Parody’s Boring; Deceptive ‘Neutrality’ is Much, Much Worse

By Jay Menard

As we approach the Oct. 27th municipal election in Ontario, the rhetoric is increasing, the volume and the vehemence is growing, and the rancor is raging. And while recent concerns about on-line parody accounts may be valid, I’m more concerned about the clearly partisan accounts that are bordering on the verge of self-parody.

I’m not going to list the parody accounts in this space. Safe to say, if you do a search for some of London’s mayoral candidates on Twitter, you’ll find them. Oddly enough, it seems to be only the right-of-centre candidates that are getting this treatment (but I’m sure that’s just coincidence). And while some candidates have taken to actively trying to get them taken down, for the most part I believe they’re harmless.

Effective parody is very challenging. Humour is subjective, but political humour needs to be smart, biting, and insightful. These parody accounts are puerile, insulting, and — worst of all — just plain boring. Continue reading

My Minimum Expectations to Earn My Vote

By Jay Menard

We’re fast approaching London’s municipal election date. Though some have already made up their minds, I remain firmly in the camp of thinking there’s a lot of time. Things change, positions get analyzed, but — most importantly — there are plenty of opportunities for someone to prove to me that they meet the minimum expectations to earn my vote.

But that term “minimum” is a tricky word. After all, just because it’s my lowest threshold doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with lofty expectations. And, in my case, my minimum is held to a very high standard — the same standard I put on myself as a voter and an involved citizen of London. Continue reading

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