Losing Credibility 140 Characters at a Time

Losing Credibility 140 Characters at a Time

Quebec Politicians on Twitter – Losing credibility 140 characters at a time
By @FarnellMorisset


I remember trying to explain to my late grandfather, many years ago, what the internet was.  I quickly realised that growing up with the World Wide Web had giving me a radically different outlook on communication and information than my grandfather, a WW2 veteran who religiously trusted the 6 o’clock CBC broadcast to be the best source of news about the world.  Naturally, I only left him confused as to why I would spend hours asking questions to an automatic-telephone-box connected to another automatic-telephone-boxes.

This struck me again today, at just about eleven this morning, CAQ leader François Legault tweeted that CAQ candidate Kamal Lutfi had been fired.  The reason?  M. Lutfi’s own tweets accusing the Québecois in general and separatists in particular of racism on par with Soviet-era communist regimes.  As of writing this a few hours after the incident, M. Lutfi’s Twitter account has been purged of all mention of his allegiance to the CAQ and all recent tweets have been deleted… but not before I (and no doubt several hundred others) had time to take screenshots of the debacle.

The first thing this shows, though, is how badly some Québec politicians are fumbling with social networking – and with Twitter in particular.  Earlier this month, M. Legault himself wound up in hot water after one of his own tweets had very sexist overtones.  For those not in the know, a “tweet” is a single post on a person’s Twitter account.  These posts are at most 140 characters long (including spaces and punctuation), and as soon as a user presses “send” they are immediately visible to the entire world.  This makes them particularly appealing to smartphone use, resulting in the ability to broadcast an immediate heat-of-the-moment response, generally without resorting to proofreading or taking the time to ask oneself “is this something I want the whole world to associate with me?”

It’s also worth noting how equalizing Twitter is to the citizen-politician relationship.  Anyone can reply to anyone else’s tweet, and all tweets are created equal.  While this means direct feedback between civil servants and the general population, it also results in some rapid-fire exchanges between regular joes – who are free to blast and abuse their leaders at will – and politicians who forget that they are held to a higher standard.  It’s a troll’s paradise, and incidentally, this is exactly the situation that led to M. Lutfi’s political demise.

While you can give a pass to certain rookie politicians new to the nuances of political expression, and also bearing in mind that it requires considerable skill to formulate an intelligent political argument in 140 characters, there are some politicians who seem to think it’s a good idea to launch immature zingers and ad hominem abuse (without half a thought to spelling and grammar) whenever half a thought enters their minds.  While this might be appropriate for your run-of-the-mill high school bitchfight, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for us to expect better from our statesmen.

And now for the obligatory social media plug – follow me on Twitter @FarnellMorisset


About the author:

Born and raised in Québec City, Farnell Morisset attended English school throughout his primary, secondary, and CEGEP studies, before ultimately choosing to stay in Québec City and study civil engineering at Laval University.

While at Laval, he served as president of the civil engineering student association. It was there that he discovered his affinity for writing and commentary, preparing a weekly column in the student newspaper dealing with the issues he, as president of the association, felt were important and relevant.

Farnell is passionate about discussing (amongst other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québecois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québecois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image.

He is also alarmed by what seems to be an invasive and aggressive polarization of complex social issues for which there are no black-and-white answers. This eventual identity crisis, he feels, will only be solved through good faith in, and honest communication with, all sides pulling on our ever dwindling “pure laine” blanket.

It is with this in mind that he contributes to LifeinQuebec.com as a valued member of our, in-house, writing team.

Categories: News, Opinion

About Author

Farnell Morisset

Farnell Morisset has an engineering degree from Université Laval and common law and civil law degrees from McGill University, where he also studied economics.

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