03 November 2010

Being too negative

cbc.ca/nl takes a look at negativity and local politics in a report by provincial affairs reporter David Cochrane and a commentary by Randy Simms.

They are both worth checking out if for no other reason than they raise issues that are worth considering and worth debating.

A couple of quibbles:

First, negativity of this type isn’t something new.  In the current local version, this penchant for attacks goes back about a decade.

Second, Randy Simms is in the right neighbourhood when he mentions the recent mid-terms in the United States.  Politics in this province for the past decade or so demonstrate the very effective use of American political techniques  - including an ideological element - on a local level.  The lines used are similar to ones employed elsewhere in Canada, provincially and federally, and in the United States. While they use paid advertising in other places, here the slagging is done using other vehicles. 

When you are done with the video stuff, pop over to the Telegram and check the note that the Wednesday editorial.  It points out the hefty price the Williams administration paid for a recent decision about a Facebook comment:

Why? Well, ask yourself what the circulation numbers are for one person’s Facebook page. Maybe hundreds; sometimes, thousands. In Pardy Ghent’s case, 1,109.

Then, ask yourself this question: what’s the combined circulation of the Canadian Press, Yahoo News, MSN.ca, Troy Media, and the Reuters news service, just to name a few?

All of those sites carried the story of Pardy Ghent’s firing, under the not-so-pleasant headline “Facebook flap over Danny Williams’ penis.”

It made newspapers and websites across Canada and the United States.

It even made the website of the India Times, half a world away.

Yep — Skinner took a small fire, and unsuccessfully tried to put it out by pouring on the largest amount of gasoline he could find.

Ignoring the status line would have made the whole thing a 15-second wonder that reflected far more poorly on Pardy Ghent than on anyone else.

Instead of a handful of people shaking their heads, there are now thousands. Well done.

Two additional points:

First, the Telegram’s account of costs don’t really go far enough.  The CBC news stories and all the comments on this issue that are circulating under these and related media stories point out the extent to which negativity is now an issue that can cut the ruling Conservatives at least as sharply as it cuts anyone else.

Going negative this early definitely has its costs.

Second, Shawn Skinner didn’t do this on his own. Well, odds are he didn’t.  Like Kevin O’Brien, he was likely following orders.

Take out of all that what you will.

- srbp -

*edits for caps, spelling and sentence structure

13 comments:

Jerry Bannister said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Bannister said...

The coverage is both interesting and important, but I have one quibble: the problem is a mixture of nastiness, vulgarity, and bullying – not negativity.

In any liberal democracy that's functioning properly, it's perfectly acceptable -- indeed, it's usually expected -- to have regular negative responses to the government in power. Negativity is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on the context, the circumstances, and the policies.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with being against the position of a government, a party, or a politician. Having free speech and a constitution that permits political opposition means that negativity, in one form or another, is inevitable in our political system. The problem described by Randy Simms is one of propriety, not negativity.

The line of public propriety is often uncertain, especially in a liberal democracy, and whether a joke is funny or offensive is often in the ear of the beholder. The CBC and Telegram stories are valuable because, if nothing else, they're trying to prompt a critical discussion of where the public should draw the line between negative yet civil commentary, on the one hand, and commentary that offends public standards of civility, on the other.

As the Telegram's editorial explains, there is also a line between an initial offensive comment, on the one hand, and the government's reaction to it, on the other. There is a reason why the two isolated comments by unelected officials became "stories" in the first place.

Here's a question. What do you think a provincial government would prefer: a serious public debate over the Tories' policies for the prospective development of the Lower Churchill, or a heated public discussion about an email and a Facebook page?

WJM said...

Acceptable, expected... and healthy.

Danny's communications in opposition were hardly a paragon of Happy Happy Sunshine. He was even more unremittingly negative than the current opposition.

How'd that turn out?

Wm. Murphy said...

It's too bad that more gas wasn't poured on the issue. The case is simple....Pardy Ghent was a moron for posting this indignant and rude comment about a Premier while "representing" gov't and participating within the process of this Administration. It is as simple as that! To somehow think that this will "go against" gov't is preposterous!
She, like Westcott f*@ked up and now they are paying the price for their indiscretions.

As for Skinner" putting out a fire"....nonsense. He was sending a strong and appropriate message that this crap will not be accepted. The only thing this Admin did was to uncover the mopes that made the comments in the first place. Good on ya

Mark said...

Although, Wm. you have to admit that trying to attribute the behaviour of Mr. Westcott from 2008, and that of Ms. Pardy Ghent to "liberals" or "opponents" is a bit thin, given that at the time either of these statements were made they were nothing of the sort.

The Premier's surrogates' attempts of smears by association in both of these instances said more about how much they reveled in receiving and leveraging these vile comments to their political advantage than it did about their being genuinely offended by them.

WJM said...

She, like Westcott f*@ked up and now they are paying the price for their indiscretions.

Except that the news stories that have been carried across the country don't make humourous references to Ghent's or Westcott's anatomy.

No one would have ever used the words "Danny", "penis", "Williams", and others in close proximity to one another, had His Dannyosity not acted the way he did. Good going.

WJM said...

Although, Wm. you have to admit that trying to attribute the behaviour of Mr. Westcott from 2008, and that of Ms. Pardy Ghent to "liberals" or "opponents" is a bit thin, given that at the time either of these statements were made they were nothing of the sort.

Nor, in the case of Ms. Pardy Ghent, who has professed her support of His Premierosity on several occasions even as she repents her apostasy, is she now.

Wm. Murphy said...

…more about how much they reveled in receiving and leveraging these vile comments to their political advantage than it did about their being genuinely offended by them.

Yes Mark, that did happen...so what. They have every right to employ any strategy they think is necessary to combat this type of behaviour….and when do govt’s, as a rule, care about being genuine?…they saw an opportunity to exploit these types of moronic comments…and they did!
You, have to realize that the actions by this gov't pale in comparison to the actions of both Westcott and Pardy Ghent. I keep reading that gov't's response is the response that needs to be tempered and that it is somehow over the top. What I am saying is that the these types of comments open the door for any and all strategies that gov't feels is in their best interest. If they want to scratch their arse, or tear it off...over these types of comments, it is their own prerogative. Let the chips fall…and if those chips fall to an editorial page in India…bring it on, I say!

As we know this gov't is good at manipulating and stretching public opinion and in this case these comments provided the bullet and the gun to shoot the morons who make idiotic statements.

Wm. Murphy said...

This just in from VOCM.com

Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones says she's concerned with the scrutiny the Premier's Office has over peoples' personal lives. Jones was responding to a comment on Facebook that resulted in a volunteer, Pamela Pardy Ghent, being fired from her role on the Rural Secretariat. Jones says that, while the comments were very distasteful, she wonders who else is being watched.

hellooooooo...Ms. Pardy Ghent had THREE Tory M.H.A.'s as her friend on facebook. WTF!
I wonder if Westcott was briefing Ms. Jones on this one?. This is unbelievable!!

Simon Lono said...

As I mentioned on my own Facebook status. . . .

Simon Lono advises the Facebook-going public that if they have a government MHA as a friend, they may wish to either de-friend them or exercise a personal prior restraint over any comments they may wish to make; call it the Pardy Policy.

Wm. Murphy said...

Good point Simon...I would also add that for people that have their boss on their friend's list...please refrain from calling him a big arse hole with a small penis when posting comments.

WJM said...

They have every right to employ any strategy they think is necessary to combat this type of behaviour

What type of behaviour?

Oooh: Verification word is "ethings"!

Mark said...

They have every right to employ any strategy they think is necessary to combat this type of behaviour

No they don't. Contrary to your own view, the government is restrained in what combative strategies it employs by such pesky inconvenient things like, umm... the law.