Don’t buy what Harper, Trump are selling

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Heather Mallick Heather Mallick is a na­tional af­fairs colum­nist for Torstar Syn­di­ca­tion Ser­vices.

The new Con­ser­va­tive Party online ad that at­tacks Lib­eral Party Leader Justin Trudeau by show­ing view­ers stills from Is­lamic State videos of de­cap­i­ta­tion and drown­ing is strange on ev­ery level.

This pe­cu­liar ad, aimed at your thicker voter stuck on YouTube at 4 a.m. or per­haps an Uber driver wait­ing for a gig, an­nounces that Is­lamic State also va­por­izes peo­ple, and gee, why don’t Lib­er­als mind that?

I can­not say for sure what Is­lamic State ac­tu­ally does with its corpses and in what or­der. The El­iz­a­bethan hanged-drawn-and-quar­tered has now be­come a kind of death sam­pling, a burn-chop-drown mix tape. But the Con­ser­va­tive mes­sage is clear: if Stephen Harper doesn’t get enough votes, Cana­di­ans risk be­ing ex­e­cuted by Is­lamic State on the street in a way that would make Louisiana’s Death Row guards blanch. I get that. Any­one who val­ues their own neck-pipe should vote Con­ser­va­tive. I don’t want Is­lamic State re­mov­ing my 92-year-old aunt’s head with some kind of ex­plod­ing wire. Although I don’t see why they’d do that. She lives in Red Deer. It seems im­prob­a­ble. But why take the risk?

The Con­ser­va­tive ad has left ev­ery­one an­gry, in­clud­ing, pre­sum­ably, Is­lamic State ac­coun­tants, who like their videos on the news but would want a taste of any com­mer­cial use. Any­one of Mid­dle Eastern ori­gin would be an­gered by hear­ing their mu­sic and lan­guages ac­com­pa­nied by im­ages of hideous death. Any­one whose child glimpsed the ad — “Mommy, are the or­ange men go­ing un­der­wa­ter in a cage to look at sharks?” — will go into that shak­ing rage that only par­ents know.

And the CBC has called its lawyers be­cause the Con­ser­va­tives used footage from its in­ter­view with Trudeau and chopped it like pars­ley.

Trudeau has a ra­tio­nal plan to deal with the man-made catas­tro­phe in Iraq and Syria: stop the bomb­ing, train lo­cal forces, and of­fer hu­man­i­tar­ian aid. But the Con­ser­va­tives edited that out, pre­sum­ing that you won’t factcheck the ad and see what Trudeau ac­tu­ally said. And face it, you prob­a­bly won’t. So I’ll help out by play­ing film critic.

Taste-wise, the most ob­vi­ous par­al­lel to the Harper-Is­lamic State ad is Don­ald Trump’s brassy clas­sic “The World’s Great­est Steaks” com­mer­cial, for the fine meats that bear his name. “When it comes to great steaks, I’ve just raised the stakes.”

Trump’s thick pink slabs glis­ten as they grill. He bel­lows: “It’s the best-tast­ing most flavour­ful beef you’ve ever had, five-star gourmet, qual­ity that be­long in a very, very se­lect cat­e­gory of res­tau­rant,” doubt­less served by Mex­i­can rapists, as he put it re­cently.

Do not buy what Trump and Harper are selling. The only dif­fer­ence be­tween them is that Trump ex­udes his anger and Harper in­ter­nal­izes it.

Take hair. Trump’s hair, some­times sil­ver, some­times auburn, heads out into the air, brakes and flips back on it­self. His hair is say­ing, “I have a huge net worth. I hate losers. Any­one who doesn’t love me is a very very big loser.”

Harper’s hair sets out as big as Trump’s, but then he quickly shuts the sit­u­a­tion down, whether it’s with a ra­zor cut or vo­lu­miz­ing-pro­tec­tant prod­uct dur­ing the day (I know hair) or some kind of anvil or hel­met sys­tem in the night­time. The whole deal is head­ing back into it­self, em­blem­atic of a man with an in­grown per­son­al­ity. Even his hair is say­ing “Help me. Let me go.”

Play­ing the Con­ser­va­tive ad with the sound from Trump’s, and vice versa, I be­came dis­ori­ented. I hate Is­lamic State. I hate ev­ery­thing: the words “eco­nomic,” “ac­tion” and “plan,” Air Canada’s toi­lets ( filthy), the Canada Day fire­works (brief, un­sat­is­fy­ing.) At this point I could make my own per­fectly nutty com­mer­cial. I am also hav­ing a ter­ri­ble flash of déjà vu. Is­lamic State is the Kh­mer Rouge of 2015, another tribe of evil prim­i­tivists let loose by an Amer­i­can in­va­sion. Again the U.S. bombs. But in 1975, Con­ser­va­tive leader Robert Stanfield didn’t run ads of spade-on-skull ex­e­cu­tions to win votes from prime min­is­ter Pierre Trudeau be­cause he re­sented Trudeau’s youth­ful charm. Or am I wrong?

Ev­ery­thing is strangely the same - evil ram­pages as al­ways, a Trudeau rec­om­mends rea­son over pas­sion — but Canada, un­der Stephen Harper, is so much worse.

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