Too illustrative, too offensive? The Liberal comms strategy on this IS full of holes I’m sorry to say.
Yesterday, I went on Evan Soloman’s Power & Politics show to talk Photoshop faux-pas and the illustration that was put on the Liberal Party website showing the PM in a Liberal partisan “assassination fantasy”. I mentioned that ad hominem always fails in communications; personal attacks such as the Liberal photoshop failed and the Conservative poopin’ puffin failed too.
Soloman mentioned another illustration (which was not available at airtime) of “bullet holes” around Stephane Dion’s head that appeared on the Conservative Party website.
Here is the is the illustration in question, held up by Kinsella on P&P yesterday and today on CTV’s Canada AM:
One of the tools in a web designer’s toolbox is the stock photo. For a buck or two, a designer can grab a professional illustration or photo to accent a base illustration or photo. In this case, a Conservative web designer grabbed a stock photo of
“holes” from a website called iStockphoto (a website I highly recommend, btw).
Here is the image from iStockphoto:
and the name of the file on the iStockphoto website? Not “Bullet Holes” but “Paper Holes“:
Holes in Dion’s plan, holes in Dion’s platform?
Why do the Liberals only see death?
Let’s consider the process of the Liberal apology:
1) An apology from “The Web Team” at Liberal.ca if the assassination photoshop may have offended some people.
2) An apology from Ralph Goodale suggesting that social media does not allow for editorial control. This is so absolutely wrong and misleading. The Liberal.ca photoshop contest had a screening process (ie. “editorial control”)
3) An accusation from Warren Kinsella that the other guys are just as bad so let’s all just forget the Liberal transgression.
When the poopin puffin was released, the Prime Minister apologized to Stephane Dion. When will Michael Ignatieff apologize to Stephen Harper for a mock assassination photo that appeared on the Liberal leader’s website?
In the dark world of politicking, political gamemanship and attacks on political opponents, the new Liberals are a bit more sophisticated that their purged Dionista bretheren. With the backdrop of a global economic crisis, governments working together to “rescue” (that’s another debate) the worldwide economy through spending and bailouts, political parties in Canada are somewhat reluctant to play partisan games to avoid being cast in a bad light themselves among the voting public that does not have an appetite for attacks.
For this reason, the Conservatives post-Dion have been relatively quiet on defining the new Leader of the Opposition. Every opposition leader from Manning to Day to Harper and yes, Mr. Dion, has been ruthlessly defined by the governing party of the time. We have yet to see the Conservatives unload on Mr. Ignatieff with even a hint of the fire they rained down on the hapless Stephane Dion.
No party can been seen to have initiated a wave of negativity during this time so perhaps the Conservatives have strategically been holding off on firing the first volley.
Though, as I’m coming to realize, the Liberals may have been sniping at the Conservatives for a few weeks now though as insurgents that have shed their Liberal uniforms.
Take, for example, this video by “theGritGirl”:
theGritGirl joined YouTube on March 10, 2009 but is already cranking out broadcast quality vignette’s attacking the Conservative government. Surely skill doesn’t automatically mean that a big P partisan professionalism is at play here. But go to 9 seconds into the video to committee testimony by Minister Jim Flaherty. If you exist off of the Hill, you might have seen this testimony on CPAC and if you exist on the Hill, you may have seen it on that same channel or through the internal House of Commons feed. Note that this TV-quality feed lacks “CPAC” designation meaning that this video capture likely occurred on the Hill from the House of Commons feed. This professional video (with titles produced with a professional video suite like After Effects) was also first seen on Warren Kinsella’s blog. The lack of CPAC designation and Warren Kinsella’s distribution may mean that the Liberals produced the video and are the first to “go neg” during this time of economic crisis. If the Conservatives are looking for an opening to unleash a barrage against Ignatieff and the Liberals this may be it as their actions would appear to be defensive rather than offensive.
Further to more Liberal attack, we see this entry by Liberal war room chief Kinsella on March 2 featuring a letter from James Turk, the head of the Canadian Association of University Teachers complaining to Minister Goodyear that a staffer told Turk and his colleagues them to “shut up” during a meeting. After looking into this incident, I learned that Turk and his associates had given the Minister a brow-beating for about an hour without bringing up new business (ie. that he hadn’t already read in published op-eds by Turk et al). The letter is carbon copied to Marc Garneau (Liberal S&T critic) Stephen Harper, Tony Clement, and Jim Maloway (NDP S&T critic). The document on Kinsella’s site is a scanned copy of the fax sent to one of those individuals (let’s say Garneau) and then passed onto Kinsella.
In today’s Globe and Mail, we read that Jim Turk has an immediate comment available regarding the balancing of one’s job as Minister of S&T and one’s own personal faith. Here’s Turk,
“The traditions of science and the reliance on testable and provable knowledge has served us well for several hundred years and have been the basis for most of our advancement. It is inconceivable that a government would have a minister of science that rejects the basis of scientific discovery and traditions,”
Outside of Goodyear’s tangential though unwise hedging on evolution, we see this Globe and Mail piece write up Turk on Goodyear without the context of their previous run-in. Turk is presented as an unbiased voice on Goodyear. Also, Turk and Goodyear didn’t spar over Goodyear’s unknown views of a particular field of science or how public policy is or is not informed by those views. Further, this Globe piece is timed perfectly for those that would gain from a Conservative stumble on Goodyear as the government held a high profile event last night honouring NSERC award winners. In communications, that was supposed to be the story that Conservatives wanted whereas, the Liberals got quite a gift today.
Finally, if we check out Kinsella today, we find him going along the same attack as that unleashed against Stockwell Day. Kinsella will be dusting off his Barney doll to chase away religious constituents that Ignatieff is said to be courting.
Have the Conservatives used proxies to level attacks agaist their opponents in the past? Of course. This is nothing new; every political party does it. But in this latest post-Dion, post-economic collapse round of the war where everyone is supposed to rise above, if the Conservatives are holding their fire so they won’t be blamed for playing politics during this economic crisis, the Liberals and their proxies have just given them the green light and the media wouldn’t hold much credibility if they said the Tories fired first.