A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Study in Tyranny (Part 1)

"Message Control and Vetting"

A guest post by Pamela Mac NeilCanadians for the first time in our history must confront the menacing truth, that our Prime Minister is a dictator and the Conservative Government for the most part are enabling him in turning Canada into a dictatorship, incremental or otherwise. There are some who are aware of Harpers authoritarian agenda and some who have even written and written well about it. What many Canadians tend to do though when talking about his desire for power and the extreme control that he executes over his government, the media and policy making , to name a few areas, is to judge his tight fisted control as , more of a personal governing style, a way in which he gets things done. We don't seem to see that his pursuit of power is all pervasive, implicit in everything that he does, the fundamental modus operandi that drives him. Power is his core value, central to his identity and the exercise of that power is what he lives for day in and day out.
Sometimes in our families, sometimes in our work or even in our everyday dealings in society most of us have had experience with dictatorial people. If someone grows up in a home with an authoritarian culture created by dictatorial parents they will be obedient rather than independent , fearful instead of confident, develop insecurity in the place of self-esteem and use their minds to survive the authoritarianism instead of for thinking and learning. They will learn how to survive, instead of learning how to live and if they go to a school with a dictatorial culture their growth is doubly threatened. Watching these people up close, seeing when and how they control others, we can also see how much damage they cause. So too with a democratic country. What happens in a country like Canada when citizens find they have voted a man, who becomes their Prime Minister and has now shown himself to be a dictator? What do we do? I think we must first understand how we got to this point by understanding how Harper has acquired his power.

In Lawrence Martins book "Harperland" one of the controls instituted across the board for everyone in Harpers government is message control and vetting. Martin goes on to explain " The new regime called for all public pronouncements by civil servants, diplomats, the military, cabinet members and Conservative MPs to be approved by PMO or the PCO." If a government official or a caucus member wanted to say something publicly, he or she would have to fill out a Message Event Proposal (MEP) and submit it to central command. This form has sections with such titles as Desired Headline, Strategic Objective, Desired Sound Bite and the like. It also has areas for supplying details on the speakers backdrop, the ideal event photograph and even the speakers wardrobe." Once submitted the MEP is studied by the PMO/PCO for approval or not and this is not done in a timely fashion. Under Harper, departments exercising such freedom as creating their own news releases and scheduling events for ministers is not allowed. No matter how minor the occurence or event, ALL government communications are to be approved by one of Harpers censors. This is how, as one example, the government scientists were muzzled. Controlling the message was implemented incrementally starting with the Prime Ministers events and then gradually expanded throughout the government.
By doing things incrementally, a Harper strategy, neither the media nor the public will notice and by the time when and if they do notice, the new policy of message control and vetting will have been in place and operational. This policy also applies to the media and to the controlling of the access-to-information requests a crucial tool made available to citizens in a democracy like Canada. Also, implicit in controlling the message is Harpers silencing of dissent. This is not just a management tool, put in place to make government communications more efficient. This control and vetting system gives the Prime Minister, PMO, PCO and government the power to decide what information, after it has been vetted, will be told to the Canadian public. This is the beginning of the breaching of one of our most important democratic freedoms, the right to know. Not to know a rewritten, censored, talking point, sanitized truth, but to know the truth period. Harper and Company have not set up this all inclusive government communication system so that at the end of the day they can tell Canadians the truth. They have set it up so that at the end of the day they can control the truth and than decide what they will tell us. Controlling the truth usually means hiding the truth and putting a partial or complete lie in its place. Studying how this communication policy is created, than implemented, more importantly, reveals a concrete example of how Harper and his cons go about acquiring and taking power.

Everyone knows of Harpers ignoring and sidelining of the main stream media the reason is said to be because he believes the media to be biased toward the liberals, but that's not the real reason he avoids talking to the press. Everything with Harper is calculated and choreographed, right down to the most minute detail. Press conferences are spontaneous, the questions can't be controlled. Answering questions spontaneously shows Canadians whether their Prime Minister can think on his feet or not. It's also much harder for Harper to lie when he has a group of journalist monitoring his answers, therefore press conferences are out and also sit down interviews except for the select few where all is choreographed beforehand including what questions can be asked. Harper is terrified of having to discuss the policies, trade deals or legislation that are created behind closed doors, in secrecy. All unplanned communications are strictly banned. So the cons have come up with another way to bypass the MSM and have Canadians focus on Harper, by creating an entire TV network called 24 Seven, devoted to Harpers life and paid for by Canadians. I held my nose and went to review the 24 Seven website so I would know what I was talking about. This is what I found. It opens by playing a few bars of "The Maple Leaf Forever", while showing Harper, door open , ready to climb into the backseat of an SUV. The site is comprised of videos about Harper's daily and/or weekly time spent in showing the various events that a PM attends and various announcements about legislation or policy, like a bill of victims rights, legislation about "life means life" where the accused once sentenced to life, will never get out of jail. There are various videos covering various topics that Harper and government are working on like free trade, law and order, taxation etc. In these videos Harper announces his new policies, programs, and legislation, but he keeps the announcement of them very limited no discussions allowed.
Then there are the videos that say? "Rhona Ambrose Minister of Health 24 questions," where the same woman who narrates all the videos asks the questions. Questions like: "What's your favorite gadget"? " What's the last movie you watched"?, "What's your favorite meal"? The same type of questions are repeated in other videos with other various cabinet ministers . I kid you not! Something I also noticed is that the word Exclusive is used on all video descriptions, including the intro, stating 24 Seven Exclusive as if other TV networks are competing for this information about Harper and 24 Seven was the only network that got the exclusive. This format though is exactly what Harper wants. Canadians have to go to him and he and his staff are controlling only what they want Canadians to see . The words and images are completely controlled by Harper and his staff. This is not communication this is manipulation! Manipulation is Harper and his regimes favorite form of communication. It is used almost every time they have something to tell the Canadian people. Harper and the PMO through information control and vetting, controls every facet of government including the press, it is the most important tool in Harpers arsenal of tools used for acquiring power. And what is Harper and his cons ultimate goal in their pursuit of power? Why taking away Canadians personal freedoms and turning Canada into a Fascist Dictatorship of course. And if he gets 4 more years, this time, he won't be taking incremental steps. He'll go straight for the prize running by leaps and bounds.

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Rural said...

A good outline of how our democracy is suffering a death by a thousand cuts, Pamela. You are to be congratulated on watching those propaganda videos, paid for with out tax dollars, without becoming ill. As you say should he get back in, and that cannot be discounted given his predilection for doing ANYTHING to retain power, the final moves to centralize power in the PMO and make parliament all but meaningless will be completed swiftly.
I look forward to you next article in this series.

Unknown said...

Thx Rural. I would very much like to see the back of Harper and his regime.

Frank A. Pelaschuk said...

All your offerings are excellent examinations of a dangerous personality out of control and how it came to be that way, Pamela. There is more than hubris at play, though it is there in all its vanity: it hears no voice but its own. Too, you clearly do not absolve society; it must share responsibility simply for its willingness to surrender the demagoguery of the tyrant.It's all about power, control and surrender.
Very insightful and power encapsulations of a devious mind and a gullible populace willing to be sold a bill of goods.