Twitter: A Politician’s Best Friend

Kirsten Ehlers - 1B Biomedical
Posted on: February 20, 2019

Twitter has irreversibly changed the political landscape. Most notably, there is the rhetoric of Donald Trump. Doug Ford has some fun tweets to read too. However, this is not just a dilemma for conservative politicians.

On February 3rd, Liberal MP Adam Vaughan from Toronto tweeted:

“Next he will go after young offenders & end “free school” in detention centres … Instead of playing whack-a-mole; Let’s just whack him.”

The tweet was inspired by Doug Ford’s statement that he was going to cut the full-day Kindergarten program. However, Adam Vaughan argued that the Kindergarten cut-back was a ploy to keep Ontarians distracted from the cut-backs to OSAP for university students.

After the tweet, Vaughan retweeted images of Doug Ford’s face on the moles of the popular Whack A Mole game. Moreover, the joke continued when Vaughan tweeted that a lawyer representing the moles of Ontario did not appreciate the comparison.

People got very upset that Vaughan was implying harm against the current Premier of Ontario. However, others argue that the tweet was a funny joke.

The question is: what standards must a politician uphold when tweeting?

If your average Ontarian tweeted what Vaughan tweeted, would it be different? Surely, the backlash wouldn’t be a result of an average tweet. Maybe individuals should step back a take the joke. It’s not a big deal.

On the other hand, the tweet could be interpreted to incite violence against the premier. Whacking does mean harm. In fact, the definition states that it could lead to the killing of someone.

Society is experiencing an upward trend of political correctness. That is a whole debate in itself. Meanwhile, politics is transcending the legislature. Social media is a crucial platform to inform and communicate with voters.

The problem with twitter is that communication is instant. There is no need for comments to be screened before they posted. Some people like that. It gives insight into who politicians really are as opposed to the sentiments of their campaign coordinators. However, this tweet would have never been seen as an appropriate statement by an MP. And asking Ford to be ‘whacked’ isn’t exactly kind words.

Maybe there’s no space for political correctness in politics. Maybe politicians, including influential ones should be allowed to say anything they want on-line. Even if it is offensive, the only thing they are destroying is their own careers.

In this context, the tweet doesn’t seem to be a big deal. It was a joke and Doug Ford isn’t necessarily the most well-liked individual in politics right now.

What if that comment was applied to another individual or a group of people? Is it perceived as a threat then? What if Adam Vaughan used A Duck Hunt shooting metaphor instead. (Duck hunt is another arcade game where players try to shoot ducks down from a wall). It’s a joke, but telling the public to shoot the Premier is way out of line.

I’m not saying that this tweet is wrong, or even right. What I’m saying is that there is a serious need for some rules to be made. What is appropriate to tweet on-line? Do we hold politicians to higher standards than ourselves? Is the intention more appropriate than the words themselves?

The point is that Twitter is changing the face of politics. 180 characters can lose or gain a vote for a politician. So what is really okay to tweet online?

There are no comments yet, add one below.

Leave a Comment