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Tom Flanagan can try to blame Idle No More, but he was hoisted on his own petard

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Today, the National Post has generously provided space for Tom Flanagan to make explanations, clarifications and at least one big excuse for his remarks last week about child pornography.

Flanagan asserts that he 'walked into a trap' laid for him by persons unknown, presumably the Indigenous person who asked him the question about child pornography and/or other supporters of Idle No More who attended the event and who had "loudly denounced" Flanagan during the Q&A.

I guess this whining makes sense. You see, Flanagan has made a career of blaming Indigenous people for their predicament. Now he's found a way to blame them for his, as well.

There are only a couple of things to say about this. First, there is no evidence that anyone purposely 'trapped' Flanagan -- and, hey, so what if they did?

A high profile public critic of Idle No More making a public speaking appearance on the topic of the Indian Act is absolutely fair game for some pointed questions. So what if one of the Indigenous people in attendance chose to ask him about some dodgy remarks Flanagan had made earlier on the public record. (At least one progressive blogger had years ago drawn attention to Flanagan's publicly expressed views on child pornography, and in fact predicated they might lead to his demise.) 

Flanagan's a big kid, and he and he alone is responsible for his comments. You'd think that the slap on the wrist he received from the CBC after publicly calling for Julian Assange's assassination by drone attack might have caused him to measure his words more carefully. But I digress...

The truth is that Flanagan was not trapped into this mess -- though you could argue he helped create the conditions for his blunder. 

In politics, he lived by the sword and, last week, died by the sword. Flanagan was the campaign manager for Harper back in 2004 when they put out the shameful and absurd press release, "Does Paul Martin support child pornography?"

A better description still would be to say that Flanagan was 'hoisted on his own petard,' as rabble.ca Ottawa correspondent Karl Nerenberg put it in our radio conversation about this last week. (The line was immortalized in Hamlet; it's basically the Shakespearean way of saying Flanagan suffered blowback from his own behaviour. Note: Karl used the correct Shakespeare-era past tense 'hoist'.)

Last week, I noted that an important and initially underreported part of the story of Flanagan's comments about child pornography was the atmosphere created by the large presence at his University of Lethbridge speaking event of Idle No More supporters. Watching the video, it does indeed appear that Flanagan is out of sorts, a bit rattled to be facing an audience including many young Indigenous people there to take on his hostile, dismissive views on Idle No More and Indigenous peoples more generally. The young man asking the question also tagged on a joke about Flanagan being the father of the Ikea Monkey -- and the levity created may have contributed to Flanagan's rambling answer.

So, he may indeed not have wandered so carelessly into expressing his libertarian views on child pornography if it weren't for Idle No More.


Back on December 11, when the subject of Idle No More came up on CBC TV, Flanagan asked rhetorically and grumpily, "What does anybody expect to come out of constant harping on grievances?"

In those early days of Idle No More, the Ikea Monkey was still getting way more media coverage than the incipient movement. But it wouldn't be long before Idle No More captured imaginations across the land, no doubt fuelled by the crude dismissals of critics like Flanagan.

What happened to Flanagan last week wasn't a trap. But some might call it karma.


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