Observing social media and the mainstream media coverage of the Canadian election campaign, it is safe to conclude that we have reached a new low in our political discourse.
Perhaps it is because this election campaign has been longer than normal or maybe it’s the combination of the crazy US presidential primaries playing out simultaneously. Whatever the reason, it has been quite depressing to observe.
Hyperbole and perpetual outrage have become the currency with which all of the political parties, their partisans, and supporters operate. What’s lost in all of this are legitimate discussions and debates on public policy. Instead, we’re stuck with incessant calls for candidates to be fired for their indiscretions even though, generally, those indiscretions amount to the unfiltered expression of that individual’s opinion on a given issue.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think that is a healthy or productive approach to our political discourse. If a candidate has stated something awful or insane, point it out and construct an argument as to why that particular comment disqualifies them from office.
Instead, what happens is the perpetual outrage machine kicks into gear and opponents simply call for Party X’s candidate to be dropped because of their “offensive” remarks.
This, of course, has nothing to do with debating public policy issues and leads to what we’ve seen with the media's obsession with Stephen Harper use of the term “old stock Canadians," Jason Kenney complimenting a child’s ability to speak English, and countless other examples. Not only does this lower the tone of public discourse, but it narrows the boundaries of acceptable public debate and in a sense, creates a heckler's veto for those easily offended.
This trend has culminated in the meticulously scripted and uptight politician who, terrified of uttering something that someone, somewhere could take offense to, simply sticks to inane talking points instead of discussing how they actually think and feel about various issues. This is something political pundits frequently lament, which is ironic given their contribution to the current state of affairs. Pundits and the media are the first to pounce and blow out of proportion any politician’s verbal misstep, which results in politicians clinging to their talking points for dear life; go off script if you dare.
Looking south of the border, it’s not hard to see why people like Donald Trump and Ben Carson are doing so well. Here are individuals who speak their minds, regardless of how the media and the pundits react. If someone confronts them for saying something that someone has taken offense to, their response is an unapologetic “Who cares?” I imagine it won’t be too long before Canadian voters, fed up with being communicated to via focus-grouped talking points and messages, start to hunger for the same.
I for one will be happy when this election is over, although to varying degrees, depending on who wins. Frankly, I’m tired of all the incessant hyperbole on social media that is unhealthy to public discourse. Stephen Harper is not any of these things: a dictator; like Hitler; Hitler; or worse than Hitler. Those who vote Conservative are not immoral; Thomas Mulcair doesn’t want to destroy the country and bring about Armageddon; and while Justin Trudeau does have nice hair, it shouldn’t necessarily disqualify him from public office.
And for the love of all things sacred, if you want to persuade me to vote for your party, construct an argument, don’t simply share some mindless bumper sticker slogan pasted on top of an image. If there’s anything that will keep me from voting for your party, it’s the mindless sharing on social media of political memes. Just stop it, if only for my sanity.
READ Brian Lilley's book CBC Exposed -- it's been called "the political book of the year.”
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