Mandatory Voting Isn’t the Answer, Especially When Getting Educated is So Much Harder Now

By Jay Menard

More voters isn’t the answer. More educated voters is. But the fact is that it’s increasingly challenging for the average person to know what’s true and what’s just partisan spin.

Like clockwork, the idea of mandatory voting has come around again — this time with the Liberal Party has been floating a trial balloon about the concept. For mandatory voting to work, you have to incentivize the process — either positively (through tax breaks) or negatively (through threats). But what it misses is the fact that a 100 per cent voter turnout doesn’t mean anything if the vast majority are simple going through the motions.

Mandatory voting  doesn’t change the simple reality that a forced vote is not necessarily a good vote. And there can be no assurance that people who have previously not bothered to vote — for whatever reason — will suddenly take the responsibility seriously.

And it is a responsibility. Continue reading

Voices Carry

By Jay Menard

The problem is not the existence of echo chambers. They’re a fact of life. The only problem comes from not realizing you’re in one and not searching out other voices.

The other night, I was ‘involved’ in a conversation that occurred without my knowledge. It was a Twitter discussion about whether London’s downtown was over-represented on the social network. As I’ve discussed the need to seek out different voices, my name came up.

To be honest, I think over-representation is the wrong word. It’s just the simple fact of life that certain types of people flock to certain locations. It’s neither good nor bad, it just is.

The only danger is when we believe our limited experience represents the totality of thought. And that’s why, from a communications perspective, seeking out differing voices to ensure we’re getting the whole story is just common sense. Social is just one tool in a broad and diverse community-growing and communication-fostering tool box. Continue reading

London Council Exists in Our Own Image

By Jay Menard

I admire London’s new mayor for reaching out to the community, but I’m concerned that asking the London Twitterverse about decorum is like polling cannibals about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle – they may be aware of the concept, but they certainly don’t practice it.

So it’s safe to say that any advice digested from that source be taken with a Goderich-sized grain of salt. After all, our existing council offers a pretty fair representation of London’s on-line community. Continue reading

Grammar Rules – But They’re Not Absolute

By Jay Menard

Why is it that we encourage everyone to experiment and seek out new boundaries — unless of course they’re putting pen to paper.

And why is that many of us for whom the written word is a passion are the worst offenders at stifling creativity and, well, being a pain in the ass.

Few people will look at a painting and say, “Yeah, I like it, but that colour in the corner is just wrong.” But there are those who will dismiss an entire argument because there’s a sentence that ends in a preposition. There are others who love nothing more than pointing out other people’s grammatical flaws.

That’s not cool or funny. It’s just obnoxious and counter-productive. Continue reading

Language Lessons

By Jay Menard

What’s more important? Using one’s voice or being able to listen? When it comes to trying to engage a diverse, but largely fragmented, public, we need to focus on a few key language lessons.

Even more important than the act of listening is the ability to understand. It’s where we often fall short and where more of our efforts need to fall. Continue reading

It’s Not the Band I Hate, It’s Their Fans

By Jay Menard,

“It’s not the band I hate. It’s their fans.” Yes, I am gearing myself up for Sloan’s appearance this weekend at the Western Fair’s Beer & BBQ Show, but that’s beside the point.

That lyric also perfectly sums up the way I feel about some of the participants in our municipal campaigns. And the danger for the candidates is that they’re going to suffer from guilt by association.

London, especially on Twitter and other social networks including our local paper’s comments section, is easily likened to a playground. Whether it’s puerile name calling or taking their figurative ball and going home when they don’t get their way, we see a lot of the worst in discourse.

I had hoped during a municipal campaign things would change, but I haven’t seen it yet. Continue reading

Declining Just an Empty Protest that Won’t Move the Needle

By Jay Menard

When exactly did we determine that voting against something is better than voting for something?

Strategic voting is bad enough – the idea of compromising your beliefs in some grand effort to ensure “they” don’t get it. It’s semi-understandable when it comes to our first-past-the-post system, especially if you’re in a riding where vote-splitting may be an issue.

But this idea of “Declining your vote” as a grand statement against the political system? Sorry for being frank, but it’s egocentric and ineffective. Continue reading