative values. Socially conservates in the Liberal Party enjoyed a situation where their "gaffes" were unreported. The backgrounds of Liberal advisors went unexamined.

The media drove the agenda, hijacked the campaign and framed every discussion on so-called "social issues" as an "us vs them-who-would-kill-gays and enslave women". Stephen Harper was branded as "scary" . Apparently, Liberal corruption at the senior civil service isn't "scary", but invoking the constitutionally entrenched notwithstanding clause is the chainsaw massacre of Canadian Politics.

The same thing happened to health care. No rational debate of private vs public ever occured. It was good vs evil, right vs wrong, Canadian vs the evil baby-killing American system. During the Klein health care frenzy nobody turned a camera east to the blatant Canada Health Act violator - Quebec.

The Conservative campaign has to take some blame for that. They shied away from those direct comparisons. In the well-predicted hindsight of a zero seat performance, it was an opportunity squandered to put Paul Martin's challenge under a public microscope and pound home the message of "double standard". They didn't, and why they didn't I will never know.

If Canadian conservatives, both big C and small c, are ever to find a voice in this country and rescue it from it's headlong collapse into international disintegration - we must begin at both the top political echelons of the party, and the grassroots, by reclaiming the language and demanding our own share of protection under political correctness guidelines. It is not a silly "get even" suggestion. It is critical, if we are to remove this tool from the hands of the opposition.

The most obvious first target is to eliminate the use of the word "redneck" as an acceptable tactic to stifle debate before it occurs. Make the use of the word "redneck" as unacceptable as "redskin", "raghead" and "frog". Then we can go to work on "hillybilly", "cowby" and all the other sniggering cultural insults as they surface. It's an easy one to attack because it's so common and used so casually. Tackling "redneck" would seed doubt in the minds of moderate Canadians that maybe - just maybe - it is not appropriate to marginalize conservatives with cheap namecalling tactics.

This week Conservative party officials should hold a news conference. That news conference should have a sole purpose - to demand a public apology from MP Scott Brison for his derogatory cultural slur against Western Canadians.

Get this namecalling issue on the table. Stop allowing the left to write the Encyclopedia of Political Correctness. Point out just what terms like this are intended to do, and that their use is a cheap device to avoid debate. Until that happens, western Canada will remain vulnerable to political dismissiveness as uneducated, unintelligent, unsophisticated, and untrustworthy. And so long as we permit it, we have no one but ourselves to blame.

It's time to demand respect, and to settle for nothing less than 100% compliance in the language of both the left and the media.

Posted by Kate McMillan on June 29, 2004 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink


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I agree with you 100 percent. As a transplanted Albertan who now lives in southern Ontario, I am continually shocked and frustrated at the bigotry that comes out of the mouthes of left wing politicians here. I would love to see Conservatives "take back the language" and hold liberals to an equal standard

Posted by: Sarah | 2004-06-29 1:15:53 PM

A similar argument is often advanced in fighting anti-Semitism. However, an acceptable terminology exists in parallel with the racialist terms: "anusim" ("those who were coerced") rather than Marranos; revenant rather than settler; etc. What do you propose here? Leave it to our good sense, like a true conservative?

As a native-born Albertan, I often describe myself by the "R" word. Mea culpa.

Posted by: Charles MacDonald | 2004-06-29 1:35:09 PM

Charles may be on to something. Why not "reclaim" the word instead of banning it?

Posted by: Kathy Shaidle | 2004-06-29 1:50:12 PM

All of these terms are used in the general language of private individuals, I use the r word too. That's not the point, really.

Scott Brisson and his ilk use it completely differently -it's a slur, and intended as degrading and hostile. And he was making a statement to the country, in front of the media as an elected Member of Parliament.

What do you think the media buzz would have been today, had a Conservative MP stood up and made a reference to the election being decided by "frogs"?

Posted by: Kate | 2004-06-29 1:50:31 PM

Excuse me, but I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill. As one who's lived in both Alberta and Ontario, I've the upmost respect for both provinces. The term, "redneck" is not a term reserved for Western Canadians. It's a term used for, and by, anyone outside all urban centres. Is it completely acceptable to use such a term? Maybe not. The funny thing is, everyone I know who've been dubbed "rednecks", don't seem to take it personally. They laugh it off and move on with their day.

Simply put, I think you're raising the whole language issue in order to make an MP apologize for a supposedly derogatory remark (rather, as you put it, "cultural slur against Western Canadians") and use it as an excuse to target the Liberals who played the same game on the same negative scale as Harper and the Conservatives did (um, the child pornography press release ring a bell?). I have a conservative ideology and, yet, I don't like Harper. It doesn't mean that the Liberals convinced me to believe he was "scary". I made a decision against Harper long before the election was announced. I'm seriously offended at your implication that people who chose not to vote for Harper were manipulated. Perhaps, supporters of the Conservative party should consider that Harper may have been a liability and not a benefit - I would have voted for the Conservatives but I would not vote for Harper.

Oh, and one more thing... I think that the general population of Canada is a bit more concerned about their own well-being and livelihood to even consider Westerners as "uneducated, unintelligent, unsophisticated, and untrustworthy" as you point out. I'm proud to have lived in many parts of this country and have never felt that way about anyone out West... and my friends certainly don't think that way either. Aren't you just lumping the rest of Canada into one big pot as you accuse us of doing to you? Get over yourself!

Posted by: Flygirl | 2004-06-29 1:56:19 PM

I don't think it's any answer that urbanites heap abuse on all rural people, Flygirl: hayseed; corn pone; bumpkin; villain (yes, even the Romans suffered from this fault); probably a hundred more derogatory terms.

I see your point, Kate. There is a kernel of truth in the old adage about sticks and stones, though. The malice of the speaker alone doesn't make speech hurtful. To some degree, we have to accept his insinuation in order to be wounded by it.

Posted by: Charles MacDonald | 2004-06-29 2:22:06 PM

Let's put it into context here. Scott Brison was obviously specifically targeting westerners because that is where the bulk of conservative support lies, particularly before the recent election. And if you really think Ontarians don't think western canadians are rubes, you are wrong. They think the same about Americans and christians, too. I know, I live in Toronto, I hear the snickering and the crude comments. They believe they are morally superior and more sophisticated and the media constantly confirm that for them. That so many honestly believed the conservatives are "scary" just confirms their ignorance on the matter.

And just because your rural friends laugh when you call them rednecks doesn't mean they like it, flygirl. It seems to me you need a lesson in bigotry just like Scott Brison et al. Most terms now considered derogatory were okay in polite company at some point in time. I'm afraid I agree that Scott has some explaining to do. The term "faggot" was also commonly used in polite conversation not that long ago, for example.

Posted by: colin | 2004-06-29 2:22:09 PM

"Red neck" is a term laced with bigotry much like "faggot", "frog" or "newfie." There is no doubt that some get more offended than others at this type of name-calling. The key point here, I believe, is the media's utter indifference to Brison's comments which is a double standard. Think about how much press the "culture of defeat" received.

Posted by: Michael Dabioch | 2004-06-29 2:33:47 PM

Interesting how people read into things so easily. The assumption is that I am an urbanite who has used that derogatory term on my rural friends. Hmmm.. would it interest you that the term has been used on me a number of times by my rural friends? I have only recently lived in a big city but grew up in rural Ontario before moving across country. I don't know what people you associate with in Toronto, colin, but I can guarantee that in the 7 years that I have lived in Toronto, I have never heard one derogatory remark like "red neck" used against Westerners.

Yes, there are arrogant, ignorant and obnoxious people in Toronto but guess what... those same people are everywhere. I was picked on more by my fellow Albertans because I was from Ontario and I "spoke un-Canadian" (even though I am born and raised a Canadian), but you know what I did? I laughed it off. I have been called worse things than a red neck from the boondocks.

However, after reading your comments, I will concede that it was an inappropriate term to use in the poltical arena and was likely meant in the most malicious fashion. Should we nitpick at every little thing that politicians say? If we did, that's all we would hear on a daily basis and frankly, I care about more important issues.

Posted by: flygirl | 2004-06-29 3:08:23 PM

Flygirl wrote:
"Should we nitpick at every little thing that politicians say? "

No, frankly. But "should" is only wishful thinking at the moment.

The media needs the camera turned back on themselves for a change, and only by demanding they conform equally to both sides of bigotry issues are we going to begin to get fair, balanced and possibly - sensible reporting on issues.

They're getting a free ride at the moment.

Posted by: Kate | 2004-06-29 3:17:58 PM

What's so frustrating about the media is that if Brison had said this a year ago, when he was still a conservative, they would be roasting him slowly over an open fire. But Brison is now a brave truth teller - and to call him on this is to ruin the narrative they hold so dear.

Posted by: Sean | 2004-06-29 3:31:13 PM

Kate, I think a more effective tactic is to give the east reasons to respect the west.

Posted by: Sean | 2004-06-29 3:55:56 PM

"Kate, I think a more effective tactic is to give the east reasons to respect the west."

How about calculating the economic fallout of Ontario finding itself solely responsible for transfer payments to Quebec and the Maritimes?

Posted by: Kate | 2004-06-29 4:52:52 PM

Maybe it's the Newfie in me, but playing by the PC terms of the socially engineered masses is not going to be much fun. Actually I refuse to do it. What happened to the good old days of mud slinging and character assasinations? I'm all for it. The absence of a lively media in this country has created an endless pipeline of meat and potatoes robotic drones and pundits. Name a Canadian conservative media type *other than Steyn* that makes you smile - or laugh? We need a zippy sauce on those potatoes, we need a sense of humour, we need to laugh off these shrill harpies and show them up for the idiots that they are rather than play by their dreary PC rules.

Posted by: Snowflake | 2004-06-29 5:55:24 PM

"How about calculating the economic fallout of Ontario finding itself solely responsible for transfer payments to Quebec and the Maritimes?"

I love the way you think. :)

Posted by: Sean | 2004-06-29 6:24:34 PM

If you feel strongly enough, go punch his lights out, or p--s on his boots. Otherwise for God's sake, shut up. The left yammers; the right acts.

Posted by: Fred Z | 2004-06-29 9:56:39 PM

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