You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data. - Daniel Keys Moran
I attended a forum last week between the two candidates for the role of Councillor (Ward 12) for the City of Calgary and it represented, at least to me, the sharp contrast between Canadian and US-style politics.
The incumbent, Shane Keating, discussed his family, his ties to the community, his record within the Calgary council chamber and his plans for the future. He insisted on keeping the campaign above-board and indicated his desire to campaign on the issues and not by bashing the other candidate.
The challenger, Stephanie Kusie, opened by attacking the incumbent for allegedly producing no results of value and for implying that he was unable or unlikely to produce any results of value in the future.
To quote from her opening remarks, after her obligatory thank-yous to the host, the incumbent and the attendees, she said:
What I'm really excited about with this forum is that this forum, as Peter indicated, is about ideas but the truth is that ideas can be meaningless if there is no action and there are no results and I think that Ward 12 deserves better action and better results ……
And with those opening remarks, I knew that I was in for a contest between calm sharing of data and emotion-based, fear-laden rhetoric.
In essence, I was watching the clash of the Canadian and American political systems respectively.
Now in truth, anger, fear and indignation sell as I described here in Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation and as was so well described in the excellent book Trust Me, I’m Lying – Confessions of a Media Manipulator.
And the American political system, which Ms. Kusie has been immersed in for years as a diplomat and which I have spent most of my Life in, would be the system that she has witnessed the most in her recent history – a system where emotion over facts is used very effectively.
But I’m a data guy – not an emotion guy
As a data guy, I have noticed over the years that the more emotional a candidate gets and the more evasive they are regarding questions such as “why?” and “how do you know?”, the less likely that the candidate has any factual foundation for their campaign at all.
For example, Ms. Kusie indicated during the debate that there is increasing concern about crime and vandalism in her ward and implied that many constituents are becoming fearful of their neighborhood.
I was intrigued by this as I am active in the community and I wasn’t aware of any heightened crime concerns.
However, I’m a data guy.
So when Ms. Kusie tweeted this yesterday (along with the Facebook post), beating the crime drum again, I thought I would explore the statistics.
Since Ms. Kusie discussed or implied in the forum last week that in regards to crime her focus was on the crimes of assault and vandalism, I went to the Calgary Police Service website that tracks such crimes.
And since she named Cranston specifically in yesterday’s tweet, I selected the data slice for that neighborhood for the last 6 months (the largest slice available on the website).
Here’s what I came up with.
Choosing the crime stats she was interested in last week, specifically assault, attempted murder, homicide, robbery, sex offences (the personal attack categories) and vandalism, I came up with the astounding number of 13 violations for the last 6 months.
Is this a crime rate out of control?
But people without data need to fall back on emotion, fear and hysteria because that’s all they have. Her tweet discussed “unreported crimes”, a subjective topic that can be easily hyped up in absence of real data. It also implies that she has alternate sources of information that are not readily available to others.
Sadly, voters who don’t rely on data will easily fall susceptible to such a ploy.
Meanwhile when the tough questions come her way
Despite my requests for her to answer “why” and “how do you know” when it comes to her assertions and intentions, I received the classic response often provided by people who can’t answer to the data.
I didn’t get an answer at all.
Her website has this interesting opening line as to why she should be the choice of Calgarians in Ward 12.
When I asked her at the forum how she would make “Calgary the best city it can be”, in other words how did this line translate into measurable actions, she denied that it was on her website and we argued over it.
A week later, it is still there.
And I still don’t know what it means.
If I can’t translate rhetoric, emotion or “feel good” into a measurable future, I don’t know how I can vote for her either.
Now if she can convince me that the current crime wave in our ward is about to overwhelm us and she knows how to fix that, I might change my mind.
But somehow I don’t think she cares about data.
And so we become the classic paradox of the irresistible force versus the immovable object, with people like me becoming a major source of irritation that needs to be ignored, buried or neutralized.
The Bottom Line
I wonder if elections like this are a litmus test, on a micro level, of the future of politics in Canada.
Are Canadians still the type of people who care about the issues and who demand that candidates demonstrate how they will address the issues in a respectful way?
Or have Canadians fallen to the US model, where whoever shouts the loudest, appears to be the most intimidating and avoids answering the questions using data will be the winner?
I think this election will answer that question.
What do you think?
In service and servanthood,
I have great respect for Ms. Kusie and anyone else who puts their name in the ring to run for politics. It is a difficult, often thankless job for the candidate and their family and it takes great courage (in addition to other resources) to submit one’s self to a living, 24x7 “Whose Line Is It Anyway” regimen where no matter how well you do, half the people will not like your answers or results.
And we must never forget that good human beings run for office in every election.
However, even good human beings have to remain accountable in terms of what they are offering, what they intend to do for their constituents and how they intend to do it.
Rather than merely tear their opponent down, they should take their passion, wrap it around facts that have context for the voter and take that to victory.
We should be able to elect the person who lifted themselves up the most and not the person who tore the other person down the most.
Because when we elect the person who won by tearing the other person down, we all lose eventually.
If they will tear others down, what does it say about their ability to negotiate and collaborate – to “play well” with others?
And what does it say about what they will think of their constituents if our feelings or demands for accountability get too “inconvenient” for them once they are in office?
Addendum – October 1, 2013
For those who missed the forum, it can be viewed here.
And as a final note to close this subject, here is Mayor Nenshi’s thought on the concept of crime in Calgary.
Addendum – October 7, 2013
In an interesting back and forth with one of her campaign staff today, Ms. Kusie’s failure to answer questions was explained as follows:
to which I replied:
This is disappointing. One looks for new candidates to bring in fresh concepts in ideation, expression, collaboration and execution. Defensive or deflective postures suggest otherwise, either in the candidate or perhaps in the people who are advising the candidate.
The end result is the same.
The other funny thing to note is that for all the time these fine people have to entertain “intellectual exchanges” defending their candidate, they never get around to answering the questions. :-)
If I were running for office, I would spend more time creating alliances and less time creating self-perceived antagonists. Life tends to be easier and more successful that way.
In closing, one of this individual’s closing comments strengthens my argument that facts and data are essential to dialog.
The author of this tweet is attempting to plant a seed of deception, lack of transparency or lack of honesty on my part by suggesting that I am covertly connected with her candidate’s competitor’s family.
When I indicated that I have no association with her candidate’s competitor’s family (I’ve never even met them), she tweeted this.
So emotion, confrontation and misinformation are fine from her perspective.
But when one stands up to this by demanding transparency, facts and truth, she withdraws from the conversation, citing issues with “the other person”.
As I said … disappointing.
One final addendum (hopefully) – October 7, 2013
There was an amusing moment that occurred later when someone from the Keating (Ms. Kusie’s opponent) campaign stated unequivocally that I was not associated with his campaign or his family at all, to which Ms. Kusie’s staff member replied:
With this tweet, there was a suggestion, as inferred by some people who commented on this tweet, that @NOYFB_Sith was the alleged son of Councillor Keating that I was covertly connected with. I think people came to this conclusion because @NOYFB_Sith wasn’t part of the conversation at all but was suddenly named in the “conversation wrap-up”.
The funny thing is that he is not related to Councillor Keating either. His hilarious response to this inference cannot be repeated here – it is a family-friendly website after all. :-)
Closure – October 8, 2013
I was grateful that Ms. Kusie reached out to me and apologized for my experience with a member of her campaign team, indicating that the person above does not speak on behalf of her or her campaign. Time and actions taken moving forward will serve as evidence of the authenticity of the apology. Almost 24 hours after that apology, the individual above is still self-described as:
Given that the person above initiated conversation with me claiming to represent the campaign as the social media / marketing advisor, this should serve as a warning to all people with public personas that our reputation is built not only upon what we say and do but upon what others claiming to represent us say and do as well.
Closure – For Real :-) - October 9, 2013
I see 24 hours later that this person no longer references the Kusie campaign on her Twitter profile but still does on her LinkedIn profile (perhaps in response to this blog).
It doesn’t matter at this point. Damage to the campaign has already occurred, with people I don’t even know stopping me and asking me if I’m the guy that they saw on Twitter having “an interesting conversation” with this person.
Some free advice
It reminds me of the following key behaviors for any politician or their supporters to observe when in the public eye (not an exhaustive list):
- You should always endeavor to guide the conversation without letting it get out of control.
- If you can't control it, keep it positive or at least neutral.
- Don't make it personal.
- Don't let anything get under your skin – never let them see you sweat.
- Never get angry. It reflects poorly on you and may be used to your disadvantage as I noted in Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation.
- Anything said on social media lives forever – remember this before making an angry or embarrassing comment publicly.
- Seek to create alliances and not antagonists.
- Never attack a voter or belittle their questions or efforts to obtain clarity or information.
- Pursuant to the previous point, don’t confuse (intentionally or otherwise) a request for information with being attacked. You may think it is a useful strategy but it can be leveraged to make you look weak or stupid.
- You may invite a pile-on in social media if you attack others – don’t claim to be a victim if this occurs. This lowers your credibility even further.
- If the issue is dead, let it remain dead. Don’t deliberately bring it back to Life, especially if the previous incarnation created problems for yourself or the people you work with.
- Be aware of the Vatican Effect (aka the Streisand Effect as I described in The Voice of the Rebel). Specifically, the Vatican Effect states that: The more noise someone makes trying to hide or refute something, the more Life they give it, requiring a closer investigation as a result (named after Dan Brown’s sudden success with “The DaVinci Code” when the Vatican set up a group to destroy its credibility). The traffic to this blog post had pretty much died down until this person’s actions caused a lot of people to revisit it – creating elevated readership and bringing unfortunate information back into the conversation.
Bottom line: We must always be careful of people who speak (or claim to speak) on our behalf.
The damage they produce may be irreparable.
Choose your support wisely.