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.