• Recently, one of my top-three favourite sisters had a birthday, but again, social distancing prevented a proper gathering, so instead I decided to create a fusion of a childhood favourite TV show, Cheers, and of course the greatest movie franchise of all time, Star Wars.

    Our tale is set in the Star Wars universe sometime after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and features a pair of Han Solo and Chewbacca impersonators (Han Sethlo and Coobacca). Our hero-impersonators enjoy travelling to strange lands “where nobody knows their name” to visit with unique creatures. This episode takes our delightful duo to “Earth.”

    In honour of your time, I have only included here the opening and closing jokes of the episode. However, you will get to imbibe the excellent vocal and piano stylings of my talented Uncle Rick as he reproduces the Cheers theme for our intergalactic investigators.

    May the 4th be with you!

    Our previous episode FUN WITH INTERGALACTIC SOCIAL DISTANCING, PART I tells the story of me promoting an anti-anxiety workshop through the uplifting lens of Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.

     

  • Well, by order of social distancing, I have been travelling to a galaxy far, far away for my creative productions. Today’s episode features my efforts to promote a recent online workshop I was giving to my writers’ group wherein I provided suggestions for combatting the inevitable pangs of anxiety that rise up in most of our bellies before any public speaking venture.

    With the assistance of our planet’s greatest-ever composer, John Williams, and the cast of Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, I present the following inspirational promotion. If you can listen to the swing of John Williams’ baton and not feel courage gathering inside you to take on those evil butterflies, then you’re either on the wrong side, or you’re a droid.

    May the 4th be with you!

    (Our next episode FUN WITH INTERGALACTIC SOCIAL DISTANCING, PART II will feature a collision of Star Wars and the great television comedy, Cheers.)

  • To my fellow narcissists: Five ways to keep your #narcissism at bay during these quarantimes (based on the recent real-life adventures of ME, Seth McDonough—soon-to-be famous author):

    (5) SIDEWALK DOMINATION: When you’re a group of two or more walking on the sidewalk and you see a stranger or two coming towards you, you might notice that they’ll usually veer tightly to one side of the sidewalk (or even off the sidewalk) in preparation for the upcoming crossing of your group. Strangely, that DOESN’T MEAN they’re deferring to the grandeur of you and your party. Instead, it more likely suggests that they’re hoping you will simultaneously switch to single file on your side of the sidewalk, too, so that you’ll all have a friendly but non-cuddling interaction.

    (4) SNEAK ATTACK SHOPPING: When you go to the grocery store, and you see someone is considering their options for a can of soup, I suggest NOT sneaking yourself into the small space between them and the shelves to pick your favourite before they do. Patience, my friends!

    (3) PARKS & CLUSTERING:  When you go to the local park that’s still open for you to get some socially distant exercise, and there’s a prime path that people are using for that purpose, maybe DON’T congregate your friends and family in one of the bottlenecks of the trail to chat and/or play with your little ones.

    HINT: That one’s good practice during non-quarantimes, too.

    (2) JARGON CORRECTING: When you’re in a video conference, and a co-worker attempts to make a case for something using language that does not match the pre-packaged buzz-wording that you would prefer, it’s OKAY to let them finish their thought without correction.*

    * For similar instance, I submit that the following correction that I witnessed was unnecessary: “Hold on, Betty, before we get into what we should do and who does what, I think we need to discuss the important distinction between ‘co-worker’ and ‘coworker’ at length.”

    (1) CHEERS FOR ME: During the new 7pm tradition of people cheering from their balconies for front-line workers, if you happen to be out on a walk at that time, I submit it would be best NOT to wave and take a bow under your assumption that the cheering is in honour of your recent book launch. (Okay, that one may have been just ME.)

    Stay safe, my fellow narcissists!

    (Simulcast on my Facebook Author Page.)

  • In honour of me, I’m delighted to announce that my book, How to Cure Yourself of Narcissism, is now available at every worthy-of-me virtual location:

    Including all the Amazons (including Amazon.ca, and Amazon.com), Barnes & Noble (ebook only), and Smashwords (ebook only).

    In additional honour of this announcement, I would like to celebrate five of my favourite ego-driven quotes from the cinema:

    (5) “Unless I’m wrong, and I’m never wrong…” —Prince Humperdinck, The Princess Bride (1987).

    (4) “I’m pretty sure there’s more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.”—Derek Zoolander in Zoolander (2002), honoured here by Seth Zoolander.

    (3) “As a specimen, yes, I’m intimidating! As you see I’ve got biceps to spare… I’m especially good at expectorating… I use antlers in all of my decorating!”—(singing) Gaston in Beauty & The Beast (1991).

    (2) “There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient,” —Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride & Prejudice (1980).

    (1) “Would someone get this big walking carpet out of my way,” —Princess Leia Organa, Star Wars IV: A New Hope after that particular movable rug, the Wookiee, Chewbecca helped rescue her from her cell in the Death Star (1977).

    Congrats to ME!

    (Simulcast on my Facebook author page.)

     

     

  • (Simulcast on my new Facebook Author page.)

    During our current social distancing predicament, my favourite Writers’ group has been itching to meet up for our usual creative interchange. So we decided to send ourselves into the cyber-abyss for an online meeting. We had no idea how such a technological interaction would go, but—with wine (which we pretended was coffee) in our mugs—we courageously pressed the connect button… and there we were.

    Our faces were a little more pixelated, and our voices a smidge less crisp, but our personalities and banter were almost life-like. And, while it wasn’t “the same” as meeting in the real world, I derived from it a similar rejuvenation of creative spirit that I always do when I meet with this group. (Plus, we all learned something new about each other that we wouldn’t have in our usual one-location-fits-all meeting place.)

    I realize that I am not an early adopter of this epiphany, but I would nevertheless like to suggest to anyone who is internet-resistant that—if you have a social group with which you would normally be meeting were it not for these Corona times—try an online meeting.

    Here are a few tips to get you started:

    (1) Unless everyone in your group has IT experience, I suggest setting the first gathering as a test meeting—to learn the wireless ropes.

    (2) If you’re the host of the virtual gathering, plan a few questions to ask everyone. Or, if you would like a more sophisticated virtual ice breaker, you could plan a game, such as a trivia challenge.

    (3) For that first interaction, just aim for a half-hour pilot session.

    And, voilà, you’re all set to click the meeting invite button. Worst-case scenario, the gathering won’t go as brilliantly as I predict, but at least you’ll have an entertaining new tale to tell your spouse, roommate, or favourite pet.

  • As I have previously argued in THE SEPARATION OF WORK AND STATE, I believe it is unethical for companies to fire employees for morally suspect actions committed outside of the organization’s domain (unless those bad acts are undeniably relevant to the functioning of the company and/or the safety of the company’s staff or clients). My reasons for such censure of employer-delivered justice are twofold:

    (1) Employers frequently make their decisions at the behest of perceived popular opinion, i.e. mob justice (or social media mob justice these days), and so are often going to get their moral judgments wrong (as in the past when the public catastrophically believed that same-sex and interracial coupling was immoral). And:

    (2) Even if we felt the employers were infallible morality police officers, I think it is actually harmful to society to disown bad actors from all social spheres.

    For instance, if someone says something racist in their non-work life, then exiling that person from places where they didn’t exhibit racism, such as their workplace, or perhaps their community centre, is not going to reduce their racism—it is going to nurture it. I have heard many interviews with reformed KKK members, and they always explain their racist genesis in the same way: they were angry about something in their life, and they found camaraderie and acceptance in a racist cult, so they signed onto racism. So, if we truly want to reduce racism, then we should try if we can to criticize the behaviour within racist incidents (and punish it if it involves illegal acts) without universally disavowing any potential humanity in the offenders.

    However, when we say that—because a person did something wrong in place X—they are restricted not only from returning to place X, but they are also no longer welcome at their workplace, and are ineligible to return to their favourite watering hole, we are exiling such flawed beings to the murky boundaries of society where their resentment will be given sanctuary.

    My argument is not that bad behaviours never deserve punishment. Criminal actions—depending on the severity—earn one the right to temporary or even permanent exile from the general population. And, when one does something immoral, but not illegal, then—along with criticism—sometimes the bad behaviour may justify sanctions. For instance, if you’re verbally abusive to the staff at your local medical clinic, then maybe you’ve forfeited your right to return there, but that doesn’t mean that you should be banned from every medical facility in the country and fired from your job for failing to live up to the values of your employer. Instead, my submission is that punishments should stay in their jurisdiction. If you behaved badly in X place, then X place may have good reason to limit your return to X place.

    In contrast, most modern mainstream pundits (and their social media betters) presume that morality policing is the “right thing to do.” (See my analysis of a CBC Radio Q panel and their impenetrable confidence that it was morally right to fire Roseanne Barr from her fictional TV show Roseanne because of improper things non-fictional Roseanne said on social media.) In fact, such termination-seeking commentators suggest that any employer who is silent on the dishonourable outside-of-work actions of their employees is complicit in—or at least condoning of—those behaviours.

    But consider this morality tale: let’s imagine that a person has cheated on their spouse. In my view it is up to that cheated-upon spouse to decide whether to exile their lesser half from the arena in which that poor conduct is relevant, i.e. their marriage. However, while the general public may rightly believe that infidelity is morally precarious, do we really think that the cheater’s local grocery store, rec centre, and place of employment should be weighing in not only with their opinion of infidelity, but also with a punishment for it? Obviously not. To stay out of such a dispute does not mean that the employer is necessarily anti-fidelity: it just means it is not the employer’s business to investigate and pronounce judgement on what goes on in the bedrooms of their employees.

    With that example, the notion of employers acting as outside-of-work morality police is, in my opinion, settled.

    Recently, though, a more difficult question has landed on my ethics desk:

    Should you be fired from your current job for bad actions you are presently discovered to have committed in your previous employment?

    My instinct is to say No for the same reasons as above. Yet, convention has long allowed potential employers to assess our work with previous employers. That is, our work with another company is relevant to our prospective employment with a new one because it is likely to be predictive of our future work behaviour. So the question becomes: Is there a major difference between such pre-employment combing through of our past work conduct, and post-employment retroactive analysis? I think there is a distinction worth keeping in mind, but I’m not certain.

    Consider the case of Bill Peters, the now former NHL hockey coach, who has been accused of (and admitted to) bombarding one of his ex-players (Akim Aliu) with racial slurs 10 years ago (in response to the player serenading the team dressing room with rap music). Peters was then coaching a different team, in a different league, than the one he was coaching when the allegation rose up into our consciousness. Upon receiving the charge, Peters’s team (the Calgary Flames) suspended Peters from duty stating that they needed to investigate the veracity of the complaints (with the assistance of the NHL).

    Shortly after that first allegation, Peters was additionally accused by a former player (Michal Jordan) on his penultimate NHL team, the Carolina Hurricanes, of punching and kicking him and another player during a game. Peters hasn’t publicly admitted to this violence, but former players on the team as well Peters’s then-assistant coach (Rod Brind’Amour) and then-General Manager (Ron Francis) say that it happened, and that it was “handled directly” by the organization at the time (and both of these ex-colleagues say they are not aware of any other abusive events occurring after that).

    Meanwhile, before Peters’s confession to the racist incident, the Calgary Flames acknowledged that, if true, such racist utterances were “repugnant,” but that they needed time to investigate. However, some in the pundit class—who are used to the efficient work of cancel culture—claimed to be befuddled that it was taking days to come to a conclusion on a matter that seemed so clear.

    In fact, when the racist incident was still in that accusation phase, and Peters hadn’t yet conceded the point, TSN That’s Hockey pundits Frank Seravalli and Gino Reda merrily leapt to presumptions of Peters’s guilt by discussing how awful the incident must have been for Aliu. Yes, Misters Seravalli and Reda, of course being a victim of racism is dreadful (and, if the experience derailed Mr. Aliu’s career as he is arguing, then I think he should sue the culprit), but presumptions of guilt have been one of the great tools of racism, itself. So let’s not leap to judgment.

    In response to such itchy trigger fingers, former lawyer, ex-NHL GM, and present-day pundit, Brian Burke, courageously defended the Flames for not pronouncing immediate judgment, and instead conducting an exhaustive investigation first.

    “I think you’ve got to make sure that it happened. The allegations aren’t true until they’re proven. And I think the way Calgary has gone about it is very workmanlike, very businesslike. We’re going to find out if it’s true, ‘cause you’ve got to remember, first of all, a person who is accused of doing something wrong is innocent until proven guilty. So you’ve got to verify the accuracy of the allegation.”

    I admire Burke for making such a sinful suggestion in our present day accusation-equals-presumption-of-guilt culture, and to its credit, the cancel culture has yet to come for Brian Burke Esquire.

    Not long after that, before the Calgary Flames announced their official decision on Peters’s fate, the disgraced coach resigned his commission. To my appreciation, at the team press conference revealing this result, one courageous reporter, Jermain Franklin, risked his reputation to ask Flames’ General Manager Brad Treliving, “Was there any possibility at the beginning of the week of Bill continuing on as the coach with sensitivity training, and whatever he needs to go through to make him a better person moving forward, and did that change as things continued to mount?”

    The GM quickly retorted that he would not deal in hypotheticals, and that was an end to it.

    I can understand why GM Treliving avoided this Catch 22 of a question; it is not obvious that it would have been legal to fire the coach for bad acts on another organization’s watch, but it is clear that there was no way the team could have kept the coach amidst public pressure—or at least pundit pressure—to the contrary. Thus, I think it is likely that the two sides reached a settlement that the coach would resign in exchange for some sort of consideration. In fact, when asked if Peters was retaining any salary after his resignation, GM Treliving declined to comment.

    But, with Peters’ resignation, our question remains unanswered: Is it ethical to fire an employee for bad conduct on another team’s watch that the employer has no evidence has returned under their purview?

    To my sarcastic surprise, the majority of pundits that I encountered on this matter found that to be an easy one: If true, these bad actions automatically oblige an employer to fire the employee no matter how much time has passed.

    Indeed, seeing no reason to question the consequences of such a position, Hockey Night in Canada instead decided to lecture their audience with a new grand assumption—that Peters’ racist incident was evidence that hockey culture in general is a hive of scum and bigotry. To that virtuous end, the eloquent long-time HNIC host Ron MacLean led us in “#TheConversation” in which he and we were “to listen [and] to learn.” MacLean explained, “We’ll just sit and we’ll talk. And for most of us, we’ll actually learn.” That is to say, those with race-based criticisms of hockey culture were to be treated with faith-based deference, while those who might be skeptical and/or on the wrong side of pigment (such as Ron, himself) were to listen and perhaps note—as Ron put it—their “white, male privilege.”

    I would love to be on the virtuous side of this issue. But, in their zest for righteousness, many of these sure-headed pundits simplified the moral question at hand to its lowest common denunciator.

    For instance, National Post columnist, Scott Stinson, argued against the inevitable defences that he imagined would try to rescue Bill Peters. Yet, the defences he invented for himself to take on were idiotic. For instance, “What about [Peters’] freedom of speech?” Stinson claimed some would argue. To which he answered himself, “Sigh… free speech rights don’t extend to being able to say whatever you want in a professional setting without any consequences form your employer.”

    Yes, that’s right, Mr. Stinson, you have brilliantly vanquished your imaginary enemy there. But, of course, no reasonable free speech advocate would actually claim that one’s right to freedom of expression in private and in public extends to one’s workplace where one has a multitude of limitations that don’t apply when one is off duty.

    The true moral and legal dilemma provoked by this situation, Mr. Stinson, is whether an employer should be allowed to fire a person for remarks not said when at their workplace, but instead offered ten years before in the walls of a different employer (in a different country).

    Once again, the answer isn’t obvious to me either, but we will not succeed in our pursuit of a solution if we simply take on easier questions than are at hand.

    It seems likely to me that such these “fire first” pundits are trying very hard to make sure that everyone knows that they are personally opposed to racism (and, to a lesser extent, physical abuse), and so they have lost the ability to critically consider these issues out loud.

    Indeed, it appears to me the hockey pundit class in general is unquestioning of the notion of retroactive punishment because they are afraid that such skepticism would make them appear unsympathetic to victims. Such fear is understandable given that our “social justice” mafia culture eats wrong-thinking talking heads for breakfast, and tends to require full obedience in their calls for cancellation.

    There was, however, one pundit, Ashley Docking, who risked her career to ask our friend, Brian Burke, “Do you feel that people should be held responsible for things that they did [in the past]…?” and Burke answered, “Yes.” Docking followed up, “Is the problem for the Calgary Flames in your opinion, Brian, that they’re asked to potentially hand down a punishment for something that happened within a different organization?” And Burke replied, “No, I don’t think that’s a risk at all. This conduct, this language is unacceptable in any timeframe, in any place… If they verify that these statements were made, this coach is in trouble. These values did not fit with… [Flames’ General Manager] Brad Treliving, they do not fit with Flames’ ownership, they do not fit with the NHL.”

    While I don’t question the sincerity of Burke’s response here (he is not a known virtue signaller), he has once again answered an easier question than the one that was asked. Yes, of course, racist remarks go against the values of the Calgary Flames (and every team in the NHL). And so, if Peters were found to have uttered racial slurs to his players on his current team, then I’d write the pink slip, myself. However, with the evaded question here, we are again reminded of the crux of this matter.

    Do we want a society in which our current employers can retroactively study our past conduct with previous employers to determine that—although we have been good employees for them—our past sins make us unfit to continue our current contracts?

    I am still not sure.

    The axe ‘em if you got ‘em argument would be compelling to me if it were based on a concern that the formerly bad employee was likely to repeat their offences, but no such a case was made explicit by any of the pundits in this scandal. And I’m not sure if such an argument would be persuasive here given that there is no indication that Peters has continued either of his previous malpractices with his new employer. According to all sources, if Peters hadn’t been found out to have been a rotten actor in the past, the Flames would have merrily continued his employment (and would have instantly fired him had they learned from his players of any abuse today).

    According to former NHL player and current Carolina Hurricanes’ coach, Rod Brind’Amour, the players know now that they can speak up if something unprofessional happens to them or around them. “I think the players have way more power now, and they realize that. I think it’s important for them to speak out about whatever they think is important because the times have changed. They definitely have more power and they need to speak up.”

    So, correct me if I’m wrong, pundit class, but it seems that the excommunication today of Peters for bad actions committed in the past is meant as a punishment for those previous sins. He was once guilty of racism, and therefore he is unfit to be employed today.

    Again, this is a tempting conclusion, and even as I type these words, I want to join the ongoing condemnation. My concern, though, is with the notion that people who do bad things are to be forever discarded.

    It is a thin line that I am attempting to traverse because, if the racist and violent incidents happened as described, Peters should have been fired immediately in both cases. Moreover, it would have been reasonable for a new team to resist hiring Peters on the grounds that his prior bad behaviours were likely to be predictive of future bad behaviours.

    However, the distinction I see here is Mr. Peters somehow avoided dismissal on the occasions that he behaved badly. That was surely unjust at the time, but in essence—to paraphrase the philosopher Thomas Nagel—Peters was morally lucky. I think most of us can relate to catching such a moral break. That is, most of us have at some point in our lives made a moral error for which we were either not caught or not penalized as much as we could have been. Nevertheless, I’m not sure that such unpunished moral blunders should follow us for the rest of work our lives.

    In contrast, had Peters rightfully received serious consequences for his lousy choices if and when they occurred, he could then have attempted to rebuild his humanity and reputation. But, when our bad deeds follow us into the future indefinitely (whether we received adequate reprisal for them or not), it seems to be assumed that we cannot learn and better ourselves into morally decent creatures.

    Of course, some crimes—murder, rape, child abuse—should not be pampered with any statues of limitations. Even though murderers, rapists, and child abusers may in theory be capable of turning over their giant leaves, their crimes are so harmful that we must protect society with an arm that reaches far into the future. The purposes, to my mind, of such unblinking justice are that (A) even a tiny risk of recidivism is too high to justify second chances, and (B) we must deter such crimes by letting any would-be participants know that, once they take part, the law will never stop searching for them.

    So my question to all of us is this: Are Mr. Peters’s alleged crimes of crop-dusting his hockey dressing room with a racial slur, and physically assaulting two of his hockey players so serious that they must follow his career indefinitely into the future, regardless of whether he has changed his bad ways?

    Perhaps, the answer is Yes, and I can live with that. However, my concern is that these questions about retroactive justice do not seem to be considered in the public conversation whenever we discover bad deeds in a public figure’s past. In this case, the media covering this discussion almost entirely resisted noting a distinction between firing an employee for present day bad actions committed on their current job, and firing them for bad actions committed under previous employment. Former NHL star, current NBC broadcaster, and self-appointed racism-detection expert Anson Carter says, “This is not a witch hunt. If you’re not doing anything wrong, you should have nothing to worry about.” But once again the case of Bill Peters is not about him doing something wrong; it is about him having done things wrong many years ago. That may be a fine line, but if we erase it, we may all be in trouble.

  • Hello there. I understand you’d like to ask a question of our honoured speaker.

    Ah, yeah—that’s why I’m in line.

    Excellent, would it be possible to get a preview of what you have in mind?

    A preview?

    Yeah, just a quick sampler of your question.

    Why?

    Well, the moderator’s asked me to make sure everyone’s fairly brief so that there’s time for lots of questions.

    Yeah, don’t worry: I’ll be quick.

    I believe you, but the moderator really wanted me to double check.

    Um, okay fine, I was going to say something like, Hi There. Dr. Hockey-Expert. Thank you for your presentation on the state of the National Hockey League. I agreed with a lot of what you had to say. Although, there were a few things I didn’t agree with—I don’t really see a problem with the offside challenge rule. I mean we want to get the call right, right? Like, if we don’t care about getting the calls right, what are we doing there? So, yeah, I enjoyed your presentation, but—

    Okay, sorry, can I stop you there?

    Um, okay, but I was just getting warmed up.

    I see that, yes. But I’m just noticing that you’ve already put in 20 seconds of introduction, and we haven’t even gotten to the content of your question yet.

    Right, so?

    Well, it’s just that—as I mentioned—there are a lot of people in line to speak to the presenter, and at the rate you’re going, your question is going to take up half of the Q&A session. Ideally, according to Sethiquette.com, it’s best to keep your question to no more than thirty seconds.

    Thirty seconds? How?

    Well, maybe you could trim your general thoughts on Dr. Hockey-Expert’s presentation and cut straight to your question.

    [Long sigh.] Fine, I was just being polite, but I’ll cut the intro.

    Awesome, thanks. So do you mind trying again?

    [Short sigh.] So, as I was saying, Thank you for taking my question, Dr. Hockey-Expert. I have three comments and a question for you—

    Right, sorry to interrupt again, but—I don’t know if you heard—just a minute ago in her introduction to the Q&A, the moderator requested that everyone just ask questions and not provide sermons?

    Yeah, I’m asking a question.

    Yes, but you’re also prognosticating three comments. That sounds suspiciously like a serm—

    What are you talking about? Three comments aren’t the same as a sermon.

    Right, of course, but I think the moderator was being playful with the term “sermon,” and just meant to request that everyone try to hone their commentary down to a single interrogative statement.

    But my comments are a vital set up for my question.

    I’m sure they are. And, if this were any other sort of conversation, I wouldn’t pester you about it, but unfortunately there are a lot of people who want to ask a question, and even more who want to hear Dr. Hockey-Expert speak, so if you talk for a long time, we’ll have fewer questions, and less time for Dr. Hockey-Expert to reply.

    Okay, fine, I’ll be quick. How’s this? So it seems to me that the NHL would benefit from more goal scoring. Like have you ever gone to a game and wished there were fewer goals? No! Goals are the name of the game. Actually, I was talking to my friend, Jane, about this yesterday. She had this funny idea that if the NHL allowed more goals—

    Okay, can you hang on again?

    What? What’s happening?

    Ah, yes, just as I thought. I believe you were in a bit of trance there while you were asking your question.

    How do you mean?

    Well, you were just kind of following your words obediently wherever they went without really checking to see if they were helping you get to the heart of your question.

    Yeah, I was really on a roll, wasn’t I? I felt like I was all by myself, just riffing, without anyone else around. It was pretty freeing actually.

    I can imagine. And, if this were a therapy session or a poetry slam, I’d be cheering you on. But, since we’re in this limited-time Q&A set up, I think it would be best if you tried to plan out your question to avoid unnecessary tangents.

    Unnecessary tangents? I was telling a funny story.

    Fair enough. If that story was vital to your introduction, please ignore my suggestion. But I suspect the story was more of a spontaneous aside than a planned expedition.

    Yeah, it just popped into my brain in the moment. So what?

    Well, it’s just that, if you indulge every passing sidetrack that pops into your brain while you’re at the microphone, it will be very difficult to find your way back to the point of your inquiry.

    That reminds me of the time my sister got lost on her way to work because she decided to take a shortcut around some construction, and she got mixed up which way the water was.

    Yeah, that’s funny. To avoid your sister’s fate, I suggest you create a quick verbal map for yourself of the key points you’ll need to establish your question.

    I had that before! But you said I couldn’t make all three of my comments before my question!

    Right, I see how that’s confusing. But I believe those three comments were going to be three distinct points. Whereas I’m looking for the key elements that will give your lone, specific question its best chance of being understood.

    I’m pretty easy on the ears, Sethcrates. I think I’ll be fine.

    I can’t argue with that. But you know how sometimes—when you ask a question at a Q&A—the expert misunderstands what you’re talking about, and so answers a different question.

    Yeah, it’s pretty embarrassing for them.

    Possibly, but also I submit that—if you don’t have a clear structure that leads ever-so-definitively to your final query—it can be hard for someone who doesn’t know you to realize exactly what you’re getting at.

    Fine, so what goes into this verbal map?

    Well, that depends. Let me ask you this: which one of these would be the best supporting material for your question: a joke, an anecdote, or a quick paraphrase of information?

    Yeah, all of those sounds good.

    Right, but for the purpose of this exercise, please pick just one option.

    Um, okay, well, I’m pretty funny, so I’ll go with a joke. There’s this one about an insomniac dog that I think’ll illustrate my question perfectly.

    That’s great. But, before you unleash your humour, there are two things to remember about jokes during the Q&A. First, since we’re not at a dinner party, you again want to be as succinct as possible.

    Check.

    And also, be aware that after you finish the joke, Dr. Hockey Expert—who’s pretty funny, himself—might want to retort.

    That’s fine.

    Right, but I bring it up because if the speaker does attempt to joke back, you may be tempted to ignore their retaliatory humour because you weren’t anticipating it. And that can make you look like you were in possession of a good joke, but not a sense of humour.

    I don’t like that. Hmm, okay, I’ll just outwit them right back.

    Fair enough. If a brilliant retort to their retort lands beautifully in your mind, please share it with everyone in the room. However, if nothing delightful arrives in your moment of need, there’s no need to panic and try too hard to come up with a scintillating reply. In fact, you can actually build rapport with both the speaker and the speaker-aligned audience if you let the speaker win the funny.

    But you said I wasn’t supposed to ignore their joke! Make up your mind, Sethcrates.

    Again, I apologize for the confusion. But there’s actually a third option between ignoring and winning, and that’s to simply laugh at the speaker’s joke, perhaps adding in a “Yeah, exactly.” You can then smile and continue on with your question.

    This is getting too complicated. Maybe I’ll do an anecdote instead.

    Great, that can be nice groundwork for your question. But just remember: in order to be brief, you want to avoid chasing tangents during your story. Try to stick to the essential beats of—

    I never chase tangents. Well, except maybe this one time when I was in a job interview, and the man interviewing me was so tall that he made me nervous. I don’t usually get nervous… well, except this other time when I was playing basketball, and I—

    Yeah, that’s good to hear that you don’t usually chase tangents, but when you’re in front of an audience, it can be easy to lose track of what you’re saying, so again I suggest investing in some serious planning of precisely what story parts will make it into your final draft. That should help you to avoid Sudden Tangent Syndrome.

    Yeesh. That sounds complicated, too. What are my other options?

    Well, you could provide a quick backgrounder of where your curiosity it lies, and then segue straight into your question.

    Actually, that’s not bad, because I have a lot of expertise as well as some pretty heroic accomplishments in the area I want to ask about, so I’d be happy to provide a good chunk of my background.

    Right, sorry, that’s not quite what I meant by backgrounder. Poor word choice on my part.

    But I like the idea!

    I understand. But the thing is: introducing yourself in such self-flattering detail can be risky. Unfortunately—unless those points of accomplishment or heroism are vital to establishing the legitimacy of the content of your question—they may sound suspiciously like resume and/or virtue signalling if they aren’t phrased just right.

    Okay, so how do you want me to map the background of my question?

    Well, let me ask you this: what provoked the question you want to ask?

    Well, I was confused when Dr. Hockey-Expert said we’d never see another Wayne Gretzky ever again, and I wasn’t sure if he meant that was because we would never see someone as talented again, or that today’s game wouldn’t allow for Gretzky’s skills to flourish as much.

    Fair enough—that’s a useful distinction. And, if you put a question mark on the end there, you’ve actually got a pretty clear and concise question all set to go already.

    Really? Wow, I’m awesome. How did I do that?

    Well, you first paraphrased the content that led to your curiosity, and then you segued quickly into your actual curiosity. Beautifully done.

    Awesome, so I’m all set then?

    Nearly. I just have one more concern. How are you going to close your question?

    Um, I dunno—I’ll know when I get there, I guess.

    Yeah, see, that’s an issue. A common problem amongst those suffering from MQS—

    MQS?

    Oh, yeah, sorry, Meandering Question Syndrome.

    Okay, go on.

    Well a common symptom is that—after all the work of getting into the line for the Q&A, and then listening to others pontificate—many MQSers will feel delighted to finally have their place at the microphone, and so won’t want to give it up. Consequently, even when the heart of their question has been clearly understood by everyone present, our noble MQSer will continue throwing words on a fire that is already blazing. They’ll just keep on meandering about the same point, and they won’t stop—

    Aren’t you kinda doing that right now?

    Oh, right you are. Thank you.

    Yeah, you’re welcome, Captain Hypocrite. So how do I avoid that?

    Well, the most effective system is to pay attention to your words as you’re saying them. When you hear yourself complete the goal of your question, get out of there. But, if you have trouble listening to yourself while you’re talking, watch the mouth of the person to whom you’re directing your query. If they stop their nodding and start taking a breath, that means they’re about ready to respond, which means they believe they understand the Q in your query, and it’s okay for you to STOP.

    All right, thanks, I will. Okay, I’m up next to ask a question. See you.

    Okay, good luck.

    Won’t need it, thanks… Hello there, Dr. Hockey-Expert. I have three comments and a question for you…

  • Currently, in a bus shelter advertisement near me (in metro Vancouver, BC), the Children of the Street Society presents a picture of a teenage boy crossing his arms to form the toxic symbol of crossbones that we might see on dangerous chemical products. Below him are the words, “Know the signs of toxic masculinity.

    The term “toxic masculinity” has made me feel queasy before, but this scarlet lettering of boys brought the bile to my forefront.

    The problem, to my critical stomach, isn’t that “toxic masculinity” is a definitionally-flawed concept. No doubt masculinity is a human condition, which I acknowledge may in certain cases render itself in a toxic way. Those who enjoy burning our ears off with their frequent announcements of motorcycle power, for instance, strike me as individuals who are emitting toxic noise, and, as far as I can speculate, the behaviour seems linked to a performative version of masculinity.

    So, were we living in a purely theoretical world, where ideas had no political implications, I could accept the notion of “toxic masculinity” as a legitimate field of inquiry, and along the way, I would assume it would be equally acceptable to look into whether there exists a parallel “toxic femininity” worthy of critique.

    As Dr. James Lindsay (one of the three co-authors of the famous “grievance studies hoax” papers) argues:

    “I would like to see a shift in our [culture]—and, in particular, the culture within academia, our attitudes towards… issues of social justice, where we say things like, ‘Yeah, I believe there are issues regarding sex, race, sexuality, gender, etcetera, and I think that they’re important, but I want to see them studied rigorously. I don’t want ‘gender theory’ informing me of this… I want to see real work being done. And I want to see sociological rigor behind things before we use it to make policy decisions or institutionalize anything.’” (Intro and 1:44:02-1:44:34 of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OD2MJZRIoGM)

    For good or bad, we do not currently reside in such a theoretical utopia. Instead, mainstream thought has decided that, in general, we should avoid generalizing claims about race, sex, gender, and sexuality. It’s not that mainstream thought doesn’t believe there are some genuine generalities, but given human nature’s predilection for tribalism and bigotry, we are wary of critiques of general groups for fear that such criticism will lead to racial and/or sexual discrimination.

    Today, the one exception to this caution is when we are talking about a group that is presumed to be privileged, and so deemed incapable of being hindered by generalizations gone wild.

    Thus, we hear phrases such as “X group of people cannot be the victims of bigotry, because they are in power.”

    Such exclusion from compassion is a familiar pattern: a society that rightly calls for the equal treatment of us all will sometimes realize that—for practical purposes—they want to omit certain people from that equality, and so the society will dehumanize the inconvenient group so that they can hold onto their call for egalitarianism (for those who are worthy) and ignore it, too. (George Orwell captured this contradiction in his Animal Farm wherein the righteously revolutionary animal leaders began with “All animals are equal,” but eventually came to prefer, “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”)

    The notion of “toxic masculinity” is an exquisite example of such bigotry dressed as virtue. In this case, the false moral wisdom passes for the real thing because our society is so used to sexism against men that egregious examples of misandry don’t stand out. If that sounds like a far-fetched, man-spiracy theory, imagine for a moment any public campaign (in Western society) which not only centered girls’ femininity as problematic, but also pathologized it.

    In theory, there may be some general aspects of femininity worthy of critique, but how many mainstream public commentators would sit on their microphones upon witnessing an image of teenage girls being asked to confess their feminine sins by pantomiming crossbones on their chests?

    In contrast, the organizers of this toxic masculinity campaign list among their top donors a high-profile convoy of businesses, charities, municipal governments, and even a school district. (I recognize that supporters can’t always vet what’s happening with their money, but I submit that if such a campaign were about girls’ alleged toxicity, there would be a wee bit of media pressure on the public supporters to both cancel, and apologize for, their funding.)

    The unchecked toxic masculinity campaign itself reads like a grade 8 essay written the night it was due, as it fills the screen with wild, nuance-free, and often self-contradictory assertions, but surrounds them with popular platitudes to smooth out the incoherence.

    For instance, we learn that one of the “signs” of toxic masculinity is, “The reinforcement of gender stereotypes which highlight that men are aggressive by nature while women are submissive.”

    I don’t mean to be pedantic here, but isn’t that kind of what the term “toxic masculinity” itself is doing?—Accusing the male people of having a problem with over-aggression that the female people apparently do not?

    In fact, the campaign lists among the traits of toxic masculinity, “Being violent, aggressive or abusive…”

    So, confuse me, is it the contention of the stereotype-hunting campaign that only male people are ever violent, aggressive, or abusive? Even the most feminist of advocacy data won’t back up such a fantastical claim, so I think not. Therefore, in those cases where ladies do stray into such anti-social behaviours, are they being toxically feminine? No, that can’t be. That would be a sexist utterance that would get one’s organization fired from mainstream conversation, so when women are abusive, are they also exhibiting toxic masculinity? In theory, that’s not necessarily contradictory, since our campaigners do argue that gender is a social construct. But why then does the campaign seem to only target boys who are suffering from toxic masculinity? (I see no girls wearing their own arms as crossbones.)

    If the campaigners genuinely believe that the virus of masculinity is not an innately male problem, I wonder whether they need the male-sounding notion of toxic masculinity at all. Why not just discuss “toxic behaviour” and avoid the gendering of the problem altogether?

    I don’t deny that males are more often violent than are females, but there are also forms of toxicity more common to females, including the very “whispered insults” that our campaigners also suggest is a boy problem.

    As social psychologist Dr. Johnathan Haidt says of boy-girl generalities:

    “Boys’ bullying is physical… Boys are physically dominating and the risk is that they’re going to get punched… Girls’ aggression—girls are actually as aggressive as boys. There’s research from the 80s and 90s on this. If you include relational aggression, girls don’t bully each other by threatening to punch each other in the face; girls bully each other by damaging the other girls’ social relationships, spreading rumours, spreading lies, spreading a doctored photograph, saying bad things, excluding them. It’s relational aggression.” (7:10-7:50 of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CI6rX96oYnY)

    To my egalitarian eye, all forms of toxicity are participated in—to varying degrees—by both males and females. I have no doubt that on average men and women would attain slightly different toxicity scores, but I am disturbed by the current mainstream Western conversation which reserves all condemnations for one sex (“man-splaining,” “male dominated,” “male ego,” etc), and all commendations for the other (“Because I’m a girl,” “the future is feminine,” “strong female characters,” etc).

    Meanwhile, another supposed indicator of toxic masculinity is “the perpetuation of rape culture and locker room talk,” as though there were no air to breath between those two concepts. As a long-time competitive sports participant, I have very occasionally heard locker room discussions that were more bravado-fueled than my delicate and prudish soul enjoyed, and while sometimes those rare discussions yielded talk of violence against men, I have never heard a squeak of approval for any violence against women—let alone sexual violence.

    My anecdotal evidence, of course, does not disprove the notion of “locker room talk” being a popular “rape culture” sanctuary, but if the campaigners are going to make such a profound claim about average male banter, maybe they could provide some evidence for it.

    Another sigh-worthy example of the campaign’s avoidance of nuance is its claim that a sign of toxic masculinity is “The expectation that ‘boys will be boys’ and they do not need to be held accountable for their actions.”

    I’m not a connoisseur of the expression “boys will be boys,” but, for what it’s worth, I’ve never thought it meant that boys shouldn’t be considered responsible for their worst behaviours. Instead—as with the term “kids are mean”—I took it as a general comment on boys’ nature that, when they’re overly rumbustious, we shouldn’t be surprised, because boys are like that. Far from celebrating suspect behaviour, I always read the phrase as rolling its eyes at boys, and teasing all of them for the behaviors of some.

    But even if the Children of the Street Society interpretation is correct and the “boys will be boys” phrase has commonly been used in the hope of excusing excessive behaviour, the notion that it’s been successful, and that males in general are given a pass on accountability is tough to reconcile with the “punishment gap” between boys and girls in school, and the “sentencing gap” between men and women for similar crimes. Moreover, in North America, while women have the right to financially-divorce themselves from their offspring by giving them up for adoption, men have no such automatic right, and can be forced to pay child support for kids they previously didn’t know existed (and may be labeled a “dead-beat dad” along the way).

    The accountability-gap argument is certainly a common trope in our feminist-fed society, but sadly it was discredited (inadvertently) last year by tennis mega star, and sometimes toxic personality, Serena Williams (she’s actually quite delightful when she wins, but less so when the calls aren’t going her way). As I describe in A BULLY IN MAGICIAN’S CLOTHING, after Williams was correctly sanctioned for verbally abusing an official at the US Open (calling him a “a liar,” and “a thief,”  and threatening his livelihood), she claimed that the penalization was evidence of sexism, and that a male tennis player would have gotten away with much worse. This bias accusation was an obvious deflection; the umpire was patient with Williams’s insulting tirade beyond anything I’ve witnessed in a men’s match, but far from asking her to take accountability for her lack of accountability, the feminist-fearing tennis media supported Williams’s claim of a double standard.

    Since then, commentator and retired footballer, Kaylyn Kyle sinned against feminism when she criticized the American women’s soccer team for unsportsmanlike behaviour (exuberantly celebrating goals in a 13-0 victory against an over matched opponent at the Women’s World Cup). Such enthusiastic celebrating of oversized victories is a well-documented no-no in competitive sports, but the American women’s coach (and various fear-sighted pundits) pulled out the Serena Defence and argued wildly that a men’s soccer team wouldn’t have received the same criticism for the same obnoxious actions.

    Meanwhile, Nike has joined the call for no accountability for unsportsmanlike female athletes, hiring Williams to narrate a commercial celebrating female athletes for standing up to alleged sexism, and for expressing their on-court anger as they see fit. “If we show emotion,” says Williams’s somber voice, “we’re called dramatic… When we stand for something, we’re unhinged… And, if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy.”

    No, Ms. Williams, berating an Umpire for making a decision with which you disagree is not a principled stand: it is abusive behaviour that deserves accountability, regardless of your sex.

    Perhaps there is merit to the claim that not-so-long ago in mainstream Western society, certain men’s caustic presentation was more likely to be dismissed as them “blowing off steam,” but in today’s public conversation—where any criticism of a woman’s behaviour or argument can be suffocated with accusations of sexism—the public accountability gap is pointed in the opposite direction.

    There are, I’m sure, many flaws past and present that are more common to men than women, but some of these accusations from The Children of the Street Society strike me as wild stereotypes thrown at their toxic canvass without any concern for veracity. It’s an understandable strategy; they live in an ideologically homogeneous “progressive” community that is unlikely to ever check them for errors.

    The incoherence is most expertly rendered in the campaign’s concluding advice to boys who would like to resist their toxic programming:

    “Be an ally,” it says, “in the fight to end violence against women and girls. You can do so by confronting your own male privilege, social norms that support sexism, and oppressive behaviours.”

    The doublethink is strong with this one. In a campaign titled “Toxic Masculinity,” where young men—and young men only—label themselves toxic, they are asked to confront sexism against girls. And then, even though the campaign itself argued that one of the signs of toxic masculinity is “The assumption that real men cannot be victims of abuse,” it only asks our sinners to combat violence against women and girls.

    So the campaigners are sexist in their solitary condemnation of male people as the cause of abuse, and then sexist in their sole focus on the female victims of that abuse. And then they tie their incoherent knot together with the common feminist accusation that the very gender—which is both blamed for abuse, and undeserving of protection from abuse—is privileged.

    Now, our gentle campaigners would likely defend themselves—if they were ever asked to—by pointing out that they made sure to note that “Being a man doesn’t make one toxic.” And I appreciate the implied acknowledgment (while it lasts) that it would be sexist to define all men as toxic. However, let us not pretend that such a curated caveat would have protected a government-sponsored organization from demolition if it had caricatured femininity in this way. No amount of friendly backtracking would have shielded such an agency from being universally labeled a misogynist cult. Google would have fired them for stereotyping; the University College London would have sacked them for sexism; and Minnie Driver would have told them “The time right now is for men just to listen and not have an opinion about it for once.”

    But, since this campaign is criticizing boys and claiming to protect girls, the local TV news program, Global News Morning, invited in project leader, Hayden Averill (along with two teenage disciples), to sweetly tell us of the anti-toxic workshops. And, with a soothing voice, Mr. Averill made it clear to the Global host that the gently-spiked Kool-Aid he was providing us would be easy on the tummy.

  • On a recent Friday afternoon, I was sent on a priority mission to the SFU Vancouver campus to deliver a forgotten item to my spouse. The campus is small, but for newcomers such as myself, its maze-like structure is confusing, so after circling its premises a couple times, and realizing I needed a different floor, I was pleased to spot an alcove leading to an elevator.

    As I entered the small hallway, I came upon two adult-looking characters who appeared to be having a serious discussion. The gentleman of the two eyed me for a tiny moment with what I was sure was a sigh of frustration that his private conversation was being invaded by a gangly elevator-seeker.

    I was sheepish to be causing such distress, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that I only needed to go up one floor, and then—with my urgent errand still pressing on my shoulders—I would quickly depart and discontinue my disruption of my fellow hallway-dwellers’ lives.

    But my hopes to save the two conversers from my intrusion was impeded as I realized that I did not know if the established elevator-waiters had called our conveyance to travel in same direction as I needed; the answer, I realized, would be housed on the faces of the elevator buttons.

    As I scanned our little area for the location of the vital technology, a terrible epiphany landed in my rushed contemplations. My two aggrieved colleagues, who were clustered close to the elevator doors, were blocking my sightline. My errand could not sustain the weight of an extra wait if my fellow elevated travelers were planning to go in the wrong direction, so very carefully, I peered around the two chatters, but their hand-gesturing bodies continued to block my view.

    At that moment, I felt a wild hope that the two button-concealers might spot my interest in the secret information, and either move themselves out of the way, or let me know of the elevator’s current status.

    My dream was not to be; the strange strangers continued their important chat with no further acknowledgement of my annoying presence. There was nothing more for me to do but stand and wait in hopes that the noble chiming of the elevator would soon end our impassioned impasse.

    But as several more ticks of the clock sounded in my ears, it seemed to me that the elevator was taking an unnaturally long time to arrive for duty. My chances of completing my delivery in time were now small, but I still had to try, so I risked more awkwardness, and circled around the two elevator-blocking strangers. I hoped to get a better angle on the obstructed buttons so that I could confirm that my new associates’ body language was telling the truth and they had indeed called for our deliverer. It was a long trip around the humanoid barricade, but when I finally got to the other side of the whispering duo, I found a tiny gap between their presence and the wall. I looked through and discovered that the elevator button light was not on at all.

    Could it really be? Had these two conversers really witnessed me peering past them without feeling any obligation to let me know that—despite their body language to the contrary—they were not there for the elevator, and that I should reach around them and hit the button, myself, if I wanted to take a ride?

    No, surely the reason the elevator button was not shining a light on our situation was because its bulb had broken. In spite of this obvious solution to the mystery of the elevator blockers, the clock in my head continued to tick ever so loudly, and so, sheepishly once more, I reached my hand into the narrow space between the strangers and the elevator wall in pursuit of the unlit button. I felt rude as I went for it, as it seemed to me that—by redundantly pressing a button that obviously just had a broken light—I was accusing the irritated pair of lacking any common courtesy. But then my finger activated the curious elevator trigger, and it lit up.

    I looked again at the pair who had done their best to keep me away from this revelation; maybe now they would realize their error in body language, but, no, they did not waver from their lack of concern about their effect on the hurried stranger in their private conversation chamber.

    Seconds later, the elevator arrived, and as I boarded, the solution to this strange riddle of human behaviour blazed in my brain like the shining light from the elevator button. It was a wild speculation, but once I considered it, I realized that no other explanation could possibly account for the odd inability of these individuals to understand the most basic laws of human interaction. And so, as I arrived too late to my destination, I was not sad, for I had, on my journey, received the experience of a lifetime. I had met two strangers who were not humans at all: they must have been androids. I smiled as I lingered in this realization; for I knew I would never forget my meeting with these nearly human marvels of technology.

  • As any fan or foe of Sethblogs knows, I consider CBC Radio to be my nemesis. It’s not just that they have a slant regarding how our society should be run, they have a slope. This does not mean that they are always wrong in every conclusion they promote, but it does mean that their editorial policy is to never dig for nuance; so long as the item they are discussing claims to be progressive, they are for it. Moreover, CBC Radio’s sloping presentation is more egregious than that of other biased broadcasters, such as FOX News (to the right) or MSNBC (to the left), because CBC Radio is publicly funded, and so has a duty to all of its constituents, not just to those who agree with them.

    So each day I listen to CBC Radio hoping for a break from their no-nuance policy.

    Recently, for instance, CBC Radio reporters announced, with a progressively correct grin, that we now had proof of current racial bias in Canada’s policing. My ears opened wide to take in the details of this significant claim, only to learn that the alleged proof of racism could be found in the fact that a higher percentage of certain races are arrested by Canadian police than other races. The reporters gave no consideration to the possibility that the disparate arrest rates could be related to disparate crime rates amongst current Canadian racial demographics (due to various social factors, including perhaps historical racism, itself).

    And we know that CBC Radio is aware that historical factors (beyond current racism) can contribute to differing racial demographics in the present, because they frequently talk about the lingering effects of historical injustice on modern groups. Now, of course, it’s possible that both current police racism and history are influencing today’s results, but CBC Radio is not claiming a possibility here: they are claiming a fact that, because we have differing arrest rates, we know that racism is the cause. This would be like assuming that, because online shopping is increasing, that modern Canadians hate going to the mall; that might be the case, but it might also simply be that Canadians get better prices online. I’m interested in the information either way, but, by not checking their work for logical errors, CBC Radio simplifies these discussions down to their lowest common assumptions.

    So, as I hear these failures of curiosity, I often wonder: do these progressively correct CBC Radio stars realize that they’re ignoring worthy counter arguments to their assumed truths, or are they simply playing simple because that is their job? The poster voice for this question of mine is the sweet-seeming Tom Power, the current host of Q. The man is so cuddly in his simplification of complex topics that he seems more dangerous to me than a more aggressive version of himself might be, as he lulls his audience into a belief that there is no possible dark side to his dogma.

    For instance, I recall Power interviewing playwright and director, Robert LePage (before the latter failed an appropriation test with his Slav production), and Mr. LePage contemplated out loud whether the #MeToo movement might be overreaching in its possible tendency to reduce humour in the workplace. Power replied, with his fluffiest voice, “Well, ultimately, I think that might be a good thing” (paraphrased from my memory). And that was an end to it. Mr. LePage realized that he had been instantly vanquished by his soft-spoken interrogator, and he immediately admitted to our Mr. Power that he was quite right. Now, Tom’s conclusion might indeed have been correct—and that, on balance, the reduced humour of some is worth the increased comforts of others in the modern workplace—but, before pronouncing his progressive judgement, I wonder if Tom might have shown a drop of curiosity about what sorts of troubling consequences for humour Mr. LePage had in blasphemous mind.

    So, in answer to my question about whether Mr. Power is as simple as he seems, or if he’s just pretending to be because that’s his job, I counted the above failure of curiosity as evidence of a genuine blandness of mind. And yet, some days, when Q’s topic of discussion has no obvious socio-political implications, I notice that Mr. Power is capable of humour and thought beyond his simplistic progressive assertions.

    So I have been torn by the mystery of Tom Power: Is it possible that he is, in fact, a brilliant progressive strategist hiding in plain platitudes?

    Well, recently, our Mr. Power finally proved to me which was his true identity.

    On the other side of the Q microphone was Daphne Rubin-Vega, who is the lead voice in the dramatic podcast, The Horror of Dolores Roach, which features progressively-approved implications regarding gentrification and race. Now, personally, I don’t know whether gentrification is as morally harmful as we’re told by progressive advocates; on the one side of my brain, I empathize with those who cannot afford to stay in their established neighbourhoods, but on the other side, I do not like the idea of restricting who can come into and make changes to a neighbourhood. Moreover, I’m not sure which side of the gentrification debate has the best claim to our society’s overall welfare. So, being a gentrification agnostic, I’m always interested to hear arguments on both sides. But, of course, CBC Radio’s policy regarding gentrification is much more settled: gentrification is, by definition, immoral and even racist.

    But, unfortunately, for our sympathetic Mr. Power, in this case, Ms. Rubin-Vega was not as gifted at staying on progressive message as Tom’s usual group-thinking guests. And—as we will discover in the following episode of SethFM—Ms. Rubin-Vega’s resulting ideological misstep forced the true Tom Power to reveal himself as he dove in to rescue his guest from her accidental wrongthink.

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