Flanagan should quit comedy, stick to politics - Macleans.ca

Flanagan should quit comedy, stick to politics

UCalgary prof should not be charged, should not be let off the hook either


Monday night, Canadians learned that Tom Flanagan is not a particularly funny man.

Asked to comment on the latest WikiLeaks revelations by CBC’s Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, the University of Calgary professor and former PMO adviser said, “I think Assange should be assassinated, actually. I think Obama should put out a contract to maybe use a drone or something.”

Is your side splitting yet?

Interrupted by Solomon calling Flanagan’s comments “pretty harsh stuff,” Flanagan replied, “Well, I’m feeling very manly today.”

Cue the drums; he’ll be here all week.

As it turned out, Flanagan did hijack headlines for the most of the week, as he was called out by Julian Assange himself and a served as a brief topic of discussion in the House of Commons. Flanagan has since apologized, saying he did not seriously intend to advocate the assassination of the Wikileaks founder with his “glib” comment.

Too little too late for some, however. A group of students and alumni of the University of Calgary has begun circulating a letter calling for the university to “condemn [Flanagan] in the harshest possible terms” for disgracing the reputation of the university. Others, including Julian Assange, have called for Flanagan to be charged for “incitement to commit murder” and handed over to authorities. And then of course there are some, such as my colleague Sarah Petz, who believe we should just “let Flanagan’s remarks die.”

Yet these positions each seem somewhat misguided. An official censure, as advocated by the signatories of the U of C open letter, would be counter-productive to the supposed intention of salvaging the university’s reputation. How can you at once ask the administration to officially admonish Flanagan’s behaviour, while at the same time ask for distance from the unwitty professor?

Charging Flanagan under the Criminal Code of Canada would be problematic also, nevermind difficult. There is no “incitement to commit murder” provision, and as far as I can tell, any charge that could be laid in relation to counseling another to commit an offense would, at minimum, require an attempt. Even if authorities could find a way to wade in the matter, and I have no doubt they could, the infiltration would only serve to convolute the issue. The incident would evolve from a straightforward case of a professor making deplorable comments on air to a shades-of-grey wider debate about free speech and Big Brother. Why create the opportunity to shift blame?

That said, Flanagan is in the midst of receiving the worst punishment possible: public condemnation. Indeed, there are many who have brushed off Flanagan’s comments as simply made in mirth, but even still, there are few applauding his “manly” call for murder or his acerbic wit. We don’t need government to get involved or the university to slap his wrist; all we need is to keep talking. For a man of Flanagan’s esteem and reputation, that is the worst punishment of all.


Flanagan should quit comedy, stick to politics

  1. “Flanagan should quit comedy, stick to politics”. Here’s a novel idea for a professor: how about concentrating on teaching and stay out of the spotlight altogether?

  2. Pingback: Flanagan should quit comedy, stick to politics – Macleans.ca « The Standup Comedy Zone

  3. Pingback: Flanagan should quit comedy, stick to politics – Macleans.ca | The Comedy Videos

  4. Why am I not surprised that someone associated with U of C said this. Why don’t we hear comments such as this one from McGill or Toronto profs. As liberal as the CBC might seem to right wing extremists, they ussually dont have guests from more progressive universities.

  5. In the UK a man tweeted in jest that he was going to “blow the airport sky high” after his flight was cancelled. He was fined $1500 plus legal costs and lost his job as an accountant. This was a tweet! Imagine if he was on national TV.

  6. @Mark, SociSci professors at UC don’t teach, that’s what sessionals are for! After all, professors at UC have more important tasks, like talking to the media!

    The vast majority people who “signed” the open letter written by Kotarski are ex UC Students’ Union lackeys and/or Young Liberals whom despise Flanagan and everything he represents. I dislike what he represents (particularly this view) but I still believe in his right to say it. The real issue in this matter is that social science students & alumni see little or no flaw in the notion that a professor should be censured (by an ACADEMIC INSTITUTION, no less) for making an unpopular remark. Wasn’t the dilemma between political freedom and unpopular ideas ever discussed in class?!

    -UC SociSci Alum

  7. Had it been a student it would have got buried in “freedom of expression” comments.
    Get over it.
    Flanagan is known for acid wit and if Jay Leno or O’Brien or Stewart said it, humour is accepted.
    Do not deviate from what ASSANGE has done. He is the worst narcissistic cowboy of all time.
    IN wartime he would have been jailed instantly.
    Only the CBC would support Assange.

  8. Flanagan should be assassinated. Perhaps use a drone. Harper has plenty of those.

  9. @Phillip Martin, PhD,
    How true.

    Had Flanagan been either a student or a Leno/Conan/Stewart, or an exotic hybrid of all four, and had this been World War II (with the Allies’ cruel-but-necessary system of “narcissistic cowboy” concentration camps), the response to his comments might well have been different.

    In the interests of economy, I will rephrase your post: “if things had been different, they would have turned out differently.”

    Dr. Phillip, if Flanagan had been something other than a) a tenured professor, b) a recent advisor/eminence grise to Canada’s current PM, and c) a well-known conservative “joking” about a specific extrajudicial killing at the same time that any number of other well-known conservatives are unjokingly clamouring for the same thing…well, the response to his comments might well have been something other than astonishment. And it was a truly terrible joke.

    Please. Flanagan is not to be held to the student/pundit standard. He’s not some professional provocateur/bore like Coulter, Olbermann, Mallick, or Levant. Because of his position and CV, Flanagan’s words carry an authority that most pundits’ words don’t.

    That authority can be used sensibly and responsibly in civil discourse. Or it can be squandered. Guess which route Flanagan chose?

  10. Robyn,

    You really landed a good shtick here…I can’t believe that Macleans pays you or even hosts your little soapbox…are you seriously the future of Canadian journalism?

    I teach communication and I would give you poor grades on nearly every entry in this blog…the attempts at humour are so blatant and tired. The arguments are feeble and your political persuasion overbalances your handling of every topic. I sense that you are trying to imitate models such as Levant and Coulter, but suggest that you keep in mind that neither is a serious journalist—oh yeah, they sell books and get headlines—but that makes them opinioned celebrities not respected journalists. I suggest also that you think about leaving the blog and concentate on studying.

  11. January 1946), as quoted in Martin Niemöller, 1892-1984 (1984) by James Bentley, p. 177

    English Translation

    When the Nazis came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a communist.

    When they locked up the social democrats,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a social democrat.

    When they came for the trade unionists,
    I did not speak out;
    I was not a trade unionist.

    When they came for the Jews,
    I remained silent;
    I wasn’t a Jew.

    When they came for me,
    there was no one left to speak out.

  12. And the EA joke is nothing more than an implicit threat to destroy Robyns world.

    Pick on someone your size.

  13. Sack Tom Flanagan NOW.

    There was an ease of company between Australians and Canadians. We always thought we were the sane ones – together.

    But Tom Flanagan will be a name ever remembered in this country as a traiter to that freindship.

    Sack him. Boycott him.

    He is a stain on the reputation of all Canadians.

    Here is the truth about the charges the Swedish authorities are using to try and damage the reputation of Australian journalist Julian Assange:


    Julian Assange is the bravest and most decent journalist to ever walk the face of the earth.

    Sack Tom Flanagan NOW.

  14. Tom Flanagan called for the assassination of a truth telling journalist.

    Sack Tom Flanagan.

  15. Vancouver attorney files complaint against Tom Flanagan to see him Charged With Encitement to Murder:


  16. Pingback: Calling for the Death of Julian Assange

  17. I was seriously considering going to the U of Calgary, now I don’t think I will. I don’t want to become educated by professors like this Tom Flanagan, or even go to an institution who lets their professors say these kind of things freely. Honestly, I won’t go if they keep him, and I’m sure most parents wouldn’t allow such teachers to teach their children with that type of behavior.

  18. @phbl

    Academic ‘freedom of expression’ ends where incitement to murder begins. Flanagan was smart enough to drop the ‘drone’ joke into his incitement to murder Assange.

    And a judge would be smart enough to perceive that planted escape-clause. And perhaps not smart enough to see that it was deliberately planted.

    Would people inflamed by the rhetoric of a Glenn Beck, Dennis Miller, or Sarah Palin see Flanagan’s incitement as a ‘joke’? They would run with it. And was that not Flanagan’s real intent?

    The university should examine very carefully whether the man should be speaking there, or whether he would be happier in CIA pep-talk locker room.

  19. @EA at Queen’s

    She’s a blogger with a journalism degree, not a journalist that blogs.

    Don’t expect miracles from the kid.

  20. @Phillip Martin, PhD,

    That’s an interesting claim. Can you give one example of a student going on national television in Canada, proposing the assassination of anybody in the past, say, decade, receiving a different treatment?

  21. @Pat

    You should not make your decision of which university you go to based on one bad prof. You can definitely avoid taking classes from him, and honestly speaking, you would benefit a lot more from a place were it allows more diverse points of views.

  22. Sack Tom Flanagan. He is a stain on the reputation of all Canadians.

    Here you will find the truth about the allegations levelled at the journalist Julian Assange:


    Democracies do not gun down journalists in the street – the Russians do that.

    Julian Assange is the greatest journalist to ever walk the face of the earth.

    Sack Tom Flanagan.

    Sack him NOW !!!

  23. If he isn’t at least fired, Canada and Canadian Universities will be ridiculed.

    I don’t believe he was joking at all. Given the opportunity to backtrack on his comments twice he simply said “I’m feeling very manly today.” and a little later “I wouldn’t feel unhappy if he disappeared.” I wasn’t a joke.

  24. Looks very like Rupert Murdoch supports Julian Assange.

    Australian PM Julia Gillard is about to be stripped of her office.

    The Australian Attorney General is finished.

    And in the following link you can read for yourselves Julian Assange’s letter to the Australian people published a hour ago by Murdoch’s “The Australian Newspaper.


  25. Professor Tom Flanagan is a buffoon, but, more than this, he is a coward who moved form America to Canada in order to avoid being sent to Vietnam.

    He calls on, and incites others, to commit murder because he lack`s the courage to do it himself!

    Not long after his call for Julian Assange to be assassinated, Flanagan made what can only be interpreted as a veiled threat, against a woman when she took him to task in an email.

    Flanagan`s despicable and cowardly reply to her email – “Be careful, we know where you live”

    Flanagan should not be allowed anywhere near students, poisoning their minds with his sick ideas but it appears University of Calgary are backing him to the hilt by continuing to employ him. This suggests to me that they too share his views on assassination of individuals who are not afraid to reveal the truth!

    Flanagan is a disgrace to the University of Calgary and the people of Canada. CBC should not have him back on their shows and he should be prosecuted, but this probably won`t happen because of his connections.

    It remains to be seen just how fair the judicial system is in Canada; two threats in nearly as many days!

    The internet/world is watching to see if justice really is done in this case