Think fast – is Vic Toews anti-privacy or pro-safety?
There’s been a lot of discussion about Toews’ lawful access bill, well represented (in my opinion) by John Ibbitson. I won’t try to retread ground already well-covered – especially when there’s something more interesting to consider.
Above, I asked you to make a snap judgment – for or against. This is, essentially, a repeat of the “with us or against us” argument Toews himself used to defend his bill and attack its detractors. An argument he denied making in an interview with Don Martin.
Toews’ second statement is clearly a misrepresentation of the first; the words he suggests are a “far cry” from what he actually said are, in fact, the exact words he did use. Did he tell the truth? No – but I don’t think he consciously lied, either.
Say what now?
There was no pause between Martin’s question and Toews’ response. I’m willing to bet that Toews didn’t sit down and rehearse answers to questions like this beforehand (and for his sake, I hope I’m right); he therefore didn't have the answer ready prior to the question being asked. His false statement wasn’t a response to the question, but rather, a reaction to it. It’s like a reflex test at the doctor’s – the response is autonomic, happens without your even thinking. Except in this case, Toew’s response was verbal.
Is that not a facetious thing to say? How can you speak without your conscious being involved? The answer is counterintuitive – as discomforting a notion as it is, consciousness is not as big a determinant of thought as we give it credit for. If you’re not convinced, take a couple minutes and read this.
South of the border, Barack Obama has often been criticized for pausing before he answers questions. Some have even suggested it’s indicative of shiftiness, or a lack of intelligence on his part. Even his supporters have urged him to get angrier – be more reactive – on certain issues. Issues like Iran, which one would think deserve more careful consideration than others. Logic tells us to think before you speak, but how often have we felt that thinking before an answer is disingenuous?
What Obama does when he pauses is think. He absorbs the question, considers its implications, draws from his experience and positions then answers. He doesn’t shoot first, ask questions later – he makes sure he understands and addresses the question, rather than focus on what the question says about who is asking.
Obama, you see, isn’t selling a message – he’s communicating. There’s a big difference between the two – when you’re selling a message, you react to anything you feel challenges it and embrace anything you feel is for it. We can all relate to this – we’ve all had to back down from positions we’ve taken in high emotion. It’s not easy; our pride, our sense of self, is at stake.
Communication, on the other hand, isn’t about selling a message; it’s about creating mutual understanding and finding common solutions. It’s a tough process, but ultimately, it’s often the only way forward in a social setting. Even Toews and the Tories are now expressing willingness to budge from their previous “with us or against us” stance.
Politics isn’t about communicating – it’s about selling a message. Political science is all about developing tools to get your message across at the expense of your opponents. Policy, on the other hand, is about finding common solutions to social challenges. The two spheres have different objectives, yet are joined at the hip.
Toews isn’t the only one with a communication problem to resolve. At least, that’s my perspective.
What do you think?
UPDATE DEC 1 2014:
When it comes to launching attacks on enemies, Ezra’s mind and words inhabit a demagogic verbal netherworld in which facts don’t matter in the way they are supposed to matter for ordinary journalists.
But Levant believes what he says because it feels right to him. Interesting, is all.