MP Pat Martin

O Sir, we quarrel in print…

I blame Twitter, one of the first examples of genuinely anti-social media online, for the recent decline in the already debased state of public discourse in Canada.

Leastways, Twitter certainly makes it easy to slam off a reproof valiant to treat the right-wing trolls who inhabit the back alleys of the Internet with the respect that they so profoundly deserve. And if their tender feelings are hurt? Well, so much the better! Or so it always f**ls at the time.

Back in the day, it seemed like it was only the pimply faced agents of the Tory Rage Machine who used the online comments sections of what’s left of the daily press to threaten and abuse the many, many people to whose views they took violent exception. Inevitably, they hid behind a long list of pseudonyms, usually tinged with the fake patriotism of the Harper Cons. (By the way, if you’re a Harper Con named Johnny Can**k who disagrees with my a**essment, you can just shut the h**k up!)

Their strategy is well understood, thanks in part to their own famous Craigslist ad: to “make up facts,” and use “sarcasm and personal insults” to “score points” and “stir outrage.”

It was inevitable, naturally, that some of those who were among the principal victims of this sort of thing would begin to use the Internet — and especially the convenient 140-character format of Twitter — to respond in kind. Actually, with only 140 characters available, responding in kind is about all you can do!

Everyone of us, I am sure, has a r***t-w**g sh**t-t**l relative or the equivalent who has the power to get us really, really t**ked off — usually at a family dinner — safe in the knowledge that our cooler-headed spouses, parents or siblings will restrain us before we have the opportunity to say or do what’s really called for.

Unfortunately, Twitter seems to have given us the opportunity to respond as we deem appropriate, short of actual fisticuffs (which can be hard when you’re in a different city, for example) without the hand of a more-responsible or better-tempered loved one to restrain us. In other words, intemperately and with only a minimum of thought.

Perhaps if we lived in an era where all of our retorts weren’t restricted to 140 characters, we’d be less restrained in our enthusiasm for quaint f**r-letter Anglo-Saxonisms that seem to sum up neo-C*n policies and opinions so efficiently and accurately.

The problem, or maybe it is an advantage (it certainly seems to be the cause of a certain amount of relief), is that a lot of us who are not operatives of the Tory Rage Machine tend to fire off these ripostes under our own names. This, no doubt, carries a risk that some of our comments could come back to bite our backward-facing extremities if we decide to stand for deacon of our local congregation or chair of the local chapter of D**ks Unlimited.

On this general topic, my late mother oft advised me, if I’d ever dashed off an angry letter (this was back in the days of s***l-mail) to let it cool on the kitchen table over night. If I still wanted to send it in the morning, fine, go ahead. Chances were, she thought, I’d reconsider. Nowadays, of course, we all just hit “S*ND.”

So it was inevitable that a lot of us would be mildly shocked, but at the same time grimly satisfied, when NDP MP Pat Martin, exasperated at the arbitrary and undemocratic jackb**t strategies adopted by the Harper C***********s, Tweeted his displeasure in such blunt terms.

From there, I suspect, we will all move along briskly and cathartically — with no great service to the cause of intelligent public discourse, and not just in anti-social media, but a certain degree of satisfaction notwithstanding.

Most of us, for example, have resorted to the use of strong words in the face of outrageous provocation, which may be why so many of us were not particularly offended when Liberal MP Justin Trudeau assigned an unparliamentary label to Environmental Degradation Minister Peter Kent.

It is a sign of the times, methinks, that while Mr. Trudeau’s late father felt the need to explain away his response in the face of Tory provocation in the same venue (it was merely “fuddle-duddle,” he suggested) the son quite freely owned up to what he’d said and apologized.

I’m sure there were a lot of us who thought that, notwithstanding his apology, Mr. Trudeau’s comment was a pretty apt a**e**ment of Mr. Kent’s efforts, if not Mr. K**t himself, and, by the way, also that Mr. Trudeau’s beard and moustache looked quite chic and directional, no matter what the great minds of the media had to say about them.

Alas, I suspect this sort of thing is bound to continue on all sides, which is not necessarily for the good. You know: “bickering,” voter suppression, typical Conservative election t**tics and all that.

That’s why I’d like to propose a compromise. We on the left should agree to give up all profanity in our Tw**ts if the Harper Cons and their supporters will agree to stop making up facts, and using personal insults to score points and stir up controversy.

And if they won’t, well, I guess they can just … get lost! For the rest of you, Merry [EXPLETIVE DELETED] Christmas, and for Mr. Trudeau in particular, Happy [EXPLETIVE DELETED] Birthday!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta D**ry.

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...