Conway Responds To Rosie And Yossarian

Stephen LaRose doesn’t think much of John Conway’s latest column. In his Sept. 12 blog post “Have Some More Haggis, John Conway”, Rosie writes:

John Conway’s analysis of the Scottish independence referendum, philosophically, reads about the same as my attempt to review records by new Canadian bands or artists. Just as every group with two guitarists makes me think of either The Tragically Hip or The Rheostatics, never thinking that newer contemporaries may be a bigger influences, Conway tries to shoehorn his comparing of next week’s groundbreaking vote with the 1995 Quebec sovereignty referendum.

And then there was this comment from Dog Blog reader Yossarian:

Conway never fails to make an overly simplistic argument. This piece was no exception. Stephen is quite correct in his criticism. There are very few similarities between Scotland and Quebec. Quebec is of course a nation within a nation – but a nation that resulted from settling on indigenous land. Quebec has never been an independent polity – as Scotland was for over 300 years.

There was more validity in Stephen’s brief synopsis than there has been in a Conway piece over the last decade.

I still chuckle at his 2011 election piece where he was predicting a Michael Ignatieff majority government.

John offered to write a response, which I said I’d be happy to put on the blog. Here it is.

I enjoyed reading Stephen LaRose’s piece responding to my Scottish referendum article. He focuses on the many differences between Scotland and Quebec, while I focussed on the similarities. LaRose missed one key and fundamental difference of a boring constitutional sort, but that’s for another column.

A big difference LaRose focussed on is the ethnic issue. He presents a picture of Scottish nationalism unblemished by negative ethnic tensions, while he pans the Quebecois sovereigntists’ repeated failures to deal with “the ethnic question” with sensitivity and political effectiveness. True, and many among the sovereigntist popular base are out-and-out xenophobic national chauvinists. But is Scotland a wonderland of ethnic harmony and tolerance? There certainly is no ethnic issue in the current referendum campaign. There is a reason for this, and forgive me for being sociological. Scottish nationalism has no ethnic tensions because Scotland has very little ethnic diversity — 93 per cent of the population is lily white (83 per cent Scottish, the rest Brits and Irish). Most of the other seven per cent come from EU countries. About three or four per cent are non-white.

One thing LaRose is dead on about — the referendum has become a poll on neoliberalism and the dictatorship of business.

I did not enjoy Yossarian’s comments on my “overly simplistic argument.” My argument may be wrong, but it is not simplistic. But what really hurt was the comment, “I still chuckle at his 2011 election piece where he was predicting a Michael Ignatieff majority government.” I was aghast. How could I have been so stupid? I couldn’t remember making the prediction, but if Yossarian said I did, it must be so. Surely Yossarian wouldn’t deliberately misrepresent what I said.

I dug out the offending article and breathed a sigh of relief. I made no such prediction. The title says it all: “Why He’ll Lose: The case against a Harper win: part logic, part wishful thinking”. It was a cri de coeur. My actual prediction? “…another Harper minority government.” I got it wrong, he won a majority, which I lamented in my next column. What in fact did I say about Ignatieff? Commenting on the TV debate I said, “Michael Ignatieff held his own, even looked good a few times, but was so focussed on Harper he neglected to spell out his vision for Canada in captivating terms (of course, the sad fact is he doesn’t have one).”

My advice to Yossarian? Criticize what I actually write, not a fantasy of my words which you concoct.

LaRose sets me up as a straw man and then knocks me down. Fair game in the realm of political commentary and debate. Yossarian invents words that I write and then attacks me for writing the words he has invented. Not fair game.

John Conway


Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth was carried to Regina in a swarm of bees. He's been with Prairie Dog since May 1999 and will die at his keyboard before admitting his career a terrible, terrible mistake.

4 thoughts on “Conway Responds To Rosie And Yossarian”

  1. I apologize John. You didn’t predict a Liberal government. You predicted a melting NDP vote.

    Scotland may be largely a “white” nation, as John points out. But that certainly wouldn’t be reason alone for a lack of nationalistic tensions. As many of us may have reflected on this past week when Ian Paisley passed into the boneyard (good riddance), ethnic and cultural strife, especially in the European context, often has little to do with race. Northern Ireland is equally as lily white as Scotland, or comparably so. The SNP has explictly avoided any of the past hysteria of Ulster.

  2. Looking back, John may have been the only commentator in Canada who stated that Michael Ignatieff held his own in that debate.

  3. Conway knows how to hold his own against commentators.
    Referendum begins today!
    Personally, this involves Scots only.
    No need for the rest of the world to debate what is best for them.

  4. Okay, Conway, it’s on!

    I didn’t consider what I wrote to be a strawman argument: anyone watching the last Quebec provincial election would have known the Parti Quebecois had morphed, at least culturally, into something closer to the Wild Rose Alliance than what it stood for before.

    That element has always been there: it’s just that in this day and age, politicians seem interested in gaining power by ‘divide and rule’ rather than looking for the things that unite us.

    In Scotland, I would be interested to see a vote breakdown along cultural or recent immigrant lines. Most of the pre-election polling suggested that the vote breakdown in that community was the same as it was in the rest of the Scottish voting populace.

    Look, I think Conway often provides a voice that is lost in today’s media. The problem — and it’s a problem shared in this case by most Canadian journalists and analysts observing the Scottish referendum — is that they sought to compare what happened in Scotland with what happened in Quebec. It’s like comparing the military tactics used in the Second World War with the tactics used in Vietnam.

    And as for Yossarian: it’s not worth my time, or Conway’s or Whitworth’s, to debate someone so cowardly that he won’t use his real name in the discussion. It’s unfair to have a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.

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