Sunday, October 17, 2010

Heavens to Betsy; More Scandal?

Was there anyone really surprised to wake in the morning greeted, in Edmonton at least, by David Dorward's huge face on the front cover of their newspaper?

For those who aren't aware, the big story today, the day before Edmonton's Municipal election, is about "Darrensbigscoop" a blog run by a man calling himself  "Darren Holmes"  who phoned up several people, councillors for city hall, etc., claiming to be the Seattle Times, even going so far as to get a fake phone number with the appropriate area code, and harassing them under the guise of an "interview". During  this time, he posted that Mayor Mandel had stolen the airport for unethical reasons and several other libellous allegations.

The fallout? Dorward has criticized the man, whose name is actually Nathan Black, saying he was disappointed it took attention away from the real issues, and that he was no longer welcome to volunteer with Dorward's campaign. The Seattle Times is considering suing. Mayor Mandel suggested that once the election is over he would talk about a lawsuit with his lawyers. The blog has run itself out, it has since been taken down, but will continue to putter around, converting feeble minds who can't be bothered to google for veracity. Envision Edmonton has kept him, however, implying that it was just high spirits, and that he had worked "tirelessly throughout the petition campaign organizing events and coordinating volunteers" (Edmonton Journal, Ed Kaiser, October 17th, 2010), which sounds a bit like keeping a rabid, incontinent terrier because it looks so cute on the sofa.

The consequences here are two-fold: 1) It is infuriating that weblogs, already of shaky reliability and reputation, are taking another hit to their credibility in the form of some twit who thought he could get away with such, if  not preposterous, goofy allegations. To be precise, I am aware that I don't garner as much respect as a legitimate journalist, but I do pride myself on accuracy, and situations like this seriously hamper my wilful suspension of disbelief. (Sometimes I have to wrap myself in newsprint, wearing a fedora, and say things like "Just the fact, Ma'am", so I can feel better) however, 2) I do appreciate that people might start to get an inkling of where the line between gossip and facts are. It is strange the proportion of people who will hear something passed on in the darkened tones of a conspirator, and our inner story teller loves a good scandal, but there must be a point where common sense kicks in. It is unlikely, given the firestorm that has raged over this airport, that something so simple could have been overlooked so egregiously. Not to say impossible since it remains to be seen whether the people of Edmonton are the only one who will be benefiting from the closure, as Mandel suggests, and we may never know what the true motivation was (A posteriori motivation is notoriously slimy), but the benefits of being the faceless voting masses is this: We don't care.
When it comes to decisions, motivations, and results, the only thing that matters to 'we, the people', is results. That's the tricky matter about being Mayor. Mea culpa just means you get to know why we turf you. Although it is considered a mark of humility and graciousness for people in office to admit when they were wrong, in the long run, it doesn't change a thing.

These things aside, one thing I think voters should take away from this whole affair is that we should not let volatile situations build up. This is a hazard present in running an election as a one-issue race; It's exploitable. Imagine where we'd be if we believed this story? Howling for a man's blood when we have no clue what is really going on. On the other hand, advanced voter turnout is over twice was it was last election, so if scandal is what encourages people to get out there and cast a ballot? Game on!

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