None dead in crash of metaphor -

None dead in crash of metaphor


Oh for the love of

The bus carrying Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff broke down just outside the Eastern Ontario town of Hawkesbury Tuesday, just before 6 p.m.

The breakdown occurred on the first day of the Liberal Leader’s six-week, cross-country excursion to promote the Mr. Ignatieff’s and his party’s fortunes.

A similar malfunction on the first day of Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty’s 1999 election campaign was seen as emblematic of the party’s mismanagement and inexperience, leading to its defeat at the hands of Conservative leader Mike Harris.

In 2008, Mr. Ignatieff’s predecessor faced similar woes. Stéphane Dion’s Air Inuit plane was forced to make an unexpected landing in Montreal in the early days his failed election campaign.

For the last time: the physical world does not conform itself to journalists’ desire for metaphors! Mechanical breakdowns are not “emblematic” of anything, except to reporters who like to press the facts into pre-defined templates of spurious significance (see: narrative), or who think the universe is governed by magic.


None dead in crash of metaphor

  1. Soon the old witch says it will rain frogs and bad tidings, too…

    Sigh, I digress, he is the Basil Fawlty of the LPC.

    • that being rather hard on Basil, don't you think?

  2. What you're forgetting, Mr. C, is the bad-luck meme. Which basically says that troubled campaigns will continue to attract trouble.

    And in this case, there are lessons learned. For example, in the Liberals' campaign blog they made the specific point that they bought carbon offsets for using the bus, playing the environment card. Now, however, people will point out that the money would have been better spent on a maintenance check of that bus.

    The other lesson learned is that having a backup plan is a good thing. That they were able to organize transport in an emergency is good; that a plan didn't exist in the first place, not so much.

  3. At least it wasn't a wardrobe malfunction.

  4. I don't know why you insist on disabusing people of the idea that the "universe is governed by magic." What others fear one must also fear.

  5. This is clearly very relevant because… oh wait, Ignatieff wasn't the mechanic? Carry on…

  6. Okay everyone, quit with the grab-*ssing and the hi-jinks. Coyne is back and he's brought his yardstick.

  7. Don't anyone lose your head over this. Yes, you were all thinking of that weren't you? Well don't, because you're just as likely to lose your head off a bus as you are on it.

  8. Wrong Andrew. God is getting Ignatieff for his ill-advised sulphur comment. A joke? Not by a long shot. It looks good on the Liberal party and its feckless leader.

    If this is a precusor of things to come from the Liberal party then it will indeed be a good summer on the BBQ circuit.

  9. World's Largest Metaphor Hits Ice-berg
    Titanic, Representation of Man's Hubris, Sinks in North Atlantic / 1,500 Dead in Symbolic Tragedy

    New York, April 15 — Officials of the White Star Line have confirmed the sinking, during her maiden voyage, of the R.M.S. Titanic, the world's largest symbol of man's mortality and vulnerability.

    First reports of the calamity were received Monday at the London telegraph office of the White Star Line, which owns the nautical archetype. At 4:23 a.m. Greenwich Standard Time, the following message was received from the rescue ship Carpathia:

    "Titanic struck by icy representation of nature's supremacy STOP insufficient lifeboats due to pompous certainty in man's infallibility STOP Microcosm of larger society STOP"

    It is believed at this time that upwards of 1,500 passangers aboard the metaphor may have perished in the imperturbable liquid immensity that, irrespective of mankind's congratulatory "progress," blankets most of the globe in its awful dark silence. Seven hundred more passengers survived to objectify human insignificance in the face of the colossal placidity of the universe.,10

  10. Maybe there is a relationship (beyond confirmation bias) along the lines that failing campaigns are strapped for cash, and may go for less reliable buses and/or have less competent (or numerous) staffers. They may also be less skilled at spinning news stories.

  11. But the universe IS governed by magic. Don't be so prosaic!

  12. It could be worse.

    He could have chartered a plane.

  13. Thanks MSM for the breaking news.
    By the way, I was wondering if any journalists managed to get a good whiff of Iggy's farts, or at least notice the color of the socks he was wearing this morning, before the downpour that is?

  14. Except, Mr. Coyne,

    That busses don't break down because of "magic" they break down due to poor servicing.

    That the Liberals can't even run a smooth bus ride in their signature summer campaign tells us something, beyond mere symbolism.

    • Except that parties use contractors for buses and don't do their own mechanical inspection before tours. It's the equivalent of you taking a taxi to work and then being blamed when the taxi breaks down.

      • So who is in charge of vetting the contractors? The Liberals, or the mythical contractor unicorn?

        Guess how many contractors the Liberals would be responsible for sourcing if they ran the government? Here's a start for you: a teeny bit more than one.

    • Like what? They don't have enough mechanics in the OLO?

    • When my busses broke down my ex found herself a better kisser …

    • I wasn't aware that any of the major parties owned and operated their own ground fleet.

  15. The average professional taking out a potential client would be very embarrased if their car broke down mid visit.

    A restaurant catering to a food critic would be devastated if the meal couldn't be provided because the oven broke down.

    A potential boss would be none too please if an interviee didn't make it because his alarm clock didn't work and he slept in.

    Yet here we have the apologists, telling us "nothing to see here, this means absolutely and completely nothing."

    Oh yes it means something.

    • Stuff breaks down. That's why tow trucks exist. And plumbers. And electricians. And warranties.

      • Stuff definitely breaks down, all the time. That's why a prepared professional has contingency plans to deal with problems before they occur.

        • Who said they did not have a contingency plan?

    • You are thick

    • Ignatieff made all his scheduled events. A replacement bus arrived to collect his stuff and whatever entourage remained behind. The fact that the Liberals focused so much attention on the bus itself, rather than the events, was silly but they weren't actually stupid enough to rely solely on one specific bus.

    • Whatever it means, I'm pretty sure it means it about the bus company.

  16. Regardless of all the fun and jibes, the reality is the libs lose time on the road and that makes for a very unhappy Iggy.

  17. Well…at least the bus broke down in Canada!

  18. I blame Bob Rae.

    • No it was that devil Harper and his minions ;-0 Te hee hee!

  19. Ignore the facts all you want Coyne; just a few days ago Ignatieff had the nerve to call out Lucifer himself,
    Now he is bus-ted.

  20. That's a particularly icky mental image to broadcast.

  21. Unless the Liberals cut corners by renting their bus from Big Al's Discount Rent-A-Bus, they can't be faulted for this.

    The Conservatives would likely rent a whole fleet of buses, so that an emergency backup bus would be available if needed. The extra expense and needless burning of precious fossil fuel would not concern them. And they would never admit that one of their fleet of buses had broken down – after all, Conservatives, like the Pope, are expected to be infallible. The PMO would issue a press release stating that their primary bus had been taken out of service for "planned maintenance", and then would refuse to discuss the matter any further.

    • Out There…..and there lies the difference between a professional political party and a bunch of rank amatuers. I know you post was critical of the Conservtives. However, the irony is delicious.

      • prostitutes could be called profesionals too…….

    • I think you forgot to mention that the Conservatives would also have kicked a cute little puppy and strangled a kitten. Because, well, they're just evil.

  22. If this was an old time movie from the 30s, Michael Ignatieff would set up shop next to the broken bus and spin a folksy, populist message, spellbinding passersby into an enthusiastic crowd of supporters! Soon food baskets and pies would appear and everyone would cheer the impromptu musical show put on by the neighborhood kids. Those darned old lemons would be made into lemonade and Michael would ride into office on the shoulders of the people……..

    But here in 2010?…………… sigh

    • here in 2010…………it is the MSM that chooses what is "important"……..and relevent

      • This is my attempt at some folksy humour, at Mr Ignatieff's expense.
        Sure it's a media story, as it would be if it happened to the Conservatives – no argument from me.
        My admittedly convoluted point is that adversity is a big part of the job he's applying for; you've got to roll with the punches and make lemonade with the lemons.
        A quick quip like: well that's the last time I let Bob Rae pick the bus would have given everyone a chuckle and then he could have followed it up with All kidding aside, haven't you ever had a car break down on you just when you really needed it? and diffused the entire thing.

  23. Andrew,

    Where did your sense of humour go. In the Martin campaign you were posting things like this headed by a picture of the Hindenburg and a quote "Oh the humanity…."

    That being said, who knows what it means, other than the obvious…the bus broke down……if it keeps happening then it is a problem. But this is why you do summer tours, as practice for the real thing and work the kinks out. Doing summer tours is why real election tours run smoothly.

    The Liberals reaction to inevitable things like this will be the real thing to watch. Do they turn on each other or do they use this as an excuse to pull together and identify and fix things. It all comes down to what they expected pf this tour and what its purpose was. If it was a dry run, then people fix things, if its the Iggy last chance salvation tour, then they will turn on each other.

    But dont lose your sense of humour Andrew.

    • I almost forgot….."The Mole, The Mole"

      I miss funny Coyne

      • He thinks he's an economist now, having appeared on CBC's The Lang & O'Leary Exchange. And we all know economists aren't fun.

        • I like his economic focussed articles, I am in general agreement with him and his writing is clear and cutting, one likely having something to do with the other. But economists usually arent that funny, the dismal science and all that.

          So either;

          a) he is working on an economics article in the background, hence humour is banished for the moment
          b) the Southern Ontario humidity is making him a crankypants
          c) he is really wishing Iggy would prove to be a decent opponent, which he hasnt been to date.
          d) he actually takes journalism seriously as a "profession" and is just trying to raise the bar, a Sissuphean task if ever there was one.

          • I like the boring Coyne's articles too. He brings a little decor to what can sometimes be trashy Lang & O'leary show. But I too miss the Coyne that smiled once in a while. Now it feels like everything he writes is with clenched fists and gnashing teeth, but I won't stop reading.

  24. "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is Enemy Action."

    • You think the Cons have something to do with this?? That would be the news of the century and the best laugh of the summer!! How can I help spread the rumour!!???

  25. I didn't really appreciate Rosemary Barton's coverage of the incident on CBC. She was smirking and being quite smug about it. It's disappointing how unprofessional she can be sometimes.

    • Professionalism and the CBC are only occasional partners unfortunately. I don't think they have a bias so much as some of their journalists are barely competent.

    • Pete Tong…..I guess her smugness is only good when it applies to Conservatives eh. The fact the bus broke down is great media for a slow summer of news. That is why it is being covered. The Libs made such a big deal about the tour and raised expectations as to its results that the media is following it with a great deal of interest hoping there will be more breakdowns and gaffes coming from the mouth of the leader. Sulphur anyone?

      • I don't like her smugness when it applies to Conservatives either and I'm not sure why you would imply that.

    • She didn't get to Cornwall on time. I know I would be annoyed, too.

      • Wouldn't it be equally annoying to get to Cornwall on time? It's Cornwall!

    • Our national media just seems to rejoice and gloat over Iggy's problems whether self inflicted or not. Of course the hyper partisans in the Conservative war room see his personal and political destruction is seen as the best possible thing that could happen to Canada at this time. Hyper Libs feel the same about Harper.
      But it so unseemly when the media get into that tone of unrestrained exuberant joy when some irrelevant unimportant event which they see as a personal blow, occurs.
      Power and Politics is an orgy of smirking, gloating, personality based, horse race politics. An issue free, intellectually empty, vacuous hour.

      • It was ever thus, John. I wasn't there, but I heard Stanfield caught that g*ddamned football a bunch of times before he dropped it. Guess which pic hit the front page? And let's not even get into poor ol' Joe Clark's lost luggage….And yes, Libs and others have suffered from it, too.

        As for P&P, all I'll say is, I miss Don Newman, whether or not I agree with him.

        • I went into serious mourning when Don Newman left. I still haven't erased his last week's shows from my PVR. I fear for our country when we've gone from witty diplomats like Mr. Newman to smirking, brawling juveniles on our public broadcast system.

          But I think the problem is CBC management, not necessarily the on-air personalities (except for those horribly abrasive "power panel" guys). You can't change "character" that radically in one short summer break unless your misguided management is purposely trying to make that happen. I think they're trying to be "young". And apparently young in their minds means disrespectful, arrogant, derisive and snarky.

          OTOH, perhaps our panel guests were always that abrasive and it was Don who smoothed out the rough edges. As a good moderator should. Are you listening Evan?

      • Not just one vacuous hour but two!

        • it's worse they just repeat the first hour for the summer months….

    • Smirk and smugness is standard Roemary Barton, it has nothing to do with Iggy and everything to do with her.

      • If she can't be bothered to be professional the least she could do is be nice to look at (i.e. lost some weight).

        (We'll if this gets moderated out)

        • Lost me now, Pete. :- 0

        • that should have been moderated out. shame on you Pete.

  26. Oh yes and that guy Robert Stanfield fumbled a football which was "emblematic" of him not being able to win elections. I'd like to blame journalists but there's also these rubes who swallow these tales of bad magic. Don't misunderestimate the smartness of us peoples.

    • At least with the football toss STANFIELD fumbled the football. I'm reasonably certain Mr. Ignatieff didn't personally check out the bus' engine and declare it fit for the road.

      • After catching it numerous times before and after, which there were photographs of. Stanfield was actually athletic., surprisingly

        The editors at the Star made a choice of which of the photos to run

        "Also during the campaign, a photo of photojournalist Doug Ball showing Stanfield fumbling a football at a stopover became one of the defining images of his career. To this day, Canadian political commentators still point to this incident as one of Canada's foremost examples of "image politics", because the photo was chosen for the front pages of newspapers across Canada even though many other photos of Stanfield catching the same football were also available"

        • So next time you're wondering why politicians are so careful and protective of their image . . . look in the mirror you shallow image-obsessed fool, you.

    • But journalists don't look back on this incident with a sense of pride or accomplishment. It's seen as more of a shameful episode.

  27. I'm not ruling out sabotage.
    I guess some of our always suspicious, cynical, crack investigative reporters in Ottawa are on the case already.
    Oh, sorry, we don't have any of those.

  28. By industry-wide decree, journalists must now use the word "ill-fated" every time they use the words "Liberal bus tour."

    Please note that the edicts mandating the consistent and obligatory use of the word "embattled" when referring to Michael Ignatieff or his leadership, and "hapless" when looking back on Stephane Dion or his campaign, are still in full effect.

  29. I guess the whiff of sulphur coming off of Harper had an adverse effect upon the chemical makeup of the transmission fluid of Iggy's bus.

    Of course……..this just gives Iggy another reason to look down his nose at the "little people" who do such menial work as fix mechanical things.

    Thinkers….run for politics………little people…get their hands dirty.

    Iggy may now start to realize that not everyone who is useful comes with a degree or rich family pedigree.

    Though I doubt he'll catch on in time.

    • Uh, hey, James? The bus conked. It was taken for repairs. By someone able to do the repairs. Meanwhile, the politician went about politicking.

      How does a mind get from that to "Thinkers….run for politics………little people…get their hands dirty," and its implication that therefore the politician looks down on the repairman?

  30. In the video footage you gotta love the way Iggy starts to duck down to get in the car realises the cameras are rolling, turns around and smiles. He wasn't going to give them that shot.

    • He probably got a prompt from one of his associates already in the car. The tour, of course, will train Mr. Ignatieff to think like a natural politician, while also giving him a deep understanding of Canadian culture and Liberal politics. It's a shame nobody thought to get a Liberal leader who already had these attributes…

  31. This is just way too easy .. the stuff writes itself! …. of course the wheels falling off the tour bus on the first day is news and pundits will eat it up .. I mean really folks .. although it has nothing to do with any partisan point of view .. our media on this file are completely open minded and any politician who starts a tour invites the press along and then the tour comes to a grinding halt as the bus pulls over to the side of the road can not complain when the invariable negative press comes along. This is indeed symbolic and oh so appropriate after Iggy himself starts off his new open and high minded and no insult approach to campaigning and then immediately insults not only Harper but everyone who voted for him by labelling them satanists … good grief folks ..

    • Well, negative would be one thing, reaching for the narrative imagery is another. But I think that was made clear enough in the post. Reading comp classes, maybe?

  32. Iffy is as trustworthy as was his broken bus.
    All the good bus' were hired out, the Libs had to take second best.

  33. Poor Mr Coyne, his Liberal bus is as defunct as his blogalism. Cant really call this crap journalism.

    • Did you mean Kant really called this "crap journalism" or did you mean can't really call this crap journalism?

  34. I saw the CTV report last night, and the thing is, they had a clip of Iggy slagging the Tories, getting the sort of talking points out that the LPC wants him to get out. I still think this bus tour will probably on balance be good for Iggy and the Liberals. They will get coverage, and particularly in whatever media market they happen to be visiting. In particular, they'll get noticed by people, unlike us political junkies on this board, who don't normally follow politics. That's exactly what the LPC wants and needs. Obviously the broken down bus sucks, but that is a one-off, one day event.

  35. The bus was repaired by a shop in Cornwall, Ont. called Harper Diesel. Now tell me that the world is not governed by magic!

  36. It would have been a PR coup if Ignatieff was photo'd under the hood (or is it a bonnet?) of the bus, with his tool box open and flashlight (or is it a torch?) clenched in his lips, turning a wrench (or is it a spanner?) and fixing (or is it mending) whatever ails the bus. It would be "emblematic" of Ignatieff the Everyman – getting his hands dirty and doing something both practical and useful like helping fix a broken bus (because he knows how!).

    Heaven sent opportunities are fleeting and then quickly are lost forever

  37. Geez, AC, if you're going to take a vacation from the Maclean's site, the least you can do is link to this blast from your past. It says volumes about the current census brouhaha.