Mark McQueen is known for being outspoken. On his blog, he has criticized everyone from Kevin O’Leary to the CPP Investment Board. He even once made fun of the Montreal blogger behind Pension Pulse, Leo Kolivakis. He thus has what we in the dog-eat-dog world of blogging call a “second-strike capability”. I also mentioned the libel lawsuit he launched against the National Post. More importantly, I have previously profiled him favourably. Given the vetting he has received both by government and a major bank, I did not even bother trying to poke holes in his success story. Will such considerations make it difficult for me to now cover McQueen disputatiously? Not for a polemicist of my experience and skill!
I have some policy bones of contention to pick with Mark McQueen. McQueen has considerable policy credibility - his very first job after university was in the Prime Minister’s Office. He is a trained political scientist, albeit with a “solid-B average.” I, on the other hand, have no policy credibility. I therefore have to be given a chance to level the playing field by taking him down a peg. It’s a matter of fairness. It’s like handicapping in sports.
Mark McQueen has deep roots in the Conservative Party (and its predecessors). His father was press secretary for the Leader of the Opposition in the early 1970s, Robert Stanfield. Mark McQueen got noticed by Brian Mulroney at a party convention all the way back in 1986. The connection endures, as Mark was appointed earlier this year to the board of Metrolinx by then Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney. Caroline previously worked at McQueen’s Wellington Financial. He also gives money to the party.
As part of the culture wars, conservatives make a big deal about gender non-conforming people. I don’t know the biology or the psychology of gender identity. Is it nature or social conditioning? There may well be LGBTQ+ penguins, but I’ll guarantee you one thing: there’s not a penguin anywhere going around telling other penguins how much it loves the band Pearl Jam. That’s right, Mark McQueen wants everyone to know that he identifies as a Pearl Jammer. This is wrong and I’m not afraid to say it. In order to understand why, I have to share with you a groundbreaking scientific discovery I recently made. I recently discovered that there are only 7 legitimate hobbies - everything else is a derangement or an affectation.
Here’s an example: if some working class person has a basement full of Coke bottles from around the world, we might say he’s a bit nutty. But if Kevin O’Leary spends millions on luxury watches and can speak for hours about the intricacies of their movements, somehow, that’s normal behaviour? I make no such classist distinction, both behaviours are a derangement or affectation. Legitimate hobbies are things people have always partaken in, like walking, hiking, playing sports, reading, playing games, watching movies, etc. The well-adjusted man finds contentment in the traditional hobbies of humans, what we may term “Lindy” hobbies, if you are familiar with this expression popularized by Nassim Taleb. This is a powerful framework to analyze (and mock!) people’s behaviour.
I will release a full paper later on, but one basic diagnostic guideline is that age is a factor. If a 5-year old talks about dinosaurs non-stop, that is pretty benign. He will likely outgrow it. But if a 40-something is still talking about dinosaurs, he must get his head checked pronto. Similarly, if a teenager seems to be infatuated with Taylor Swift, we may say that she is simply carving an identity for herself or wishes to belong to a clique. A harmless phase in adolescence. But what are we to make of a middle-aged former bank executive and possible future policy nabob who professes that his life revolves around attending Pearl Jam concerts? I am sorry, but I cannot let such behaviour go unchallenged.
Over the summer, McQueen sent an 8-part series on his love of Pearl Jam to his blog readers. I did not sign up for that! This is a needless Hamas-style provocation. I read most of those pieces, I have terrible reading discipline. I thought of unsubscribing, but I didn’t want to hurt McQueen’s feelings. And so instead I am writing this. Note to self: must learn to deal with irritations earlier and more constructively.
McQueen is also active on Twitter. Why does he use this photo as his profile picture there? At first, I thought this was his own portrait, but I was wrong, it’s actually a photo of Truman Capote. Why?
The mystery deepens. In March, I saw he started to illustrate his blog posts with weird old black and white photos with a caption like “Chestnut vendor”. Alarmingly, these photos were generally not relevant to the actual posts they accompanied. For example, here’s the photo he chose to illustrate an opinion piece on the advisability of letting RBC acquire HSBC:
And here’s the picture he chose to go along with an opinion piece on the alleged Indian official involvement in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil:
I am not usually one to curse, but seriously, WTF? Why is this necessary in the generative AI era? I finally came to understand that these were all photos by some photographer named Irving Penn. And that McQueen is a fan and collector of this artist. What was special about the photographer Irving Penn? The correct answer is: Who gives a s***, clicking on a button is not art. Mark McQueen’s very first job was as a news photographer. Time magazine published a photo he had taken when he was 16-years old of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. How did he manage this feat? He pointed the lens of his camera towards the royals and pressed on the clicky-thing.
That photo of Truman Capote McQueen uses on Twitter is also an Irving Penn. Is being fascinated by some obscure photographer an affectation or is it a derangement? The lines are not clear-cut, it’s often a mixed presentation. I suspect that what starts as an innocuous attempt to fill time or seek novelty, morphs into an affectation and can eventually evolve into a full-blown derangement in those who are pre-disposed.
So McQueen says that he began collecting Irving Penn pieces after he was mesmerized by this photo he saw at a gallery on John Street:
Oh well, then! This makes perfect rational sense! What a beautiful work of art, unlike anything I have ever seen in my life! I take it all back. Time to throw my beloved derangement/affectation theory in the garbage. Now I want to start my own Irving Penn collection. Are there any Irving Penn works that I can buy with my limited annual art budget of $15?
I wrote about McQueen again here: