But in the context of Canadian politics, it's worth paying attention to.
This week, I wrote a feature article on adjunct SFU communications professor Donald Gutstein's provocative new book, Harperism: How Stephen Harper and His Think Tank Colleagues Have Transformed Canada (James Lorimer & Company Ltd.).
Deep within the piece, I mentioned that Gutstein focused on the role played by Postmedia columnist and weekly CBC commentator Andrew Coyne.
Gutstein devoted five pages in the book to Coyne because, according to the professor, he "occupies the interface between think tanks and media, crucial territory in the neoliberal war of ideas".
That prompted the following retort over Coyne's Twitter feed:
Gutstein responded with this salvo:
I have read the book, including pages 68 to 73, which focus on Coyne. His columns appear in Postmedia newspapers across the country, including the Vancouver Sun.
Gutstein reports that between January 5 and January 24, 2013, Coyne's columns advanced a number of neoliberal nostrums, including weaker school boards, opposing academic Pam Palmater's emphasis on collective advancement of First Nations, and letting the market determine TV viewing preferences.
In addition, Gutstein notes that the Donner Foundation invited Coyne to a meeting of conservative journalists and academics, where Coyne recommended a magazine be created.
"It was two years later, with a Donner grant of $1.4 million, that the Next City commenced publication, with Coyne as contributing editor," Gutstein writes in Harperism. "Margaret Thatcher was the magazine's patron saint. Next City published articles calling for parent-run charter schools, the privatization of Medicare, and an end to government subsidies to the arts."
Gutstein also points out in his book that Coyne has been on the council of advisors for the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, which is nurturing the conservative movement in Canada.
"Perhaps most importantly, Coyne became a trustee of Peter Munk's Aurea Foundation, putting him along with [Rogers Publishing president and former National Post editor] Ken Whyte and Nigel Wright [former chief of staff to Stephen Harper] at the forefront of funding for neo-liberal think tanks and single-issue advocacy organizations like the Canadian Constitution Foundation," Gutstein writes.
He then raises question in his book about Coyne's reporting on think tanks that Aurea may have funded.
I asked Gutstein what goes through his mind when he reads Coyne's columns.
The professor replied that he knows that he must take a very careful look at what Coyne writes because "it's kind of masked."
"He has a way of promoting conservative neoliberal ideas without really being seen to be strongly behind them," Gutstein claimed.
How so? According to Gutstein, Coyne brings forward ideas and then constructs debates around them within his columns.
"Embedded within the debates are ideologies," Gutstein said. "So it would be very hard for a reader or a listener or a watcher to really deconstruct what he's saying."
Coyne supported the U.S.-led attack on Iraq in 2003. More recently, he wrote a column suggesting an "unpleasant likelihood...of a shifting, open-ended conflict engaging different Islamic extremist groups at different times and in different places, probably for decades: a long, low war of attrition, or perhaps triage, not a short, sharp war of conquest".
Moreover, Coyne claimed in the column that nothing can be done about this because extremists have already made it "brutally clear" that "they will fight us."
That prompted the following tweet from Gutstein:
Chapter 8 of Harperism delves into the ideas of Leo Strauss, a philosopher who escaped Nazi Germany and ended up at the University of Chicago.
According to Gutstein, Strauss argued that political order can only be maintained in the face of an external threat.
"Liberal secular society was untenable for Strauss," Gutstein writes, "because it led to the 'isms'—individualism, liberalism, and relativism—traits that encourage dissent, which in turn could weaken society's ability to cope with external threats. What people need most, Strauss believed, are religion and perpetual war."
I asked Gutstein if he's ever been invited to write a column for the Globe and Mail. He laughed and said "No."
I didn't have to ask him if he's ever written for the National Post because there was no point.