The existence of Harper’s enemies list was revealed last week when an e-mail sent from the PMO to ministerial aides ended up in the wrong inbox. The e-mail cheerfully requested that lists of enemy bureaucrats, as well as lists of “enemy stakeholders,” be developed for incoming ministers and their staffs.
It's definitely not positive that Team Harper is keeping an enemies list, for all the reasons Kinsella describes. It'll be interesting to see whose names have made it on to that list - will a lot of random blogs with little traction find themselves under the watchful eye of the PMO, or will a lot of folk who fancy themselves as worthy enemies of the state be disappointed that they don't merit a mention? Probably a bit of both. If there has been illegal activity engaged by this government to suppress its perceived opponents, justice should be served for all parties.
But it's not the fact that a list exists that makes me shake my head in dismay so much as the sheer, ignorant overconfidence on the part of the PMO that made them think they could compile such a list in this day and age without it leaking out.
The risks of sending something to the wrong inbox are huge and well documented - how many people did Team Harper plan to send this out to? More than that, what if anyone on the recipient list had a personal connection to one of these enemies? Might they not have felt compelled to send it to that person as a warning? What are the odds that one of the staff on the receiving end could be thrown under the bus and decide to leak this in revenge? What if a recipient feels at some point that the Conservative Ship is going down and decides to use the leaking of the list as their saving grace?
What if, horror of horrors, one of the recipients had a conscience and questioned themselves whether it was appropriate at all for a Political Party to keep a hit list?
It is exasperating how short-sighted this all is, as was the Senate shenanigans, the Committee Disruption Manual, the Cadman Affair, etc, etc. There's a small cadre of hyper-confident and marginally oblivious crew of insiders somewhere, chuckling to themselves about how in control of everything they are. They think people won't notice, won't care or that there's always an underling to throw under the bus or a distraction they can throw out to keep the consequences of their actions at bay.
I have written at length about the fallacy of overconfidence, the illusion of conscious control, how the assumption of success leads to sloppiness and of the importance of looking at the entire map of potential consequences rather than assuming "we are smart, they are dumb."
I've also laid down a suggestion as to why this kind of thing keeps happening; players of old have mental models of what they used to be able to get away with and keep trying to recycle - the horses and bayonets of political tricks. Or, aggressive but not overly creative newbies look for tricks that have worked before without considering how changes in media might have altered the playing field. Of course, I'm a back-of-the-class kid, so why should any of the really successful people - like Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright and Stephen Harper - pay attention to me?
The fact is, I'll bet dollars to Tim Horton's doughnuts that if the PMO actually got to know some of these enemies of theirs, they'd learn something beneficial. Maybe even make some allies or pick up on some policy ideas to crib that could even help keep them in power.
Here's the thing, though - to correct destructive behaviours and evolve as an individual means accepting it isn't about us and them and realizing it's not such a bad thing to commit sociology.
What can I say - the truth hurts.