Justin Bieber's fabricated nationalism - Macleans.ca

Justin Bieber’s fabricated nationalism

lol whut?! Colin Horgan considers the latest slightly bizarre expression of national pride from The Biebs


During the run-up to the Grey Cup, Prime Minister Stephen Harper handed Canada’s hottest current cultural export, Justin Bieber, a Diamond Jubilee Medal. Bieber wore overalls for the occasion. Chalk it up as another slightly bizarre expression of national pride from The Biebs, our primary purveyor of lol whut?! nationalism.

The official photograph of the medal presentation went viral, due partly thanks to Bieber tweeting, “I met the Prime Minister of Canada in overalls lol” along with his photo. In response to the online style derision that followed, Harper defended Bieber on his own, mostly dull, Twitter account (one recent tweet simply said: “Our government remains firmly focused on controlling gov’t expenditures and implementing Economic Action Plan 2012”). “In fairness,” he said, “I told him I would be wearing my overalls, too.”

The medal came at least 18 months since (according to some) the government wanted Bieber to perform at the Canada Day celebrations for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The medal is one of 60,000 that will be handed out this year to Canadians who make a “significant contribution to a particular province, territory, region or community within Canada, or an achievement that brings credit to Canada.”

Bieber’s public nationalism has manifested itself as a strange sort. That is, rather than really saying much of value about the country – or, frankly, bringing credit to it – he seems to use it more as a marketing tool. Being Canadian appears to function more as a kind of branded Personal Quirk or bit of A&R-approved Official Bieber Trivia used only to set him apart from any other bland, formulaic pop star. The overalls are the latest example. There are others.

After vomiting during a recent concert, Bieber admitted he’d consumed spaghetti and milk prior to going on stage. “Basically, in Canada, we like to have spaghetti and milk,” Bieber told TMZ, as if that explained anything. The National Post quickly held a non-scientific poll. Of the 346 people who voted, 81 per cent maintained that no, spaghetti and milk is not a Canadian thing, and that “Justin Bieber is weird and gross.”

A few months earlier, on Alan Carr’s Summertime Spectacular in the UK, Bieber looked around nervously as Carr cracked wise about the Queen’s dour face during the celebrations of, coincidentally enough, the event for which Bieber’s new medal is named. “I don’t really get, like, I’m from Canada, I don’t really know what’s, I like, this, all this humour,” Bieber spluttered. “I don’t know if you’re, like, making fun of me or if I’m like. …” What being Canadian had to to with him not understanding the joke is unclear, but there it was anyway.

In July, Bieber reportedly told Rolling Stone he was “part Indian. I think Inuit or something? I’m enough per cent that in Canada I can get free gas.” You could almost hear the country cringe. The online backlash was instant, and the Congress of Aboriginal People publicly rebuffed the validity of the claim, saying the claim that Aboriginal people receive free gas was “simply not true.” The remarks, said the Congress’s national chief Betty Ann Lavallée was “another example of what Aboriginal Peoples in Canada struggle with every day.” (Though they also urged everyone to go easy on Bieber.)

It was ignorant to say, but not outside the realm of logic when you understand that for Bieber, being Canadian appears to be nothing more than an engineered personality trait. Why’d he say it? Simple: for the same reason he said the others. In a fabricated nationalism universe, statements can’t be harmful because they’re inherently meaningless.

Back to those overalls. At Gawker, the theory was Bieber’s face seemed to suggest he was “trolling” the Prime Minister. Maybe. Or it was just an excuse to add another notch in the Quirk belt. Lol. Overalls. He’s so “Canadian.”


Justin Bieber’s fabricated nationalism

  1. Are we really going to spend time as a nation worrying about what some 18 year old kid said or wore?


    Then where’s the story on how losing the Grey Cup will lead to Calgary voting Con in the byelection?

    • Well said!

    • Agreed.

  2. Boy, this guy has a fabricated axe to grind

    • this made me chuckle.

  3. harper’s response was actually kind of funny. this must be the hidden humourist – the same guy who after Paul Wells wrote of as narcoleptic caught the journalists eye in the press gallery and mimed sleeping.

    • You’re naive if you think that was Harper himself responding. It was one of the hundreds in the Prime Minister’s Communications Office.

    • I’d be interested to reading the article or listening to the program where Wells told that story. Do you remember where you first ran into it?

  4. Harper is the slimiest ode to fabricated nationalism to ever shame this country. Snd has his claws on power of Canada… But you’re concentrating on some little musical kid?…Priorities huh.

  5. Harpo got the dresscode he deserves to be met with. AntiCanadian scum like Harpo deserve no respect.

    • How in god’s name is some one whose run for a seat in the Canadian legislator seven times anti-Canadian? He might be anti-your vision of Canada, but I think we should all respect that any one in the house is probably there in some way because they love their country (even the Bloc, they just have a different definition of country from the rest of us).

      • Hear hear!

  6. I don’t know, maybe we should cut the kid some slack. He was discovered by Usher at 14 for Pete’s sake, and immediately plucked out of Stratford and off to Hollywood. He’s supposed to be intelligent and worldly 4 years later? After living in the bubble of celebrity?

    As for the overalls, I jumped all over him for that too. And perhaps it’s still deserved, but I’m made to understand now that the PM gave out the medal while Bieber was rehearsing for his Ottawa concert, so, essentially, he was in costume. If that’s the case, it seems much more understandable.

    Though he could have taken off the hat.

    • Maybe he was afraid the PM would be insulted that Bieber had more gel in his hair than him?

  7. What would have been truly Canadian is if Bieber said something intelligent, like, “Met Kim Jong Harper today; he looks even more evil in person” :)

    • Not very clever. You basically just mashed an unelected monster with an elected representative, who none us know what he’s like in person.

      • I think you’re missing JP’s point.

        I don’t think JP is saying that the North Korean joke is “correct” or “proper” just that it’s “Canadian” in the sense that many Canadians (anonymously online anyway) make comments like that all the time. I read JP’s post as an ATTACK on that kind of commentary, not a celebration of it.

        • oooh that restores my faith in humanity a bit more.

    • I have besmirched you JP, my apologies.

  8. Did anybody consider that JB had just finished a concert and was brought to meet the prime minister. I don’t think they prepared him a change of clothes.

    • My understanding is that he came straight from rehearsal actually, but your point still stands. He was essentially in “costume” apparently.

  9. Music star behaving badly – barely – stop the presses!

    Teenagers cocking a snook at adults is what teenagers do. Also, I can remember as a teenager that I hated having to dress in my good clothes for formal occasions. Bieber has enough money and power that he doesn’t have to dress to please anyone, good for him.

    Bieber’s comments about how it is in Canada are typical – plenty of people go around saying what its like in Canada. Trudeau is having a spot of bother at moment because he has ideas about what Canada is. At least Bieber talks about being Canadian, much more so than other Canadians in entertainment industry who have moved to US.

  10. Bieber knows Stephen Harper stole 3 elections and is not worthy of any respect… hence the overalls and the mocking.


    • dumb & dumber…..

    • To say that I’m not a fan of Stephen Harper is a huge understatement, but in what way has he ever “stolen” an election? Spurious claims like that make it easier for the Conservatives to deflect legitimate criticism. It’s become a recent trend in North American politics to brand any outcome that people don’t agree with as somehow illegitimate. That’s why you have clowns in the United States pushing secessionist movements because Obama got re-elected, and saying things like: “He’s not MY president”. It’s silly and pointless. I have never voted for him, and I never will, but Stephen Harper is my prime minister, just like Chretien was his. And for all of their faults, the Conservatives have never stolen and election. Now if you want to talk about the Republicans down south…

  11. snip snip: Canuck
    heartthrob Justin Bieber told Rolling Stone magazine he’ll never become a U.S.
    citizen, because he cherishes Canada’s health-care system.

    “You guys are evil,” he laughingly told the
    magazine in a cover story that hits stands Friday.

    “Canada’s the best country in the world. We go to the
    doctor and we don’t need to worry about paying him, but here, your whole life,
    you’re broke because of medical bills. My
    bodyguard’s baby was premature, and now he has to pay for it. In Canada, if your baby’s premature, he stays
    in the hospital as long as he needs to, and then you go home.”


    • That always really annoys me when people refer to not paying for our healthcare. We all pay for our healthcare, its not free and we should take pride in our investment or demand a turn around but we shouldn’t act like we won the lottery and got free healthcare for life (rant directed at Bieber, not you Mr.Bronfman)

      • likewise, we do still pay for a lot out of pocket. through my work’s insurance plan i get 80% dental coverage up to $1000 per year per person. if you don’t happen to have this additional insurance, you’re stuck paying all of the $400 i’d be paying next week for my first appointment at a new dentists office.

        but i guess a child wouldn’t know anything about that. he’d still be under his mom’s insurance.

  12. lots of 6″s lately, 60,000 jubilee awards, 600 billions dollars deficit, and the third one………..
    who’s the devil?

    • The devil is a fallen angel in Christian mythology, commonly believed to be the master of hell. Also known as Lucifer or Satan, Morning Star. Has had several works of fiction spin him as a tragic character, generally by framing the character as some one who wanted free will, but being an angel and part of God’s plan could never achieve. Modern works of fiction with the devil as a sympathetic villain: book I, Lucifer and comic book: Lucifer, tv show Supernatural season five.

  13. I bet Rachel thinks the photo with her Dad was cool.

  14. I cant wait til this petulant little manboy goes away.

  15. HDS is alive and well. “When the modern liberal mind whines about imaginary victims, rages against imaginary villains and seeks above all else to run the lives of persons competent to run their own lives, the neurosis of the liberal mind becomes painfully obvious.” ~Dr. Lyle Rossiter

  16. “Basically, in Canada, we like to have spaghetti and milk,”

    Basically in Canada, we like to have Prime Ministers from Quebec.

    Really, is there any difference?

    • …and both are enough to make you throw up….

  17. This article is seriously an excuse to fill space on Macleans website. Who criticizes an 18 year old boy on how he dresses and what he says. Maybe he truly was not exposed to certain things, because in reality before he was famous he was not well off or well traveled. Maybe he actually IS really proud of being Canadian, because well this country is awesome. And maybe… we should stop nitpicking at every word this boy says…. and leave him alone. ???

  18. Beaver Boy in Harperland..now that is a fancy combination!

  19. What a shame Macleans.ca! what kind of an article is this? Why are you focusing in an 18 year old boy? I think whoever wrote this article is just envious of Justin Bieber, WHAT A SHAME.

  20. Beebz isn”t stupid. Just ignorant. Here he gets an award recently handed out to two convicted ant-abortion terrorists. Good on ya both. Dorks.

  21. A disgrace to Canada, is what that is. It shows how much that kids handlers think of us as canadians. I would never let my kids visit with their grandparents dressed like much less a national leader and in the news.

  22. Look fact of the matter is, he is 18! The writer of this article seems to think that just because he is famous he should be world-educated when really it’s the reverse because he hasn’t really had a formal education. Give him a break. For 18, he is extremely mature and professional with all his obligations and the travel and the media, I’m sure somewhere his education suffered. Your expectations of him are unreasonable.

  23. Listen,that free gas comment for “being inuit or something” was worth a daimond jubilee meda.My only complaint is that not enough were given out to Quebecers.Once again a chance to make them feel wanted was lost

  24. Maybe he was afraid
    the PM would be insulted.