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.
So if it makes someone feel better to tackle such low-hanging fruit, then go for it. To me, these are inconsequential diversions from the real issue: those that share information and make criticisms from an allegedly neutral foundation. Because though some choose to put up a neutral facade, it’s clear that structure is leaning dramatically one way or another.
It’s our prerogative to represent ourselves however we choose. But in a political era where transparency, accountability, and honesty are the buzzwords du jour, wouldn’t it be nice if our most active information distribution networks live up to our own demands.
Left and right; Conservative or Liberal; conservative or liberal, if the interest is truly an informed electorate, then perhaps it’s time to hand out the decoder rings so that the average, non-SM-obsessed Joes and Jills can understand from whence these perspectives are coming.
Just show your true colours.
On Facebook, on your blogs, on Twitter — if you’re actively part of a campaign team; if you’ve substantially donated to a certain candidate; if you are unabashedly for a specific candidate, put it in your avatar.
That way, the average person coming to social media looking for another way to get information on the elections can do so filtering the information through the appropriate prism. Sure, you can say, “If someone reads my feed, they’ll know.” But realistically, most people aren’t going to have the luxury of doing that. If you follow local social media accounts, blogs, and news items, you get to know the slants, the relationships, and the affiliations. However, in the run-up to an election we have to assume people without that depth of experience are going to be joining the fray and looking for info.
If we talk about an open and transparent council, shouldn’t we live up to those expectations ourselves?
There’s a lot of dirty politics out there: misinformation, slanted information, unexpressed affiliations and biases that can render a seemingly black-and-white experience into a Dali-esque expression of surrealism.
Monitor the social feeds during a debate and it’s like watching a partisan tennis match. A back-and-forth, ebb and flow of Matt Brown supporters and Roger Caranci supporters pushing and pulling positions and statements out of proportion and recognition. Throw in a few partisan jabs against Paul Cheng and Joe Swan, and you have the on-line play-by-play script of any debate (having a hard time finding those vocal Cheng and Swan supporters on-line).
This extends to the apparent slate-development at the Ward level, where affiliated candidates receive the same unconditional support or castigations from the same crowd. Watching the debate without a vested interest in any candidate, you often wonder if there’s a parallel political universe out there — because it’s clear that people are not seeing, or hearing, the same things.
So if you’re going to bleed true blue for your candidate, why hide it? If honesty and transparency is the way we want council to go, why target opponents from a falsely neutral pedestal? The only reason that I can see for not being transparent is to be duplicitous. And that behaviour speaks to the candidate one supports.
I’ve been open about my affiliations and process. I don’t know for whom I’m voting. I thought I did, but this campaign has changed my view. What was once a 95 per cent proposition is closer to 50/50. But I have no skin in the game — and if I did I’d express it so as to give context to my opinions.
And if I was working on a campaign or had thrown all my weight behind a candidate, I’d either keep my opinions to myself or make sure all my opinions were written with a caveat stating my clear bias.
After all, honesty and transparency are black-and-white issues. So why is our online political discourse black hat/whited sepulcher?