Friday, June 11, 2004

Campaign Diary, Day 20: Gotcha Journalism and the Internet

Colby Cosh is enjoying his blog's latest moment in the spotlight, following his inadvertant breaking of the Malcolm "Jews: Enemies? Friends" Azania non-story earlier this week. Here's the notable bit from his reaction to the reaction to his post:
The truly laughable spectacle here is Jack Layton having to "distance himself" from ten-year-old remarks made on USENET by one of his candidates; every Canadian political leader is now caught in this crazy trap of having to account for every word ever uttered by each of his 300-plus grunts.
Sigh, it's true. As Andrew Coyne notes: "Are elections in any other country so regularly blown off course by these irrelevant 'gotcha' stories? Does any other country have as lazy and superficial -- or as concentrated -- a media as we do?"

I think the Internet, alas, has exacerbated this type of journalism. (This story did originate on a blog, after all.) Politicians' pasts and present now exist concurrently online. When it comes to youthful indiscretions, the young people entering politics today -- Azania is a mere 34 years old now -- have a distinct disadvantage: their stupid remarks are archived and easily accessible in cyberspace for the rest of their lives thanks to Google's cache.

Frankly, what Azania wrote is not half as stupid as some of the tripe I heard in university. But that's kind of what university is good for: people voicing and debating unorthodox, ground-breaking, politically-incorrect and often idiotic ideas away from the real world where they can hurt actual people. It's called learning.

The former student radicals of the 1960s who now toil in political parties of all stripes across North America and Europe should thank the lord that they were young in a pre-Internet age, a time where they were allowed to experiment and debate without fear that every stoned conversation they had would be used against them down the road. I'm sure half the pithy things I say on this blog will result in my losing my race for school trustee in 2022...

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