Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please. - Mark Twain
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. - John Adams
I was intrigued to see this little invite issued by the Wildrose Party pass through my inbox yesterday.
I found it intriguing given that since it appears to be a Wildrose Party fundraiser for the constituency of Calgary SE, it would suggest that one of the “hogs to be booted from the trough” would be Calgary SE MLA Rick Fraser, Associate Minister - Public Safety and Associate Minister - Recovery and Reconstruction of High River.
While it is the role of political parties to whip up controversy or “live on the edge”, we as citizens should insist that they stick to the facts and the data.
Unfortunately, we have a basic law of democracy that pervades our political culture:
Governments in power rely on facts, data and results while opposition parties rely on emotion and never the twain shall meet.
Also unfortunately, emotions sway people much more easily and effectively than facts.
If one examines Associate Minister Fraser’s record, whether it be in regards to new schools being built in Calgary SE, his tireless efforts in High River (very few people would have wanted this difficult job) and his contributions in other areas, I would posit that his commitment to results and to the people he serves are as good as or better than any politician we will find.
If you examine his expense disclosure reports, they are extremely modest at best, especially given the portfolios he holds as Associate Minister.
And so I would suggest that if other parties are going to take on any incumbent, especially one with a strong track record and a commitment to service, that they do so with specific, measurable counters to the actions, intentions and results of the incumbent and not imply that “dirt” is present when there likely isn’t any for the individual in question.
I also understand that Associate Minister Fraser was allegedly confronted by senior Wildrose Party officials in regards to allegations of corruption and when he reacted strongly about the perceived personal attack, the Wildrose officials backed off and said “We’re not talking about you. We are referring to members of the PC Party”.
I don’t know about you, but when someone slags a private citizen as being potentially corrupt, it sounds like the basis for a slander or liable suit to me.
And while we’re on the subject of revisionism or accusations
I posted on a Wildrose Party official’s Facebook page, asking if the “hogs from the trough” campaign was legitimate and while he admitted that it was, he also altered part of the content of my message. I questioned why he did it and he responded that he found it interesting that it was possible and that it was good to know such things.
While I’m not sure that the ability to do this is useful (or should even be allowed) and while his alteration was in gest, it caused me to think about social media and it’s powerful influence in the political sphere. With this in mind and with the intention of proving a point, I in turn changed a Facebook interaction I had with him (with names blanked out for privacy) from this:
I’ve transformed him from an innocent commenter on a benign post into a traitorous tool against his own party (which I know he is not but subsequent posters to this post will sure be surprised to see his sudden political reversal).
The Bottom Line
We all know that emotion is a more useful and valuable tool than any amount of facts and data. The sad reality is that most people are so busy making their way from one day to the next that they don’t have time to listen to, understand or comprehend the overwhelming amount of data thrown at them daily (although curiously enough, many of these same people can cite an amazing amount of info regarding the next iPhone). I mused about the power of emotion in regards to manipulating people in my post Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation.
However, if we don’t take the time to actually pay attention to the information being sent our way (or to the words that people are putting into our mouths as in my fun little Facebook experiment), then anything is possible.
And the fact that anything is possible does not imply or guarantee that the result is necessarily a positive one.
Nor does it come with a money back guarantee when we cry foul that we didn’t pay attention the first time nor did we read the fine print.
Remember this when someone comes to your door with emotion-laden rhetoric (regardless of the party affiliation) but with no data:
Propaganda: What lies behind us and lies before us are small matters compared to what lies right to our faces.
As the great philosopher Elmer Fudd once said:
Be ve-w-w-wy, ve-w-w-wy careful.
Especially when it comes to information, its sources, the medium used to deliver it and the intention behind it.
In service and servanthood,
PS My unwitting accomplice in my Facebook example is a good family man, a strong volunteer in his community and believes strongly in his political ideals. He is what I believe to be a strong contributor to society. My example was meant to demonstrate how social media can easily twist a good person into something else. Be cautious about how you embrace social media.
It is important to define how you use social media – don’t allow it to use or define you.
It is also important to avoid generalizations, especially when describing individuals. Efforts to tar everyone with a single brush often do more damage to the person wielding the brush than it does the intended subject.