Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kinsella’s Fight the Right, a sharply hit triple

The self-styled “arch-Liberal attack dog” Warren Kinsella has a new book out, Fight the Right: A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse. It’s no home run, but I’d rate it a solid triple.

Fight the Right: A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse
By Warren Kinsella
Random House Canada, 288 pp, $22.95

Fight the Right is really two books. The first third is a vindictive screed of anti-conservative sentiment not worthy of someone who seriously wants others to better understand the nature and strengths of conservatives and Conservatives. The rest is a well-written political commentary that includes bits of insider information and political anecdotes and some reasoned analysis of campaign tactics. Would I recommend Fight the Right to other political junkies? Yes.

It seems not in Kinsella’s nature to temper his words when describing conservatives in general or the Conservative Party of Canada in particular. His readers, though, would have been better served had he showed a modicum of respect in the earlier parts of the book. But then, the book is “A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse,” it says so right on the cover.

I once made a living writing manuals and found they proved more effective when they were more clinical and objective rather than emotional and filled with personal bias. But who am I to offer advice to Kinsella.

The author writes, “I don’t necessarily hate conservatives” and generously allows that “not every conservative is evil. Not every conservative lacks a soul.” Notwithstanding this admission, he implies throughout that the exceptions are only slightly less rare than unicorns and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows.

At times, he accuses conservatives of being racist, offering mostly innuendo and conjecture, such as when he writes, “They [Conservatives] didn’t openly define foreigners as people who were black, brown or yellow, but they didn’t need to, Everyone knew who they meant.” No proof at all, just innuendo—everyone knew? Really? How about all those brown-skinned folks who voted for Stephen Harper’s Conservative in 2011?

The rancour of that paragraph was capped with Kinsella stating that he “detested the Hudak Conservatives.” [emphasis mine] I don’t like words like “detest,” they smack of ugliness and hate.

Kinsella also labels the “Hudak Conservatives” as “far-right.” If true, where, I wonder, would Kinsella place the German and Italian fascists of the 1930s and 1940s? Has he, in fact, left any room on his political scale for those extremists, or is he implying that the Ontario Conservatives—which, I suppose, includes this writer—are to be included in the same category? Or is his labelling simply hyperbole?

In his book, Kinsella calls conservatives “shitheads” and uses the word “hate” to sum up the last Ontario PC campaign. Yet, with him present, there would seem to have existed hate enough for all in the Liberal war room—what with how he “detested” Hudak’s PCs and all. He also likes to characterize conservatives as “angry”, but he comes across plenty angry himself, and that weakens his cause.

Kinsella time and again groups Liberals and NDP members and supporters as progressives—as though there were little or no light to be found between these political groups/movements—and he points out they make up a majority of Canadians who do not support the federal Conservative government. But so what? When Liberal Jean Chrétien won his majority in 2000, he won about 41 per cent of the vote, leaving a hefty majority of Canadians sadly disappointed.

Moreover, Kinsella slips back and forth, figuratively, across the U.S.-Canadian border lumping together conservatives, Republicans, Ontario PCs and Canadian federal Conservatives as if they were one homogenous group politically, philosophically and otherwise. At one point, he refers to what he labels as “the North American Right” as if such a thing really exists in any meaningful way. In fact, rifts and disparities the size of truck-lanes exist between these groups/movements.

Furthermore, unexplainably, Kinsella tells us that Canada’s news media is “overwhelmingly conservative.” The folks at the country’s largest TV network, the CBC, and at its largest newspaper, the Toronto Star might disagree—as would most conservatives.

But perhaps I’m quibbling too much over semantics.

Fortunately for readers, as one moves through Fight the Right, one finds that it evolves from propaganda-like prose to talented political commentary with useful analysis, anecdotes and interesting insider-stuff. Nothing too revealing or surprising, but interesting nevertheless.

Even here though, the man demonstrates his War room chutzpah. He labels MP Frank Valeriote a “Liberal legend,” and points out that the RCMP is investigating “fraud by the Conservatives” in his Ontario riding of Guelph.

Perhaps, to be fair, I should give Kinsella the benefit of the doubt that he did not know at the time of writing his book that Liberal MP Valeriote’s own riding association has been fined by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission $4,900 over a robocall violation in the last general election, but I’d rather view this as an example of the pure audacity of the war room warrior.

Fight the Right makes good points about the Occupy movement, a group too quickly dismissed by many conservatives. And the book is refreshingly frank in assessments of some Liberal party policies. For example, he describes the Liberal party’s decision to allow non-party members to vote in their upcoming leadership election by saying, “It wasn’t just dumb, it was insane….”

Kinsella pays tribute to former prime minister Jean Chrétien heaping credit and praise on the former prime minister—much of it deserved. Perhaps, though, he’s a bit too generous in the latter. It was the same Jean Chrétien who as finance minister presided over some of Canada’s darkest days of ruinous fiscal management in the Trudeau era—run-away inflation, record-high deficits and low Canadian dollar. And it was the same Jean Chrétien who, in opposition, fought so hard to derail the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement. The FTA and its successor, the NAFTA, has worked out remarkably well for Canada.

Chrétien might have been a formidable man and politician, but he had serious flaws and made monumental mistakes. A more balanced political commentary might have pointed this out.

Kinsella makes some excellent points about the need for authenticity in politicians. He also offers such kind words about Ronald Regan one wonders whether Kinsella believes the former president was a secret progressive. Or perhaps even he found his anti-conservative rhetoric tiresome.

I found the sections dealing with the formation and launch of the Sun News TV network balanced and informative, and the book ended rather well with an excellent concluding chapter.

In summary, flaws and all, Kinsella’s Fight the Right is a good read.



  1. The Canadian media is overwhelmingly right-wing? Doesn't he read the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Macleans or watch CTV and CBC etc? Sun Media must be keeping him locked up in a closet. Shitheads? I'm disappointed. No, I won't buy it.

  2. It's really kind of pathetic to see people spending there entire lives milking the same old cow, riding the same old pony. OK, Kinsella once worked with Cretien, goody, but hat makes his dated opinions and anecdotes of any more value to current events then say ... Russ Campbell's, or any other bloggers? A bit more insight and nostalgic access, but is worth a book? Not in my opinion.

  3. OK, so basically here is a rich lawyer who feels it's right to smear Christians, Muslims, Jews and any other religious group simply in order to get a few political points against Stockwell Day and support the most corrupt Prime Minister in history and you not only decided to give him another 1 book worth of royalties AND advertise his book on your blog.

    Way to go.

  4. Way off Topic.

    Russ, did you see the 'world cricket match' between West Indies vs Sri-Lanka when West Indies won the 'Cup'?

    It was fascinating, the excitement among the players was something to see.

    1. Due to a mix-up, I missed most of the match, but caught the tail end and the celebration. They sure were a happy bunch. Quite an accomplishment especially considering the W.I. just squeaked into the quarter finals. Great result though.