A Blog “Aboot” Social Media in Politics

So it turns out that former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is not the only Canadian politician to have embarrassed himself publically. Ala Buzreba is a 21-year-old Canadian political activist and student. In 2015 she ran as the Liberal Party candidate to represent Calgary Nose Hill in the House of Commons. While she was in the race it was discovered that when she was 16-years-old she posted some Tweets that some considered to be offensive. Because of the fact that she exposed her political views on the platform, Buzreba had become the target of numerous attacks from fellow Tweeters.  According the Thinkpol.com, Buzreba, who is Muslim, was told that she is “a terrorist, corrupt, worth nothing, a raghead slut who doesn’t deserve life and has no place in Canadian society.” In response to attacks such as these she told one of her rivals to “go blow your brains out” and said to another “your mother should have used that coat hanger.” When these Tweets were discovered she tweeted an apology for them. Prime Minister James Trudeau spoke also spoke out in support of her. In spite of her apology and the support of the Prime Minister, Buzreba was forced to drop out of the race.

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In the same year Conservative Party candidate for the House of Commons, Tim Dutaud, was also forced to drop out of his race. Dataud was left no choice but to withdraw from the race after videos surfaced of him making crank calls that were thought by some to be offensive. One video features the former candidate calling the Viagra customer service line while pretending to be a troubled customer. At the end of the call Datuad pretends to have an orgasm. Another video appears to feature Dataud mocking mentally handicapped people. This revelation regarding Tim Dataud was particularly troubling to the Conservative Party because the videos came to light at the same time that another Conservative Party candidate was forced to drop out of his race when a video surfaced of him urinating into an unsuspecting person’s coffee mug. The video of the second candidate was from a hidden camera and was initially released on television so the incident was not directly related to social media, but was still a cause of embarrassment to the party.

Alex Johnstone is the vice-chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Last year she ran as the New Democratic Party candidate for the House of Commons in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas. Her campaign got into deep trouble when a 2008 Facebook comment of hers was uncovered. The comment was on a picture of an electric fencepost at Auschwitz. It stated “Ahhh, the infamous Pollish (sic), phallic, hydro posts… Of course you took pictures of this! It expresses how the curve is normal, natural, and healthy right!” The joke was meant to compare the fencepost to a penis. She later issued an apology for the remark but also claimed that she didn’t know what Auschwitz was at the time that she posted the comment. Johnstone ended up coming in third place in the election.

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Stefan Jonasson is a Unitarian Universalist minister who also ran for a seat in House of Commons in 2015. He was forced to withdraw from the race after Facebook comments of his surfaced in which he compared Orthodox Jews to the Taliban.

These incidents show the changing nature of politics around the world. The act of bringing up old controversial remarks in order to discredit political opponents has always existed but the prevalence of social media seems to have made it much easier to do so. This, combined with the increasing level of sensitivity to controversial remarks in western societies, is proving to be the downfall for politicians across the ideological spectrum and around the world. If politicians, particularly in the west, want to avoid implosion they will need to adopt some sort of strategy for effectively managing past remarks on social media that some may find offensive. However, given the nature of the Internet, I do not know what that strategy should be.

 

6 comments

  1. Very interesting post. I think you’ve highlighted how the changing digital world puts us all, especially those in the political arena, under a microscope. Comments on social media platforms can be captured, twisted, and brought back to haunt you and you can be caught on camera being disrespectful. I think your post is a reminder that no matter the situation we should all try to “kill them with kindness” rather than retaliate with hate or inappropriate actions. The lesson in this all, while somewhat creepy, is that someone is always watching and thanks (or no thanks) to technology, our actions and comments are often recorded in one way or another.

  2. I find this to be a noteworthy topic not just not, but especially going into the future. When people of our generation become more and more prevalent in politics, so much more is going to be uncovered about people’s pasts. This could be in the form of random tweets that seems fine at the time, but since it was posted it is out there for good. Facebook wasn’t around for the current presidential candidates’ college years, but when that happens in the future we could see a great deal of social media warfare going on in the political sector.

  3. As Jak mentioned in the near future people will be running for a political position or jsut trying to land a top job at a firm and a tweet from their 7th grade selves could resurface. No one is say out here and people need to really think of the long term repercussions of social media posts. How can people that are expected to run countries be participating in this kind of behavior. Social media is exposing so many people and in the political world i see this to be a good thing since we need to know the real thoughts and feelings of our candidates and how more authentic can you get? People think no one will see a lot of their posts and need to realize that what you post is forever.

  4. wow does this hit close to home. There is absolutely no way i could ever run for political office. I have done far too much stupidity on the web as a youngster. If i became a public figure they would tear me to be shreds. That being said, do you think we will ever reach a point where people will be excused for their internet-mishaps ? will finding out people said something offensive when they were younger become so common that it is forgivable (if it isn’t already) ?

  5. Huh. People do and say really really dumb things. You don’t know what Auschwitz is? I’m not buying that at all. I do wonder how any future politicians are going to emerge from this digital era unscathed.

  6. Very interesting post, I think this is very relevant in todays political climate. Some of the information you found was really heavy stuff and hard to imagine that people would say that about someone. In times like this I get really disappointed in the actions of other people, there is no reason anyone can be justified in saying such terrible things about people. Social media has put a digital footprint on everything that we have done, and it is out there for the world to find. Especially in the world of screenshotting and digital footprints, NOTHING is ever gone once you put it out there on the internet. I wonder if there is going to be an industry that opens up that can clear and clean social media accounts and digital footprints for people who want to run for public office. I know that I have said some stupid things as a kid, but that is not a reflection of who I am today. Do I deserve to be ridiculed and harassed for something I said when I was 12? This shows the darker side of social media and how it can be used to ruin ones bid to run as a political figure. Really great post, thank you for sharing the insight!

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