Preston draws his line:
For the sake of the movement and the maintenance of public trust, conservative organizations should be prepared to swiftly and publicly disassociate themselves from those individuals who cross the line.
This does not mean that we as individual conservatives on a personal level ostracize or disassociate ourselves from those who cross the line. Everyone makes honest mistakes, conservatives believe in second chances, and we need to rally around those who have been lured across the line by opponents rather than “piling on.”
For those who might have wondered why the right-wing lynch mob for Tom Flanagan was just as big as the left-wing mob, you have your answer. On top of the visceral disgust associated with child pornography, even if mentioned in the most obscure of technical discussions, there was that old fashioned instinct toward political hygiene. Tom made us look bad, so now we're going to denounce him so hysterically that no one will ever think we supported his ideas.
What were those ideas? The Professor offhandedly suggested that locking up child porn pervs was perhaps not the best approach. He then clarified his position. So an academic was asking an academic question. At no point did the good professor advocate or support either the production or distribution of such filth. Yet he was assailed with one of the most terrific bursts of outrage seen in years. The Left saw a club to beat the Right. The Right saw a threat to its reputation. None of this has anything to do with child pornography.
As noted last week, far worse is said in university classrooms across this country everyday.
This instinct for political hygiene is by no means an exclusively Canadian phenomenon. Mark Steyn reports that Pamela Geller has been disinvited to this year's CPAC. So one of America's most right-wing bloggers is being excluded from a right-wing confab because she is, ahem, very rude to Muslim who want kill Americans in great numbers. She is also very partial to the State of Israel. I think this is rather less for what Geller believes than how she expresses herself. Much the same could be said of Anne Coulter.
This is an issue of tone.
So what's the big deal? Just make the same points with a bit more restraint. A little less carnival barker and a bit more William F Buckley. Nothing wrong with good manners, eh?
There is when the other side refuses to practice equivalent acts of political hygiene. For every awkwardly expressed Tom Flanagan query there are hundreds of vicious statements made on university campuses. For every Pamela Geller, who whatever you think of her approach is trying to argue for freedom, there are men and women who utterly despise western civilization given a free pass by the MSM on both sides of the 49th. Hounding Flanagan for his clumsiness and Geller for her bluntness is not hygiene, it is something closer to unilateral disarmament.
Preston Manning is right that the MSM is out to get right-of-centre public figures. In days past they could ignore the Canadian Right as a bunch of unprofessional malcontents. The internet has allowed the malcontents an audience and a voice. The political victories of the Harper Tories have de-stigmatized the word "conservative" in many parts of the country. While ideologues such as yours truly bemoan the steady drift to the Left by the Harperized Conservative Party, the Badly Coiffed One has succeed in detoxifying the brand.
Scroll back the political odometer to the late 1990s. The accepted and unalterable truths of that era were that: The Right in Canada were a bunch of western nuts who could never win in Sensible Ontario. The old Progressive Conservative Party were a bunch of mushy Red Tories, too tainted by association with Brian Mulroney. The former's fate was to become a threat to national unity in a less dangerous way than the Bloc Quebecois, the latter would eventually be - like Scott Brison - absorbed into the Centrist juggernaut known as the Chretien-Martin Liberals.
That world is as dead as John A Macdonald, yet strangely more distant.
The Left is terrified of Stephen Harper. He is their worst nightmare. Instead of being an unprofessional malcontent the Prime Minister is a shrewd political strategists with the demeanour of a chartered accountant, the career he was set to pursue until ensnared by the thrill of economics. Canadians are not afraid of boring. They like it. The great radical shifts in our political life have been presided over by dull men: Robert Borden, Mackenzie King and Lester Pearson. Stephen Harper is attempting to repeat the strategy in the opposite direction. Eventually. We hope.
Bland does work, as Bill Davis observed years ago. But in what direction? If the word conservative is no longer toxic, which means you can somewhat safely admit to being one in the Annex, then what value is there in the term? If those who oppose us no longer find us threatening, is that a good thing? The reason the word conservative was once so toxic was because it had edge. It was a danger to the great and good of the Canadian Establishment. At what point in becoming "clean" do we stop being us and start being something else, something we started out to fight.
That line is every bit as important as the line Preston Manning tried to draw this weekend.