A Message From A Fellow Disbeliefer

So, you finally got fed up enough with our mayor’s antics that you took to the streets yesterday. Made a sign and headed off to Nathan Phillips Square to demand his resignation. tumbleweedFour thousand strong according to Facebook.


But a fraction of that. Four hundred? Three hundred? A hundred? Seventy-five?

Right-wing supporters of the mayor mocked you via the same social media that promised you droves of people out to protest. Don’t let that discourage you. If four thousand people had turned out, those same voices would’ve brushed it off as nothing more than ‘the usual suspects’ and then given you the number of people who voted for Rob Ford in 2010, doubled it and added a couple zeros. Six hundred million. The largest mandate in the history of democracy.

There is a more essential take away lesson from this, however.mockery

As much as it pains me to say this, the importance of social media, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, remains only a small fraction of our democratic process. I’d like to think a valuable and growing component but a minor one nonetheless. Currently, it punches below its weight.

Speaking from personal experience, exclusive reliance on social media makes us lazy participants in our own democracy. It’s virtual engagement. So far, virtual engagement has won no elections.

It is about boots on the ground and getting people interested and out to vote. Not for nothing was former mayoral candidate and political something something, John Nunziata, on Twitter earlier today, taunting the efforts of those at Nathan Phillips Square. “Majority of those clammering for the Mayor’s resignation,” he opined, “didn’t even vote in the last election and are unlikely to vote in the next.”

I don’t know how exactly Mr. Nunziata knows that. apathyHe certainly didn’t back up the assertion anywhere but he is on to something. Turnout is key in any election. While 2010 was unusually high for a municipal election, it was barely over 50%. Anger has to result in action. Otherwise, it’s just anger.

Let’s assume that, barring any further damaging revelations (and that’s not a bet I would make), Mayor Ford gets through this term and runs for re-election in 2014. It will do no good for anyone not wanting to see him get another kick at the can to stand around in disbelief at the possibility, to rail against those who are still in his corner, thinking he’s the greatest mayor ever. To cross your fingers and pray to god a plurality of Torontonians come to their senses.

Yesterday at Nathan Phillips Square has to be viewed as just the beginning. Anger into action. civicengagement2The boots on the ground have to be our boots on the ground. Getting out there to convince people what’s at stake, why it’s important for them to pay attention to what’s been going on and why they have to vote. We must connect to those who didn’t take the time to get involved last time out, and those who thought the city needed someone like Rob Ford to be mayor and now aren’t so convinced that was a good idea.

Most importantly, we need to connect to them and with them, face-to-face and not just on Facebook.

hopefully helpfully submitted by Cityslikr

Today We Storify

Trying out a little something different today, piecing together a story using our Twitter feed.

What?! Twitter? A story? How does that work?

Well, I’m pretty new at this myself  but it goes something like… [click on link below]

Anatomy of a Smear

storifiedly submitted by Cityslikr

Constructive Disengagement

I am swearing off futile Twitter fights. Again.

In January, I resolved to do just that. Our friend David Hains wagered I wouldn’t stay quiet more than a couple weeks. His guess was off wildly. I was back at it in a matter of hours, not content to just let stupidity, ill-informed opinions and spinning smears go unanswered.

My rational was a variation of the quote attributed to Mark Twain, A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Even the most egregious untruth and piece of outright fiction can gain traction if not aggressively contested. Don’t let bullshit lie.

I’m not unaware of the niche market Twitter currently occupies in terms of social media in general and political discourse specifically. Edward Keenan wrote about the divide between the on the ground reality and Twitter bubble in The Grid last month. What may seem of the utmost importance to those of us getting much of our Toronto political news via Twitter is but a passing blip on the radar of a great majority of the city voters.

So don’t sweat the small stuff, I guess I’m saying.

Besides, I’m referring to the mindless, robotic, ideologically rigid wall of nonsense that I no longer think worth engaging with. On Friday I was having some Monty Python back and forth with Sol Chrom and was reminded of the I’d Like to Buy An Argument sketch. “That’s not an argument. That’s contradiction.” “No it isn’t.” “Yes it is.”

This is what I’m attempting to avoid. Why continue a conversation if you already know what the response is going to be? It’s not so much informed discussion where ideas are batted back and forth on the way to forging an agreement. Ironically, that occurs more between those on the left of centre bubble on Twitter than it does across the entrenched partisan divide.

No it isn’t. Yes it is. No it isn’t. It is too you, you lying sack of shit. Repeat and escalate.

There were a couple instances over the last few days where a Twitter argument descended into little more than ad hominen nastiness and vituperative outbursts. To what end? Oh guess what? So-and-so is racist/homophobic/misogynist/fill in your hater of choice here. No shit, Sherlock. Tell us something we don’t know.

It’s ultimately not only a time and energy suck. It’s also more than a little soul deflating. There’s always going to be rank odium existing out there, always surprising and always more pronounced and widespread than you ever imagined possible. Why bother giving it a platform? Don’t hand it a louder voice or the impression of legitimacy by continually responding to it. You already know what the answer is going to be. Nothing’s going to change it.

That’s not to say I don’t want an open and lively debate with those I am not politically simpatico with. Yes, please. But I’m simply not getting it on Twitter currently. Hell, at the municipal level, I’m of the opinion that right wing conservatives simply don’t have it in them to put forth a reasoned, fact based case, taking their cue from Team Ford. We Deserve A Subway is an assertion that needs no numbers or facts to back it up. It’s simply an unsubstantiated declarative that has little interest in consensus or compromise.

So I’ll go about my Twitter business with an eye open for those with differing opinions or who take exceptions to mine, hoping to have a civil discussion but willing to shut it down at the first sign of mindless intransigence. Like this one, that came up on Thursday. A name showed up on the #TOpoli feed I didn’t recognize. Their tweet declared a big fat NO! to road tolls with the claim that motorists already pay more than their fair share for the privilege of driving. I replied suggesting I’d like to see some numbers, studies to back that up. (Hint: probably an impossible request.) A day or so later what I got into my feed was No road toll for Toronto Liberals to waste.

Yeah, OK. So we’re done here. What’s the use of pursuing that line of circular reasoning and baseless opinion? It only leads to burning disappointment and befouled discourse that further digs already intractable divisions.

That’s not something I really set out to contribute when I began writing about municipal politics. So, I’m out of the Twitter tit-for-tat. I’d appreciate it if you remind me of this pledge if I break down and stray from the path.


seriously submitted by Cityslikr