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Here’s a promise: I’m keeping score.
As we head towards the fall election, I’m going to keep a careful watch on what politicians are saying, especially on social media — because, like it or not, social media seems to be the place where campaigns seem happiest to play fast and loose with the truth.
Already, there have been clear instances where one party or another “reminds” us of something a politician on the other side has said.
Except it’s not something the other politician has said at all — it’s a massively torqued version of what they said.
I’m going to use an example of one — this one, from the Conservatives, though they are far from alone in twisting the facts to suit their own ends.
A tweet from the Tories, retweeted by Andrew Scheer, said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “said that members of ISIS who return to Canada can be ‘extraordinarily powerful’ voices.”
Well … the quote they are referring to, in its entirety, was Trudeau saying, “There’s a range of experiences when people come home. We know that actually someone who has engaged and turned away from that hateful ideology can be an extraordinarily powerful voice for preventing radicalization in future generations and younger people in the community.” (Trudeau’s comments were made during a CTV interview on Dec. 15, 2017.)
You might agree with Trudeau’s view; you might not. But if you think that the Conservative shorthand accurately represents what Trudeau said, well, I wouldn’t want you transcribing anything I was saying.
Point is, recent elections have proven that politicians can play far faster and looser with the truth than they could in the past. People who already support your political party will apparently gobble it up indiscriminately and happily regurgitate it to anyone in their orbit; others will (wrongly) believe that if it wasn’t true, you wouldn’t be allowed to say it (so it must be true); and a third group, those who don’t like your politics anyway, aren’t going to be swayed to your side regardless.
And believe me, it’s not only the Conservatives who are using half-truths to try and garner support. I’m only using them because this particular example is such clear-cut fearmongering.
The problem is, the road from half-truths and misquotes to outright lies is a short one, and the water’s getting tested every day.
And I can’t do anything about that. I get told on a weekly basis that I’m a tool of some political party, another outright lie — but like so many lies, something that those who already don’t like what I say will use to try and discredit me.
“I’m going to keep score of every torqued statement or outright lie that any party, its leader or its candidates makes about opposing parties or politicians.”
What I can do, however, is what I said at the top of this column.
I’m going to keep score of every torqued statement or outright lie that any party, its leader or its candidates makes about opposing parties or politicians.
And I’m going to use that liar’s index to decide which federal party actually deserves my vote.
Politicians are only using these tactics because we let them — because we don’t do our research, and because we don’t spend enough time calling them out for zippy misleading or outright false social media snippets.
When we don’t care enough to even challenge a lie, we’re pretty much saying that we have no problem being lied to. We’ve seen what the result of that can be: we need look no further than to the south of us, where the president of the United States makes things up — things that are immediately, provably false — on a daily basis.
We don’t need that kind of politics in this country.
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 36 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @wangersky.
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