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Harper Conservatives to use social media to woo Canadians: uh ... really!

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Former federal Tory candidate Ryan Hastman's Tweet

Surely the federal political news story of 2012 is going to be the effort by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives to use social media to woo the Canadian public.

You may think the fact the federal Tories are considering this is a pretty strange claim, but I'm actually not making it up. I read it the other day in the Globe and Mail while I sat in a coffee shop.

"Ottawa cautiously dipping its toe in social-media pool," the Globe said, while other coffee drinkers looked at me strangely and wondered what that big sheet of grey paper in my hands was. "Some kind of funky wrapping paper maybe? Cool!"

Well, your blogger may be old, but he's got a Twitter account too, hooked right up to his iPhone. Really! More on that in a moment. But first, some more from the Globe on the Great Harper Conservative Social Media Experiment:

"Documents obtained this month by Ottawa-based researcher Ken Rubin under federal access-to-information laws … indicate a strong interest in sharing videos through YouTube and conversing with the public through Twitter and Facebook -- but also a wariness of the potential for calamity when communicating through forums that cannot be tightly controlled." (Emphasis added.)

As we say out here in the blogsphere, if you'll pardon the expression, "no shit, Sherlock!"

Or, in the more sober language of the Good Gray Globe, a memo from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada that was among the documents obtained by Rubin "lists several pages of risks to promoting departmental services on the video-sharing site. They include, among other things, the possibility that some Canadians will think it is a waste of money, that people may try to create spoofing or mocking videos, and that there would be a perceived lack of transparency if users are not permitted to post comments."

Oh, yes. Indeed. In fact -- and I think Harper can count on this -- if the federal government thoughtlessly fails to provide people with a place to respond, people who have no place to respond will create one of their own. No?

OK, so Problem No. 1 for the Harper federalistas is going to be how to respond quickly in a medium where it is generally considered necessary to answer fast, or not answer at all.

Here's another Globe story: "PMO Staff to Grow to 20,000 Employees … Most Employed in Approval Process for Tweets." The report goes on: "'We have a slight problem,' a spokesman for the PMO explained. 'The Prime Minister insists on approving all the Tweets personally, and that's proving to be a bit of a bottleneck.'"

Alright, I admit it, I just made that one up. You know, just like they make up facts for the actual Tory Rage Machine.

Or how about this report: "Representatives of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's staff travelled to Pyongyang this week seeking hints from North Korean President Kim Jong-Un's social media management team on how to run Canada's Twitter and YouTube accounts…"

OK, I made that one up too … maybe.

Let's get back to the real article from the real Globe. And by the way, I'm sorry to quote so much of the Globe story that I'm practically violating their copyright, but, really people, you just can't make stuff up that's this good. To wit: "As for Twitter, the HRSDC has come up with a list of possible phrases that employees manning the site could Tweet. They include things like: 'Thanks for the response. I'm not sure your facts are correct.'"

Actually, this is a very good idea and I intend to put it to use myself when opponents of the gun registry and other members of the Tory Rage Machine start to get up my nose about my blog posts. For example:

ACTUAL RECENT TORY RAGE MACHINE TWEET TO ME (in response to a post advocating saving the long-gun registry): "You can have them all (his guns, he means), right after every last one is red hot and empty, you fascist prick."

FUTURE BLOGGER DAVE RESPONSE: "Thanks for the response. I'm not sure your facts are correct."


ACTUAL RECENT TRM TWEET: "Haga are you a commie???"

FUTURE BLOGGER DAVE RESPONSE: "Thanks for the response. I'm not sure your political analysis is correct."


ACTUAL RECENT TRM TWEET: "Ur tinfoil hat is cutting off circulation to ur brain." (This last one from an actual Conservative candidate in the recent federal election. Really!)

FUTURE BLOGGER DAVE RESPONSE: "Thanks for the response, Mr. Hastman. I'm not sure your facts are correct."

Anyway, I think you get my drift, readers.

Problem No. 2, from the Harperite perspective, is that the same bright young social-media savvy Tories that the government will ask to provide its responses to Canadian taxpayers (some of them practically senior citizens, like Yours Truly) will be these very same youthful contributors to the Tory Rage Machine.

And these young fellows, not to put too fine a point on it, are not really very nice people, and strike back instinctively.

Say, for example, the bereaved parent of a soldier killed in one of the government's wars abroad criticized the prime minister.

IMAGINED TRM RESPONSE: "Note that this guy is an Iggy supporter."

Oh, wait. That's not imagined! That actually happened.

No need to go on. One just has the feeling this experiment with social media is going to end badly for Harper. And it's going to happen some time this year, 2012.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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