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Haunting of the social media flubs


A lot can be read into an Internet exchange. Countless assumptions can be made from an image. The context of a 140-character missive can be misconstrued. 

However, some words cannot be passed off as a joke. Some photos cannot be perceived any other way than the obvious, and tone is clearly evident in many written conversations.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this federal election campaign it’s that the worldwide web has no expiry date, and past experience online lives with a person forever. In fact, it often becomes far more relevant for those who eventually seek public office — or work in partisan politics — than it did when originally posted.
The latest federal election candidate to fall on his own social media sword is the Conservative Party of Canada’s Blair Dale. The party staffer was to run in the district of Bonavista-Burin-Trinity, but some questionable postings online have made him out to be patriotic extremist and an abortion-hating bigot.
Is Dale one or all of these things? Maybe, maybe not. But his past online activity, or at least what was uncovered by blogger Robert Jago, has made him out to be. He’s no longer running — to the surprise of no one. This is a common occurrence this federal election. Whether it’s for “sharing” a photo album of another party on Facebook, sexist comments, remarks over “ethnic cleansing,” more mysogynism, more anit-abortion, even Hitler and a token penis reference, the fire that’s burning under the feet of candidates from all major parties doesn’t seem to be going out. While no one wants a bigoted, mysogynistic, beauty-queen hater in his or her corner, it’s impossible to bring context to what’s happening here and to truly discover what drives a person’s social media comments. What the lifeline of Internet activity does is allow anyone to take a snapshot of time and draw the most severe of conclusions. That’s not to excuse the posts, because most of them are certainly ignorant, but to assert that we should not allow these people to run for a party is hypocritical. Who hasn’t said something he or she regrets? And who has not written things that could — or should — have landed them in hot water?
The cast of blame we throw on these people is not because of what was said or penned online, but because they were caught, because someone with skills in the field painstakingly went into the history of comments and profiles and dug this stuff up.
Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that people we’ve already elected are not writing comments far worse. Let’s not stand on a moral pedestal and condemn only a few. This is the new reality and a new standard we’re setting, and it is dangerous.
We need to instead live with the fact that those who are outspoken in their beliefs — however crude they be — are the same type of people that seek office. And they are not the only ones tragically flawed. Yes, we must watch what we say online and no, beliefs steeped in any type of prejudice won’t be not tolerated, but we shouldn’t be too quick to throw the first stone because someone’s past was dug up while yours was not.

However, some words cannot be passed off as a joke. Some photos cannot be perceived any other way than the obvious, and tone is clearly evident in many written conversations.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this federal election campaign it’s that the worldwide web has no expiry date, and past experience online lives with a person forever. In fact, it often becomes far more relevant for those who eventually seek public office — or work in partisan politics — than it did when originally posted.
The latest federal election candidate to fall on his own social media sword is the Conservative Party of Canada’s Blair Dale. The party staffer was to run in the district of Bonavista-Burin-Trinity, but some questionable postings online have made him out to be patriotic extremist and an abortion-hating bigot.
Is Dale one or all of these things? Maybe, maybe not. But his past online activity, or at least what was uncovered by blogger Robert Jago, has made him out to be. He’s no longer running — to the surprise of no one. This is a common occurrence this federal election. Whether it’s for “sharing” a photo album of another party on Facebook, sexist comments, remarks over “ethnic cleansing,” more mysogynism, more anit-abortion, even Hitler and a token penis reference, the fire that’s burning under the feet of candidates from all major parties doesn’t seem to be going out. While no one wants a bigoted, mysogynistic, beauty-queen hater in his or her corner, it’s impossible to bring context to what’s happening here and to truly discover what drives a person’s social media comments. What the lifeline of Internet activity does is allow anyone to take a snapshot of time and draw the most severe of conclusions. That’s not to excuse the posts, because most of them are certainly ignorant, but to assert that we should not allow these people to run for a party is hypocritical. Who hasn’t said something he or she regrets? And who has not written things that could — or should — have landed them in hot water?
The cast of blame we throw on these people is not because of what was said or penned online, but because they were caught, because someone with skills in the field painstakingly went into the history of comments and profiles and dug this stuff up.
Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that people we’ve already elected are not writing comments far worse. Let’s not stand on a moral pedestal and condemn only a few. This is the new reality and a new standard we’re setting, and it is dangerous.
We need to instead live with the fact that those who are outspoken in their beliefs — however crude they be — are the same type of people that seek office. And they are not the only ones tragically flawed. Yes, we must watch what we say online and no, beliefs steeped in any type of prejudice won’t be not tolerated, but we shouldn’t be too quick to throw the first stone because someone’s past was dug up while yours was not.

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