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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Political Delusion – What Tim Hudak, Adam Carroll and John Wright Have In Common (UPDATE)

Three stories jumped out at me from today’s Toronto Star:

Despite having lost the recent provincial election everyone assumed was his for the taking, despite his slipping support in the polls, Hudak is sticking to his defiance.  Ask him to take ownership of his Party’s floundering fortunes and he says this:

McGuinty is Premier of a minority government in the province of Ontario – it’s his duty to work with the other Parties and find middle-ground solutions that reflect the will of the electorate.  That’s how Parliament works.

Now, compare Hudak’s stance with that of his Federal cousin Dean del Mastro.  “I’m proud that my party, the Conservative party, has maintained a high ethical standard.”  One could quibble over the meaning of the word “ethical” but I’m pretty sure we can agree that lying to the people who elected you leans in the unethical direction.  Just for one example.

Then, there’s the fellow to whom del Mastro was directing his remarks, Adam Carroll.  Carroll, the mind behind Vikileaks, says he has no regrets, either.  Worth noting – Carroll justifies his personal attack with reactionary language;  “I felt compelled to urgently bring public attention to the threat that Bill c-30 would impose on our rights and our privacy.”  Bring to the public attention, threat – sounds like an argument I’ve heard before.

The fact is, Carroll embarrassed his Party, gave fuel to the Conservatives and poured gas on Canada’s growing political cynicism.  But he stuck to his guns, right?  Perhaps Tim Hudak should give him a call and congratulate Carroll for not throwing his principles overboard.

All three of these gentlemen display similar personality ticks, at least in their public persona; single-minded, reactionary, aggressive, message-track reliant and unwilling to consider the possibility that shared, compromised solutions might be better than their lone gunslinger approach.  Righteousness, after all, needs no justification. 

They all do their Parties harm with their intransigence – but why?  Why can’t they recognize this?

Last story:

That’s a logical thing to say.  It also happens to be empirically wrong.  From stock-pickers to pollster prognosticators, there is very little precedent for a track-record of continued success.  Given the variables involved – and how poorly we understand them – this shouldn’t really come as a surprise.  Yet, we still spend oodles of cash on things like polling, fortune telling and stock-picking, without there being an abundance of hard data supporting them.

Why?  Much of the beliefs we hold to be true are true only in our own cognition.  In essence, we delude ourselves to fill in knowledge gaps and err, in uncertainty, on the side of confidence.  Note Wright's careful, Kouvalis-like use of language; the poll was superficial, and therefore does nothing to detract from his reputation.  It's a variant on the same message track Hudak is using.

That’s the play the Hudaks, Carrolls and Wrights of the world are making.  It’s the advice we give people going for first dates or job interviews – just sound confident.  It’s also why we have an asymmetrical social system that overly rewards those who sound and look good, whether confidence is matched by skill or not.

We are, frankly, a delusional people.  That’s not a bad thing – it’s a starting point.  Knowing this, we can start moving towards consciousness.

Another example of fixedness of thought causing problems for those who speak before they process...

AND I can't resist adding Dick Morris to my list!

UPDATE 21 Feb 14: I think the delusion runs very deep.  It looks like Kevin Spacey agrees with me...


  1. More proof you can spin pretty much everything. Just not effectively.

    1. Totally true. The problem comes when you try to present an argument that a) you don't believe in or b) stick to so rigidly that you close yourself off to alternative explanations.

      I have spent a lot of time wrapping my head around policy, politics, cognitive function and communication. The way those pieces have come together feels right and makes sense - I don't have any cognitive dissonance when I argue my points.

      Having said that, I would never assume I am 100% right. I'm confident, but try hard not to verge into arrogance.

      So - if you have a counter-argument, please share! That's how I'll learn.

  2. I am intrigued! I did a Google search on Cornwallite and then a search on a Cornwallite at heart. Cornwallite is a mineral and for the 2nd search only your blog came up.
    So - please tell me what a "Cornwallite at heart" is. :)

    1. Ha! Nothing quite so exotic as that. I was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, a great little city nestled along the majestic St. Lawrence River. I've lived around the world, but Cornwall will always be in my heart!

  3. Aha - Born in Cornwall, Ontario?