No – this isn’t about the kind where we choose a party leader – though there is a lot of that going on south of the Canadian border. It’s about what we expect as the norm in political discourse. That has to change. We apparently cheer behaviours in political debates that would cause any sensible parents to send their children to their rooms without any supper. That goes for most of the media commentators as well.
Since when is interrupting people seen as praiseworthy in a potential leader? Is being the most aggressive the best way to behave? It used to sometimes be called bullying. Would you want such disruptive people at your dinner table? Or would you tell them in no uncertain words to shut up. Do the commentators have to take the polls as the last word on debating potential – especially if those polled also have favourite shows like The Amazing Race? – or The Apprentice? For that matter, do political show hosts have to mirror the same behavior – interrupting their invited guests by trying to shout over them? Crosstalk makes me personally cross enough to press the off button every time.
Here are some things we’ll never get to hear in political debates:
- I agree with you on . . . . .
- Your party has done a good job in . . . . .
- Actually we got that wrong on the basis of . . . . .
- We have to work together as political parties to . . . . .
In the middle of musing on all this – as well as reading the Leap Manifesto – my door bell rang. It one of the local candidates – from the party that thinks door-to-door visits are the preferred way of soliciting votes. He was personable, articulate and we had a nice chat. He noted that in his bilingual school he was encouraged to debate from a very young age. He’s not likely to win in my swing riding, but my first impression was that he would be okay. He handed me his postcard with is picture on it and I looked at the reverse side after he left. Instead of telling me anything about himself – or even his party – it is composed entirely of a picture of a rival provincial party with quotes telling me why it – and the pictured federal party leader – is hopeless. That’s not debate. How can this seemingly nice young man hand this stuff out with a straight face? He should either be laughing – or perhaps crying about the stupidity of it all – and the danger of this kind of discourse. We get what we ask for as citizens and voters.
What if political debates and advertising had to follow the code of advertising standards that govern other kinds of Canadian enterprises? Here’s what it says”
“The Code is administered by Advertising Standards Canada (ASC). ASC is the industry body committed to creating and maintaining community confidence in advertising.
“Advertising” also includes “advocacy advertising”, “government advertising”, “political advertising”, and “election advertising”, as defined below.
“Advocacy advertising” is defined as “advertising” which presents information or a point-of-view bearing on a publicly recognized controversial issue.
“Government advertising” is defined as “advertising” by any part of local, provincial or federal governments, or concerning policies, practices or programs of such governments, as distinct from “political advertising” and “election advertising”.
“Political advertising”” is defined as “advertising” appearing at any time regarding a political figure, a political party, a government or political policy or issue publicly recognized to exist in Canada or elsewhere, or an electoral candidate.
“Election advertising” includes “advertising” about any matter before the electorate for a referendum, “government advertising” and “political advertising”, any of which advertising is communicated to the public within a time-frame that starts the day after a vote is called and ends the day after the vote is held. In this definition, a “vote” is deemed to have been called when the applicable writ is issued.
Political and Election Advertising
Canadians are entitled to expect that “political advertising” and “election advertising” will respect the standards articulated in the Code. However, it is not intended that the Code govern or restrict the free expression of public opinion or ideas through “political advertising” or “election advertising”, which are excluded from the application of this Code.
I’m taking advantage of that one here and now.
The whole code is worth a read here.
And here’s the thing – or at least one….
Advertisements must not, unfairly, discredit, disparage or attack one or more products, services, advertisements, companies or entities, or exaggerate the nature or importance of competitive differences.
What if we simply said – stop it! Go to your room until you can say something meaningful and positive about yourselves without slamming the other guys. And for the record, you debate organizers, – there are about 50% of us in the country that wouldn’t mind hearing what a person with whom we share a gender has to say. She’s running. Only one person is going to be elected as leader and her party has a perspective.
But perhaps Elizabeth May is really the one who has the last laugh. She got herself video- recorded on an Iphone 6 and Tweeted her responses to the questions asked of the other debaters. Nobody interrupted her – and she got 1.7 million Twitter hits retweeted 21,000 times. The rest apparently settled for 64,000 who could even find the location.
There are so many old paradigms going on in this endless campaign – but there are tiny hints that some of them are unravelling. There is more to come on this very soon. But we voters are no longer quite as stupid as either the candidates or the organizers seem to assume we are.