Conservative Confidential: Inside the Fabulous Blue Tent
By Fred Litwin
Fred Litwin, founder of the Free Thinking Film Society, is well known in Ottawa as a small-c conservative, pro-Israel and pro-gay rights activist. On occasion, he has also been a Conservative Party campaign worker (not, however, in the current election campaign – more on that later).
But Litwin did not always identify as a political right winger. His transformation from left wing activism to his current position as a socially progressive conservative began when he read The Politics of Bad Faith by David Horowitz, another Jewish left wing activist who had become disillusioned with leftist thinking and had pivoted right. But it was with the events of September 11, 2001 – a day that changed the world in so many ways – that Litwin realized he was on a political road very different from the left wing activism that had guided him since his university days in the 1970s in Montreal.
In Conservative Confidential: Inside the Fabulous Blue Tent – which is part autobiography and part political commentary and analysis – Litwin details his political evolution by noting “in the days after 9/11, I expected the Left would rise to the occasion and come up with some worthwhile explanations, some reasonable analysis, some idea of what it all meant, some leadership on the right thing to do. But straight off the mark, the Left offered a quick easy, knee-jerk response. No thought went into any of it. It was all America’s fault.”
Litwin looks back at his decades as “a man of the left” and explains the evolution of his thinking, noting how much easier it had been to come out as a gay man to his family and straight friends in 1983 than as a conservative to his liberal and left wing friends a couple of decades later.
Along the way, Litwin offers a fascinating account of how the Iranian embassy in Ottawa tried (and almost succeeded) to stop his film society from showing Iranium, a documentary exposé on Iran’s nuclear program made several years before the recent debates over the Iran nuclear deal. He also offers cogent arguments about anti-Israel bias in CBC news reporting and about how some in the gay community have sacrificed a gay rights agenda in favour of a left wing one. He has much to say in that regard about such groups as Toronto’s Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and says the Harper government has been the most supportive of gay rights in Canadian history.
However, Litwin also shows that he is not a party-line conservative and is particularly critical of right wing Islamaphobia, arguing that common cause must be made with the vast majority of Muslims who are not Islamist.
And, by book’s end, Litwin reveals his disappointment with Stephen Harper’s Conservative government describing it as “quite timid,” even “arrogantly timid” about too many issues, particularly in the realm of foreign policy.
He is even more critical of the current crop of Republican candidates in the U.S.
“All the leading Republicans gave me the creeps,” he said, when describing a trip to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington this past February.
Litwin is an articulate writer who never leaves a doubt about where he stands on any issue he addresses in Conservative Confidential. He makes his personal story compelling and his arguments – whether one agrees or disagrees with him on any or all issues – are presented with both clarity and honesty. Although now identifying as conservative, he is as tough on right wing hypocrisy as he is on left wing hypocrisy.