Maybe Canadians aren’t that Friendly After All
“If you want to come out and attack me personally and say that I’m not a nice person, that I’m a bad person, I’ve got horrible sins on my chest, that’s fine. But don’t use the anonymity of government resources to do that.” Vic Toews, Canada’s Public Safety Minister
It seems that in Canada, politics can indeed get just as personal as it does in the United States and Great Britain. On the heels of supporting controversial security measures for the Internet, Canada’s Public Safety Minister has viciously attacked on a Twitter feed by someone within his own home – the House of Commons. Et tu, Brute? The disclosures were very personal and revealing.
Using the moniker “Vikileaks30”, someone who obviously knows Minister Toews well and who works in some capacity within the House of Commons, decided to take the debate to Twitter and offer details on his divorce, obviously something that has no bearing on the issues being debated. And no doubt it’s all made for a very bad week for Mr. Toews
In the United States, when it comes to politicians, we’re used to unjustified and extremely personal attacks on elected officials. Like it or not, they’re fair game for just about anything. And they’re all doing the same thing to one another so no one can call the kettle black. Everyone’s in the cesspool together.
Toew’s case does, however, pose an important question. Where is the line crossed when a debate is centered on a public figure’s beliefs and is personalized with disclosure of private information or, even if not private, is focused on information that has no relationship whatsoever to the issues at hand?
Without doubt, the Internet – whether it is through Twitter or any other social media platform – has become the pulpit for more opinions than any media in history, capable of reaching – and influencing – more people than ever before. And without doubt, there is very little vetting of the journalistic qualifications or informed knowledge of the underlying issues of the uploaders, bloggers, or publishers.
But therein lays the very power of the Internet. It is truly a forum for free speech and all the good and bad that comes from it. Whether you like or dislike Mr. Toews, he chose to be in the public light, albeit as part of the job he holds. No doubt, based on how he responded in the press, he knows how to dish it out. Now he’s facing the music of free expression. Welcome to the Internet, Mr. Toews. And please don’t expect us to believe you’re so naive that you’re surprised at the attacks. But we can agree you should be concerned about from where the attacker is launching the mayhem. Doesn’t sound like the House of Commons has much control over its own security, does it?
Nor should it go unnoticed that the attack came on the heels of Canada ditching new legislation that would have allowed increased police surveillance of the Internet and over those that use it. Public discontent with the proposal to increase Internet surveillance law drew thousands of objections by Canadians on Twitter. Whether their collective voice doomed the legislation or not is for debate another time, but no one can argue that what happened in Canada is another clear example of the power that the Internet community – the Party of We – can bring to the global conversation with just 140 characters that cannot be ignored.
Doug Wood, We Expert