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Two Canadian Writers Are Using Big American Publications To Argue About Harper's Record

It's Stephen Marche versus David Frum in the New York Times and The Atlantic. With a Canadian senator thrown in the mix, too.

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The New York Times recently published a harsh op-ed about Stephen Harper's tenure as prime minister. It was big online hit, with close to 90,000 Facebook shares as of this writing.

The New York Times / Via

"It’s so much bigger than anything I’ve ever done," its author, Stephen Marche, said of the online reaction when contacted by BuzzFeed Canada. "Which makes it staggering that was about something Canadian."

The column's appeal for some was that they saw it as the New York Times itself giving a verdict on the Harper years.

The New York Times sees Harper as failure. The Closing of the Canadian Mind

What the New York Times thinks of Stephen Harper #stopharper


Even the New York Times is blasting Harper. Let's hope this election brings a close to his time as Prime Minister

Which, of course, wasn't the case. The piece was Marche's opinion.

Then there was the fact that Americans Were Publishing Things About Canada. Attention must be paid!

It's like catnip for Canadian pride/insecurity.

Marche's argument was that Harper's current campaign and time as prime minister both reflect a "peculiar hatred for sharing information."

He wrote:

... the nine and half years of Mr. Harper's tenure have seen the slow-motion erosion of that reputation for open, responsible government. His stance has been a know-nothing conservatism, applied broadly and effectively. He has consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing, cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy, and the country in ignorance.

Today, another Canadian writer took to an American publication to talk about Harper. Conservative writer David Frum offered a rebuttal of Marche in The Atlantic.

The Atlantic / Via

Frum said criticism leveled at Harper is often accompanied by an unreasonable amount of outrage.

He wrote that "there’s a distinction between objecting to a politician’s policies and personality, and the extreme disproportion between cause and effect in anti-Harper critiques leveled not just by Marche but others among Canada’s well-bred, well-educated, and well-connected."


To which Marche replied:

@davidfrum also I am not particularly well bred.

So far, it was a respectful, Canadian dispute. Each wrote their piece. Marche took to Twitter to point out what he saw was an omission in Frum's column, and to make a playful objection about his lineage.

Then Canadian Senator Linda Frum weighed in with praise for her, yes, brother's takedown of Marche's "overwrought screed."

No, Stephen Harper isn't killing Canadian democracy. @davidfrum responds to Stephen Marche's overwrought screed.

Marche replied that as a senator she is "strictly a burden on the country." OK, so things were getting a little heated.

@LindaFrum you're a Canadian senator. You are strictly a burden on the country. Your opinion is meaningless.

"I'm not going to be lectured to by Canadian Senator about this stuff," Marche told BuzzFeed Canada. "There are limits to who I'm willing to talk to here. ... A Canadian Senator is someone who leeches off of a failed system, and we all know that."

Senator Frum thought Marche was being hypocritical.

@StephenMarche Defender of the Canadian Constitution urges disregard of the Canadian Constitution?


And on it went.

@LindaFrum You take taxpayer money and serve no function and call yourself a conservative. You are a member of a national joke. Literally.

David Frum chided Marche for a lack of "self-control."

@StephenMarche If you seek to rebut charge that Harper critics are driven by irrational rage, start by showing more self-control

Marche didn't think much of that criticism.

@davidfrum the sure sign of a defeated orator is that he or she doesn't like the tone of his or her opponent.

But as for David Frum in general, Marche said, "I like David and admire David a lot. He is a really interesting writer who I always read, and who has taken pretty courageous stands."

Meanwhile, Jeet Heer, a Canadian writer for U.S. magazine the New Republic, saw the exchanges as evidence of the "myth" of Canadian politeness.

Again, Canadian politeness is a myth:

Craig Silverman is a media editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto.

Contact Craig Silverman at

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