Old Sock Drawer

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#061: of books on blogs

July 15th, 2009 by Mary Leong

Currently listening to: “The Fear” – Lily Allen

Two books I’ve read in the past bit, the first on blogging, and the second one on university education (of sorts). Both rather appropriate for this medium, I think. Today I’ll talk about the first one; in a few days, I shall blog about the second.

Sheeple: Caucus Confidential in Stephen Harper’s Ottawa

As a blogger, it comes without saying that I am wholly responsible for the material I choose to post on my blog. In this age where everyone is a writer and critic by virtue of ability to read and type, bloggers can face opposition from varied sources, ranging from your neighbour’s twelve-year-old trawling on the Internet to politicians crying foul. Yes, whatever I choose to post has implications, and I should be held accountable for what I choose to write. But keep in mind that I have the freedom to speak my mind, say what is my own opinion, unfettered by others. I’m not torn between being responsible to two (sometimes very conflicting) parties.

But what about politicians? Should politicians’ blogs be held responsible to the ideas of their fellow party members, or to the electorate? Follow Garth Turner, ex-Conservative MP’s story as he is the “first politician in Canada, possibly the world” to be fired for his blog. Detailing caucus meetings, the Conservative Party’s stance on various subjects, Turner’s book presents a perspective which is unabashedly his own, unrestrained by the Party Whip – and sometimes entirely contrary to the opinions championed by the rest of his party – which leads to “talks” with the Prime Minister, being called “dangerous” and “renegade” by his fellow Conservative MPs, and the eventual judgement by his peers to have him kicked out of caucus. Subsequently, follow his exploits as an Independent, and later a member of Stephane Dion’s Liberal campaign.

On one hand, politicians are bound to the gears and cogs of, well, partisan politics. There isn’t enough room for renegade ideas. The need to present a unified front in the media is pressing. Meanwhile, democracy is undermined in the process – we’re supposed to be representing people here, real live citizens, not simply ideals built out of roundtable talks! On the other hand, politicians should be representing their electorate’s wishes. Blogging enables politicians to engage with the grassroots base – just look at the massive numbers of politicians with Twitter (congresspeople in the US Twittering at the State of the Union, what) – and the number of people who follow their accounts, engaging with them in real time, giving them feedback – blunt, honest feedback about laws being passed, ideas being tossed around, et cetera. But what happens when the wishes of the people run contrary to political motivations? More often than not, it seems that political games are being played at the expense of ordinary people who try to encourage change. And for a politician to engage in that – well, in Mr. Turner’s case, it would appear that the price to pay for going contrary to the well-oiled political and media machine was termination.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book for its political relevance and straightforwardness. There are definitely moments where Turner seems to drop into martyred self-pity, but for the most part, it is highly relevant and provides an insider’s perspective of partisan politics at its ugliest.

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