LETHBRIDGE: The handling of stupid speech


Just a casual piece of advice to potential political candidates: don’t say stupid things.

And if you really feel you need to say stupid things — you know — to exercise your right to free speech, don’t post them on the Internet.

Because saying stupid things will come back on you.

It may not be right away, but some day, what with the digital footprint and all that.

Even if you delete your stupid things, people can and do capture your history on the Internet.

And if you stop and take time to think about the things you may want to do in the future, this should guide your decisions about what to post on the Internet.

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve witnessed the consequences of not thinking before posting.

Candidates from all three political parties have been caught out.

Dartmouth South Progressive Conservative candidate Jad Crnogorac was removed by her party after tweets containing stupid things were revealed.

“Isn’t women’s viagra called a roofie — hahahahahaha,” she tweeted.

And if that wasn’t enough, she finished her missive with: “I needed a good laugh.”

Yeah. Hahahaha.

I’d say that joking about a date rape drug qualifies as a stupid thing.

Saying such things publicly calls into question the character of the person who wishes to enter public office and make the laws of the land.

This tweet was posted long before the election was called and before Crnogorac decided to enter the race.

She is certainly entitled to her opinion, but is someone who feels comfortable going public with her good laugh over a date rape drug fit for public office?

Do the people of Dartmouth South wish to have that person represent them in the legislature?

For the most part, no.

And her defence — that she is being held to a different standard than men in her party — does little to rehabilitate her reputation.

Comparing her poorly judged tweet to the poor judgment of fellow Tory candidate Matt Whitman, who posted the Chinese fire drill video, just makes her look worse.

Now she is blaming the Tory party and using Whitman as her decoy.

If Crnogorac wanted to show us that she is truly worthy of public office, she would stand up, take responsibility for her actions and go away, for now.

But Crnogorac is not going away.

This week she announced she will run for office anyway, now as an independent.

And she is sorry if she offended anyone.

Unlike Crnogorac, the NDP candidate for Dartmouth East resigned after the revealing of sexist comments he made in an online magazine he published for men.

“In a world of breast implants, fast food, and cheap beer, what’s not to love about being a man?”

These words came from candidate Bill MacEwen.

He has taken full responsibility for his comments. He apologized for misogynistic comments and to the LGBTQ community for offensive comments about gays he also posted on Facebook.

MacEwen has taken the lesson and seems contrite.

And then there is the Liberal candidate from Pictou East who made offensive comments about people with Down syndrome in 2013.

Matthew MacKnight was dropped by the Liberals.

He too has apologized for inappropriate comments. He is no longer in the race.

We’re in the age of social media.

As the Canadian intellectual Marshall McLuhan famously said, the medium is the message.

The rules may be the same, but the Internet has changed the message in politics.

People become intoxicated by the power of tweeting out their thoughts and they dine on the attention those comments bring, whether they are good or bad.

But character still rules the day with most voters.

People can forgive mistakes and support comebacks in politics if the people who say stupid things show that they understand their mistakes and take corrective action.

Even if they do not constitute hate speech, stupid comments will be judged and their posters held to account.

As they should be.

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