Allan Gregg at Carleton University: 1984 in 2012 – The assault on reason, Sept 5, 2012
Video (first 38 min)
This well-known media commentator, pollster, former strategist for the Progressive Conservative Party, and now adjunct professor at Carleton University, presented an impassioned speech on September 5, 2012. It “went viral” in the following days.
Here is a summary and some highlights:
Gregg starts with a discussion of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, emphasizing the twisted truth in the dystopian regime’s slogan, Ignorance is Strength: the more ignorant the masses, the more power available to the tyrant. He quotes Voltaire:
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
Just when you are beginning to wonder if Gregg will ever start relating this to the present government in Canada, he does, and with no holds barred. Prominent in his long list of its disturbing deeds is the 2012 omnibus budget bill, C-38:
This was no random act of downsizing, but a deliberate attempt to obliterate certain activities that were previously viewed as a legitimate part of government decision-making – namely, using research, science and evidence as the basis to make policy decisions. It also amounted to an attempt to eliminate anyone who might use science, facts and evidence to challenge government policies.
Gregg wonders why. He outlines a possibly well-meaning ideology underlying it all. But why the stealth, the language games and the muzzling of facts? He suggests that Harper is determined to remake Canada in a hurry. He can’t do it using the slow wheels of considered policy-making and respectful debate, so must use clever manipulation instead.
Canadians, by and large, still believe in tolerance, compromise, egalitarianism. We tend to see ourselves as each other’s keeper with a responsibility for those who are less fortunate. So to realize [the Harper] agenda, it becomes necessary to pursue it by stealth and circumvention rather than through transparency and directness.
One is left with the creeping hypothesis that Harper and his allies, not only in Canada, but in the U.S. and elsewhere, have studied Nineteen Eighty Four, not as the warning it was intended to be, but as a manual to aid in their quest for grabbing and holding power.
Allan Gregg, The Star: In defence of reason, Oct 8, 2012
This is a follow-up article in the Toronto Star. A month after delivering his lecture, Gregg restates its main concerns and tries to answer the question so many ask: “What do we do now?” He suspects that protest movements will not be enough. He places his best hope in 21st century versions of 18th century pamphlets like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. It was cheaply printed, widely distributed easy reading that moved large numbers of people. Now we have vastly more efficient tools: “We have our hands on the easiest levers the world has ever known by which to spread an idea and lead our own conversation. Let’s use them.”