Ex-Harper advisor Tom Flanagan fired from CBC after saying viewing child pornography does no harm

Source: National Post

Ex-Harper advisor Tom Flanagan fired from CBC after saying viewing child pornography does no harm

Josh Visser | 13/02/28


University of Calgary professor of political science Tom Flanagan in his University office in Calgary, Alberta, October 19, 2007. Todd Korol for National Post 

Ex-Stephen Harper advisor Tom Flanagan was fired from the CBC Thursday after he told an audience at a university event that viewing child pornography does no harm.

“It is a real issue of personal liberty, to what extent we put people in jail for doing something in which they do not harm another person,” he told those gathered at the University of Lethbridge after his previous comments on child pornography were brought up by an audience member.

Flanagan would issue an apology Thursday afternoon, saying his “words were badly chosen” in a theoretical academic discussion, but it was too late as politicians and conservative groups had already rushed to distance themselves from him.

“I certainly have no sympathy for child molesters, but I do have some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures,” Flanagan said initially Wednesday evening when asked about his 2009 comments in which he said: “What’s wrong with child pornography — in the sense that it’s just pictures?”

The audience immediately turned on Flanagan, a University of Calgary professor, with the questioner responding loudly: “That’s disgusting.”

Flanagan responded that he personally does not view child pornography. But then he bizarrely added that it was a “long story” but he was put on the mailing list of the national Man Boy Love Association for several years.

The well-known University of Calgary professor, 68, prefaced his remarks by saying his position differs from the government, of which he had a significant part in putting in power.

“I’m not part of the Conservative government,” Flanagan said. “I have some doubts about some of the Conservative justice initiatives.”

Tom Flanagan okay with child pornography.

Many of those affiliated with Flanagan, including politicians at the federal and provincial level, were quick to condemn the remarks and cut ties with him Thursday.

Harper spokesperson Andrew MacDougall tweeted that Flanagan comments were “repugnant, ignorant, and appalling.”

Alberta opposition leader Danielle Smith of the Wildrose Party cut all ties with Flanagan, their campaign manager in the 2012 election, in a damning statement Thursday.

“There is no language strong enough to condemn Dr. Flanagan’s comments. Child pornography is a despicable crime that seriously harms all those involved, including the viewer. The viewing of child pornography first requires the production of child pornography, which causes untold suffering and abuse towards children,” she said. “To be clear, Dr. Flanagan does not speak for me or the Wildrose caucus and he will have no role — formal or informal — with our organization going forward.”

Alberta Premier Alison Redford said she was disgusted by the comments and they “turned her stomach.”

Flanagan was a regular guest commentator on CBC’s “Power and Politics” until Thursday.

“In light of recent remarks made by Tom Flanagan at the University of Lethbridge, CBC News has taken the decision to end our association with him as a commentator on Power and Politics,” Jennifer McGuire, CBC News general manager, said in a statement.

“While we support and encourage free speech across the country and a diverse range of voices, we believe Mr. Flanagan’s comments to have crossed the line and impacted his credibility as a commentator for us”.

The University of Calgary issued a statement saying that is does not agree with Flanagan’s remarks.

“Viewing pictures serves to create more demand for these terrible images, which leads to further exploitation of defenseless children,” University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon said in a statement.

The university says Flanagan has been on research and scholarship leave since January 2013.

Flanagan was due to speak at the annual Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa next week but Postmedia has learned he has been pulled as a speaker.


Tom Flanagan and Stephen Harper pose for a group photo at the University of Calgary faculty club on Friday, Jan. 26, 2001. Jeff McIntosh for the National Post 

University of Calgary professor of political science Tom Flanagan in his University office in Calgary, Alberta, October 19, 2007.

The professor, a member of the so-called Calgary School of conservative professors at the University of Calgary, began working with Harper in the 1990s within the fledging Reform Party. He was Harper’s chief advisor until 2004, managing leadership campaigns in 2002 and 2004. Flanagan would return for the 2006 election that brought Harper to power as a senior advisor.

Flanagan wrote a tell-all book in 2007 about his experiences being Harper’s chief campaign organizer called “Harper’s Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power.”

Flanagan was considered one of the most conservative members of the Reform Party under Preston Manning.

The Walrus published an article in 2004 calling Flanagan “The man behind Stephen Harper.”

Flanagan has hardly a stranger to controversial circles. There’s a website called “Censure Tom Flanagan” that was created after he called for the murder of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange while on the CBC.

“I think that Assange should be assassinated, actually. I think that Obama should put on a contract and maybe use a drone or something,” he told CBC Host Evan Soloman.

The CBC host interrupted saying “Tom, that’s pretty harsh stuff.”

Flanagan replied: “Well, I’m feeling very manly today.”


CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge tweeted a picture of Tom Flanagan wearing his brown, fuzzy buffalo coat, with the caption: ‘‘Sasquatch revealed,’’ and was retweeted 400 times. 

Flanagan’s apology statement  

I absolutely condemn the sexual abuse of children, including the use of children to produce pornography.  

These are crimes and should be punished under the law. Last night, in an academic setting, I raised a theoretical question about how far criminalization should extend toward the consumption of pornography. 

My words were badly chosen, and in the resulting uproar I was not able to express my abhorrence of child pornography and the sexual abuse of children. 

I apologize unreservedly to all who were offended by my statement, and most especially to victims of sexual abuse and their families.


Prof. Tom Flanagan calls for assassination of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange


Source: National Post

Tom Flanagan has been here before

John Baglow, Special to National Post | 13/03/01

There are hardly any bones left to pick over this morning, but l’affaire Flanagan calls for some sober reflection after a pretty spectacular flame-out and the virtual supernova of Schadenfreude that followed it.

So rapid was Tom Flanagan’s implosion that it reminded me of a similar one a few years ago: First nations leader David Ahenakew spewed a few words of anti-Semitic hatred into a reporter’s microphone and lost everything — his standing in his community, his Order of Canada. A lifetime of achievement was erased in a moment. In the same way, Flanagan lost his university post, his CBC gig, his wise counselor status for the Wildrose Party, a speaking engagement at the Manning Centre, and his reputation. In a matter of hours he became a creepy old has-been.

It takes only a few seconds of carelessness to become a pariah in this era of recurring moral panics. Whether it’s anti-Semitism, bullying or child pornography, an entirely justified negative social reaction seems to lead inevitably to the creation of categories that acquire some kind of objective ontological status. They are hypostasized: regardless of their contents, they become things in themselves. And they crush everything in their path.

As we order and sort our world of experience, we tend to enlarge those categories by stuffing all sorts of things into them. Sometimes — as in the case of anti-Semitism, particularly with reference to criticism of Israel — the category almost bursts at the seams. Similarly, when it comes to bullying, all sorts of behaviours under all sorts of circumstances are now reduced to that one notion. And child porn, which at first seems like a no-brainer, can claim its innocent casualties as well — apart, of course, from the children who are abused in the making of it.

Tom Flanagan, let me hastily add, is not one of those innocents. He demonstrates the fundamental flaw in libertarian thinking with his involuntary reductio ad absurdum. Let the marketplace decide, goes the mantra, but there are markets that simply should not be created, and child porn is obviously one of them.

“Obviously?” Not, it seems, to an ideologue like Flanagan. As Michael Harris asks, where does he think child porn comes from? It’s just pictures, right? The radical immorality at the heart of libertarianism is brutally revealed. 

Flanagan has actually been beating this drum for quite a while. In 2009 he uttered similar sentiments; I blogged about it at the time.

Why did this not cause a stir then? Is it the immediacy of video, as opposed to a report in a student newspaper? In any case, no journalist thought to seek him out for clarification, but I guess we have that now.

Of course we progressives have been revelling in our Schadenfreude. Flanagan is a Rovian figure, Harper’s eminence grise, and a determined antagonist of First Nations’ hopes and dreams. It’s great to see him vanish into the sunset. But…

Political science professor and inveterate Tweeter Emmett MacFarlane makes an important observation: “Are we at the point where calling for a man’s murder on TV is less an offence than musing about the law in a seminar?” He’s referring, of course, to Flanagan’s on-air statement that Julian Assange should be assassinated.

I don’t agree that Flanagan’s statement is merely “musing about the law”— that’s rather too anodyne a description of what he actually said — but the comparative reaction is interesting, and we should interrogate this matter, I think. We do seem to pick and choose the social evils that we permit to inflame our collective consciousness. Set David Ahenakew’s few words against, for example, Ezra Levant’s televised eight-minute hate-rant against Roma, the immediate consequences for the former and the non-consequences for the latter.

If we are continually to succumb to waves of moral panic — if that is indeed to be our mode of confronting problems for the foreseeable future — it is really too bad that we can’t panic over the public advocacy of murder, or public expression of racism other than anti-Semitism, or our rape culture, or on-going police impunity across the country. Perhaps a serious examination of our collective selection criteria for the crise du jour would be the most positive thing to come out of this appalling, and yet fundamentally trivial, episode.

Further reading: 

Type “Tom Flanagan” into the Abel Danger search bar at the upper right of this page: you will be amazed.

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One comment

  • Revealing on Mr.Flanagan's part
    As I know this stuff from the outside in.
    Assange is the product of MK Ultra severe
    child hood anal abuse which is on film somewhere.

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