Saturday, May 25, 2013

Name that Scandal

Now that it’s clear that the ongoing Senate shenanigans are not just a one-week wonder, it’s time to give this scandal a name. After all, if we’re going to be reading about this stuff for the next few months, we’ll definitely need a shorthand way to refer to it.
Rule no. 1: Don’t give it a name ending in “-gate.” Although it’s tempting to simply add that suffix to the latest wrongdoing, it’s a lazy approach. So unless it involves wrongdoing by Microsoft  Chairman Bill Gates, no more “gates.” Plus, Watergate was an American scandal. There’s no need to debase our Canadian political screw-ups with “gate”-suffixed designations. Does any Canadian take pride in Tunagate or Shawinigate? If it’s a scandal that has legs and one that we value at all, it’s deserving of its own unique moniker. Thus, no Senategate, Puffstergate or Troughgate. We’re Canadian and we deserve our own homegrown names for our own homegrown scandals. 
Rule no. 2: Don’t focus on just one person. It might be tempting to center on the biggest and most entertaining target and name the whole affair after Mike Duffy as in The Puffster Affair or The Duffy Scandal. But unless your name is Gerda Munsinger or Monica Lewinsky or there’s sex involved, limiting things to one person is shortsighted and inefficient in the long run. After all, we already have several other potential players like Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb. Since there are more than a hundred   senators, chances are that at least a few more may be ensnared by the illegal expenses net before this thing has fully played out.
Rule no. 3: Don’t be too specific in naming the scandal. It’s tempting to assume that this one is all about the Senate and that a moniker like The Senate Scandal or The Red Chamber Affair will suffice for the duration. But we’ve already witnessed the involvement of a non-senator in the person of Nigel Wright , Prime Minister Harper’s chief of staff. That’s not to say that Mr. Harper himself was also involved but it’s not proper scandal-naming etiquette to rule him out completely at this stage. Scandal naming demands inclusivity because you just never know how far reaching a scandal will become.
Rule no. 4: Identify the geographical or corporate nexus of the wrongdoing. Watergate, the sine qua non of modern day coverups, was named after the Washington, D. C. hotel where Republican operatives broke into Democratic Party headquarters. But Watergate wasn’t the first to be guided by this principle. The Teapot Dome scandal of the early 1920s got its name from the Wyoming oil field that was the subject of illegal leases, bribes and kickbacks. Iran/Contra and Whitewater both described the geographical loci of the alleged crimes. Canadian political scandals have also generally followed this rule as evidenced by the Pacific Scandal, the Airbus Affair and Shawinigate.
Rule no. 5: Keep it simple. Sure, it might have been more accurate for the media to describe Richard Nixon’s troubles as the Post-break-in White House Cover-up Scandal but, let’s face it, Watergate was a lot punchier. And wasn’t last year’s Robocall Scandal catchier than The Robotic and Telephonic Voter Fraud Affair?  If you want a scandal to last, give it a short name that folks can remember.
By following these five simple rules, we can find a name for this latest malfeasance that Canadians can embrace with enthusiasm and pride. For starters, how about The PMO Affair, The Expense Claim Debacle or The Entitlement Scandal? I suspect there are even better candidates out there waiting to grab tomorrow’s headlines. How about Harper’s Troubles or even Pork Plus? Just remember; if they can do it, we can name it.

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