Idiotes, all of them

October 14, 2008

Most Canadians go to the polls today to elect their 40th Parliament, after what is probably the country’s nastiest election campaign since the early 20th Century. What is most remarquable about it is the discovery by political parties that you can be much nastier on the Internet than on TV.

As usual, about 4 Canadians in 10 won’t vote, despite the incredible sums of money spent by the parties and Elections Canada to get them interested. Along with the word ‘democracy’, the 5th Century B.C. Athenians invented a word for citizens who did not get involved in the city’s political life: Idiotes.

The word survived in many languages, but somehow we lost the meaning. A shame.


Netroots and Netroops – post 2

September 2, 2008

Prof Elmer reports on a conversation between Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and the party bloggers. Looks like Dion is mobilizing his Netroops.

Also see: Netroots and Netroops.

Manning and the Cirque du Soleil

August 23, 2008

Preston Manning has an op-ed in the Globe and Mail this morning, putting on the table a few concepts to improve Canada’s parliamentary system: establishing primaries, referendum ballots – the usual.

The text is rather bad. The ideas feel half-formed and he takes half the space talking about the Cirque du Soleil, trying to make a comparison that doesn’t fly. One gets the impression the former Reform leader is bored with the current state of Canadian politics and hopes for something more entertaining, not necessarily more effective.

Still, the fact that Manning would put those ideas forward illustrates that Canada’s conservative movement is confident that its ideas would prevail in an environment where citizens are offered a more direct role in the policy-making process. Not necessarily because they think most people already agree with those ideas, but because they are confident in their ability to convince them, through their use of Netroops, judicious use of war chest money and the dynamism or their grassroots. Interesting.

Netroots and Netroops

August 5, 2008

Prof Greg Elmer is back from the Personal Democracy Forum in NYC and shares some thoughts with the readers of The Hill Times (the Canadian one), and with those readers only, since the text is shyly hiding behind HT’s subscription firewall.

The temptation to just cut-and-paste the text here is almost overwhelming, but I’ll be strong and urge you to buy, borrow or steal a copy. Here’s the teaser version:

Elmer starts off by quoting “American broadcaster and new media guru Douglas Rushkoff” (watch his invocation), who talked about the tensions between genuine online activists (Netroots) and political operatives using the same methods to bring partisan politics up to speed with the Internet age (let’s call them Netroops for fun).

Elmer mentions the Tories were the first out of the digital gate, urging their supporters to get active online and rewarding the most visible ones. He goes on to say that while Canada’s election finances regulations forces those party activists to keep an arms-length relationship with party machinery, but…

“The Blogging Tories’ first flashy and professional looking website mocking the Liberal Green Shift campaign raises questions about whether new campaigning funds are already trickling into established online party activist coffers, a point Stephen Taylor recently refuted. A well-known internet programmer, Taylor estimated that the costs of his shifty green website were “minimal,” and that the required software cost him about $10.”

And why should we care? Because…

As Ottawa finally starts to move to issue-based political debate, focusing on various tax and environment policies, future elections will likely see a new crop of net activists moving beyond parody, symbolic and first-person politics to a decidedly more interventionist brand of netroots online political activism and campaigning.

Although I’m not too thrilled with the way the “issue-based political debate” is shaping up, the good professor might be right.

UPDATE: On his blog, Elmer is responding to Jonathan Malloy’s opinion piece on the primacy of Parliament on public debate and why a politician can still understand Internet culture without ever going online. Sure, I’m making fun of Mr. Malloy’s text (some interesting points in there), but it’s so badly written that I feel he deserves it.

See also: Netroots and Netroops – post 2