The Weekly Writ for Apr. 19: Don't try to win Twitter
Plus, the Ontario Liberals set a date, the Conservatives lead nationwide, and the story of a Manitoba NDP dynasty that came to an end.
Welcome to the Weekly Writ, a round-up of the latest federal and provincial polls, election news and political history that lands in your inbox every Wednesday morning.
It’s sad to see what’s been happening to Twitter over the last few months.
Because I owe a lot to Twitter.
I got started in political analysis 15 years ago when I launched ThreeHundredEight.com. It was a pretty amateurish affair at first, but over time it developed a small following — and it grew with the help of Twitter after I joined the platform in early 2010.
Later that year, I reached a crossroads where I had to make a choice: start earning a real living from my political and polling analysis or do something else. Effectively a cold call, I emailed a political editor at The Globe and Mail and inquired about writing for the newspaper. It was a long shot, but this political editor followed me on Twitter. Maybe he’d give me a chance. (He did.)
Twitter helped me find and grow my audience. It was also a great networking tool, as journalists, pollsters and politicos use Twitter far more than the general public does. I was able to interact with them and build relationships. A lot of the people I know today I first “met” through Twitter.
So, it’s really unfortunate to see how the social media site has spiralled.
The spat between Elon Musk and the CBC is just the latest example of this race to the bottom.
Regardless of the accuracy of the “government-funded media” tag that Twitter added to the CBC’s main account, the notion that the CBC “may have varying degrees of government involvement over editorial content”, according to Twitter’s definition of a government-funded media, is completely false.
Some of you might believe that the partisan hue of the government has an indirect influence over the CBC’s journalism — that the CBC goes easier on Liberals than it does on Conservatives. I don’t think that’s the case (and “the CBC” is not a monolith), but whether any media outlet goes easier on one party over another is subjective.
However, the “may have varying degrees of government involvement over editorial content” is objectively untrue. I worked there for seven years and I can tell you that at no point did we get any sort of direction from government. There’s no daily email from the PMO going out to the newsroom telling us what to say or do. There was no pressure coming from editorial leaders about what angle we should take on an issue as a result of a government directive.
It’s simply not how things work. (And if it did, I assure you that it wouldn’t have stayed quiet for long.)
Rather than take the punch, get into an argument or try to bring others down with them (lots of media outlets in Canada receive government funding), CBC/Radio-Canada made the laudable decision to simply walk away from Twitter.
I didn’t think they’d have the guts.
That Musk has since changed the label to “70% government-funded media” and subsequently “69% government-funded” (hur hur, get it?) shows the CBC is right to have little faith they’ll be treated fairly by Musk.
CBC made the mature call: don’t try to win Twitter.
I’ve learned and forgotten this lesson all too often. Attempts to argue a point inevitably end in a cesspool of bad-faith responses, misinterpretations, personal attacks and pile-ons. No minds are changed. People who disagree with you assume the worst (or are bots) and people who agree with you are just looking for a confirmation of what they already believe (or are bots).
There’s no point in trying to win Twitter. Twitter isn’t real life. And if you try to win Twitter in real life, you’ll run into real problems.
That brings me to Pierre Poilievre — who seems to be trying very hard to win Twitter these days.
His sarcastic letter to the “rapporteur” had the energy of a snarky tweet printed on official letterhead. His celebration of Musk’s decision to affix a label to the CBC, which he had requested in an earlier tweet, is the kind of thing that will baffle the majority of Canadians who do not regularly use Twitter. (Only 22% of Canadians do, according to Abacus Data’s David Coletto.)
There’s his recent interaction with a young Canadian Press reporter, in which he challenged her about CP’s funding (which comes from other media organizations, including the CBC) and questioned if she had checked with the ethics commissioner (who has as much sway among journalists as he or she does with your local car mechanic) about whether she was in a conflict of interest.
It was the kind of response that does gangbusters among Poilievre’s Twitter following, but probably leaves the rest of the Canadian public wondering why this aspiring prime minister is bothering with something so inane — and in such a needlessly petulant way.
Perfect for Twitter. Not ideal for the real world.
Maybe this won’t hurt Poilievre’s chances if voters decide they are done with Justin Trudeau (the latest reporting from the “propaganda arm of the Liberal Party” won’t help him). But I suspect that the mushy middle of the Canadian electorate that decides elections doesn’t want more snark in their politics. In the real world, trying to win Twitter could cost Poilievre the only win that really matters.
Now, to what is in this week’s instalment of the Weekly Writ:
News on when the Ontario Liberals will get a new leader, the new logo for BC United and another name is added to the long list of Toronto mayoral candidates.
Polls show the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals, plus some new numbers out of B.C. and Alberta.
A virtual tie in every way if the election were held today.
Calgary-Elbow riding profile.
An NDP dynasty ends in Manitoba in the #EveryElectionProject.