When those with little or no natural sense of humor try to be funny, the results are often embarrassing.
This is especially true of politicians, and in the humorless world of conservative politics, dabbling in satire is like playing with fire.
Journalists, standup comedians and talk show hosts use satire to draw attention to the absurdity of many of the opinions politicians espouse, and to shed light on the deceptions that public figures engage in on both sides of the political divide.
When politicians attempt to satirize their political opponents the matter usually comes apart and instead of satire, it quickly slides into mean spirited farce.
This was the case recently when the Conservative Party of Canada decided to play against type and get creative, using the template of Canadian Heritage minutes: those saccharin, cloying, childish vignettes profiling Canada’s notable figures and their accomplishments, as if Canadians needed these affirmative vignettes to boost their eternally floundering morale.
On the morning following the posting of the attack ad, called “Liberal Scandals: Part of Our Heritage,” was posted to Andrew Scheer’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, The Historica Foundation issued a statement asking the Conservative Party to take down the ad.
Historica went on to say that, its reputation for non-partisan fact-based programs are key to its support and that the Tories’ ad runs contrary to its mandate.
Apart from any ethical issue, Historica had a genuine grievance as it relies on financial support from both public and private sources.
Initially, the Conservative Party responded to Historica’s request by doing the right thing and removing the ad.
As is often the case with the Conservative Party, doing the right thing didn’t feel right so they re-posted the ad with no revision except the addendum of a worthless disclaimer, as the attack ad still infringed on Historica’s Heritage Minute format and brand.
Historica’s President and CEO, Anthony Wilson-Smith told the CBC: “While we often welcome parodies of the Minutes, we do not approve of them being used for partisan political purposes.”
Wilson-Smith also said that even with the disclaimer the ad runs against the spirit of the Heritage Minute commercials.
The proper thing to do here would have been for the Conservatives to ask Historica first, and with its permission, then proceed to post the ad.
I suspect that the Conservatives already knew that their ad was against the spirit of the Heritage Minutes and getting permission was unlikely.
The Conservative parody emulated the Heritage Minute format to the letter, using similar narration and visual style with a montage of archival photographs with the one glaring exception of an affirmative message for Canadians.
The Tory ad attacks Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet for a range of conflict-of-interest and ironically, ethical transgressions.
What is particularly revealing about this issue, apart from the anodyne content of the attack ad itself, is the disregard shown by Andrew Scheer and his party for the legitimate concerns of Historica.
Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party’s response to Historica’s request to pull the ad, is indicative of the Party’s culture of obstinacy and bullying tactics, which is so longstanding it is by now, a part of their heritage.