American friends sometimes ask me if there are any Canadian equivalents of all those absurd conspiracy theories thrown at President Obama in the States.
A couple, I reply.
Following 2011's contempt-of-parliament vote, so many cranks started spreading false rumours that Stephen Harper had been rendered constitutionally ineligible to seek re-election CTV had to issue an official rebuttal. Likewise, on much of the Canadian left, the so-called "robocalls scandal" -- which a recent court ruling concluded was a relatively minor affair largely limited to a single Ontario riding and lacking any involvement from the federal Conservatives -- is imagined as this gigantic Tory vote-rigging plot. (A while ago I saw a grizzled guy wandering the streets in a sandwich board. Turns out he's trekking all the way to Ottawa to protest the "the most gutless, manipulative wimp to ever steal an election.")
And of course good ol' Elizabeth May is basically a one-woman conspiracy farm unto herself, most recently offering an elaborate canard about how the PM is a brainwashed Manchurian sleeper agent of Yankee imperialism since he once attended a Republican summer camp as a teenager.
And now, care of VICEMagazine, there's a fresh crackpot theory to add to the mix! Did you know the Harper government is actually a branch of the gay mafia?
That fabulously creepy phrase gets thrown around a lot these days, so here's a quick explainer: Gay mafia theory holds that many of our world's most powerful and influential institutions (Hollywood, journalism, the Catholic Church, etc.) are secretly run by a small clique of rich and sinister homosexuals. And just like the real mafia, if you cross them, they'll crush you.
Rush Limbaugh, for example, thinks the only reason gay marriage is getting so much traction these days is because politicians fear reprisals from the gays that supposedly dominate the DC donor class.
The current pope, meanwhile, has mused that a shadowy clique of gays may be behind the Vatican's pedophilia problems. And so on.
It's in this context that VICE's Matthew Hays asks "Is Canada Run by a gay mafia?"
Now, longtime students of journalism will be familiar with the so-called Betteridge Law, which holds that the answer to any question posed by a headline ("is your dental floss making you fat?") is always "no."
Matthew's query continues the trend.
The author, who prides himself on having excellent gaydar, thinks the Harper administration is full of homosexuals. He says this in lots of silly ways -- the prime minister's cabinet "seems about as straight as an episode of Glee," for instance. It's a titillating conclusion for which he provides absolutely zero evidence.
Minister Baird is gay because someone said so on the radio once. Minister Moore, who is married, and indeed, was once called out by some prissy NDP battle ax for looking at naughty pictures of sexy ladies in parliament (they were actually vacation photos of his girlfriend) is described as merely "ostensibly heterosexual" because -- get this -- he used to be single. Ditto for Minister Kenney and ex-PMO chief of staff Nigel Wright, who remain suspiciously single to this day. Also, Nigel Wright jogs. There's jogging in Glee, right?
In spreading this kind of tabloid trash, Matthew badly wants to make the argument oft-spouted by left-wing activists in the States -- namely that there's something uniquely evil and hypocritical about conservative politicians who live in the "transparent closet" yet push a puriticanical social agenda of rigid sexual morality. Who wants to take lessons in carnal forbearance from guys who "run their private lives by an entirely different set of rules," he scoffs.
But in a Canadian context, arguing team Harper is hypocritical is no easier than arguing they're into dudes.
Though we all know the Tories (like the Libs before them) once strenuously opposed same-sex marriage, the party's endorsed and strengthened it in government. They've added language about the importance of LGBT tolerance to citizenship manuals and helped ensure the passage of a transgender rights bill. They have, as Hays himself even notes, made protecting the rights of gays and lesbians abroad a prominant plank in their foreign policy agenda. For what it's worth, they've also dogmatically defended Canada's anything-goes status quo on abortion.
In short, even if there were as many promiscuous sexual deviants in the Conservative caucus as Hays claims, it's hard to see who's not preaching what they practice.
Still, there may be a tiny shred of legitimacy in what Matt's trying to do here.
An argument can certainly be made that the Canadian press is too aggressively disinterested in the private lives of our politicians (as we saw with Mayor Ford, whose alleged crack use had to be exposed by a US blogger), and too patronizingly protective of personal details they don't think the public can handle (like the very open sexual orientation of then-wannabe premier Kathleen Wynne). Likewise, it's undeniable that much of politics is personal, and that a politician's biography will often explain why they do or don't care about this or that issue.
But lazy, bigoted slurs lobbed against men, who -- according to some random standard -- "seem kinda gay," and must therefore comprise a perverted power cabal within our decadent elite, have little to do with biography or issues. They're simply the cheap slanders of shallow, conspiratorial minds.
Pity those seem to be the dominant currency of North American politics these days.