Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Dirty Tricks of Politics

Ah, politics. Love them or loathe them, there is no escaping them, particularly right now in our community as elections at all levels of government loom large. A municipal by-election has already been scheduled, it seems an announcement on a spring provincial election can only be days away and even a federal election isn't that far off. It's a heady time for political junkies, and even a time of excitement (and some trepidation, too). And it is also the time when some of the dirty tricks of politics begin to appear, including the one that irks me the most: anonymous accounts on social media designed to take shots at political candidates or parties.

I am not a big fan of anonymity online in general, but particularly so when it comes to election time. The tendency to hide behind the cloak of anonymity, allowing one to say whatever comes into one's head (through their fingers onto a keyboard), is not a positive development in political discourse in my opinion. In fact I think it demeans the entire process.

I am an opinionated person. I also unhesitatingly attach my name to those opinions after I made a decision a long time ago to attach my name to this blog and to everything else I do. I suppose I acknowledge that the things I write may have consequences, but part of what has kept me honest, forthright and thoughtful is knowing those consequences exist. To be in a land of no consequences is dangerous territory for most of us, allowing us to express things that may be better left unsaid or that simply add nothing of value to the conversation.

During the last provincial election I had the honour of serving as the communications manager for one of the candidates. It was with dismay that I watched a number of anonymous social media accounts spring up, ones that had nothing to do with our campaign and that threatened the reputation of everyone who had taken the brave step of running for office. Standing for election is in my mind quite a bold and courageous thing to do, no matter your political stripe, but these anonymous accounts were the exact opposite of that: they were the work of cowards who wouldn't even put their name on a tweet, let alone a ballot.

I am excited about the coming elections, as I enjoy the banter of politics. I enjoy the gamesmanship, the rattling of word-sabres and even the occasional debate dust-up - but I have absolutely no respect for those who choose this season as the time to express themselves through anonymity and behind a curtain of deceit. This nonsense only adds to the perceived dirty tricks of politics, and far from making the anonymous ones look clever it simply makes them look like what they are - cowards. Politics needs passion and belief and discussion and engagement - but what it doesn't need it more dirty tricks and I sincerely hope we see far fewer of those this time around.

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