The Attack Ad

May 31, 2009

I hate attack ads.  There I was, settled in for a Saturday evening of Hockey Night In Canada.  The tempo of the game riveted me to my seat.  At the end of the period I didn ’t dash away, perhaps because of the quality of the game, or perhaps because of fatigue after a day of gardening.  I sat there, willing even to listen to Don Cherry’s rants.  And on it came, the “Just Visiting” ad.  It doesn’t say much, just that Michael Ignatieff spent an entire career outside Canada and now wants to be Prime Minister out of personal ambition.  My first reaction when I saw the ad on You Tube was to ridicule it as a feeble attempt to weaken the powerhouse that is Michael Grant Ignatieff.

I remembered that Ignatieff’s uncle, George Grant, wrote Lament for a Nation.  Since its publication in 1960 this book has defined what it is to be Canadian.   I further remembered that among Michael’s ancestors lie two principals of Upper Canada College, one principal of Queen’s University, and Vincent Massey, perhaps Canada’s greatest Governor General.

“Just in it for himself?”  No.  That’s Stephen Harper using Flaherty’s fall economic update to attack personal enemies:  women, the public service, opposition parties.  That’s Stephen Harper proroguing parliament to save his own political career.  That’s Stephen Harper’s attack on Quebec during question period because they refused to give him the seats he needed for a majority.

I know these things, but when I’m watching Hockey Night In Canada I’m not in the mood for political debate.  I’m watching two romantic groups of men competing with all their hearts for the holy grail of sport.  My mind is far from the rational, pragmatic attitude which protects me from the demagoguery of an election campaign.

This is the genius of the attack ad long before an election call:  it hits the viewer in a deep, emotional place, far from the intellect which can tell fact from fiction, and it repeats the attack many times per night at the one time of the year when the Canadian male is at his most vulnerable, the Stanley Cup final.

So I know in my mind that Michael Ignatieff has one ancestor who was the first Canadian-born Governor General.  Another family member wrote the book on what it is to be Canadian.  His father was a diplomat, and Michael is following a strong family tradition of public service.  But that’s another part of my brain.  The television says that he’s just in it for himself, and as the song goes, so does my heart:  “I know it’s true, oh so true, ‘cause I saw it on T.V.”

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3 Responses to “The Attack Ad”

  1. Ken Winters Says:

    I cannot forgot what has been widely reported, and I have read, the time Michael Ignatief instructed his younger brother, Andrew, with the words, “When I am at Upper Canada College, you don’t know me.” I think that order speaks volumes. Even as a young lad, Michael was in it for himself. I do not want such a person as Prime Minister, nor Leader of the Opposition.

  2. rodcros Says:

    Ken:

    Funny, I remember saying those exact words to my mother when she took a teaching job at the school where I was a grade 11 student. Within six months I was car pooling with her and three other teachers. What a teenager says to a family member doesn’t mean much in the long term.

    Thanks for the comment, though,

    Rod

  3. tony izatt Says:

    Your such a Liberal Rod, but one that doesn’t come right out and declare. Ever since those pesky Mike Harris conservatives stuck it to the teachers eh.

    This is not attack ad, it’s an historical account. Did he or did he not say he was American. Did he or did he not spend the last 23 years in the States. These are all facts.

    If someone says he wears womens panites ….that’s an attack ad.

    You can’t attack someone with the truth, so I wish we’d all stop calling them attack ads.


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