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[ThisessaywasfirstpublishedbytheCentreforResearchonGlobalization(7December2010),
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22302,andsubsequentlyreproducedatfifteenother
websites.]

[Index:Canadianpolitics,JulianAssange,Haiti]
[Date:December2010]

DeathSquadsvs.Democracy:TomFlanagansJoke

MichaelKeefer

Tom Flanagan, University of Calgary political science professor, rightwing


pundit, and mentor and former senior advisor to Prime Minister Harper, has earned
himselfmoreinternationalmediaattentionduringthepastweekthanevenhemayhave
anappetitefor.
OnNovember30th,2010,FlanaganspokeasoneoftheregularpanelistsonCBC
Televisionsnationalpoliticalanalysisprogram,PowerandPoliticswithEvanSolomon.
Staringintothecamera,whileacrossthebottomofthetelevisionscreenthereappeareda
bannerreadingWIKILEAKSLATEST:NewdocumentmentionsPMStephenHarper,
FlanaganhadthistosayaboutJulianAssange,thefounderandeditorofWikileaks:
Well,IthinkAssangeshouldbeassassinated,actually.IthinkObama
shouldputoutacontractandmaybeuseadroneorsomething.

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EvanSolomonsreactionwasdelayedandwhenitfinallycame,thumpinglystupid.
AfterlettingFlanaganoutlinefornearlytensecondshisreasonsforadvocatingpolitical
murder,hebrokeinatlast,saying:Tom,thatsprettyharshstuff,justfortherecord,
thatsprettyharshstuff.1
Flanaganrespondedtothisinterruptionwithwhatappearstohavebeenajoke:
Well,Imfeelingverymanlytoday.Butmakingitclearthathisinitialremarkswere
seriouslyintended,hewrappeduphiscontributiontotheprogramwithapartingshot:I
wouldnt feel unhappy if Assange disappeared. This sounds rather as though, after
proposingamurdercontractandadroneattack,hewasofferingObamaathirdformof
assassination:howaboutadeathsquaddisappearance?Solomonresponded,echoing
hisearlierfeebleness:Well,Ivegottasay,TomFlanagancallingforthat,thatspretty
strongstuff.2
Oneofthemostlucidcommentstodateonthisdisgustingepisodehascomefrom
CalgaryHeraldjournalistandUniversityofCalgaryalumnusKrisKotarski,inapublic
letter calling on Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, the universitys President, to condemn Dr.
Flanaganintheharshestpossibleterms.Kotarskiwrites:
Betterthanmost,aprofessorofpoliticalscienceshouldunderstand
thatacademicfreedomisnotpossiblewithoutpoliticalfreedom,andthat
political freedom cannot survive in a climate where journalists and
opponentsofarulingregimehearpublicintellectualsadvocatefortheir
assassinationonthenightlynews.
IfthiswereaRussian,ChineseorIranianintellectualcallingforthe
murder of a regime opponent, Canadians would be appalled.
ConsideringCanadasproudtraditionofpoliticalfreedom,itisallthe
moreoffensivetohearanactivememberoftheUniversityofCalgary
faculty and the former chief of staff and campaign manager for the

ThekeysequencefromtheNovember30,2010broadcastisavailableatTomFlanagan
callsforassassinationofJulianAssange,Youtube(19May2012),
www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3lejkuiOWs.
2
Ibid.
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sittingPrimeMinisterdothesame.3
As onewouldexpect, there havebeen attempts both byFlanaganand byhis
supportersinthemediatoexplainhisremarksawayasanilljudgedattemptathumour.
Forexample,SarahPetzhaswrittenin Macleans:Jokingabouttheassassinationofa
majorpublicfigureisterrible[].However,consideringitwasobviouslyabadjokeand
notaseriousincitationtocommitviolence,maybeitstimeforeveryonetomoveon.4
Petz likens Flanagans comments in the video footage to something your
conservativeunclewouldsayinadrunkenargumentoveranawkwardfamilydinner. 5
Butwhiletheremayhavebeenanoteofbrutalflippancyinhistone,Flanaganwasstone
coldsober.TheonlyjestinhisstatementwastheinaneNeoConinjokeaboutfeeling
very manly today. Some people of Flanagans political leaningsmen like Dick
Cheney,JohnBolton,andGeorgeW.Bushseemtofindthequasieroticchargethey
getfrommakingthreatsofviolenceinvigorating,evenamusing.Othersmightwonder
howmanlyitistofindonespleasureinbullyingandterrorizingpeople.
Flanagans feelings of manliness seem to be recurrentand perhaps more
seriouslyoutofcontrolthanhissupportersareaware.AtmuchthesametimeasSarah
Petzdescribedhimin Macleans assomeonewhoshouldbeanexpertinwhatnotto
say,aMs.JanetRedmondofTorontoreproachedFlanaganbyemailforhiscomments
onAssange(Soyouareinfavourofassassinatingpeoplethatyoudisagreewith.Does
the Reform Party have no ethical basis? Agree with us or get assassinated?). She
receivedaonesentenceresponsefromFlanagan:Betterbecareful,weknowwhereyou

OpenlettertoUniversityofCalgaryPresidentDr.ElizabethCannonregardingDr.
TomFlanagan'sremarks,CensureTomFlanagan(6December2010,updated16
December2010),www.censureflanagan.wordpress.com.
4
SarahPetz,LetFlanagan'sremarksdie:Ucalgaryprofwasn'tincitingviolence,just
makingareallyhorriblejoke,Macleans.ca(4December2010),
www.oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2010/12/04/letflanagansremarksdie/.Petz
deniesthatFlanagan'swordscouldhavebeenaseriousincitationtocommitviolence.
Incitation?DoesPetzmeanincitement?Isshedimlyrecollectingthehorse,Incitatus,
thattheemperorCaligulawantedtoappointtotheRomansenate?OrhaveMacleans
standardsofpoliticaldecencyandwritingbothcollapsed?
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Petz,LetFlanagan'sremarksdie.
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live.6
Itsperhapsjustaswellthatthevideofootageofthis CBC programhasgone
global, together with explanations of Flanagans close links to our current Prime
Minister.JulianAssange,letusremindourselves,isnotjustthemajorpublicfigure
thatMacleanscallshim:hehasforseveralyearstakenaleadingroleinwhatisarguably
the most courageous and the most significant journalistic work currently ongoing
anywhereintheworld.
In an age in which the memory hole imagined by George Orwell in his
dystopian novel 1984 has become a literal reality, the work of Wikileaks is crucial.
Assangehashimselfpointedoutinpubliclecturesandinterviewsthatnewsreportsare
nowroutinelydeletedbymediacorporations,bothfromtheironlinearchivesandfrom
theirindexes,leavingbehindnothingbutadocumentnotfoundmessageforsearch
engineinquiries;whileintheUKsome300newsstories,includingoneaboutadeliberate
chemicalspillthatinjuredover100,000people,arecurrentlysmotheredbycourtorders
thatmakeitillegaleventomentiontheexistenceofacourtorderblockingpublicationof
thefacts.
Moreover,theUSgovernmenthasbeenmovingsteadilytowardasituationin
whichitsagenciespossesssomethingapproachingwhatAdmiralJohnPoindextercalled
total intelligence awareness, while citizens are increasingly confined to a
corresponding state of ignorance on all matters of importance. Lawrence Davidson
explainsthestrategy:
Democraticeliteshavelearnedthattheydonotneedtorelyonthebrute
force characteristic of dictatorships as long as they can sufficiently
BillGraveland,TomFlanaganthreatenedmeoverWikileakscomment,Toronto
womansays,TheGlobeandMail(7December2010),
www.theglkobeandmail.com/news/politics/tomflanaganthreatenedmeoverwikileaks
commenttorontowomansays/article1318686/.AsIsobelTeotonioandTonda
MacCharlesoftheTorontoStarnoted,Flanaganhimselfcoinedaterminhisbook
Harper'sTeam(2007)forthekindofbehaviourheindulgedinontheCBCprogramand
inhisemail:bozoeruptions.(SeeTeotonioandMacCharles,Torontowomangets
apologyfromformerHarperaide,TorontoStar[8December2010],
www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/904035torontowomangetsapologyfrom
formerharperaide.)
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control the public media environment. You restrict meaningful free
speechtothefringesofthemedia,totheoutliersalongtheinformation
bellcurve.Yourelyonthesociologicalfactthatthevastmajorityof
citizenswilleitherpaynoattentiontothatwhichtheyfindirrelevantto
their immediate lives,orelsetheywillbelieve theofficial storyline
aboutplacesandhappeningsofwhichtheyareotherwiseignorant.Once
youhaveidentifiedtheofficialstorylinewiththeofficialpolicybeing
pursued,loyaltytothepolicycomestoequatewithpatriotism.Itisa
shockinglysimpleformulaanditusuallyworks.7
WhileitisundoubtedlyembarrassingforAmericanelites(whomonehesitatesto
gracewiththeworddemocratic)tohavethedirtylinenoftheirdiplomaticdouble
dealingsexposedtotheworld,theirmosturgentconcernseemstobetoensurethatas
littleaspossibleoftheWikileaksmaterialbecomesknowninanyorganizedwaytothe
American public. Hence the censorship being exercised by the New York Times (in
contrasttothemannerinwhichTheGuardianandDerSpiegelarereleasingthematerial
that they all possess)and hence also the vitriolic hatred expressed toward Julian
Assange by Hillary Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and Bill OReilly, and the deaththreats
issuedagainsthimbySarahPalin,MikeHuckabee,andWilliamKristol.
NoamChomskyhasremarkedthatPerhapsthemostdramaticrevelation[ofthe
leaked cables] is the bitter hatred of democracy that is revealed both by the U.S.
governmentHillaryClinton,[and]othersandalsobythediplomaticservice. 8 The
paroxysmsofloathingnowbeingdirectedatJulianAssangeareanotherexpressionof
thatsamehatredofdemocracy.
While most Canadians are already aware of our own governments repeated
demonstrations ofcontempt fordemocratic principles andpractice, understandingthe
implications of Tom Flanagans behaviour remains important. Canadas standards of
public discourse have decayed to the point at which our national broadcaster is not
LawrenceDavidson,OntheHistoricalNecessityofWikileaks,MWCNews(4
December2010),http://mcwnews.net/focus/editorial/7045historicalnecessityof
wikileaks.html.
8
Seehttp://chomsky.info/interviews/20101130.htm.
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ashamedtocarryanopenincitementtopoliticalmurdermadebytheleadingideologueof
thegoverningparty,aformerandforallweknowcontinuingcloseassociateofPrime
Minister Harper. It is dismaying to recognize that our media system includes, at its
centre,peopleforwhomtheopeneyedadvocacyoflawlessviolenceissomethingmerely
toshrugoff,likeanoffcolourjoke,asprettystrongstuff.
ButacceptanceofthatkindofdismissalisonlypossiblesolongasCanadians
continuetobelievethatourgoverningeliteshavealwaysoperatedatasafedistancefrom
suchtotalitariantacticsasthoserecommendedbyTomFlanagan.Isthatinfactthecase,
or is our belief perhaps conditioned by effective control of what Davidson calls the
publicmediaenvironment?
HowmanyofusknowaboutCanadascentralroleintheoverthrowofHaitis
dulyelecteddemocraticgovernmentinFebruary2004,orabouttheroleofCanadas
militaryinfacilitatingorattheveryleastdoingnothingtopreventthecampaignsof
politicalterror,massacreandrapethatfollowedthecoup?OraboutthefactthatCanada
exercised effective control over a postcoup prison system in Haiti that even the
Organization of American States condemned as horrifying? (The Deputy Minister of
JusticewhoranthatsystemwasbothappointedandpaidbytheCanadianInternational
DevelopmentAgency.)OrabouttheroleoftheRCMPinprovidingtrainingandtutelage
for a reconstituted Haitian National Police that engaged in documented deathsquad
activities against civilians between 2004 and at least 2006, and is suspected of
involvementinsuchcrimesasthedisappearanceofhumanrightsactivistLovinsky
PierreAntoineinAugust2007?(Shouldwenotfeelsomedegreeofresponsibilityfor
thesecrimes?MightitbeinanywaysignificantthatLovinskywasdisappearedjust
threeweeksafterhavingannoyedCanadianauthoritiesinHaitibytryingtoorganizea
demonstrationagainstStephenHarpersbriefvisittotheislandinJuly?)9
The Wikileaks cablesapparentlyincludemorethan1,800documentsemanating
from Ottawa (whether from American diplomats posted there or from Canadian
InformationonthesesubjectscanbefoundinmyessayCanadaandtheDignityof
HaitianWomen,CentreforResearchonGlobalization(12December2010),
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22301.
9

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authorities communicating with the US is unclear). Their contents may be entirely
confinedtobanalandroutinematters.Ortheymayperhapsprovidefurthersubstantiation
ofthefactthatcrimesofstateterrorofthekindTomFlanaganthoughtitappropriateto
recommendonCBCTelevisionfarfrombeingmererhetoric,letaloneajoketouch
Canadiansmorecloselythanmostofushavebeenabletorecognize.
Shouldthe Wikileaks cablesturnouttocontainmaterialofthiskind,wemight
expect to hear angry denunciations of Julian Assange from Liberal as well as from
Conservative quartersfor Canadas participation in the Haitian coup of 2004 was
decidedandacteduponbythegovernmentsofJeanChrtienandPaulMartin,whose
policiestheHarperConservativeshaveinthisrespectmerelycontinued.
Onemayhopethatinsuchacase,Canadianpublicopinionwouldrespondwitha
firmdefenceofourdemocraticrighttoknowaboutandtocontrolthedoingsofour
electedrepresentativesandpublicservantsandtoensurethattheiractionsremainin
conformitywithdomesticandinternationallaw.
Asforthepresent,InotewithinterestthatVancouverlawyerGailDavidsonhas
filedacomplaintagainstTomFlanaganwiththeVancouverpoliceandtheRCMP.10Im
happytoendorseacommentpostedbyDelmazioinresponsetothisnews:Weneed
more people like Mr. Julian Assange who are willing to speak truth to power, and
encouragethefreeflowofinformationwhichdirectlyaffectspublicpolicydecisions.If
wevaluefreedomofinformation,transparency,openness,anddemocracy,weoughtto
praisenottocondemnsuchefforts.11

CharlieSmith,PolicecomplaintfiledafterTomFlanagancallsforassassinationof
WikileaksJulianAssange,Straight.com[4December2010],
http://www.straight.com/article362941/vancouver/lawyerfilescriminalflanagan
assassinationwikileaksjulianassan.
11
SomemaybeconcernedaboutthenewsthatSwedensPublicProsecutorsOffice
announcedinAugust2010thatitintendedtoarrestAssangeonchargesofrape,
withdrewthearrestwarrantonthesameday,assertingthattherewasnoevidence,and
thenresurrectedthechargesthreemonthslater.SeethearticlebyMelbournebarrister
JamesD.Catlin,whoactedforAssangeinLondoninOctober:Whenitcomesto
Assangerapecase,theSwedesaremakingitupastheygoalong,Crikey(2December
2010),http://www.allvoices.com.
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