Micheal Vonn: B.C. government job posting exposes crisis of democracy

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      By Micheal Vonn

      Citizens of British Columbia who have been crying out for government transparency can now uncork the champagne. After years of access to government information eroding in a culture of secrecy and gutted freedom of information laws, we finally have something to celebrate.

      Last week, journalist Sean Holman posted a link on his Web site to the B.C. Public Service Executive Role Profile. This document is part of the job description for senior civil servants and it is as transparent a government document as you are ever likely to see. It comes right out and says that the government considers it part of the job of senior bureaucrats to fabricate crises in order to advance policy. How’s that for laying it on the line?

      Here’s exactly what it says under the “Characteristics/Behaviours” section of the role profile: “Executives anticipate, and are prepared to institute change quickly. At times, to capitalize on the best opportunity, executives create a crisis to force change.”

      Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine is a book all about political and economic exploitation of disasters like September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. Political exploitation of crisis is apparently such standard operating procedure that President Barack Obama’s advisor Rahm Emanuel has blandly stated, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

      But thanks to the B.C. government’s New Transparency, we see the cutting-edge innovation of actually manufacturing the crisis. And we further learn that opportunistic crisis-creation is not despicable. In fact, it is a vocation reserved for the selflessly brave, as we see in the document under the somber header “Are You Courageous Enough?” which follows: “Positive opportunism, instituting change and creating crisis involves a high level of risk and risk taking. Executives are prepared to take these risks, have the courage to move forward, and acknowledge the ultimate consequence if they do not succeed.”

      Let’s not get too caught up in the Tony Soprano talk about “ultimate consequences”; it’s the fabricated crises and “positive opportunism” that is the main point. Nobody accuses the public of being insufficiently cynical about politicians. Voting rates alone tell a sorry tale. We might be forgiven for trusting in the civil service though. Up until we read the B.C. Public Service Executive Role Profile, we thought we were worldly and urbane because we expected senior government bureaucrats to be well-versed in damage control. Turns out we were a bunch of hayseeds. Damage control? Try damage creation! Thanks to the New Transparency, we now know how truly cynical to be.

      And we are grateful for this enlightenment, as there is always a certain grisly satisfaction in having our lowest surmises confirmed. But we can’t help but feel just a touch depressed too.

      When we think about what it means to live in a democracy, we think about voting and fundamental freedoms and the separation of powers. It’s been a while since it’s been fashionable to include ethics and trust on the list, let alone truth. At the risk of sounding hopelessly retro, this is not good. Our spin culture has now spun so far out of control that the effective functioning of our democracy is seriously damaged.

      Simply put, the big idea with democracy is that the citizens are the rulers, and we rule ourselves through our governments and we make our decisions about government based on information. The whole system falls down if we have no information, only infomercials and fabricated crises. That we have a government that is blatantly advertising for crisis-fabricators to head up the civil service should give us very serious concern. Civil servants deserve respect and citizens deserve the truth. We call on the government of British Columbia to leave off crisis-creation and attend to the real crisis of democracy that has become only too apparent.

      Micheal Vonn is the policy director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.




      Jul 16, 2010 at 12:19pm

      Good article. However, democratic countries aren't the only countries to create a crisis in order to further policy change. Witness the constant bs coming from terrorist states like Iran, and the posturing of terrorist groups like Hamas. In fact, most of us do this to one degree or another.

      polyorchnid octopunch

      Jul 16, 2010 at 8:28pm

      @flyboy: Oh, well, since Iran does it, that's okay then.


      Jul 16, 2010 at 9:36pm

      Welcome to the Ken Dobell-Martyn Brown-Jessica MacDonald School of Public Administration.
      Rod Smelser


      Jul 17, 2010 at 1:29am

      Good Rap. Nice to know the government is corrupt and orchestrates crises and false flag crises. Ya...pop a champagne cork to celebrate this FACT.
      But the writer is a lawyer, and NO MATTER how corrupt the government gets, they are still an officer of the Court and they still have to carry out it's wishes....or they don't work as a lawyer and then they can only read about the dreary news that the State is a murderous greedy joke that instigates mayhem that lawyers tend to profit from...
      Sorry...but there is no such thing as a Good Enabler and we plebes, no longer need a clue, as to what to what western styled democracies have become.


      Jul 17, 2010 at 4:16am

      yes, it's true. we make our decisions about government based on information. but where do we often get that information? through the likes of press releases, news reports (in the georgia straight and other papers of varying ethical standards) and radio programmes. the media work very closely with our governments and our public sector to report on what is worthy - but is it always the truth? manufacturing a crisis and manufacturing consent go hand in hand. question everything! and then question it some more.


      Jul 17, 2010 at 9:37am

      Yo Octopunch, what's the point of you post? Nowhere did I say it's okay to create a crisis just to further policy. My point numnum is that all you lefties that are so eager to beat up on democracy willingly close your eyes to the sins of your poster states like Iran, Syria, etc. and terrorist organizations like Hamas. By the way, I note you don't live in one of those repressive regimes that you support.


      Jul 17, 2010 at 9:40am

      Let me make it even more clear to you. All of us (me included) are just like all of those we oppose..


      Jul 17, 2010 at 12:41pm

      Kind of reminiscent of unions just before the old contract expires.


      Jul 17, 2010 at 9:27pm

      You mean like to do-good-know-it-all social engineers who put all the no left turn signs on Broadway between Main and Alma just to create traffic congestion and then turn around and sell all us schnooks on the need for multi-billion dollar rapid transit projects?

      glen p robbins

      Jul 18, 2010 at 1:19pm

      What got me looking at the reality of things -- was when me a good friend--old of the stock market -- drove my 'Merecedes' over to Victoria -- stayed at the fabulous Empress -- and then off to UVic to watch Manufacturing Consent - Chomsky----------------------although I don't agree with everything--it was Chomsky who got me really interested in independent newspaper publishing (which I did for about 6 years) --- and from there public opinion polling (as Bill Murray says in Kingpin 'finally I'm above the law').

      This and an education in political science - brings you to Examining the Political Spectacle (Murray Edelman)--other academic works--

      I would hypothesize that no intelligent person - with a modicum of investigation -- would ever accept ANYthing from government without skepticism ----------what is the motivation of government for this announcement? why the announcement now? --- these questions are particularly alive when the government is moving toward a kind of rotting festering animal carcass-----------------Citizens must never be passive with government------it's hard work -- however when a growing number of Citizens question everything -- we are (ultimately) on our way to better government---and when this happens -- and greater harmony between government and the Citizenry emerge -- I suspect that happiness will become a far more prevalent feature of more Citizens -- .