Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I wonder if former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain ever knew his lasting contribution to the world would be to serve as an analogous prop for lazy politicians looking to warn of the dangers of appeasement/ignoring grave threats? Seriously, they should put him on a stamp or something, or give a pound sterling to his estate for each mention.

The latest politician to fall into the trap of using the Chamberlain/appeasement analogy, and get thwacked for allegedly making a Nazi comparison is, of course, the Green Party’s Elizabeth May. She was out of line, and was roundly condemned for the remarks. Allow me to add my note of displeasure to the chorus. (Not to sidetrack, but I found her religious comments more disturbing).

May is not the only politician to play the Chamberlain card however. Far from it. A mini Web brouhaha erupted last spring when Bob Rae used the analogy while talking softwood lumber. And, as reports in an amusing article (make Radwanski editor of the print mag and I'll read it), Chamberlain has been a favourite crutch over the years for politicians of all stripes, and no one should be too pious in their denunciations.

While, on the one hand I guess it’s good our politicians have enough faith in our education system to expect most Canadians will know who the hell Neville is, let alone the history of appeasement and the Munich Pact, there seems to be a certain intellectual laziness creeping into our political discourse with this overuse of the Chamberlain example. Can we not to do better people?

I think Neville has had his day in the sun, and it’s time for a Chamberlain moratorium. Is there not some other historical analogy we can use? History majors, time to put those degrees to use! We need a new Neville Chamberlain-like analogy for the 21st Century.

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Gauntlet said...

She was quoting someone. She wasn't making the comparison herself. She was saying that some guy in the UK has compared Chamberlain's appeasement to Harper's intransigence, pointing out how badly Canada's image is tarnished by our lack of action on the environment.

I, for one, didn't find her religious remarks the least bit concerning. She hasn't proposed, so far as I'm aware, to do anything that would violate the rights of members of other religions or those without religion.

Frankly, I think we need a different sort of analogy entirely. If Harper is Neville, who is Adolf? Mother nature? Everyone? Harper too? It doesn't quite work.

We don't need an analogy for a person failing to meet an external threat. We need an analogy for a person who refused to change their own actions despite overwhelming evidence that they were indirectly injuring themselves and others.

Anonymous said...

Great post. That Macleans article is delightful.

Mark Richard Francis said...

May is defensible here, but, well, there are some things you tend to avoid talking about in politics: religion, even appearing to compare someone or something to the Nazis, sex... We used to avoid marriage discussions, but SSM took care of that!

The religious angle is complicated here as she was talking about the dangerous interplay of radical Christianity and politics in the USA. So, on one hand, don't touch it because its religion. On the other, it's proper to criticize it because it's radical religion and politics mixing dangerously.

Elizabeth travels with little support. She doesn't have caned speeches or an entourage to support her. Her speeches are ad lib. Refreshing, but in politics that's dangerous at times.

Whenever we criticize a small slip, the message we are sending is: Please! Script yourself until you are totally canned and bland like everyone else...

Unknown said...

I nominate Thabo Mbeki. He denied for years that HIV caused AIDS despite the epidemic's ravages in South Africa, and has done little to nothing about denouncing Mugabe's atrocities in Zimbabwe.

If any modern-day politician should be in the running, it's him.

Mark Richard Francis said...


How about renaming this post

Neville Again!!!


Jeff said...

I don't know Maria, might be too tough for some of our politicians to pronounce Thabo Mbeki...

JimBobby said...

Whooee! Mark sez - "Please! Script yourself until you are totally canned and bland like everyone else... "

Right as rain, MarkFeller. If Canajuns want polyticks-as-usual, alls we gotta do is go along withthe double standard that sez it's okay fer Petey MacKay an
Jack Layton to use the analogy on teh floor o' the House of Commenst but it ain't okay fer Lizzie May to use the same analogy in church.

How 'bout we get the thought police sittin' in on sermons every Sunday?

There's a few apologies that oughta be made by a few pots an' kettles who been throwin' stones from their glass houses.