Discord over discourse

"When you get in public life, you take the good and you take the bad. So people will say what they want about the people who are in public life. The challenge is when the things that are said about me are visited on my nephews, my nieces, my sons when they were growing up. That is not good for public life." That's what Gordon Campbell told reporters last week during a news conference following his decision to resign. And he's right - "We all have to raise our game...And we have to learn how we have discussions about things without personalizing." But I have deep concerns about where this particular line of thought begins and ends.

Too often, I think, many politicians bemoan the state of public discourse not because of its ocassional ugliness but because they dislike the scrutiny that comes with being an elected official - having their motivations questioned and their backgrounds investigated. But that's democracy. And, in a democracy, even the righteous can and, indeed, must be tested.

Moreover, let us not pretend all those who occupy higher office are there for higher reasons. Because while it's true many are, there are many who are not and still more who have no reason to be there - except as the next step in their career or out of despite for their opponents. And let me clear: that applies to both sides of the political aisle in this province.

As such, we should be wary of being too quick to heed the advice of the scrutinized when it comes to determining what is acceptable in public discourse and what is not. Because, for them, that advice may not solely be in the service of the public interest. It may also be in the service of their private interest. And to ignore that duality is a dangerously establishmentarian position to take.

5 Comments

Good observations. I must say it is disappointing to see how personal the attacks become, e.g. look at the comments on many of the mainstram media newspaper reports on Campbell.

When government uses its giant spending power to spread its own version of reality and rewards the mainstream media for its cooperation through lucrative advertising contracts, they should not complain when people whose voices are drowned out raise the temperature of discussion. Campbell and his friends have spent literally hundreds of millions of public dollars for their own information and disinformation campaigns. The Premier has immediate and near unlimited access to almost every instrument of media in the province.


If, while standing firmly on their own platforms, Campbell or media pros like Bill Good complain about impolite bloggers interfering with public debate, they are talking utter nonsense. What is happening in fact is that alternative media, whether Public Eye, The Tyee, Vancouver Observer or blogs like mine (Northern Insights) have a steadily growing audience. People benefiting from old mainstream media do not welcome the new realstream media and its broad collection of alternative points of view.

Those of us who truly believe in democracy also believe that information should flow freely among citizens. It is appropriate for the powerful to have their feet held to the fires of accountability. If they cannot take the heat, they should be gone.

Okay, I've kept mum on this. In part because I've said some strident things in my day. But to see the left just run wild with what was & is a balanced editorial is just too much.

I just wonder if its necessary to call someone who changes their mind for legit reasons a "liar"?

I just wonder if its necessary to keep penalizing and picking on online a politician who got tolerance books into a cirriculum against the very strident wishes of her mentor?

I just wonder if its necessary to say the Premier "campaigns in a bubble" and then lie about making personal attacks?

I just wonder if its necessary to post this comment on Bill Tielman's blog: "HE IS OUR SPECIAL OLYMPIAN PREMIER HE WINS THE GORDALLION! HE GIVES EVEN DOWNS SYNDROME A BAD NAME WHAT A SCREWED UP MUG THE EYES SAYS IT ALL PASS ME ANOTHER DRINK FOLKS!!"

I just wonder if its necessary to call people who disagree "destroyer of humanity", drunk, "liar", bigoted, "the three stooges" of the Ledge, etcetera?

I'll stop there. Some of you need to take a long look in the mirror. Most of you preach "tolerance" and think a certain brunette Cabinet minister is a bigot who had to say, “it’s ironic that those who are preaching tolerance have become very intolerant in this instance.” I salute the Premier and the B.C. Cabinet for taking the stands they do.

Thank you.

If Mr Campbell had not lied to the public over and over again...he would not be called a liar...if that spills over to his extended family...I wonder whose fault that is...certainly not those who found him out and called him out...perhaps he should apologise to his " nephews, ...nieces, ...sons" for lying to the public...it would not have happened in the first place had he been truthful...In the end though the lesson is a good one...if you lie...you will be caught...and you will probably have to quit your job...and lose credibility and respect...

kmdyson | November 9, 2010 12:08 PM

Bluntly put, I came forward with many specific incidents of inappropriate comments - quite a few in quotes. You lob a generic attack. Perhaps you need to cite the incidences of lying with specific evidence to be credible.

Perhaps some of you guys on the left need to learn when to bite down on your anger & prejudice. Seriously.

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