Unacceptable

I was sent this video by a friend who wanted to bring it to my attention. I’m glad that he did because the video speaks a few lessons and appeals to me on a few levels.

First, watch the video:

Also, watch the comments (here and here) for more context.

If the context presented in the video is truthful and complete, then this sort of practice is unacceptable.

As someone that follows politics, as a democrat, a grassroots conservative, and a blogger that occasionally films items of interest for my readers, I find the events that unfolded in the video disgraceful.

Last week, I was called by a reporter at the Toronto Star asking how blogging and “YouTube” will change the next election. Of course, I’m becoming almost evangelical about blogging, video blogging, and their roles within an open democracy. The most striking evolution that I highlighted was that the cost of video recording, editing, processing and delivery is dropping at such a rate that almost anyone with a hobby-like (or less) dedication to the medium can use the tools. The effect of blogging is similar; the act of publishing one’s thoughts to a worldwide audience is now next to nil. Case in point: the lowest barrier to overcome is the public library’s internet access. In Canada, every citizen is entitled to participate in democracy. Classically, for most this has meant filling out an “X” next to their candidate of choice, every time an election is called. However, blogging enables greater participation, direct action and political participation by contributing to the many debates, advocating on the various issues and holding our public officials to account.

In this age, one does not need to be an “accredited” member of the press, an “approved” opinion maker, or a “certified” talking head to have a “value-added” role in politics and in our democratic process. Indeed, I have been struggling to define and understand what it means to be some of all three in the political process over the past few years.

For Scott Ross, the harassment that he faced from local Conservatives at the Open House was unacceptable. And political parties should take note. Ross’ video will cause more damage to a party that has campaigned on transparency than any footage that he could have recorded from locals complaining about the budget or any other policy. As I told the reporter from the Toronto Star, video/audio recording is becoming ubiquitous. When one pairs this with democratic participation, we all benefit. Parties not only ought be mindful of the now famous “macaca” moment, as Sen. George Allen (R-VA) experienced during the ’06 campaign, but they should never be seen to be restrictive of a constituent with a camera in an open community forum.

The “Youtube” effect will do much to amplify any mistake and any hypocrisy encountered on or off the campaign trail. Perhaps this will have a positive effect on weeding out candidates that don’t walk the walk and talk the talk when they are in less guarded situations such as town halls or coffee parties.

Is this situation limited to local Conservative riding associations? Of course not. Those with control (whether earned or not) and those that wish to retain control are in the position to do as the Conservatives of Kelowna-Lake Country did to Ross. Personally, I’ve witnessed the same on many levels including, but not limited to the Liberal Party, the Parliamentary Press Gallery and the sandbox of university student council politics.

If we are to practice what we preach, we ought to be removing the barriers to our political representatives and those that wish to become them. A free press is a free press, no matter how it is becoming redefined.

UPDATE: Never trust a Liberal? Mel Wilde gives his account. Apparently he was there: I sat at the next table from the guys who wanted to disrupt the meeting. The video was out of context and only covered what the Ross wanted. For those of us who went to the meeting for the opportunity to talk to our M.P., we lost out. It was obvious that these people were organized and committed to disrupt. Folks do have freedom to protest, but should they have license to prevent others from participating in a meeting called to allow discussion with an M.P.? Makes me want to go disrupt the next Liberal Party meeting. I won’t because I respect the rights of others, Which Ross obviosly does not.

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