It first came to my attention after reading the blog of an American woman who had been covering this phenomenon in the U.S. and in particular a group called Youth for Western Civilization. This "youth" group is funded by Blackwell's Leadership Institute, and engage in something he teaches called "controlled controversy".
Budding journalist Jeff Horwitz went undercover, I guess you'd say, attending one of their seminars and wrote an article My Right-wing Degree: How I learned to convert liberal campuses into conservative havens at Morton Blackwell's Leadership Institute, Alma Mater of Karl Rove, Ralph Reed, Jeff Gannon and two Miss Americas. (1)
Rob Anders is also a graduate of this school, and according to Marci McDonald in her book The Armageddon factor (2), about 700 other Canadians, including several of Harper's MPs, have passed through their halls. I'd be willing to bet that Pierre Poilievre and John Baird were graduates, though it's only speculation, based on their actions. Baird's latest outlandish display during the committee hearings into the Jaffer/Guergis affair, is pure Blackwell.
I really wish Canada had more of an actual media, because there is definitely a story here, and it's very troubling.
Not long after perusing the blog of the concerned American, I came across an article from a university newspaper, telling of an incident at Carleton. Someone attended a workshop there armed with a tape recorder, and exposed the fact that through Manning's centre (the Canadian offshoot of the Leadership Institute) there was an aggressive attempt to infiltrate student unions to shift them to the right.
In order to do this they suggested ways of obtaining funding by setting up "front" groups that would become part of a central organization. In doing this they could illegally, or at least unethically, obtain more funding (eg. five groups, five separate fundings for one organization)
Since I first started to unravel this, I've had several people contact me, all from the United States, because Canadians are still asleep at the wheel it would seem, and on Friday hit the mother lode. Pages and pages of research based primarily on the rift within the Catholic church between orthodox and modern teachings (part of it concerned Jason Kenney, which I blogged on yesterday)
Everything sent is a matter of public record, so there's no "deepthroat" thing going on, but I think we have to start taking this seriously. I printed everything off and started googling a bit, and they are definitely onto something.
I am currently reading Donald Gutstein's book Not a Conspiracy Theory*, in which he outlines the numerous think tanks and federations that currently back up Harper's Reform-Alliance-Conservative movement. And it is indeed not a conspiracy theory, as he simply follows the money. So I've been doing the same with this new "youth" movement, and when following the money, they are clearly very well financed.
And I suppose it shouldn't come as any big surprise that the same people who are funding the U.S. movement, are also throwing money around in Canada, as part of what is now called the "Religious Right"; not so much a divine mission, as it is an unholy crusade.
Controlled controversy -- making your point in a manner so bombastic that your opponents blow their cool -- is a Blackwell specialty. (1)
John Carpay who is at present the director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation (I've been told by CCF that he will be stepping down) had worked on the leadership campaign of Stockwell Day (along with Jason Kenney) when he was running against Preston Manning in 2000.
Carpay was upset that Manning and his team were attacking Day's religious beliefs, including the comment that there was a "Jim Jones Kool-Aid"** thing going on. (3) Carpay lashed out: "I'm upset at the negative campaigning, but I hold Preston Manning responsible. He wears a fake halo and pretends to be innocent. It's rather sickening." (4)
Carpay is not alone in suggesting that Manning is not as innocent as he likes to let on. McDonald in her book suggested that he was difficult to pin down, and that is not by accident. I've read his books, and it's more about what he doesn't say in them. For instance, little or no mention of the Fraser Institute, and none of the National Citizens Coalition, despite the fact that the Reform Party would never have been as successful as they were, had it not been for these two organizations.
In fact, it was his father, Ernest, who convinced Colin Brown, founder of the NCC, to start it up in the first place. Up to then he had only placed ads in major newspapers attacking Tommy Douglas and Medicare. It was also his father who suggested that they register themselves as a non-profit, to enjoy the tax breaks, and Ernest Manning was on their advisory board. (Stephen Harper was president of the NCC before stepping down to run for the Alliance leadership in 2002. He also ran against Stockwell Day and attacked his socon groupies)
Manning and Carpay have obviously mended fences because the Manning Centre awarded him recently with the Pyramid Award for Ideas, neoconservative jargon for dismantling Canada.
Recent examples of "controlled controversy" in Canada include York University, where a group of young Conservatives burst into the screening of a film during anti-Apartheid (Israel) week, laughing at dead Palestinian children. Just bombastic enough to garner the desired response. It worked as headlines blamed York students and Jason Kenney referred to their reaction as a "pogrom", despite the fact that there was no blood and no massacre. Since then no university is even allowed to put up posters advertising the event. Ironically CCF is not taking on their case.
Another was at the University of Calgary where young Conservatives displayed anti-abortion posters depicting aborted fetuses and swastikas. They were not made to take them down only turn them away from the street. CFF handled the case, and are reporting a victory.
If anything the bombastic posters stripped the group of any legitimacy, but that was not the intent. What we have now is an administration that will give this group more leeway, fearing reprisal and negative media reports. So what will they do next? Tack an actual aborted fetus to the wall? I can hardly wait.
I already have a thread started with the incidents at Canadian universities, but am starting another here showing how they directly connect to their American counterparts. One thing that screams out at you can be seen on page 5 (you will have top scroll down to it) of a 2008 report by the Canadian Constitution Federation. There is a photo of John Carpay sitting beside Eugene Meyer, president of the Federalist Society in the U.S., an arm of the Council for National Policy.
If you want to see a power broker, the Federalist Society is one of the top. (5) Remember the Monica Lewsinsky scandal and the attempt to impeach Bill Clinton, headed by Kenneth Starr?
"Ken Starr, the sober-faced lawyer who headed the independent counsel investigation leading to the impeachment of Bill Clinton ... Starr, 63, served as solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush and was later appointed independent counsel for an investigation of Clinton that eventually looked into the president's relationship with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. The Senate acquitted Clinton after the impeachment charges were brought by the House. Starr, a constitutional lawyer and member of the conservative Federalist Society, was reviled at the time by Democrats who called his inquiry a witch hunt." (6)
Now do you remember the 1997 speech that surfaced during the 2006 election campaign, that many believed cost Stephen Harper a majority, and saved Canada from total destruction? It was delivered at a conference for the Council for National Policy in Montreal where they passed a motion to try to find some way to impeach Bill Clinton. (6)
And you don't think this group is capable of getting a foothold in Canada? Will we hear John Carpay say "Just Watch Me"! Come on people, wake up. The CCF is not just a nice little legal group "defending free speech". They are organized and well financed. And a lot of that financing can be linked to the Republicans and the American Religious Right, which are now one and the same.
McDonald's book The Armageddon Factor was only a tip of the iceberg, because for every CCF out there, there are dozens of other groups, many of them "fronts", enjoying tax free status by claiming to be non-partisan and not for profit. Neither claim is true. They are very profitable and the staff moves back and forth from the organizations to Harper's parties in all of their manifestations. And I can prove it.
AND THIS IS NOT A CONSPIRACY THEORY!!
*Not a Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy, By Donald Gutstein, Key Porter Books, 2009, ISBN: 978-1-55470-191-9
**In November of 1978, the world was shocked by the suicide deaths of 913 members of the People's Temple cult. Jim Jones, the leader of the group, convinced his followers to move to Jonestown, Guyana, a remote community that Jones carved out of the South American jungle and named after himself. Jones constantly feared losing control of his followers. His paranoia was the main reason he moved the cult to Guyana.
The mass suicide occurred after U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan of California and a team of reporters visited the compound to investigate reports of abuse. After some members tried to leave with the congressman's group, Jim Jones had Ryan and his entourage ambushed at the nearby airstrip. He then ordered his flock to commit suicide by drinking grape-flavored Kool-Aid laced with potassium cyanide. (Don't Drink the Kool-Aid, By: Todd Strandberg)
1. My Right-Wing Degree, By Jeff Horwitz, May 24, 2005
2. The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, By: Marci McDonald, Random House Canada, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-307-35646-8 3, Pg. 104
3. Requiem for a Lightweight: Stockwell Day and Image Politics, By Trevor Harrison, Black Rose Books, 2002, ISBN: 1-55164-206-9, Pg. 62
4. "Manning Backer Drops Bid to Woo Social Conservatives, National Post, July 5, 2000
5. Debating the Subtle Sway of the Federalist Society, By Jason DeParle, August 1, 2005
5. Clinton Nemesis Ken Starr to Head Baylor University, By Tom Diemer, Poltiics Daily, April, 2010
6. Bill Clinton's Washington, Unzipped: 'The Death of American Virtue' is a cautionary tale of justice and libidos out of control, By Rafe Mair, The Tyee, June 4, 2010