One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

(Update: Friday, 17:16): John Bennett has apologized and Buckdog has accepted that apology, so I consider the matter closed. Still, the Greens will be a little scarred for this. Let’s hope that they turn this into a learning experience, but they’ve still reminded Canadians that they may not be ready for prime time.

Dear John Bennett, Director of Communications for the Green Party of Canada,

If the report of the blogger known as Buckdog is accurate, I do sincerely hope that the Green Party of Canada’s executive has no idea what you have tried to do in threatening legal action against him for posting an unflattering audio clip of Green Party leader Elizabeth May on his blog. If you have acted unilaterally, I wish you well on your new job search. If, on the other hand, you acted with the blessing of the Green Party executive, I would like you to pass on this note to the Executive, in the hopes that they can understand how self-destructive their actions have been, and how many votes they have just cost themselves.

As I said elsewhere, Elizabeth May has indeed been quoted out of context in this audio tape made available on Buckdog’s site. Unfortunately, the audio clip is only doctored in the fact that it cuts out suddenly after the gaffe is made. There has been no alteration of the wording up to that point, just a separation from context. And while any reasonable person can understand what Elizabeth May was intending to say, she did stumble over her own words, and thus created the opening for these deliberate misinterpretations of her comments. So, I doubt that you have any legal framework to stand on to try and sue TVOntario or bloggers anywhere for reposting what Elizabeth May actually said.

However, far more damaging is the optics of your action. A more mature party would have laid low, or at most put out a press release explaining their side of the story, about the context of May’s statement. A more mature party would have realized that this clip was trivial, and the controversy around it likely to vanish within the next day or so. A more mature party would not have responded as you did.

Instead, you have generated an intense burst of negative publicity around your party and its candidates, and you have made yourself and the Green Party of Canada look like bullies. It is highly unlikely that very many Canadian voters will respect you for that, and certainly many Canadian bloggers won’t.

As one who was, until now, contemplating voting Green in this election, I call upon you, and anybody associated with the decision to threaten this blogger, to apologize, if not resign. That won’t fix the damage that has been done to your party’s fortunes with your foolish actions, but it might just stop the bleeding.

You will only have yourselves to blame for a loss in party support this election if you fail to do so.

Yours sincerely,
James Bow

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