It is my intention to street-proof your vote. It needs street-proofing because the old electoral politics of presentation, explanation and proof are mostly dead. Politicians no longer court you, they stalk you. They don’t campaign, they spy, cheat, chisel and connive their way into office.
Every electronic device you own is an unlocked back-door to your privacy and their dirty work. Think of it as information sorcery. The people who ply this relatively new profession, using the social media, are routinely referred to in the mainstream media as “wonder children” or “communications geniuses.”
Don’t get me wrong. There have always been rainmakers, fixers, and crooks hanging around politics like flies in a barnyard. But the new technologies, and the access to personal information they bring, have turned them into pure predators. American conservative strategist Vincent Harris is the latest incarnation of this phenomenon, though he has many predecessors like Frank Luntz and Karl Rove.
For public consumption, people like Vincent Harris say they advise the media teams of politicians. Their real task is to create public opinion and herd the masses by way of distortion. They push and pull voters as if they were an accordion.
Their favourite method is to corrupt information in such a way as to make voters “drink pig piss.” – the immortal words of the father of mass manipulation in democratic politics, American conservative consultant Arthur Finkelstein.
In other words, they are masters of making people vote against their own interests, while advancing the interests of their elite clients. They always confuse these democracy-killing exertions with cleverness, just like the media.
Your first line of defence against the election bandits is your telephone. I would advise simply disconnecting it, but your kid might call needing a ride home from a sleepover. But here’s something you can do. Don’t take part in political phone surveys, just hang up.
For one thing, you really have no idea who is on the other end of the line, or what they are really doing. For another, your call display can’t help you. The number it registers may or not be the one from which the call is really being placed. Besides, who you support is nobody else’s business, which is why we vote by secret ballot. Don’t blab your voter intention to people who will just give or sell the information to the media to concoct the latest “trend.”
Never, I repeat, never listen to a telephone recording, let alone act on one. A lot of people who did in the last federal election exercised their legs, not their franchise. Now that Harper’s strategically weakened new elections legislation makes life markedly easier for would-be cheaters, we are certain to see the sequel: Son of Robocalls. When you know it’s a recording, just hang up. Don’t let them use your telephone as a Trojan horse to enter your head.
Make your candidate be real. If he calls you with a chatty recording instead of a visit to your door, draw a line through his name. Never consider voting for a candidate who doesn’t show up at public meetings or debates, as many Conservatives did not in 2011.
Vote for somebody who actually appears and answers your questions, face-to-face, in a way that satisfies you. As for the one who shoves his literature in your face while asking if he can expect your support, all in 30 seconds, tell him to come back in a week and you’ll talk about it. If he doesn’t come back, line the bird-cage with his bumph.
During this election cycle, approach your television with caution; the little screen has big teeth. It is still the favourite weapon of dubious politicians who want all of your vote for one-tenth of the story. Attack ads are not haikus, they are weaselly stunts designed to dumb you down.
For the duration of the election cycle, (and with a vengeance once the writ has been dropped), television will become a weapon of mass deception. So when you see Justin Trudeau doing a slow striptease, or Tom Mulcair baring his canines, do something really useful like clean out the kitty litter box, or vacuum your truck. You’re a person, not a keypad, so don’t let them push your buttons.
Take pollsters with a grain of salt – and make that a five-pound bag when they are doing their surveys for an election that hasn’t been called. Remember that not all polls are created equal. There are real pollsters with proven methodologies and there are those who fly by night. There are professionals who aim to reveal public opinion, and partisans in pollsters’ clothing who use pretend polls to generate their own public opinion.
Don’t forget, the prime minister’s former parliamentary secretary, Dean Del Mastro, actually commissioned a poll during Ontario’s 2011 election to answer other polls he didn’t like. If you care, take a close look at the methodology, the questionnaires, and the track records of any pollster whose work catches your eye. These guys are part soothsayer and part social scientist. You have to be careful to figure out which trait dominates. Better yet, pay little attention to the daily prattle of duelling polls.
Ignore the endorsements of newspapers. They are now almost all owned by big corporations and for the most part put out a pro-big-business message. That’s fair, but remember it’s also 100 per cent self serving.
One needn’t fear an outbreak of journalistic integrity. After all, bear in mind how the Globe and Mail’s corporate masters overruled the editorial board’s endorsement of Kathleen Wynn in the last Ontario election. Vladimir Putin would have been impressed by the sheer audacity.
As for think-tanks and various learned institutes, they have nothing to offer you but the agendas of the people who fund them. Best just steer clear.
Plan your trip to the polling station as though you’re fording a crocodile-infested stream. Make sure you have everything you need. And that means two pieces of official identification, one of which must bear the location of where you hang your hat – if you don’t have a driver’s license or provincial ID with a photo and your street address. And while you can use your passport as proof of identity to vote, you will still need to show a second piece of ID bearing your name and address.
Bear in mind that Pierre Poilievre, the man who downsized democracy in Canada for the Harper oligarchy, has made the act of casting a vote more like filing your income tax. If you don’t have the proper documents, expect to have the dudes in short pants up your nose as an ineligible voter. Stick this on the fridge.
Challenges to prospective voters at polling stations across the country will be the signature dysfunction of the coming election. The “Fair” Elections Act has set the table.
Finally, watch the all-candidates television debate with the same expectation of getting answers as you do from Question Period. One of two things will happen. Either all the candidates won’t be there, or there won’t be a debate. The consortium of television networks that devises these exercises in chastity-belt communications works for the pols not the people.
Bottom line? The TV executives can be counted on to come up with a format with less life in it than a dead dog. Pretty soon even these stillborn events will be seen as too risky for the leaders to participate in. Take note. Prime Minister David Cameron’s handlers have been trying to come up with a publicly acceptable way of boycotting the TV debate in the UK’s current national election.
Final note on street-proofing your vote? Inform yourself. Look at what the people who want their power renewed have done with it so far, and at what those who seek power say they will do if they get it.
Above all, don’t cast your ballot out of fear.
On that subject, the last word goes to H.L. Mencken:
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the population alarmed
(and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an
endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
In other words — vote like Spock.
Michael Harris is a writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He was awarded a Doctor of Laws for his “unceasing pursuit of justice for the less fortunate among us.” His nine books include Justice Denied, Unholy Orders, Rare ambition, Lament for an Ocean, and Con Game. His work has sparked four commissions of inquiry, and three of his books have been made into movies. His new book on the Harper majority government, Party of One, is a number one best-seller.