Sunday, February 8, 2009

They Call Him Flipper

Flipping and flopping, but not without "principle," as DW assets:

The principle here is, of course, authoritarianism, and Dangovt is adhering to a classic three-part formula:

1) Maintain a constant state of tension, marked, in a type of collective bipolar disorder, by alternating cyclces of anticipation of reaching the promised land and fear of falling off an economic cliff. The province may be on the brink of getting rich or getting shafted; however, it must always be in a state of crisis. This crisis feeds the egos of Dangovt, contributes to the manic sense of busyness (read importance) that its leaders display, and justifies everything from vulgarity to the flip-flopping over equalization.

2) In addition to endless proclamations concerning the latest Danvent, Dangovt either deliberately creates disinformation or capitalizes on existing sources of confusion, e.g., the equalization cant, to obfuscate not only its policies but also the actual state of the province's finances. In other words, it doesn't really matter whether the confusion related to equalization is accidental, incidental, or deliberate; what matters, for Dangovt, is that it's a useful tool for pursuring its goals. People are easier to manipulate when they are kept in a state of fear and tension; they're even easier to manipulate when they're confused and uninformed. Combine together enough tension and misinformation, and pretty soon crazy seems normal, up is down, black is white. Pretty soon, it's perfectly acceptable to pursue the very policies one once condemned, to claim ownership over the deals one once abjured, to have a haircut that went out of style in 1977.

3) But to be a real despot, this mixture of fear and confusion will only get you so far. To ignite the mixture you need fuel. To get a really good grip over a people, you need evil-doers, fresh batches of witches, both foreign and domestic, who can be burned at the stake of public opinion. As Ibsen demonstrated more than a century ago, witch-hunts are not incompatible with democracy. In the end, Dangovt needs, desperately needs, Harper (who seems more than happy to oblige).

The result of this amalgam of endless fear, confusion, and conflict is a type of democratic authoritarianism that, if left unchecked, is little different from the bannana republics that littered the twentieth century.

"You can never take principle too far," indeed.

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