Ignatieff, Maoist like me?

Sun Media is the object of considerable ridicule and derision today over a front-page story alleging that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was “channeling” Mao Tse-Tung in the Tuesday night leaders debate.

“Let some flowers bloom here, let democracy breathe. Let it live,” Ignatieff implored Conservative leader Stephen Harper in one exchange during the debate.

To the Sun, Ignatieff was “paraphrasing” a famous Mao quote:  “Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend.”

(The Sun’s story butchered the reference and used the phrase “let 1,000 flowers bloom,” apparently confusing Mao’s line with the “thousand points of light” line crafted by George H. Bush speechwriter Peggy Noonan. But, whatever.)

From there, it was an easy leap to tie Ignatieff to “the most prolific mass murderer in the history of mankind” and the deaths of millions of Chinese — the Sun uses the disputed figure of 65 million.

The Sun also takes at face value the claim that the Hundred Flowers Campaign was a ruse to draw out Mao’s enemies, who were later imprisoned or executed. That’s a contentious and newer interpretation. Others believe Mao’s spirit of glasnost was legit but he didn’t anticipate the degree of discontent it would reveal, so he changed course. That the enemy flowers had sprung up was a happy accident. Again, probably only of interest to Sinologists.

The absurdity of the comparison to the Great Helmsman is that Ignatieff’s ancestors were chased out of Russia by the Communists and, with their Tsarist connections, almost certainly would have been executed had they hung around much longer.

As I’m sure the Conservative war room did, I ran a quick search to see if Ignatieff had ever written about  Mao. This is the only reference I found, in his 2000 Massey Lecture, The Rights Revolution. There may be others:

We’ve run three serious experiments in the twentieth century to create communities that would replace narrow capitalist selfishness with communitarian fervour — experiments by Hitler, Stalin, Mao — and the results are definitive.

Now, he doesn’t elaborate on which way he believes the results are definitive, but I don’t think there’s much doubt.


29 thoughts on “Ignatieff, Maoist like me?

  1. The Sun’s coverage of the election so far has been absurd. This story just adds to the absurdity. The fact that they can take a small quote from Ignatieff, butcher it to suit their obvious bias, compare it to a historical figure who is completely irrelevant to the event reported on (namely, the debate), and then run it as their front-page story makes me wonder whatever happened to journalistic integrity. This sort of thing makes yellow journalism look downright appealing.

    What a joke.

  2. Clearly, he thinks the results were good. I’m sure he dreamed of living under such regimes from his birthplace of Kenya, where he plotted to destroy the twin tow…

    Crap. I think I got conspiracy theories mixed up.

  3. One of these quotes is by Stephen Harper from last night, and one is from the Constitution of Cuba. Ergo, Stephen Harper is channeling Casto?

    “The government is committed to making sure that public health insurance is available to all.”

    “Everyone has the right to health protection and care. The state guarantees this right by providing free medical and hospital care.”

    • When harper refers to public health insurance he is not talking about universal public health care. He believes in using private health care or as he stated in the debate in English “alternate” health care. He couldn’t understand why he was being questioned on this statement. He is a sly one. Using words that sound similar to other words that mean something different.

  4. That’s Kory Teneycke’s stupidity for you, right there, from his brain, up Lilley’s arse to his keyboard. That’s how Sun stories get written. Amazing that Quebecor lets it continue, wonder why.

  5. Now what might make a good front page story for the Sun, were it not for the bias, would be “What was Harper on during the debate?”

    The symptoms were all there: tunnel vision, lack of affect, lifeless eyes, monotonous voice. Sounds like beta blockers to me.

    If a kid had turned up in one of my classes in the state Stephen Harper was in last night, alarms would have gone off.

    I wonder what shape he’ll be in tomorrow night.

  6. The Sun clearly prefers the Conservatives. But for this election the CBC, Toronto Star, CTV, Globe and Mail finally all prefer the Liberals..I’ll take that trade any day! 😉

  7. Actually…the references to Mao started last night on twitter in both the NP and CBC tweets…one by a NP journalist and the others I didnt know who they were. I guess they were just as confused with the flowers blooming quote as everyone else.
    Maybe he meant “lets go have a bloomin’ Onion at the Outback”

  8. It wasn’t Conservatives who brought this up it was students who were tweeting the debate.

    So are we supposed to believe that a Harvard professor of History and Politics doesn’t get the reference he was making? “Let the flowers bloom” sure does sound like “Let a 100 flowers bloom.” It’s a very famous part of Maoist doctrine.

    Ignatieff was lecuring Canadians on democracy using Mao. Given the Liberal war rooms desire to portray Harper as Robert Mugabe, I guess they figured Chiang Kai Shek would do. It’s an old reference, but Ignatieff is old. He had to know what he was referencing.

    Maybe born Canadians don’t get the reference, but I’m not sure that Vancouver’s large Chinese-Canadian community will appreciate it too much. And I don’t think they will mistake that sentence for anything else. So has Iggy and the Liberal War Room given up on Chinese Vancouver to try to win the old Maoist vote (aka NDP vote) in Quebec? We’ll see if he uses it again tonight.

    • Except it wasn’t “students” who first noted it on tweeter: it was another, now uncredited (atta boy, Brian) freelance G&M journalist, Rod Mickleburgh:


      The tweeted sequence during the debate was (in reverse chronological order):

      EdHird: RT @LornaDueck: Leaders debate – Ignatieff quotes from Mao Tse Tung “Let a thousand flowers bloom” ….interesting source amid world stage questions
      about 21 hours ago via TweetDeck

      LornaDueck: Leaders debate – Ignatieff quotes from Mao Tse Tung “Let a thousand flowers bloom” ….interesting source amid world stage questions
      about 22 hours ago via TweetDeck

      theemilyjackson: Oh, Iggy. RT @rodmickleburgh Ignatieff quotes Mao…wow…let a hundred flowers bloom #elxn41
      about 22 hours ago via web

      lesliegoodson: RT @jm_mcgrath: Ignatieff says “let some flowers bloom”, invoking Mao Zedong’s Communist government. #coalition
      about 22 hours ago via TweetDeck

      RedScareBot: Oh noes, Socialism RT @jm_mcgrath Ignatieff says “let some flowers bloom”, invoking Mao Zedong’s Communist government. #coalition
      about 22 hours ago via RedScareBot

      JeffreyGriese: Ignatieff declares “let a thousand flowers bloom.” memories of Mao’s glorious revolution come to mind. #elxn41 #db8 #roft
      about 22 hours ago via HootSuite

      threepio: “Let some flowers bloom…” I respect Ignatieff’s point, but echoing Mao Zedong’s 1957 speech probably isn’t wise. #elxn41
      about 22 hours ago via Twitter for Mac

      davebrindleshow: RT @RodMickleburgh: Ignatieff quotes Mao…wow…let a hundred flowers bloom #elxn41
      about 22 hours ago via web

      jm_mcgrath: Ignatieff says “let some flowers bloom”, invoking Mao Zedong’s Communist government. #coalition
      about 22 hours ago via TweetDeck

      RodMickleburgh: Ignatieff quotes Mao…wow…let a hundred flowers bloom #elxn41
      about 22 hours ago via web · Reply · View Tweet

    • I assume you’re kidding, and don’t actually think a (as you point out) Harvard professor of History and Politics would use a Mao quote as inspiration? He used a phrase that is somewhat like another phrase. Should we never utter phrases uttered by murderers? Again, I assume you’re kidding, and not just a nutjob.

  9. The Harvard professor of Politial History is unfamiliar with this???????

    From Wikipedia
    100 Flowers Campaign

    The Hundred Flowers Campaign, also termed the Hundred Flowers Movement, (simplified Chinese: 百花运动; traditional Chinese: 百花運動; pinyin: Bǎihuā yùndòng) refers mainly to a brief six weeks in the People’s Republic of China in the early summer of 1957 [1] during which the Communist Party of China (CPC) encouraged a variety of views and solutions to national policy issues, launched under the slogan: “Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.”
    “Mao displayed open support for the campaign, saying “Our society cannot back down, it could only progress… criticism of the bureaucracy is pushing the government towards the better.” This marked the beginning of the Hundred Flowers Movement. The speech, published on February 27, 1957, encouraged people to vent their criticisms as long as they were “constructive” (“among the people”) rather than “hateful and destructive”

    Yeah not for a second do I believe Ignatieff didn’t reference that deliberately.

    • So you are a nutjob. My bad.

      (Also, Harper said people should have access to healthcare. I believe hitler said that once.)

      Good god.

    • The important part being the ensuing crushing of dissent, made easy by all those people who just outed themselves.

      • a point that’s utterly lost on you lot, who are so eager to use a guilt-by-association slur to crush the Opposition Leader who’s point, ironically, was to decry the way the leader of the gov’t has crushed dissent by expelling people from his rallies and withholding funding from advocacy groups…. i.e., by stomping on the flowers.

  10. The corrupt Liberal media can dish it out, but they sure can’t take it.

    Look for the name calling to begin from the coalition supporters.

  11. Pingback: Reds under the bed in Churchill | Talking Points

  12. Whether Ignatieff was attempting to (mis)quote Mao or not his message was clear. Let the people speak!!!! We aren’t all going to agree on everything ,but you ,as a Canadian citizen are entitled to question your Government. The members of the House work for us! We are not wanting to have a Dictator like Mao tell us what to do. Something Harper should keep in mind as he goes on complaining about other people who have different ideas than he does. We want checks and balances in our Parliament!

  13. Obviously there is only one logical reason that Ignatieff would worm those words into his speech. He’s sending a signal to Coalition supporters that they should begin making lists of opponents so that they can be rounded up and sent to collective farms in Nunavut after the Coalition comes second in the election but seizes power anyway.

    It’s so simple now. I’m so glad we have Sun!

    Oh, and yes, this post was intended satirically. Just in case there’s any confusion.

  14. How does the meadow flower its bloom unfold?
    Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root,
    And in that freedom bold.
    William Wordsworth

    I guess Mao had Wordsworthian leanings. How many times have we seen raw talent ‘bloom’or ‘blossom’? Their comparison was a stretch. Sun Media – rubber banding the truth and snapping opposing views.

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