Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Inside politics: CityCaucus stifling dissent?

The folks over at CityCaucus recently posted a review of Michael Geller's That Was The Year That Was event, held this Saturday, examining the first year of the Vision council's term in power. From a rather moderate description of the proceedings, this paragraph drew my attention:
Jonathon Ross took shots at CityCaucus.com, saying that we were "too personal" in our attacks. We've written over 1000 posts since last December. Perhaps I misunderstand the term "personal attacks," but to me it's something like Andrea Reimer did on her Twitter post about Rich Coleman. Yes, we focus on elected officials much of the time, and we put what they do and say under the microscope, but I wouldn't classify it as personal attacks. Writing smears that you must take down from your blog afterward, that I would consider personal. Thankfully, there's been none of that here.

My comment on the post:
It's interesting to read three different summaries of the event (yours, JR's and FB's). Mostly consensus on the discussions.

As for personal attacks, perhaps your definition is a bit more narrow than mine, but comments like: "In fact, the only person who couldn't seem to resist throwing political stink bombs was Jim Green. But for Green it's like a nervous tick – he simply cannot help himself." come across as unnecessary personal jabs, if not outright attacks. And that's just one small example from this post.

I should add, your example (Andrea Reimer re: Coleman) is obviously more direct, I don't mean to suggest that the two are equal.

Their response:
You'd have to be pretty thin-skinned to treat this as anything more than observing the obvious. Everyone knows that Green has been a dogged partisan his whole life, and I don't think there's any shame in that.

Give it a rest, Brenton.

My response:

Hmmm, can't find it in their comment section anymore. It was something about how snide remarks could be interpreted as personal attacks, it all depends on how one interprets the phrase. I then pointed out in response to a commenter above me that the NPA (from whence CityCaucus sprung) had taken honourable positions on a couple of issues.

This morning I went to see if CC had responded (they're usually fairly quick to defend themselves), and to my surprise I couldn't find my second comment and two others by a bit of a loony named Katzenberg who I had responded to who claimed the NPA had never done anything honourable. Ever. Using. Too many. Periods.

Blogs are not public media, no matter what some like to claim. Their owners can moderate, censor, block, or do anything they want with comments. I was under the impression, however, that CityCaucus was in this to stimulate debate, not stifle it. They don't appreciate any criticism, as far as I've seen, but they also have open, un-moderated comment sections. Or so I thought. Katzenberg's comments added nothing to the conversation, but then there really wasn't a conversation as such, just a few other comments agreeing with the post. Was my comment just collateral damage, because I made reference to Katzenberg's comment?

What's odd is that I defended CityCaucus' ex-boss and golden boy, ex-mayor Sam Sullivan. I'm not a big fan, but his stance on InSite was laudable, and I said as much. I think it also could have been the start of a debate on ethics/honour in politics, a subject that is often derided. When should politicians take principled stances and when should they seek compromise? Etc...

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