Q: What do incumbent federal Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland and former U.S. president Donald Trump have in common?
A: They’ve both been flagged on social media for spreading questionable information.
I know. It’s not a “funny” punchline by any definition of the word. Sorry, a year-plus of COVID-19, a summer of wildfires and now a snap federal election can do that to a journalist’s sense of humour.
According to news reports, a video shared by Freeland in an Aug. 22 tweet was tagged by Twitter for containing “manipulated media.”
The alleged manipulated media is an edited video of Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole in which part of his statement is left out so that a particular point is emphasized – a point that happens to fit the Liberal’s campaign regarding health care.
Canada's public, universal health care system is one of our greatest strengths. It's part of what makes us who we are as a country. Last year, as COVID-19 raged, Erin O'Toole was asked if he would bring private, "for-profit" healthcare to Canada. He responded unequivocally: yes. pic.twitter.com/dISRKrIjr0
— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) August 22, 2021
This has launched a predictable back-and-forth between the two parties, with Justin Trudeau defending the tweet and the party supposedly having shared the entire version of the video, and the Conservatives calling out the Liberals for resorting to American-style divisive politics.
For the record, I’m not comfortable with comparing Freeland to Trump.
But I felt it necessary in order to make my point.
Now, likely more than ever, being a consumer of information takes a heck of a lot of work. Especially if one is interested in information that is not just factual, but also tells a complete story, as opposed to cherry-picked nuggets of fact, skillfully blended into an enticing fusion of easily consumable partial-truths that serve to sell a particular narrative.
These are the tantalizing social media triggers that tend to shape political discourse in this day and age, especially on social media. They can be enjoyed year round, though it seems they are most ripe and abundant during election campaigns.
One of the big challenges of being a consumer of information is knowing its source. Right after Trudeau’s Aug. 15 visit with Governor General Mary Simon, I began seeing posts in different social media groups targeting the Trudeau government. Some posts would include a quote or other rhetoric that appeared to be copied from an unnamed source, and spread like an unsigned chain letter. As far as I could tell, the information was intentionally designed to sway – or manipulate, if you will – public opinion.
None of this is new, but it does seem more complicated. At least during campaigns, there are opportunities to hear from and question local candidates directly. The Salmon Arm chamber will be hosting a virtual North Okanagan-Shuswap all-candidates meeting on Monday, Sept. 13. Questions must be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight Sept. 6.
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