Every time politicians vote themselves a salary increase or new job perks, the argument is always: "If we don't, we won't get the best and brightest running for office." My response to this rationale has always been: "How come that hasn't worked so far?".
No matter which side or sidestreet on the political divide you've chosen to park, you're either openly or secretly aware that it's not just the "other guys" who consistently run incompetent dipshits for Public office.
We've all voted for people who promised to clean things up and didn't, level the playing field and tilted it or guaranteed hope and change that never arrived.
In just the last week, Ontario re-elected a Premier who has openly and unapologetically lied to its citizens and an American President sympathized with those occupying Wall Street while continuing to refuse to criminally charge "the banking folks who did some very bad things".
Meanwhile, in British Columbia, one arm of the government wants to outlaw smoking in all public places (interior and exterior) while another requested funding to hand out free crack pipes. Perhaps the hidden agenda is to get all the junkies to move to Alberta before lighting up…
Are there no clear thinking, intelligent and passionate to do the right thing people running for elected positions anymore?
Well, of course there are.
Then, why don't they get elected?
And how come so many incompetent boneheads and brown envelope collecting scumbags do?
And why do so many who might make terrific Public servants not even consider the possibility?
Does somebody benefit from not having the best possible people in political office?
I've been asking myself these questions for a couple of weeks now, ever since a guy I've never met but come to consider a friend was mauled by a swarm of untruths and innuendo unleashed in a smear campaign against him.
Now maybe I'm taking this story personal because I've been the target of a couple of mud-slingings. And I gotta tell you, it's real hard to disprove a negative. About all you can do is say, "No, I'm not." But when a couple of people are saying "Are too!" and there's nothing on paper or even iPhone video -- well, it's time to hit the showers and hope you don't drop the soap.
For those who don't know this story, Anthony Marco, familiar to most in Canadian showbiz circles for co-hosting the weekly "TV-Eh?" podcast discussing current events in Canadian television, ran in the aforementioned Ontario election as a candidate for the NDP.
And with about 2 weeks to go in the campaign, the Ontario Liberal Party began disseminating out of context snippets from some of his other, more personal podcasts in order to brand him as everything from a Nazi sympathizer to cop hater and somebody you oughta think twice about letting near your children.
Now, from a political standpoint, Anthony and I are diametrically opposed. But I agree with about 101% of what he has to say on "TV-Eh?". More than once I've been absolutely thrilled that somebody who doesn't work in the industry can understand it as well as those working in the trenches -- but, unlike most of them, is willing to speak out about its many absurdities and corrupt practices.
Based on Anthony's insights into TV, I began listening to "Dyscultured", another podcast he does about Canadian culture and emerging technologies that should be required listening for anybody in the show businesses considering an expansion into new media -- or even just trying to figure out how to work their mobile phone.
Because of those podcasts alone, I'd have voted for the guy if I lived in his riding. For starters, unlike the Conservative party leader he was running against, he wasn't afraid to say what he stood for. But mostly, because I knew he would be somebody in the legislature who not only understood what Canadians are facing in the rapidly changing cultural and tech worlds, but could be a strong voice advocating on the behalf of both artists and audiences alike.
But the smear campaign won.
And a good man had his good name torn to shreds.
And the rest of us lost one who could've been one of the good ones.
Anthony has detailed what it was like enduring attacks that were both baseless and impossible to combat here in a log he kept of the events as they happened. On the same site you can find an archive of the daily podcasts he was doing as a candidate until the nature of what he was fighting forced him to pull the plug.
It's a must read for anybody either considering running for Public office or simply voting in an upcoming election.
We all know that politics is a rough and tumble game. From movies like "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" to "All The Kings Men" to "Advise and Consent" to "The Candidate" to "Primary Colors" to the just released "Ides of March" we've all witnessed the drama of good men destroyed and those of lesser character succeeding.
Maybe that's the way of the world. But why do we put up with it?
Why are we willing to allow the lesser or mediocre at best govern our lives? Why do we regularly allow those who deal in character assassination, petty gossip and fear mongering to control how we choose those who would govern and lead us?
Are we that dumb? That small minded? That desperate to see somebody not much unlike ourselves tossed to the wolves?
Typically, we're told that the decision to smear somebody is made by the backroom boys in the party war rooms. It's not the people running, it's the campaign. But in the end, those elected get elected because of the campaign -- so aren't they the ones we should hold to account?
In this instance, it's clear that Dalton McGuinty, the Premier-elect of Ontario was aware of what was being done in his name to Anthony Marco. I wonder if he has the courage, the next time he speaks glowingly of Ontario Teachers at one of their gatherings, to explain why he allowed his minions to unjustly pillory a man those same teachers have chosen to represent their interests at the Union level.
Or is the Premier's real message, "I'll be your best friend as long as you don't get in my way".
And how do those of you who vote Liberal feel about your party going out of its way to unjustly ruin the reputation of a man running in a riding neither he nor you had any hope of winning?
Do you feel good about yourselves? Do you feel good about the people you give your time and money to elect?
Actually, that's a question I should be asking of anybody who supports any party. Because they've all done it.
And maybe, of equal importance, they've all done it with the assistance of the Main Stream Media in Canada. None of the concocted smears against Mr. Marco would have gotten past the press release stage if any of the newspapers, radio stations and TV networks reporting them hired journalists who either checked their facts first or weren't beholden to an editor beholden to assisting one of the parties.
To be fair, several did their due diligence after publishing and broadcasting the initial smears and dropped the story. A few more stopped rising to the bait in the days that followed as the Ontario Liberal Party continued to chum the waters.
But others just regurgitated what they were fed while their editorial boards had tea with the leaders trooped in to be scrutinized by the fourth estate so that each publishing empire could tell their readers who they had decided they should vote for come election day.
We long ago got rid of the corrupt and antiquated system where each voter had to publicly state their preference in favor of a secret ballot. Maybe it's time that corporate entities dependent on fat government advertising contracts also STFU and stop telling us where to mark that secret "X".
But that would mean basing a decision on party platforms and candidate qualifications rather than the spin the boys in the backroom want in play.
They're really the ones deciding who's worthy and who's not -- aren't they?
Towards the end of his essay, Anthony Marco wonders, given the trends in social media and online blogging, forum conversations and the like, where our future candidates will come from.
We all have online lives now. We've all posted a "Party On!" comment when a pal's status update says he's out drinking. Does that cost us the support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving? If we linked to a G20 riot video have we branded ourselves anti-cop? God forbid we ever hint at rolling a fattie or post a picture from a topless beach in Australia.
But what about being as innocuous as pledging support for one party when you're 18 and then changing your mind 20 years later. Does that come back to haunt you, make you a flip-flopper, indecisive or exhibiting disloyalty? The boys in the back rooms can spin "Love you, Mom!" into an Oedipus Complex if that's their intention.
And sometimes I think that's their real purpose. Not to get you to vote one way or another, but to make sure those with the smarts and the character to do what's best for their country don't win and those positions are filled with meat puppets so devoid of life experience, failures that led to insight and bad choices that made them better people that they will never question what the boys in the backroom want them to do.
After all. Cross one of the guys who specializes in spin and he can spin something against you. Even if he has to take it out of context or even better, just make it up.
Anthony Marco deserved better. And it's up to the rest of us to make sure that what happened to him never happens again.