”sports — that’s another crucial example of the indoctrination system, in my view. For one thing because it — you know, it offers people something to pay attention to that’s of no importance. [audience laughs] That keeps them from worrying about — [applause] keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about. And in fact it’s striking to see the intelligence that’s used by ordinary people in [discussions of] sports [as opposed to political and social issues]. I mean, you listen to radio stations where people call in — they have the most exotic information [more laughter] and understanding about all kind of arcane issues. And the press undoubtedly does a lot with this.”
Stephen Harper, Bev Oda, Swine Flue, The Vancouver Olympics, Max Pacioretty, Noam Chomsky.
Fending off Dangerous Outbreaks of Democracy.
by Michael Scott
This isn’t the first time Harper’s government has shown open contempt for parliamentaryprocess, “With this week’s double rulings, the Harper government has set a record: it has been cited more times for ignoring the rights of Parliament than any in history,” (The Toronto Star). It’s also not the first time that convenient major news events, both of the genuine and fraudulent variety, have distracted media attention from the core parliamentary issues.
Last year, when Michael Ignatieff demanded a public enquiry to source Canadian involvement in Afghan war crimes, Harper prorogued parliament for two months, sighting a need to focus on budget issues. I will not go into the details of that even here, because it has it has already be satisfactorily recorded (see the wiki article). The core of the issue was very different, but the manifestation of the problem was essentially the same: Harper’s blatant refusal to provide documents as requested by the House of Commons. In the 2010 example, once parliament was prorogued, two predictable, intentional, and highly political events took place: The Vancouver Winter Games, and the campaign of vaccination against the Swine Flue Pandemic.*
That the games would be a gigantic media circus was a given, and the federally funded Own The Podium program served only to intensify that fact. Own The Podium gave Canadians a polarizing political issue to discuss that would turn their feverish attention away from civil rights abuses, and the likely involvement of their own government in foreign war crimes. Of course, Vancouver’s initial bid for the 2010 Olympics came long before Ignatieff’s challenge to parliament, and the Own The Podium program dates back to 2005. This was not a grand, conspiratory design. It was simple a case of opportunism. Harper found a way to dodge the impending political crisis, by essentially pointing at the first thing he saw, the Olympics, and shouting: HEY LOOK! A DISTRACTION!!
The distribution of Swine Flue Vaccine, though, was a more considered and nefarious matter. The timeline of the huge media push, designed to sway Canadians into vaccination, follows that of the Afghan debates incredibly closely, predating the proroguement event by only two months. Correlation does not equal causation, but with hindsight, we can see how blatantly absurd the H1N1 story actually was. In 2009, the year leading up to our current discussion, only 428 people had died from Swine Flu in Canada, compared with 4-8000 deaths from conventional flu in Canada every year (Health Canada). I can find no reliable fatality statistics relating to the 09-10 flu season, leading me to believe that the event was comparatively insignificant. Some might see this as evidence that the vaccination campaign was a success, but only40% of Canadians were vacinated (CBC), not much more than usually receive the standard flu shot, meaning that proportionally, even with vaccinations factored in, the H1N1 event was less then 1/10th as severe as a standard flu season. It is also possible that the Canadian Medical industry simply goofed, that the virus simply “did not mutate,” (Margret Chan, World Helth Organization) as expected. Certainly, there was pressure from WHO, but previous pandemic responses in Canada, to SARS or Avian flu, were not so dramatic. It is most likely that the intense vaccination scramble and resulting media feeding frenzy were a complete and intentional fabrication, designed to protect Canadians from a dangerous outbreak of not flu, but democracy.
I am hesitant to mention the horrific events of the Haitian earthquake, which occurred twelve days after the prorogation of Canadian Parliament, for it is not my wish to reduce the continued plight of the people trapped in this desperate situation to the level of a rhetorical device. Of the three major natural disasters in 2010 — being the Earthquake in China, the Flooding in India, and the Earthquake in Haiti — the Haitian quake was by far the most devastating, killing 230,000 people more than 200 times that of the other two disasters combined. It is not surprising that the quake in Haiti received so much more coverage than the later Chinese event. For the purposes of this discussion, however, parallels between the Haitian situation and that in Japan must be drawn.
On March 14th, we Canadians are sitting with another potentially polarizing story about abuse of government power; another rumour about a spring election possibility, and our Prime Minister is again giving lip service to sport:
“‘I just say this as a hockey fan: I’m very concerned about the growing number of very serious injuries and in some cases to some of the premier players in the game,’ Harper, who has worked on a hockey history book and who has a son who plays the sport. ‘I don’t think that’s good for the game and I think the league has to take a serious look at that for its own sake.’”
Hockey players get injured all the time. Why is the case of Pacioretty so unique? What is motivating Air Canada threaten to pull its NHL sponsorship? How did this become the only thing on anyone’s mind? My guess is: Harper. Politicising sport to depoliticize politics. I’m not saying Harper payed Zdeno Chara to try and kill Max Pacioretty. . . actually, come to think of it, that’s exactly what I’m saying. And when Pacioretty survived, Harper went to Air Canada, and bribed a few key figures to make idle threats against the NHL. He probably used money from the padded 9 billion dollar defence contract, or the money soon to be ex Minister Oda saved by cancelling the KAIROS funding.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government is also dodging questions from all corners of the island and abroad, about the severity of the nuclear emergency there. Some things they honestly don’t know, I’m sure, and somethings they are hiding to prevent panic. Another earthquake, this one causing a typhoon causing a nuclear emergency. The death toll will, conservatively, top 10,000, and that’s discounting the very real possibility of nuclear melt-down. It is an event, like the Haitian quake, too profoundly sad to ignore. An event which, like the Haitian quake, is timed perfectly to shield Conservative transgression from the public eye.
It is supremely unlikely that any government is in possession of a Tesla Oscillator (if the Mythbusters have disproved the existence of such a device, who am I to challenge them?) Even if the machine does exist, there is virtually no likelihood of one being in Canadian hands; we simply aren’t that interesting a country. So this is not about ability, it’s simply about willingness. Would our government be willing to intentionally decimate a civilian population purely as a distractionary tactic, as a way to mask its own trespasses against democracy? We went to Afghanistan to help George Bush do just that.
All Canadians – including Harper, I imagine – view the recent weather events in China and India as heartbreaking, and profound human realities. Most of us view the Japanese, and Hatian earthquakes in the same way. For Harper and his government, though, the earthquakes are different. They are happy accidents. Tools to reinforce his autocracy.
My only provable point, I suppose, is only how strange it is that this has happened the same way twice over. A cry of contempt in Ottawa. A domestic sporting controversy. A massive foreign earthquake.
Keep your ears open. I bet we’re less then three weeks away from a public health crisis.
by Michael Scott
*The link here describes the pandemic out break of the year 2008-2009 flu season, one year before the vaccination campaign. I have found virtually no information about H1N1 in the 2010 season.