It's been one day since human sinkhole Kevin O'Leary joined the Conservative leadership race as candidate no. 14 and already the Canadian media is working to make it seem like this isn't a giant national embarrassment.
Konrad Yakabuski calls O'Leary a "change maker" and various media are reporting that his entry "energizes" a so-far tepid leadership race. Vice's Justin Ling hilariously tweeted yesterday "I, for what it's worth, think O'Leary is a generally smart guy who says smart things." God help us.
But while Canada's sycophantic, insular mainstream media will always sidle up to human garbage in fear of losing access to newsmakers, there's only one outlet to blame for O'Leary's disgraceful rise to potential leader of Canada's Conservative party: our national broadcaster, the CBC.
Kevin O'Leary got his start in television producing Don Cherry's Grapevine on CHCH, eventually moving to TSN. He sold that company and made a fortune in educational software, eventually agreeing to a massive takeover from toy-maker Mattel. The deal went so poorly for Mattel, it was sued by its shareholders who accused O'Leary of misleading investors. Mattel eventually settled for $122 million but O'Leary got away unscathed. Business Week called Mattel's buyout one of the worst deals in history.
After lazing around on a beach in Barbados basking in the meritocracy of neoliberalism for a few years, O'Leary found a gig as a pundit for BNN, where he was eventually spotted by a CBC executive. Hired for Dragon's Den -- and The Lang and O'Leary Exchange a year later -- this is where his public persona as a sociopathic blowhard with a desperate chub for capitalism was born.
It's important to note that O'Leary was going nowhere before CBC decided that billionaires yelling at women who make talking dolls in their basement contributes to Canada's national Patrimoine. In his stupidly titled book Cold Hard Truth, he frequently mentions the despair he felt after his humiliating departure from Mattel. Without CBC, we likely would never have heard of Kevin O'Leary.
Instead, not only did the CBC rejuvenate O'Leary's career, he was able to develop and sharpen his obnoxious, excremental style on the public broadcaster's dime. In March of 2011, he called Amanda Lang an "Indian giver with a forked tongue" and was censured by the CBC ombudsperson. On Sept. 19 of the same year, he informed his co-host: "Here's the right thing to do: Elect me as prime minister for 15 minutes. I will make unions illegal. Anybody who remains a union member will be thrown in jail."
Just one month later, the show invited Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Chris Hedges on the show to explain the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. O'Leary hectored his guest and insulted the protests, calling him a "left-wing nutbar" and forcing CBC to apologize directly to Hedges. O'Leary, as a contractor, was not required to apologize and didn't. But he kept his paycheque.
The thing is, even as a smug, pro-capitalist gasbag, O'Leary wasn't very good at it. His interview with Hedges is both cringeworthy and bewildering. He calls the protests "nothing burger" as if that was something that made sense. Hedges, who is used to dealing with O'Leary's betters on CNN and Fox News, is utterly unfazed and dispatches O'Leary with embarrassing ease. But, despite forcing the CBC to apologize for his behaviour twice in seven months, O'Leary still had a job.
Peak Mr. Wonderfull
In March 2014, Canada witnessed peak O'Leary. On The Lang and O'Leary Exchange, Amanda Lang cited an Oxfam report that revealed 3.5 billion people were living in poverty. In a display equal parts ghastly and amateurish, O'Leary responded that this was "fantastic news":
"It's fantastic, and this is a great thing because it inspires everybody, gets them motivation to look up to the one per cent and say, 'I want to become one of those people, I'm going to fight hard to get up to the top. This is fantastic news and of course I'm going to applaud it. What can be wrong with this?"
It wasn't just that CBC kept him on after this garbage shitheel impression, it's also the warm camaraderie fostered between Lang and O'Leary. Lang, who eventually would face her own censure from the CBC for her soft-peddling of RBC's talking points during the Temporary Foreign Worker scandal, simply smiles and shakes her head at O'Leary's screed. "Oh Kevin," she seems to say. "You do say the queer-est things."
Here's a tip for humans: the correct response when someone tells you 3.5 million people living in dire poverty is "fantastic" is "fuck you, you steaming pile of human garbage, get off the set and never come back."
Unfortunately for Canada, there were no humans on staff that day at the CBC with the power to do anything about it. So instead, O'Leary continued to bray at the neoliberal moon for six more months on our public broadcaster -- although by then, he was already a well-established asshole on ABC's Shark Tank, just renewed for two more seasons.
Now, O'Leary has the money, the profile and the mania that makes him think he deserves to lead our country. There are many, in the Conservative Party and elsewhere, who agree with him. Of course, if anything should disqualify him from even signing his leadership registration papers, it is his horrorshow appearance on Celebrity Jeopardy when he revealed he thinks New Jersey is a city and that the Wright brothers invented motorcycles. He also misspelled his own self-awarded nickname, "Mr. Wonderfull."
So as Canada embarks down this masochistic path that, like most of O'Leary's career just looks like a shittier, amateurish rehash of American politics, remember where to send the bill.
Thanks to rabble's RPN Executive Producer Victoria Fenner for the inspiration!
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