Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beware where we place the ethical and moral bar

Following the publication of his "inappropriate" Facebook photos, I can see how the BC NDP and its former Vancouver-False Creek candidate, Ryan Lam, thought it was best to part ways and find a new candidate. Nip the story in the bud and don't let it distract from bigger issues.

It really is unfortunate, though that it has come to this. He shouldn't have had to step aside. And we're all going to be the poorer because he did.

I think both the public, and political partisans, need to do some thinking here, because with the coming generation of young politicians having embraced the digital era, the world of Facebook and blogging and Twitter, stories such as Lam's are going to become all the more common.

So he consensually groped a woman. Anyone who has spend any time on Parliament Hill knows such behavior is hardly foreign to our politicians, going back to Sir John A MacDonald's era. I'd have loved to have seen Pierre Trudeau's Facebook photos. Or read Sir John's tweets:

BigJohn: Getting on boat to PEI to talk Canadian union. Picking up Cartier in Montreal we're gonna get soo drunk y'all.

This isn't new behavior by our politicians. Technology is just exposing us to visual evidence we didn't have before. And while sharing such information online is perfectly acceptable for their generation, for the older generation it's decidedly not.

We need to think though about where we're going to draw the line. For the public, we need to ask ourselves, what kind of political representatives we want. Politicians are people like you and I. Set the bar of ethical behavior so high and the only people willing to put their names on a ballot will be closeted loners. Not a positive advancement.

And for partisans, sure, it's easy to jump on any potentially embarrassing misdeed and demand resignation. But we need to remember, when we encourage the bar to be set that high it's going to be a level we have to reach as well. Be ridulous and it'll bite your own team in the ass too.

Maybe the BC NDP has an itchy trigger-finger after its federal cousins lost three candidates in BC last election. Frankly, I thought only two of them really needed to go: Dana Larsen (only because he was driving while high) and Julian West (exposing yourself to underage girls and asking them to paint your genitalia is incredibly wrong to all generations). But I'd have fought for Kirk Tousaw were I the NDP, who cares if he smoked pot on TV?

But with the Lam case, both the NDP and the Liberals set an unfortunate precedent that future candidates will have to be held to. And we should all be asking ourselves: is this a good thing?

Hell, if we held everyone to Dana Larsen's standard, Gordon Campbell wouldn't be the Liberal candidate in Vancouver-Point Grey, now would he?

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bigcitylib said...

Well, though, taking pictures of yourself doing stuff like that IS new behavior.

Anonymous said...

And Jeff, as someone who was a part of the last BC federal Liberal campaign, you don't feel some responsibility for this trend?

'Cause where I sit, you do!

Jeff said...

Sure I do, pnp. Absolutely. I've played the game myself, albeit in a minor roll. But change has to start somewhere, so I'm making the case here and now.

Paladiea said...

These anti-sex attitudes need to stop. Was any of the behaviour unsolicited?

No, so then why the hell should we care? And I love the hypocrisy of someone who purposely looked for those pictures and publicly decried that they were there.


Anonymous said...

Kudos to you for your honesty Jeff. I couldn't think of a better example of why you're on of the best Liberal bloggers. I agree with the initial blog 100%

But I must ask, would this be the kind of thing that might make you reconsider your support the BC Liberals at least? (Not that James is much better!)

The Mound of Sound said...

Do you really believe that Pierre Trudeau fondled women in public or, even worse, would have posed for that sort of picture? That's beyond silly. Had a photograph of this sort come out during Mr. Trudeau's elected tenure, it would have been the end of him. Look at the trouble Turner brought upon himself with a consensual, totally friendly pat on a woman's backside.

Jeff said...

make you reconsider your support the BC Liberals at leastI'm wouldn't call myself a BC Liberal supporter. I lived in BC for the 05 election, and voted NDP. Was in Ontario for 01. And in 96, I voted BC Liberal.

So I've gone back and forth. I do tend to sympathize with the Liberals, although as you know the BC Libs and the Fed Libs don't always bare resemblance. I was a BC Liberal back in high school, in the pre-Socred invasion era.Gordon in 05 was too conservative for my liking. I hear he's mellowed in his second term, but I haven't followed it that closely.

Were I living in BC now I'd probably vote Liberal though because I know and respect the local candidate in my riding, Don McRae.


Fondled, yes. Posed for picture? Maybe not. Were he around in the digital camera era though, it would be a different story. We have very few saints amongst our political class, I'm confident of that fact.

Prairie Fire said...

Good of you to raise this issue Jeff. I am a big believer that one of the impacts of the "Government 2.0" revolution is going to be an increasing incentive for authenticity in government and public officials, which I think can only be a good thing. But that also means that voters (and the media) are going to have to change their expectations of what politicians are as well, particularly for those of the Millennial generation who have grown up with Facebook, IM, blogs, digital cameras, Twitter, etc...

This notion that public officials can or should be saints is not one that can withstand the light of day, and these days the light is a heck of a lot brighter!