This amazingly-crafted piece, ostensibly an attack on popular progressive blogger Fern Hill, almost took me in, as it has so many others, not excluding Fern Hill herself. But I’m too darned smart to get caught like that, Warren, you devil. I hereby offer my hearty congratulations for one of the finest self-sendups I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
I’ll get to the essential comedic elements of the blogpost in a moment. But first, a little background. And then some sideground.
Fern Hill was the blogger who uncovered the inconvenient fact, during last year’s Ontario election campaign, that Ontario Progressive Conservative hopeful Tim Hudak favoured defunding abortion. She managed to ignite what Chris Selley disapprovingly called “online hellfire” with that, putting Hudak on the ropes and keeping him there for the duration. She very likely played a major role in getting the man defeated last October.
For the duration of the campaign the two worked rather well together on the issue. Kudos.
Now, fast-forward to this past few days, and the sideground I promised.
The abortion debate is being re-opened in Parliament. The thin edge of the criminalization wedge is now apparent to nearly everyone who’s been paying attention. Those of us who believe a zygote’s “rights” should not trump the rights of women are faced with having to speak out, regroup and organize.
Harper’s Canada, 2012.
Needless to say, we expect self-styled “progressives” to be there with us. It should go without saying. But some weren’t.
The blog-battle over this led to the booting of DAMMIT JANET! from Progressive Bloggers. (Although they were planning to leave anyway, admin Scott Tribe got a little preemptive). A number of blogposts roundly denouncing Proggers topped the “most-voted” list over there.
But Scott Tribe is a Liberal.
That explains the timing of WK’s supposed hit-piece, seemingly founded upon a trivial misunderstanding that arose in late February, in which the ever-arch Fern referred to the dreadful Connie Fournier of Free Dominion as “my good friend.” Hell, I used to refer to Ezra Levant in similar terms—and he to me, incidentally.
But WK was actually having a fine, rich laugh at everybody’s expense, Liberal and non-Liberal alike. They’ve all been super-punk’d: it was perhaps mock-fury’s finest hour. That reference to Fournier should have been the giveaway right there.
WK is a journalist, so he knows how to separate fact from fiction. He’s on the record, furthermore, for picking up Fern Hill’s Hudak discovery. So by claiming that he already knew all that stuff, he’s taking a shot at his own blogging persona, which over the years has grown a tad inflated—as he’d no doubt be the first to admit, with a knowing smile.
Nor did the real Fern Hill ever say that there should not be fewer abortions, but more. Indeed—and Warren is well aware of this—making abortion illegal tends to increase the numbers, while legal abortion in Canada has been experiencing a steady decline. That’s what knowledge and contraception will do. Fern has always supported both, and so has Henry Morgentaler, whom WK quotes somewhat out of context. But quoting out of context, of course, is just another tool in the satirist’s armamentarium.
Then comes his mention of the Canadian Blogger Awards, once lacking the Feminist Blogger category, but—after another one of those outcries that shouldn’t have been remotely necessary—the many bloggers under this heading are now recognized. When the annual competition begins, some bloggers in every category, Fern among them, campaign in a good-natured way: “Vote for us.” (I don’t, but then I don’t have a good nature. I’m a coward. What if I asked and people didn’t?)
This, however, in the inflated language of the satirist, becomes “hectoring.” Note the skill in evidence here: had he said “shrill,” he would have produced an immediate negative effect on much if not all of his audience, undermining the structure of his piece. To hector is ungendered, and simply means to bully. Applied to someone like Fern, who fights bullying nearly every day in her blog, it is so risible that I found myself laughing out loud. The WK persona might have induced a similar effect by calling Stephen Harper’s hairstyle “cool,” or using a word like “understated” to refer to John Baird during Question Period.
But Warren is just warming up. This is a keeper:
In February, I saw that Fern Hill had gotten mixed up with the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who hang out on Free Dominion. She called the founder of the crypto-fascist web site her “good friend,” quote unquote.
I’ve already dealt with the latter point, but note the clever enjambement of meaning with the sentence before it, which has of course no basis in fact whatsoever. Another example of this fairly sophisticated technique might be, “I see that Warren Kinsella has gotten mixed up with a crazy bunch of screaming loons, racists and far-right-wingers. He publishes a regular column in the Toronto Sun.”
But then we move on to this, which is almost too delicious for words:
I tried to talk her out of that, and - as with all such attempts - Fern Hill dismissed and mocked me. That’s around the time that I took a link to her off my web site. She’d become as extreme as those she regularly attacked.
I doubt I would ever attempt to talk Warren out of publishing his fine columns in Canada’s version of Die Völkischer Beobachter. My notoriously thin skin simply couldn’t bear the lash of dismissal and mockery that would ensue. In any case, the reader is left helpless, wondering whether Warren really undertook so incautious an enterprise, or whether this is a mere literary contrivance, his larger-than-life blog-persona engaging in an imaginary discussion with an equally larger-than-life Fern Hill.
At last, with consummate skill, WK leaves his silver tongue in his cheek and moves us to his comic-opera conclusion:
Now, she’s in a fight with pretty much every progressive blogger. She said she wanted off their aggregator, so they removed her. She has now taken to screeching about the fact that they removed her. Seriously.
The one-word sentence “seriously” is a masterstroke. It invites the audience to read the preceding comment in a specific way. (Example: “Stephen Harper is a silicon-based life-form. Seriously.”) As already indicated, a number of us jumped in to support her, and our blogposts topped the charts at Progressive Bloggers for some time. Indeed, admin Scott Tribe and his mods were pretty much left by themselves. The real Warren, and just about everybody else, is again well aware of this. Yet he takes the satirist’s risk, and wins the satirist’s highest reward—being taken literally at his word.
(If I might temper my admiration a little at this point, the word “screeching” is unfortunate. It carries resonances, no pun intended, that might disrupt the engagement of the reader. But even Homer nods.)
On to the superb final lines:
Bottom line: she’s an idiot. And, as the screen cap below shows, she thinks it’s A-OK to play footsie with the Far Right.
ROTFLMAO, as the kids say. The screen cap is just Fern’s comment about her “good friend” Connie Fournier. The “politics sure does make strange bedfellows” shtick is all over it. The two of them—and the real Warren, and I—are all on the same side of the fence when it comes to Robogate. (Alas, my former friend Ezra is just as surely on the other.)
Knowing Warren as I do, he’s far from oblivious to the fact that Fern has as well-honed a sense of humour as anyone in the business—and can troll expertly for fish both big and small. Pretending that he had been sucked in was his final and most resounding jest. I had to wipe tears from my eyes. Seriously.
Fern Hill, and I think she needs to be aware of this, is one of the luckiest people alive. I would kill—well, treat someone rudely, at least—to be given “the treatment” by the masterful Warren Kinsella. Good grief, it would be like finding my name in a line of the Iliad. Those who want to be his next “idiot,” you just go wait in line. I was here first.