Green plan spurs online tactics
Yesterday on my local CBC Radio morning show, bloggers Stephen Taylor and Jason Cherniak (Conservative and Liberal, respectively) were described as being "as influential as the mainstream media." Beyond having their own websites, these bloggers also run large, aggregate sites that assemble a wide variety of blogs of the same political stripes: www.bloggingtories.ca and www.liblogs.ca.
Taylor, true to form, was busy at his computer last night, putting together a knock-off of the Liberals' Green-Shift website. Taylor's is called www.theshiftygreen.ca and it is laid out exactly like the Liberal one, including the little tabs where you can "meet," "share," "support" and "calculate." If you click on the "calculate" tab, you get an opinion piece from John Williamson of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation, who seemed to be sharing talking points with the Conservatives yesterday when called upon to comment on TV about the Liberals' plan. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised by the allegiance - Jason Kenney, the government's designated spokesperson on the green shift, was the head of the taxpayers' federation in his previous life.
It should also tell us that the Conservatives, wise to the ways of the digital world, have organized a viral attack/response for the Liberals' green shift, complete with spokespersons in interest groups. Liberals, however, are also doing the same. Cherniak describes the "unprecedented" way the party prepped its spokespersons across the country for the green-shift announcement:
"Yesterday, the Liberal Party held an unprecedented briefing for Liberals across the country. Starting around 6 p.m. EST, there were simultaneous online presentations and conference calls to explain the most important part of the plan to candidates, riding presidents and donors. To the extent that bloggers fit into those categories (and most do), we also received briefings. These briefings even included personalized logins. As a result, the Liberal Party knows who each individual was who joined the conference and who was invited but did not attend. I was quite impressed with this massive effort at real grassroots democracy and I hope the story on how the logistics worked and who was responsible comes out some day."
I'm told that the Liberals deliberately courted potential critics or skeptics for these briefings, too.
What does this all mean for us in the mainstream media? It means we have to range farther than Parliament Hill or prime ministerial scrums for reaction to big policy announcements. The more the message spreads, the more these events look staged and predictable. (Though it's always fun to see a prime minister call something "insane." Never let it be said that Stephen Harper doesn't like intelligent debate.)