Tom Flanagan, neoconservative spiritual leader, consigned to utter darkness

Conservative icon Tom Flanagan’s defining moment. Below: Dr. Flanagan in happier times; the six signatories of the Alberta separatist Firewall Manifesto; Richard Nixon saying goodbye during his 1952 Checkers speech. Unlike Dr. Flanagan’s likely career trajectory, Mr. Nixon came back. 

Who could have predicted that yesterday would be the pope’s last day on the job?

I speak, of course, of Professor Tom Flanagan, spiritual leader of the neoconservative movement in Canada.

Well, Dr. Flanagan is the neocon pope no more, having uttered the astonishing opinion at a seminar the previous evening in the deep-south Alberta city of Lethbridge that child pornography is, if not exactly OK, more of a freedom of expression issue than an exploitation of children issue.

Not only that, but in response to a questioner at the University of Lethbridge seminar, Dr. Flanagan informed his audience he’d once been on the mailing list of the North American Man-Boy Love Association for two years. One can only hope this was in error, as he seemed to be implying.

I was driving the car when I heard that one, and that was the moment I spat Tim Horton’s coffee all over the dashboard and the windshield. It’s going to be a dickens of a job to clean up the mess this weekend!

Now, it’s been understood for a while that Dr. Flanagan – hitherto best known for his role as self-proclaimed godfather to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s political career, signatory to the Alberta separatist Firewall Manifesto, chief strategist of Alberta’s far-right Wildrose Party and advocate of the assassination of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange – has a small problem with knowing when not to use his outside voice.

But one would have thought that he would have realized by now in the age of the tiny phone-mounted digital camera that any voice one chooses to use – even a whisper – is in effect your outside voice.

Such recent examples as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney telling well-heeled donors that 47 per cent of Americans were lazy parasites and Pastor Allan Hunsperger of Dr. Flanagan’s own Wildrose campaign last spring advising gays in a blog they’d better repent or their fate would be an eternal hot bath in a lake of fire should have been fresh in his mind.

Perhaps the U of L’s classroom ambience made the American-born neocon icon forget he was not back in the loving embrace of the University of Calgary, where his odious economic views have been treated as infallible and inspired by generations of students and administrators since the late 1960s?

Alas for Dr. Flanagan, he is also known for controversial and unsympathetic views about First Nations rights, which inspired Idle No More activists to attend his lecture. One of them, a young man from the nearby Blood Tribe named Levi Little Moustache, brought a digital camera and asked an unsympathetic question – although he, like many others in the room and out of it, gasped with shock when Prof. Flanagan uttered his career-ending opinion.

Within hours Dr. Flanagan discovered that even for a pal of the prime minister and comfortable senior Conservative party ideologue known as the Karl Rove of Canadian politics, there are limits to what may be said aloud without consequences – especially when it’s posted on Youtube.

In the hours after the video of Dr. Flanagan’s remarks went viral, spokesthingies for conservative groups and political parties, previously obsequious media organizations and once-sympathetic employers were practically knocking over the furniture in their haste to be the first to tack their former neoconservative idol to the wall.

The University of Calgary announced Dr. Flanagan has already promised to retire, and he wouldn’t ever be coming back, thank you very much. The CBC immediately canned him as a commentator. The prime minister’s spokeperson and Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith both forcefully denied him. The Wildrose Party vowed he’d never come near one of its campaigns again. Even the Manning Centre chopped him as a featured speaker at its upcoming national conservative scheming session in Ottawa next week.

Dr. Flanagan, sounding stunned at the rapid reversal of his fortunes, issued a meek apology, but it was too late. His career was already covered in ignominy.

Only his old “Calgary School” buddy Barry Cooper stood by him, explaining to the Calgary Herald that Dr. Flanagan’s swift fall from grace was actually because Canadians are stupid – although not, Dr. Cooper hastened to add, such paragons of Canadian virtue as the Wildrose Party and the Manning Centre.

It is said here this is a defining moment in Canada’s conservative movement, if only because one of its most influential figures will no longer be around – at least where anyone can see or hear him. (Count on it that Dr. Flanagan’s strategic advice, which has been proved to be effective, will continue to be sought.)

As the late Richard Nixon said of himself, we won’t have Dr. Flanagan to kick around any more – “thank you, gentlemen, and good day.” And I, for one, will miss kicking the always-deserving Dr. Flanagan.

Indeed, it has not been a good couple of years for the six signatories of the independantiste Firewall Manifesto – former Alberta finance minister Ted Morton has been kicked out of office by angry voters, Ken Boessenkool has been removed as B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s chief of staff after a murky incident in a bar involving a woman and too much alcohol, and now Dr. Flanagan has been consigned to utter darkness for his views on child porn. Mr. Harper, of course, continues for the moment as prime minister.

Neoconservative admirers of Dr. Flanagan such as his former colleague Dr. Cooper can take comfort in the knowledge that the professor, a lifelong advocate of brutal market fundamentalist nostrums and an opponent of fair treatment of public employees, will have a very nice University of Calgary pension to fall back on.

Meanwhile, in Rome, the other pope, the one who leads the planet’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, also departed from office yesterday. A successor for Pope Benedict XVI is expected to be elected within a few weeks.

It is not known when adherents of the Canadian neocon faith will elect their new spiritual leader – although it’s likely Preston Manning will be available for the job after the conservative conclave in Ottawa next week.

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14 Comments on "Tom Flanagan, neoconservative spiritual leader, consigned to utter darkness"

  1. anonymous says:

    Perhaps Vic Toews will reintroduce his C-30 surveillance bill as “‘Save Canada’s Children from Dr. Tom”.

  2. The Invisible Hand says:

    Flanagan was 100% wrong to endorse the position of the British Columbia Supreme Court and the British Columbia Court of Appeal in the John Robin Sharpe case of 1999.

    (Fortunately, the worst parts of their rulings were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2001.

  3. B.Bukal says:

    Dear Climenhaga,
    with all respect to article, I have to comment that you missed very important angle.
    The irony, that after everything Dr. Flanagan said and did during his carrier, including a call to assassinate J.Assange, he was taken down by this basically liberal comment.
    Should state really prosecute citizens for watching anything.
    Take a look at this fine article in Ottawa Citizen:

  4. ema says:

    …That’s quite the motley crew (that authored the Firewall Manifesto) and it seems, in turn they haven’t fared too well in their subsequent revealing exploits. Can Stevie be far behind?!!!

  5. Filostrato says:

    I didn’t catch the aboriginal connection to this. That is sweet justice, indeed.

    It was only a matter of time before The Wiz hanged himself with his own rope. This time, the stumbling non-apology, which supposedly worked so well with his assassination of Julian Assange remark, didn’t really cut the mustard.

    As for doing whatever it takes to ram your candidate into power – well, we can see how wonderfully that turned out.

    I am distraught, distraught!

    Bye. Don’t let the door hit you on your bison coat on the way out.

  6. Pogo says:

    The gruesome gang of CRAP shooters are packin’ a hair trigger these days and in this case it’s fairly safe to say in the immortal words of Tom Waits: “small change got rained on with his own 38″.

    As an accidental consequence the academic integrity of the UofC just rose a point or two and according to unreliable sources selected from the voices screaming in her head… when asked for comment on her relationship with Tom dearest Dani responded: The puppies and I are with Rob Anders full time now.

  7. Lars says:

    I feel that Flanagan’s startling revelations concerning his connection to the Ikea monkey have, unfortunately, been overshadowed here.

  8. Alex P says:

    Tom Flanigan goes from spiritual leader of Wildrosers of many parties to creepy grandpa. Should have squeezed a senate post out of Harper years ago, but too late now.

    I cringe at the (very few) defenders who call for academic freedom. The idea has value, don’t get me wrong. But turning an already contentious topic, ‘the future of the Indian Act,’ into, oh, by the way, I’m the guy who who’s soft on criminals who pay for child porn. Besides, the victims are far away.

    Down the rabbit hole of libertarian thought we go.

  9. Paul Doherty says:

    There goes the post retirement “Dr Flanagan’s Libertarian Daycare” franchise.

  10. Justin says:

    Quick clarification – Romney’s comments on the 47% were NOT actually intended to mean ‘all 47% are takers’ (awkward wording at worst) but this did NOT HURT ROMNEY who actually rose from that day onward and numerous polls showed a majority AGREED with Romney.
    It is a myth that ‘hurt Romney’. It DID NOT.
    As for the Wildrose ‘gay-hell’ blog story – here there is little evidence this hurt Wildrose and may have even helped.

    As for this comment. Yes, you have to be careful about that ‘outdoor voice’ thing but are we so immature that we cannot consider the actual intended meaning?
    someone here comments ‘creepy grandpa’ shouldn’t be such an immature teen girl they just think ‘oh some words SOUNDED like.. creepy..’.
    He was communicating a totally fair point of view and of course this is looking at some legal interpretations but also philosophical etc.
    Again: I’m going to say something everyone here actually does agree with:
    - IF we have ‘child pornography’ that is of an actual victim then yes its an issue of an actual abused child (obviously),
    IF we have this case of the creep drawing (or I think writing stories too) then actually there is no actual child victim (in that case) but there IS a question about ‘expression’. There just is. this isn’t ‘shocking’ or ‘controversial’ but actual describing ‘what happened’.
    You are NOT somehow ‘MORE AGAINST Child Molesters’ because you ‘Take it FURTHER’ and ‘Describe it as victimizing actual children.’.
    Like you are somehow now ‘More against it!’.

    Just saying – yes, he needed to be more careful how he explained himself but at the same time listeners don’t need to be ‘purposely dumb’ and should comprehend what he was saying is a totally valid and real point of view.
    Held by people 100% opposed to child porn I might add.

    *have no idea what the ‘man-boy mailing list’ thing was about but I’d believe someone put him on that.
    I once infuriated some leftists in a political forum and was later on about 5 different gay or transgender mailing lists lol.. I guess that was to punish me somehow.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Many thanks to Levi Little Mustache.

    You forgot Alison Redford’s apology. So strongly-worded that one wonders if she’s harbored a long-time dislike for Flanagan. “It turns my stomach. I am absolutely disgusted by it. I think it’s a perfect example of people who take ideological arguments too far, and I have nothing else to say.”

    The longest comments to this excellent post come from the Tom Flanagan and Child Pornographers Defense Group. Please know that if you’re defending Flanagan’s statement, that means you don’t respect the boundaries of children and other vulnerable people either, and you’re also a creep. Take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror.

    That article in the Ottawa Citizen, claiming that Flanagan had no reason to apologize, was written by a Professor of Philosophy at what I believe is a Catholic university. Apparently males of the Catholic persuasion make a habit of defending each other in this peculiar diversion. Flanagan is also a Catholic, and taught at a conservative Catholic university in the US, before inflicting his presence on Canada, and poisoning our system. He seems to regard Canada as some sort of new frontier for himself and his Republican US buddies, so they can play Wild Bill Hickock and friends. His main goal, currently being fulfilled by his acolyte Harper, has been to get his mitts on First Nations land.

    I was stunned by the speed and manner of descent. The higher they fly, the harder they fall – like Icarus. The Biblical “pride goeth before a fall” also comes to mind, as there are few people in Canadian public life as arrogant as this yahoo. He showed more contempt for First Nations by appearing in a buffalo robe on CBC, and should have been canned then. I’m so glad that he’s finally found out that Canadians aren’t just polite, we can also get real nasty when you’ve pushed the limits too far.

  12. Alex P says:

    Everything that needs saying…

    Calgary Harold: Flanagan’s faux pas unforgivable

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