I've been second guessing my thoughts earlier this week on the racist email circulated by a public service employee working in a Liberal cabinet office. My basic point of imputing the action in its peculiarity to a racism latent in Liberal ideology, I thought perhaps was going too far. To be sure, the smugness, the arrogance, and sense of entitlement displayed by the Ontario Liberal government does seem conducive to this kind of senseless and careless action. Either the employee was too careless and naive to fully understand what she was doing, or her sense of entitlement so exalted as to feel beyond reproach.
More gravely, however, this was not only a stupid moment, it was a stupid racist moment. For all the talk in Liberal camps about being progressive, sometimes even "leftist", about social justice and human rights, the truth is that when these kinds of actions erupt under their watch it can't help but illuminate the hypocrisy at the heart of Liberal ideology. Liberal ideologues are nice, they smile, have middling intelligence. They talk a good game in relation to social justice, poverty, and human rights but the unchangeable truth is that Liberalism is originally and essentially about raw self-interest, laissez faire economics, and sidling up to big business interest. Progressive politics and Liberalism only come together incidentally or conveniently and not out of principle. The Ontario Liberal Budget of 2007 was a case in point. It not only was NOT anything approximating a "poverty" budget, it only became a "poverty" budget because of the hard work of folks like MPP Cheri DiNovo, the Ontario NDP, the Canadian Labour Council, and only then because the Ontario Liberals surprisingly lost a by-election (York South Weston) almost exclusively because of their stance on poverty.
Say what you will, but a New Democrat would never act in this way. Why? Because a New Democrat is under the sway of a different ideology. Vigilant concern over things like racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, workers rights etc. is inherent to the principled progressive politics of social democratic ideology. Still, just as I'm overcome with doubt at what I've written, enter Warren Kinsella.
It seems in his zeal to smear the Conservatives, their leader and especially Randy Hillier, Warren Kinsella let his guard down and the truth of Liberalism spoke despite him not because of him. You see,in his blog yesterday, Warren published a photograph/cartoon, which he has already removed from his website so I'm left working from memory (edit: pic now included above). Anyway, in his bid to regale us with his wit and humour, Kinsella affixed a number of comments next to those flanking Hillier and listening to him speak, implying that they were desperate not to be seen there nor associated with this brute. One of those standing there was MPP Lisa Macleod, next to whom Kinsella attaches a thought bubble saying something to the effect "I'd rather be baking". Why exactly would MPP Macleod rather be baking Warren? Because she's a dumb woman or because she clearly has food issues?
Now, this is Warren Kinsella doing this, not some inexperienced summer hire. But is this any less thoughtless and incendiary than last week's racist incident? First of all, given how much talk there has been about the necessity of increasing the number of women in Canadian politics, I'm shocked and appalled that Kinsella was not more sensitive to his latent sexism, but still there you have it. Progressive, punk loving, hipster Kinsella, a bona fide sexist despite himself. Typical Liberal. With friends like him, progressives don't need enemies.
According Kinsella, removing the picture from his blog has only to do with his wife not finding the cartoon very funny at all. Duh. Do you think? She's a woman, no kidding she wouldn't be terribly amused. Again, typical Liberal. As we saw with the racist email, when caught red handed, never ever take responsibility or ownership. Deny and deflect. Pathetic!!
Classically Liberal show of contrition by Kinsella on his blog. After threatening to equivocate, Kinsella opts for high moral ground by listing potential excuses, getting in a couple of digs at MPP's who were outraged by his sexism (you know the NDP is just retaliating for his smear of Cheri DiNovo and that he still opposes her fitness for office over something that happened more than 40 years ago, more on Lisa Macleod later) by leaning on his record of standing up for women, and even a character reference from one of his editors. You know, things he might have done were he inclined to equivocate, but since he's not going to equivocate Warren Kinsella does the honourable thing and admits "he made a dumb, sexist mistake." And thus, he falls on his own sword, martyred for the betterment of sexist males everywhere.
Although I believe his apology to be sincere, it is telling that not once does he acknowledge the immediate victim, Lisa Macleod, of this sexist incident. In fact, Kinsella apologizes to virtually every woman in the world, except the one he most injured by his insensitive mistake. In fact, all he can say about Lisa Macleod amounts to I don't know what she's so upset about, she should be more rattled by her colleague Randy Hillier.
I don't think Warren Kinsella is a sexist, but I also don't think he's ideologically committed to ending sexism and other injustices. That's my whole point. As a Liberal, his commitment to winning, even unscrupulously, is simply deeper than any commitment to progressive politics, to the disenfranchised and marginalized, to the poor, to a more just and equitable society. I'm struck that in his apology what he seems most contrite about is not offending Lisa Macleod and women everywhere, but that the cartoon was tactically a stupid move that backfired. It cost the Liberals points in the race for re-election and made Kinsella look bad.
I was just re-reading this from Kinsella's blog:
"Or I could suggest that Cheri di Novo’s outrage relates to the fact that I loudly opposed the political candidacy of a person who had actually smuggled drugs in Bibles (which I did, and still do)."
What does the parenthetical comment refer to? Is Warren admitting that he too, as a wayward teen over forty years ago, smuggled drugs in bibles? Or worse, that he still does? I didn't think Warren could be so squeaky clean as all that. You know, once too having been a teenager and in a band and all that.
Mr Kinsella get over it. You opposed her candidacy simply because she wasn't a Liberal. And your opposition was not only loud, it was part of a scurrilous attack which John McGrath described as the worst smear campaign he'd witnessed. Yet, as is commonly conceded, MPP Cheri DiNovo is one of the best things to happen to Queen's Park in quite some time. She's a tireless advocate for the poor and marginalized, for small business and working families. She's articulate, she's courageous, she's principled. The antithesis of a Liberal. I couldn't ask for better representation in Parkdale High Park.