RCMP Harassment: Toews and Paulson Change the Channel
I wonder if you were as confused as I was? I read a report of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ remarks regarding the “RCMP’s gender bias problem”. In the article there was an oblique reference to Bill C-42 and how it “will go a long way towards rectifying many of the complaints leveled against the force by female Mounties regarding sexual harassment…”. The bulk of the article went on to report that “Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says that he has a “very good” relationship with Canada’s top cop and that the two are on the same page when it comes to tackling the RCMP’s gender bias problem”. The piece continued to outline how “Toews demanded Paulson put forward a plan to combat gender bias…” and how a “not-yet-released audit…found a “clear and unassailable” bias against promoting females in higher ranks…”.
Wait a minute, did I miss something? I thought the thrust of the recent complaints of female RCMP members was focused on harassment and sexual harassment in the Force. Where did this issue of gender bias in hiring and promoting come from? I don’t recall female RCMP members recently, and consistently, complaining about gender bias issues. They seemed to be more interested in having their complaints acknowledged and the creation of a safe workplace.
Then it hit me, we have seen this strategy before. Mssrs. Toews’ and Paulson (should we include Harper?) just “changed the channel” on us. We have seen this when an industry minister wants to take the heat off of a toxic industry, we have seen this when a government wants to gain our support for an unpopular war or distract us from a litany of lies it has been caught in.
Just to be sure, I returned to the Globe and Mail article of September 17, 2012 that reported the results of the Summary Report on Gender Based Harassment and Respectful Workplace Consultations. I was unable to find any mention of gender bias in RCMP hiring or promotions. The 426 “E” Division female respondents seemed to be concerned solely about “harassment”, “the current reporting process” and the fear of “coming forward to report harassment”. Where is this immediate concern for gender bias coming from? Are Toews and Paulson not listening?
At the heart of this strategy is a technique that public relations gurus have been using for decades; it involves identifying the target audience’s beliefs, locating the gaps or inconsistencies in those beliefs, and then morphing them into a new story. Of course the new story marches off in the direction of the PR strategist’s choice. (Authors like Chomsky, Rushkoff, and Crosson are excellent sources here). In this case, I suggest that, Messrs. Toews and Paulson have attempted to shape public perception into something more manageable for themselves. They have attempted to parallel the public perception, wrest control of the narrative (harassment), and then rewrite the story to lead us to a new, more easily attained, and platable conclusion (gender bias).
I suggest that, Messrs. Toews and Paulson and their army of consultants are well aware of public perception on this topic. They see that the public believes that a significant number of females in the RCMP are being mistreated. But in this “spasm of sentiment” they see a gap…that is, there are many forms of mistreatment, including gender bias. And they have reasoned that addressing gender bias would be an easier task and more likely to satisfy a concerned public. Done!! The gap in the public’s logic is filled with gender bias.
Just like master salespersons, I suggest, the usual suspects noted above mirrored our conscious concerns in order to change our perception of reality. (Which direction is the easiest one in which to ride a horse? Ans: The one in which it is already going. This is one of the golden rules of persuasion). They discovered the emotional triggers in our beliefs (how can you disagree with equality in hiring and promotion if you are concerned about females being harassed?) that they could steer in a different direction.
The best way to steel yourself against the strategy outlined above is to be aware of its psychological dynamics. And now that you are, you might ask questions like, “Wouldn’t hiring more females, without addressing the RCMP’s para-military structure, corporate culture, and lack of independent oversight be like dumping truckload after truckload of fresh fish into a toxic lake, before cleaning up the lake?” or, “Isn’t it true that female supervisors, even in the higher ranks, are guilty of harassment as well?” or, “Don’t you think what you are proposing is window dressing and only a complete transformational change of the organization will create a safe workplace for both males and females?”
Dr. Mike Webster, R.Psych.