Political mudslinging is nothing new. It’s a part of civic theatre, and when kept in place, it’s a healthy sign of a functioning democracy. Rival parties pounce on the perceived failings and inadequacies of their opponents in hopes that they can win over voters, or at least keep them from voting for the other side.
But political discourse has taken a more sinister turn of late. More and more, political attacks are personal, ideological, and aimed at ostracizing the individual to the extent that they become persona non grata.
With the federal election campaign in full swing and with it the win-at-all-cost mentality, there is even more propensity for attacks to get personal and vicious.
As the past week has shown, champions of diversity can be put on the defensive through their own past mistakes and find themselves victims of the very political engineering their camp unleashed on their adversaries: looking deep into each candidate’s remote past to find any sort of dirt that social justice warriors can hound on, taking all the airtime, while discourse on policy and governance gets sidelined.
The Double-Edged Sword of Ideology
Brandishing ideology is a tempting political ploy that comes with the advantage of a feverish and militant support base. Many world leaders have succumbed to this temptation and have reaped the rewards and suffered the penalties that come with the territory. Ideology bestows a sense of moral superiority, intellectual certainty, and an oversimplified view of the world that shirks the responsibility for making nuanced, difficult decisions.
An increasingly common trend for political parties, especially those on the left, is to filter policy through an ideological lens. But this tack results in oversimplification of complex issues and a binding responsibility to uphold the tenets of the ideology above all else. As has become glaringly obvious over the past week in Canada, progressive “isms” are a double-edged sword that often do equal harm to the wielder.
This has been playing out in real time in Canadian politics over the past week. There is no forgiveness or path to redemption. When you live by the sword, you die by it as well.
It is a mistake to believe that subscribing to an ideology will provide a roadmap to an uncertain future. Ideologies are rudderless and parasitic and void of first principles. They are an insult to the thinking man, and people should embrace them with shame rather than aplomb.
The Distraction Machine
Media coverage can make or break an election campaign, and politicians are aware that debate in the House of Commons is no match for the power of a news story revealing a scandal. Parliamentary bickering is recognized as the theatre that it has become. Each party’s position, attack, and defence are predictable.
But the media, the trusted voice of the people, packs far more clout. The power of a story to paint a politician as saint or villain can permanently embed a sense of trust or skepticism in the public psyche. Politicians are commonly derailed overnight by media coverage of a past statement, tweet, or photo.
The real stuff, the meat and potatoes of politics, is by its nature dull, detail-laden, and nuanced. But the devil is in the details and Canadians need to look deep into the actual policies of each party and decide whether they are in line with the future they envision. But instead, we are fed a steady stream of emotionally manipulated news content aimed at keeping our eyes but not our minds engaged.
We are suffering from a collective attention deficit. Social media, push notifications, personal algorithms, and a 24-hour news cycle in the palm of our hands ensure that the dopamine receptors in our brains are never without stimuli.
Our society is losing the ability to think deeply and formulate nuanced, informed opinions about important issues. Our critical thinking skills have been hijacked by social media feeds and engineered web content that keep us thinking within the same box.
The peril of mass distraction is real, and those in power recognize its potential for ensuring that the general population remains ignorant enough that the wool can be pulled over their eyes.
The High Road
Our leaders would be wise to relieve themselves of the burden of ideology and stop imposing a disingenuous moral outlook on their constituents. The act has grown stale and people are waking up to the dangers of permitting an inflexible set of ideals to shape the laws that govern them
We are at an undeniable crossroads, and Canadians have the hard-won privilege of choosing the direction their country will take. Both politicians and the general public would be better off focusing on substantive matters of policy if they care more about the future of their country and less about their disdain for a particular leader, candidate, or party.
The character of our leaders should not be judged by transgressions from the past, but in the way they accept responsibility for their actions. Canada is in need of strong leadership, and that leadership can only be found in people humble enough not only to correct themselves but also to forgive their adversaries.
The leadership hopeful who can embody humility, sincerity, and moral fortitude will attract far more of the vote than the leader who continues to promote politics as the status-quo sideshow it has become.
Ryan Moffatt is a journalist based in Vancouver.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.