Saturday, November 29, 2008

Why I shouldn’t read comments on Newspaper Articles…

Honest. I am going to kick the newspaper comment reading habit. I don’t know why I started reading them today, but the result is that I’ve gotten an eyeful of angry, bitter partisan nonsense ruining my otherwise nice day. I think 90% of the folk who comment on the news (particularly of the political stripe) are speaking from the backdoor of their digestive system. For a long time, I thought that I was center-left leaning in my politics. I think governments should manage the country and its assets (both human, monetary and environmental capital) in a responsible manner. (fiscal conservative) Yet, I am a teacher. My job is to help others obtain the tools they need to be responsible, successful citizens. I know that they can do this best when they have a roof over their head, food in the bellies and adequate medical care. I know financial insecurity effects their lives. I believe this makes me a social liberal.

What I’ve discovered is that I really don’t have a party affiliation. In fact, I detest partisan politics intensely. I hate the mud-slinging. I hate the games. I hate the tendency to destroy something just because it was the other party’s policy, then reinvent it and call it yours. I hate the amount of energy that party politicians spend trying to make each other look bad, even if it’s bad for my country.

What I’d like to see is every MP being chosen because they have something to add to the team of politicians whose job it is to make major decisions around how this country can be run best while representing their individual ridings. I would like to see real leadership. I would like to see a PM who doesn’t care about beating the other party at the next election, only about being a leader, a role model and getting done whatever needs to be done, running our country efficiently and in-line with the values of the majority of Canadian's. I would hope that this leader also is the kind of person who’d offer a stranger a quarter to make a phone call or would roll up their sleeves and help out during a disaster. Somebody human.

After my foolish reading of the comments on an article about the current situation in our federal government, I have learned the following about the folk who write these comments. A handful of people actually think before they press submit. A handful of them understand our governmental system. Most of them are just spewing partisan nonsense with a level of hatred that I fail to comprehend. Now, I’m hardly a social studies major – but I do know how a minority government works (which apparently our current Prime Minister is pretending he doesn’t, even though I’m quite sure he does indeed know that its perfectly reasonable for the opposition to oppose his will and also to request the Governor General’s permission to form a coalition government).

It is funny. Everyone gave the Liberals a hard time for not bringing the government down when they disagreed with the conservatives, for sitting on their hands (i.e. boycotting the confidence votes). They were accused of abdicating their responsibility as the opposition and taunted by the conservatives for not bringing down the previous government. Finally, Stephen Harper was forced to break his own promise to bring the government down in hopes of getting the majority that he wanted before the economy unraveled and the political climate to the south changed because he’d been unable to force the Liberals to do it. As the PM, he had the right to do that… it was perfectly legal. They even benefited by getting more seats. But to get upset because the opposition finally stands up to him because he’s gotten into the habit of mostly being a majority – well, that seems unreasonable. Its actually the oppositions job to oppose policies that they feel are not in the best interests of Canadians.

Obviously, the political funding issue is getting the bulk of the limelight. It certainly was a nice little touch if you wanted to make your opponent look bad. Certainly, a good tactic to draw attention from a slew of other issues – like taking the right of public servants to strike away or ignoring the current economic crisis. Nobody likes the idea of a political party we don’t like getting public money to campaign unless perhaps we consider the alternative…. Lobbyists and people with enough money to donate to political campaigns buying the support of various parties… i.e. how do I write my platform to get enough donations to get elected – which inevitably requires me to tailor my platform to the type of people who have money and are likely to donate that money to politicians rather than medical research or helping feed people in 3rd world countries…. Think about that for a moment – How does that change the perspective and goals of our government?

Oddly… I think it is highly brave of the opposition parties to form a coalition government at the beginning of a major recession. Look what inheriting a government at the onset of a recession did to Bob Rae’s reputation. Nothing good. Furthermore, there are so many complications. The liberals have a leadership vacuum – that could go very wrong for them. Neither the Liberals or the NDP stand to benefit from the optics of working with the BLOC. None of the parties will look good if we are forced back to the polls, but only the Conservatives have the money to campaign. The easiest thing to do would be for the opposition to let Harper bully them into giving in and supporting or at least failing to cause a non-confidence vote – the hardest thing is for them to stand up to something they disagree with, risk the political hazards of governing a country about to be slammed by economic disaster, put down their partisan hatchets and work together – even it if means working with a separatist party – something that the conservatives will surely flog them with at the next election. No… I disagree that the opposition is doing this out of selfishness. They are merely trapped between a rock and a hard place.

My apologies for ranting – I promise – I’m quitting newspaper article comments cold turkey starting now and in the meantime, I’d really just like the government to get their act together and run this country and worry about the next election when it happens. I plan to vote for the best team player.


Blogger Chris Windeyer said...

I totally sympathize with your view of newspaper comments sections. But I'm telling you, quitting looking at them is hard. I've been so disgusted by comments sections (the Globe and Mail's is particularly noxious) that I've thrown up my hands and said "never again." But sometimes I just have to come back: there's something about jerks being jerks about contentious issues that is addictive. Kind of like Gossip Girl.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Comment spammers have found you!

I had this same discussion with someone the other day. She works for a Canadian media organization that allows comments on its website, and she was frustrated that in their efforts to incorporate Web 2.0 into their work, they were being held accountable for the things OTHER people published to their site.

I understand why they'd want to do this, and I applaud their efforts, but I think a better way to do it would be to have a trackback system so you could follow what people say about the story or issue on their own blogs. It's just too easy to toss off a stupid comment that would never meet the news organization's professional standards for its main product.

It will be interesting to see how this issue evolves.

12:10 PM  

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