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What’s Harper got up his sleeve?

My husband Frank is no expert on body language, but he recently noticed a behavioural tic that appeared every time that Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a lie. He was watching the parliamentary debate on television that followed Harper’s release of the federal budget.

Various opposition politicians were skewering Harper for his recent proroguing of Canada’s Parliament and his lacklustre budget that offered almost no significant changes.  Although he claimed to have delayed the opening of Parliament for two months so that he could “recalibrate” the country’s economy,  critics were astutely accusing him of using this as a tactic to avoid  fierce questioning about how much he and Peter MacKay, his Minister of National Defence, knew about, and subsequently hushed up, Canada’s torturing of detainees in Afghanistan.

My husband noticed that every time Harper had to answer to one of these pointed challenges regarding Afghanistan or a similarly unflattering topic, he would tug on his left sleeve before speaking. Was this some liar’s protocol or trick that a speech consultant had dreamed up for him? Or was it merely his own body’s reflexive action to a lie? I guess the time-worn response of averted eyes are no longer the only indicator that someone is avoiding telling the whole truth. What’s Harper got up his sleeve?

March 5, 2010 at 1:39 pm
1 comment »
  • March 26, 2010 at 9:39 amFrank McElroy

    It was an amazing thing to see that every time the Prime Minister arose to respond to a question during question period, he first buttoned his jacket, looked at the Speaker (not the questioner), then tugged on his left cuff. Most of the responses were simple avoidance, but two involved what some might say was deception – in each of those the PM tugged on his left cuff a second time as he dipped into it. Body language is something we all know, use and do, mostly subconsciously. Remember Richard Nixon’s sweaty upper lip? I hope none of you are old enough, but it was the classic indicator of mendacity. In the wonderful 1958 film “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” Burl Ives as “Big Daddy” said in one of the film’s endless great lines, “I smell the air of mendacity.” Tennessee Williams was simply telling the truth – when people lie, especially in a big way, you can smell it, feel it, see it, taste it and touch it. The principal of the lie detector tests. I wasn’t in Parliament that day, but every available indicator was ringing the bell hard.

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