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Danielle Crittenden

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Sunday Round Up: Harper-itis vs. Hitler-itis

Posted: 04/29/2012 12:04 am

UPDATE: Thrilled to announce that Huffpost Canada has just won its first major journalism award for original reporting: Congratulations to our star business reporter Rachel Mendleson for winning the first labour reporting award at last night's Canadian Association of Journalists gala!

Every other day or so, I receive a blog submission in which the author compares Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Hitler and/or the Harper government to the Third Reich. Let me stress that these are not (always) submissions from the crazy and paranoid. Most often, they are sent in by otherwise reasonable and even thoughtful people. The problem is that these writers have become gripped by what our media columnist, J.J. Burroughs, has described as "Harper-itis": a dislike of Harper and the Conservative party so extreme that it impairs rational judgment and civil discourse.

Variants of this mental disease have been detected in other political environments, of course, most notably among many of President Obama's right-wing critics. Those gripped by "Obama-itis" believe that Obama is guided by a secret plan to impose Kenyan, Marxist, Muslim socialism on the United States. If they can find scant support for their fears in the events of the past four years, they point to the impending danger of a second term when there'll be no restraints upon him. Seriously! I've been in the company of -- again, otherwise reasonable and thoughtful -- people who have floated this very theory by me, and I assure you that they were not wearing tin foil hats. But like those seized by Harper-itis, the part of the brain that forms opinions of one's political opponents had somehow become infected and distorted. Maybe temporarily. Maybe not.

When these kinds of blogs arrive -- comparing, say, proposals to require greater financial disclosure from NGOs to the "Final Solution" of one of the most genocidal dictators in history -- I will send it back to the author with a note gently suggesting he or she step away from the computer, take a few deep breaths (inhale, exhale), and reconsider the analogy. (Because you know who else engaged in exaggerated and ugly mischaracterizations of the people he disliked? Yes, that's right: Hitler!)

The reason I bring this up here -- (aside from the opportunity to issue a public fatwah against anyone sending me any more Hitler/Harper comparisons. Let's be more original, people. And no, I won't accept Pol Pot either) -- is because Harper himself this week was accused of "playing the Hitler card." Or rather, the very people who might compare Harper to Hitler have accused the PM of not knowing his Hitler history!

Now, whatever you think about Harper and his leadership, I would guess that you -- like me -- would not wish to be facing off against him when the final Jeopardy! question comes down to "Canadian History for $500, Jack." I suspect he could tell us more than any of us would ever want to know, like ever, about the rise and importance of the wheat trade in the mid-19th century.

So is it possible that when Harper accused the NDP party of not having supported the war against Hitler during the Second World War -- because of its general history of pacificism -- he was unaware the NDP party did not exist back then? Uh, doubtful. (In case this comes up on Jeopardy! and FWIW, the NDP's predecessor was the CCF [Co-operative Commonwealth Federation], and indeed was famously squishy in its attitude towards fighting the Nazis.) Harper dismissed NDP leader Thomas Mulcair's corrective retort with "CCF, NDP same difference" -- which might have sounded dismissive to some ears, but can hardly be described as ignorant of the history and pre-history of today's NDP.

Regardless, can we all please stop "playing the Hitler card" ... unless that card is being genuinely played against Hitler?

Thank you. Moving on.

Or rather, moving back to Monday -- and the "surprise" Albertan election in which incumbent premier Alison Redford came out the winner, and the media who predicted a Wildrose landslide came out as the big losers. This gives me the opportunity to officially welcome aboard contributor J.J. McCullough as Huffpost Canada's new media critic and columnist. His "MediaBites" column debuted on Friday -- but those of you who have been following his blogs will already be familiar with his hilarious, biting and take-no-prisoners coverage of the Canadian media scene. His debut column was, as usual, merciless in its assessment of why the massive pundit failure in calling the Alberta election.

And just as we were all over that story at Huffpost, so was our news and blog teams over the student protests and riots that erupted in Quebec this week, over rising tuition rates -- our coverage not least thanks to our French brethren at Le Huffpost Quebec. Blogger and law student Supriya Dwivedi captured the anger many Montrealers are feeling towards the students over the mayhem they are creating in the streets during their so-called "Maple Spring" uprisings-- especially as the tuition hike they are protesting will still keep Quebec among the lowest tuition fees in the country. And yet the students found an unlikely sympathiser in David Frum (let's not go too far -- he thinks the students shouldn't be striking). Frum's take was that the protests were not so much arising from anger about the tuitions as from a more general sense that their generation is getting screwed over financially by their elders. It's grandma and grampa you should be protesting, folks. I'd suggest holding off until after you've finished that cup of hot cocoa they just made you.

Our star Ottawa Bureau Chief, Althia Raj, broke the story that 10 electoral boundary commissions were working on redrawing ridings based on new census data -- immediately raising alarm amongst opposition parties that Harper might use this opportunity to gerrymander the ridings in the Conservatives' favour. (You know who also redrew boundaries to suit his political ambitions? That's right: Hitler!). Meanwhile, Blogtown welcomed two new distinguished contributors from Ontario: party leaders Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath, of the Conservatives and NDP respectively. Hudak explained why he didn't weigh in on the provincial budget deal earlier this week, and Horwath wrote about the original qualities women bring to leadership in politics. Honoured to have them both.

In big, BIG home news, my colleague Rod Charles took the helm of the new Huffpost Canada Travel vertical -- click here to read about the best deals and destinations going on our planet. (Should I announce now, Rod, that I am resigning my editorial post to become a full-time luxury cruise and spa correspondent for you? No, not yet? That was still a secret?! Oops!)

Speaking of launches, David Frum's new novel Patriots -- yes, you read that right -- a fictional satire of Washington and the Inside-the-Beltway political right, will be released tomorrow after 10 opening chapters were posted exclusively on Huffington Post sites worldwide this past week (you can access parts one through five here; a final installment will be posted Monday). It's the first novel ever to be serialized on Huffpost. And while knowing a few of the editors here [cough, cough] certainly helped us land the rights, as Arianna said in announcing the launch of Patriots, she was "delighted to partner with David Frum in serializing his hilarious new novel":

"David has been a friend -- and HuffPost blogger -- for years. He is someone who fearlessly speaks his mind, regardless of where the chips may fall, so it's no surprise he's able to convey so much truth in his fiction. We know our readers will eagerly anticipate engaging with each new chapter as it's revealed on our site."

Incoming next week: The announcement of the winner of $50,000 2011/2012 Donner Prize, the award for best public policy book by a Canadian. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, just in time for us to finish posting excerpts from the four finalists exclusively for our readers.


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