Two words: why they stuck
Non-Canadians, or apolitical types, might have been confused today when the Canadian Twittersphere exploded with a couple of words lifted from the lead of a Toronto Star story on Rahim Jaffer. I wrote about this burst of activity in a previous post, but I thought it might be worth putting it a bit of context.
First, I'm giving Kady O'Malley (@Kady on Twitter) some credit for an early sighting of those words as rather unusual in a Canadian political story. Early this morning, Kady noted that she might get through her entire journalistic career without ever using that colourful phrase in anything she ever wrote in the future.
And that summed it up -- it isn't every day that political reporting drifts into what Leslie MacKinnon, on CBC's The National described tonight, as akin to a bad mystery novel. Is it sad that a former member of Parliament is accused of peddling non-existent influence in such low-rent circumstances? Yes. Is it at odds with the Harper government's claims to have no truck nor trade with that kind of politics? Of course it is. Will it hurt the career of his wife, the Minister of State for the Status of Women, Helena Guergis? Almost certainly.
So why the hilarity on Twitter today? About two words?
First, I think that there was a bit of journalistic self-deprecation/glee in "playing" with that hashtag today (note to non-Twitter users: this is a way of sorting the little bursts of information and smart remarks, by putting a # sign in front of a word or phrase, so you can search Twitter or arrange your settings to see variations on a theme). It was, as Kady O'Malley noted, a rare adventure to have such a colourful story in politics. The last time I remember something like this was when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor, in the process dumping her boyfriend Peter MacKay, and a subsequent interview in a potato patch. It should be noted that the then opposition leader, Stephen Harper, played right into the melodrama, even agreeing to take part in a hugely awkward football toss on Parliament Hill (sorry, can't find link), to show how he was helping his pal get over the heartbreak. I can't wait to see how he's going to help his minister of state deal with this crushing blow in her personal life.
Second point (sort of like the first) every part of this Guergis/Jaffer story is like a soap opera. Thrown boots, tantrums, arrests -- it's celebrity gossip, TMZ, on Parliament Hill. The fact that we've now got "busty hookers" in the story sent many of us over the edge.
Third, the Twitterverse is the land of smart remarks. At some point today, the challenge was dropped -- make those two words a trending topic (most often cited) on Twitter in Canada. Almost incidental to the root of the story, politicos and journalists took up the challenge; that's a game we can play. The more ridiculous or tendentious the connection, the better. I thoroughly enjoyed the creativity of some entrants.
So is all this proof of some general dumbing-down or lost sight of the real issue here? I don't think so. We'll be back to the more pedestrian reporting and commenting very soon. For instance, when we keep having to report the PMO's very imaginative, oft-repeated "the padlock is locked" thing. (I'm not linking to it here, that's all you need to know about it.) For today, however, thanks to The Star's Kevin Donovan, we were giddily lifted out of the world where politics is all smug men in suits, uttering inane repetition.