Earl Cowan

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I have to confess I felt the tiniest bit of empathy for the aged Harper supporter whose squeaky-voiced rant at a reporter Tuesday so captivated the Interwebs.

I sympathize partly because I’m an old geezer myself, and when I get really angry about stuff my voice goes all squeaky too.

It’s hard to do, but experience says it’s more effective just to glare and say nothing — that way you can leave what might happen to the imagination of the person it might happen to. Sometimes that works, anyway.

The other advantage, of course, is that nobody knows you sound like you’ve been breathing helium when you get mad — as did all the people who had viewed the CBC’s video of the man identified by the Toronto Star as Earl Cowan well over a million times by last night. Face it, if the cameras are doing the digital equivalent of rolling, as they always are nowadays, if you don’t keep your own counsel, no matter how mad you are, you’re going to look really foolish, and possibly do some good for the side you don’t support.

Leastways, Twitter now refers to Cowan as #AngryCon as he experiences his more than 15 minutes of uncomfortable fame, and it’s only a matter of time before someone posts a fake Conservative TV ad on Youtube that tells viewers to “Vote for Stephen Harper, you lying pieces of sh*t!”

So that’s one reason I’m feeling empathetic today. The other is that I have a pretty good idea of how he got to be so mad and, if you’re a Dipper or a Grit, unless you’re a sneaky one like me, you probably don’t.

All major Canadian political parties are engaging heavily with their supporters now that the federal election has been called for October 19 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Whether you’re orange, red or blue, the flow of emailed pitches for teeny-tiny donations, less than the price of a cup of coffee, etc. etc., is unrelenting, and for many of us pretty irritating.

Liberal fundraising emails tends to promise that the next TV clip featuring Justin Trudeau will finally turn the tide, if only you can chip in a ten-spot so the digital team that’s just waiting for your donation can get it on the air.

NDP schpeels often tighten the time frame — there’s a budget meeting in just three hours that needs $5 from you right now. Can you chip in $5 or more before the meeting starts? Plus, if you’re really lucky, you might get have dinner with Tom Mulcair!

Tory email fundraisers, though, often have a darker hue, and quite a few of them are designed to appeal to people like Cowan seems to be — older folks worried about their futures, unhappy with the changes they see in their country and feeling powerless to do anything about it.

And if there is a repeating theme in this emailed fund-raising campaign by the Party of Stephen Harper it’s that the media and its representatives are sneaky Ottawa elites out to help the Liberals, or lately the NDP, get elected by deception and fraud. In other words, if you’ll forgive me, “lying pieces of sh*t.”

If you don’t believe me, here are a few examples from my secret Conservative “supporter” account:

  • “We can’t count on the Ottawa media elite to report the results fairly — even though we raised the most money.”
  • “It’s the same old Ottawa media elite. We’re seeing more of the same selective reporting that defined their coverage in 2014. The proof is everywhere.”
  • “The Ottawa media elites are all but cheerleading for Justin Trudeau. Instead of talking about our government’s strong economic record, or questioning Trudeau’s total lack of policy, journalists like the Toronto Star‘s Heather Mallick gush fawningly over the Liberal leader.”
  • “The Ottawa media elites who attack our Prime Minister, day in and day out… are powerful, and they are influential.”
  • “When we told you the Ottawa media elites were working against us, reporters laughed at us.”
  • “The urban media elite are mobilizing against us.”
  • “The Liberals and their allies in the Ottawa media are trying to build a grand story around Justin Trudeau. They want Canadians to believe he has all the momentum. And they hope that if they repeat it often enough, people will believe it.”
  • “This morning, I picked up a paper to read with my morning coffee. You won’t believe what I found inside. I discovered a 740-word column by the Toronto Star‘s Heather Mallick, full of disgusting personal attacks on the Prime Minister. I won’t go into detail, but it included the word ‘sociopathic.’ Not even trying to hide her bias, Mallick ends her column hoping that when it comes to Conservative majority, ‘next year it will be over.'”

The “sociopathic” reference in the last email quoted here refers to Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick’s hilarious — and obviously controversial — comment about Harper’s “dead sociopathic eyes,” in an August 24, 2014, column that ran under the headline “Why voters like Justin Trudeau” and clearly got the Tories’ goat.

Interestingly, most of the pitches attacking the media are attributed to Jamie Girard, the party’s director of fund-raising, and Fred DeLorey, the director of political operations, with the name of an occasional MP thrown in.

The irony, of course, is that the role played by the media is pretty much the opposite of that portrayed by Girard and DeLorey. Indeed, can anyone name a major newspaper other than the Star that has written an editorial in any recent election advising voters to vote for anyone but the Harper Conservatives?

Policy related emails — and lately there have been lots promising to lock criminals up forever and ever, amen — tend to be attributed to Conservative MPs who live in the recipient’s neighbourhood.

Regardless, what I’m saying here is that many Harper supporters were schooled in the hatred for the media exhibited by Cowan on the now-famous POS video.

They learned these suspicions from the emails about the media they have been receiving from the Conservative fund-raising boiler room.

Rather than making fun of #AngryCon for his pathetic outburst, as much fun as that might be, we really ought to think about the kind of people who would encourage that kind of reaction, and what else they might be prepared to do to hang onto power.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...