The web, politics and using humour

Mocking your political opponents using social media can occasionally make a direct hit

On the weekend BC Liberal Party operatives launched Dix's Hidden Plan, a social media marketing scheme meant to remind the public that we have no idea what the NDP's political agenda is should they form government next year. I'm sure party operatives were pleased with the full-page in The Province covering DHP, but I can't tell you from the early responses whether the site hit its mark.

Political parties typically do not sponsor these kinds of attack campaigns directly, and usually rely upon third party supporters to stage them. That changed when the NDP in early 2011 launched the Christy Crunch ad campign. At the time the BC Liberals were ahead in the polls, and now that the tables are turned the governing BC Liberals feel the need to go on the attack.

Having the political parties themselves launch these campaigns seems like an odd strategy. I've found the most effective campaigns are usually conducted by interested third parties. There are rare times when they really work, and many times when they fall flat.

When it comes to third party sites that successfully mock the BC NDP I'll take you into the time machine back to 2006, and a (now semi-legendary) anonymous website called BC Poly Blog. It was done only for six months, and to this day I have no idea who the author was (though I was flattered to have my personal blog linked to it). I've no doubt the BC Poly Blog was dreamt up by a clever BC Liberal, and it was merciless when it came to the BC NDP and especially the BCTF. In fact, the teacher's trade union threatened to sue Google to release the name of the person who authored the site (Google balked).

One of the funniest posts I recall from BC Poly Blog (I practically did a spit take when I first read it) was titled "Jesus To Gregor: "You Do Not Have A Hope In Hell Of Being Re-Elected!"" At the time the running joke was that the NDP's "star" candidate of the 2005 election – Gregor Robertson – was a dud as an opposition MLA. It had a hilarious image of Gregor walking beside Christ while the Son of God seemed to be ignoring the Juice Man:

Poor NDP MLA Gregor Robertson, the under achieving over achiever. He seems to be the butt of many jokes (including those found here on this intrepid Poly) and this week while walking in his riding, not even Jesus Christ would give him support.

"It was the best thing I saw or heard ever…while sober", our man on the street reported. "Like, Jesus – or at least someone who looked like the Saviour – wanted nothing to do with Gregor. See! Look, I took a photo!"

The photo from our contact's cell phone shows Gregor talking up a storm while Jesus tries walking away, even looking to the heaven's for strength.

"Gregor was all like, 'Jesus you just have to come to my Town Hall Meeting on Monday' and Jesus is all like, 'What will you be discussing?' and Gregor goes, "Dude, I don't know, the unions have not given me the agenda yet.'"

BC Poly Blog became the gold standard for Onion-esque wit in BC politics, using Photoshopped images to good effect (City Caucus has succeeded in doing that kind of BC political cartooning since). It was really only read by a small group of media and political insiders, and that was the point. Get the other guys off their game with some inside baseball. The majority of voters don't care about this stuff.

If mocking Adrian Dix is what folks want to do they could start here, although if it were my decision I wouldn't spend a minute making fun of the NDP's leader (previous attempts have fallen flat) and would instead focus on the party.

The BC Liberals have tried using humour in the past to make their point with mixed results. A group of supporters from the party's youth wing were supposedly behind a website called NDP Affairs. While it had the right idea – connect NDP elected officials with their union backers – the flash site was modeled around a sleezy motel theme that was deemed too risqué and possibly sexist and was quickly pulled down. It's interesting to note that NDP Affairs was also built in response to flagging BC Liberal poll numbers, but Gordon Campbell's government still managed to get re-elected the following year.

There is plenty to challenge the BC NDP on, not the least of which was the less than open way they chose their leader. This collection of reports illustrates that well enough:

The backroom boys in all the parties are cooking up their schemes to attack and embarrass their opponents, just as with every election. It's probably wise to leave the parties and the elected officials out of the negative campaigns, and have the Premier and her caucus focus on their opponents. I think the public would truly like to know what the NDP has in mind for BC.

– post by Mike


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  • The worst part of the DHP site is it fails on both counts: it says nothing intelligible (has no useful message), and it isn’t funny (fails as parody).

    The best parody site in BC politics in recent history is one you have not mentioned:
    http://www.barrypennerisawesome.com/
    The target may be gone, but at least the archives are there, we can go back and re-live a time when BCand the Liberals were both pretty awesome!

  • boohoo

    “although if it were my decision I wouldn’t spend a minute making fun of the NDP’s leader (previous attempts have fallen flat) and would instead focus on the party.”

    So you wrote a blog post about then? Makes sense.

  • Waltyss

    Let’s see. You have a leader that loves photo ops but the moment that she moves off a closely vetted script by her Federal Conservative minders only shows that she doesn’t understand the issues.
    You have a government that is too long in the tooth and a talent pool not deep enough to get your toes wet. Even there, the only sort of talent the Liberals have (Falcon, Coleman, Abbott) are unlikely to be there for the next election absent a huge swing in the polls
    You have the unexplainable: HST, Basi/Virk, CLBC, locked in agreements to pay too much for private power, ripping up collective agreements and breaching the constitution in the process.
    You have a Liberal leader who styles herself a latter day King (Queen??) Canute where gas is a pollutant only if we say it is; a bonus is not a bonus if we say it isn’t
    Oh, and let’s not talk about our recent errors; let’s try to talk about what happened over 12 years ago.
    Sorry Mike, but it is going to take much more than social media humour and Phil Hochstein nastiness to get your girl and her peeps re-elected. The opposition doesn’t defeat governments; they defeat themselves and this one is surely defeated.

  • Higgins

    Site & Humor … a tad lame! And I do appreciate good humor when I see it. Keeping in mind that I am not a Christy Clark fan or an Adrian Dix fan either, it doesn’t really say much to me. Geez, I can’t beleieve I’m saying this but I am in agreement with Waltyss! LOL

    • I think you may be taking my point then. Humour is a questionable device for political campaigns unless wielded with laser like precision — a rare feat. I think we’re all in agreement in some way.

  • waltyss

    Higgins , shall we note this moment?

  • jenables

    I know Higgins, I know! The media still harps on the fast ferries, yet is strangely mum about how all this privatization, subsidizing for profit companies with the public purse, creation of many minimum wage, poverty creating jobs (some which involve handling biohazardous waste!), the medical services mafia and ensuing decline in healthcare, contracting American companies like providence to administer healthcare and tearing up contracts for decent jobs while giving themselves raises, the whoring out of our province and city to foreign investment, and the refusal to set any limitations that might have helped the cost of living for those who live here and might have strengthened our local economy, bctc, and the Bentall towers, the post Olympic gouging in the form of property assessment, and that’s only to name a few, but does the media wonder how this has benefited British Columbians? And i still am hearing about ferries from fifteen years ago which the liberals sold for LESS THAN SCRAP VALUE? The worst part is they know about the leaseholds, shadow rolls, backroom deals, gross salaries, but they pretend and insist the liberals have done a wonderful job handling our finances, and choose to vilify unions, which are by no means perfect but seem to be the only way working people can stand up to a government that has repeatedly shown that they do not care about them. The power of propaganda. Repeat it enough, it becomes truth. Rather, gloss over the atrocities again and again. I don’t even think I can keep reading this blog on a civic level, and I am so disappointed that the npa reads like the BC liberals grasping at straws dissociation from reality. It’s just disrespectful to the entire readership and lends no gravitas to your journalistic integrity. I am sorry to come off so harshly, and i intend no cruelty or disrespect, but I think you should hear from people like myself when we feel your credibility and integrity are compromised. Just makes me want to reactivate the new liberal green marijuana alliance of democratic reform party. Not left. Not right. Center center.

    • Steven Forth

      Blogger Bruce Stewart http://jumpleftstepright.wordpress.com/ has suggested the creation of “A Platform in Search of a Party” as none of the current parties has a set of policies he could sign off on.

      • Stuart

        Glissando Remmy’s platform for the civic election seems fine to me. Just substitute BC for Vancouver: ‘I’ll do the best I can, with the resources at hand, for all the people of Vancouver. Period.’ Now is there a party that will commit to this? I doubt it.

        • Steven Forth

          Platitudes, sounds like something a politcian would say. No, something they all do say. What people are willing to commit on actual issues and what policies they would follow matters.

        • Glissando Remmy

          Ha! Thanks Stuart.
          Completely forgot about that! Now that I read it again I like it more!

          Steven… platitudes…
          you couldn’t be more wrong about me and what I said.
          “‘I’ll do the best I can, with the resources at hand, for all the people of Vancouver. Period.”
          I put a lot of thought in this single line. I know, it sounds simple at first read, but making it “simple” for you to read is because of a most complicated thought process.
          It’s like your Wireless cellphone. Little rectangular tablet with touch screen capable of sending words, sounds, images through thin air. It’s that simple! 🙂

          Was I Platitudinous enough?

  • jenables

    Shadow rolls are for ninjas. Shadow tolls are for British Columbians.