Bullying in Politics
What is bullying? What is its purpose?
Well we all know what it is. We have all been bullied at some time in our lives. At least most of us have. It is a practice that happens all the time. It happens at home, at work, at school, and yes, even in politics. It’s worse now, of course, because of the internet and specifically Facebook.
The purpose of bullying varies, but what it attempts to do is demine a person, embarrass a person, force a person to do things against their will, and at times to destroy their character in the eyes of others, as well as their own.
The bully gets gratification at holding power of some sort over someone else.
Recently the Conservative Government of Canada has passed anti bullying laws in the wake of many tragic events including young people who have committed suicide because they just couldn’t cope with it anymore.
The problem for me is that the democratic system in both Canada and the US, as well as many other countries of course, is adversarial and prone to bullying both within parties and between them. The thing is, like many bullies, our governments don’t even know that they are acting like bullies.
If they do then like most bullies, they don’t care.
There has been a lot of controversy across Canada lately about the new Conservative attack ads on Justin Trudeau and how effective they might or might not be. This just two years from an election. Just... It used to be that attack ads were meant for elections only, but not anymore.
History shows that attack ads can either be very effective, or they can backfire. Most of the time they only work on undecided voters. But people are increasingly saying that they find them annoying and actually offensive. Well at least in Canada they have. They just seem like part of the landscape in the US. I’m not sure Americans care one way or the other. And that is all beside the point.
The point is that while I have heard everything else about attack ads, what I have not heard is that they are clearly bullying tactics. They are meant to ruin the reputation of the opposition leaders they are aimed at. They are meant to make that person look like a fool or like they are unable to run a country. They are personal attacks on an individual.
What does the bully get if they succeed? They feel gratification from holding power over someone. In this case, us in the end. But it is at the expense of an individual.
All the parties have done it at one time or other. It’s part of the game. The target is not supposed to take it personally, are they? But probably few if any who are the brunt of these meaningless attacks are that thick skinned even if they can pretend they are.
Never mind that they are paid for by taxes most of the time. What they are is clearly bullying.
I have no issue with attacking a person’s policies or the direction they want to take our country. Attack the issues all you like. But personal attacks are bullying, particularly when the ads are also misleading.
They call it spin, but in fact it is just perspective bending. In one ad we see Trudeau doing a striptease. Well that’s what it is made to look like. But he was not the leader of a party at the time, he did not actually do a full strip tease, and he was doing it for a high profile charity raising money for, correct me if I am wrong: kidney research.
Spin masters can make anything seem seedy. They can if we are gullible, of course.
Are politicians held to a higher standard in our society? Should they be prepared for this sort of thing? Sure. That’s the way it has always been. Trudeau is expected to take it like a man and of course he will, just as Harper took it like a man when the Liberals told us the army would soon be in the streets if we elected him.
But the point is that while politicians make laws against bullying, they are they themselves bullying and setting an example for everyone including our kids. Bullying is fine if you are in high stakes politics. Really? Is it? Is that the kind of society we want? Is that what we want our kids to think? Do we think that’s right? Do we want it to be that way?
Have we not at least begun to grow out of the 18th century mentality that created this system? Oh yes, it has been going on for much longer than that, of course. Many politicians have taken their own lives over it in the distant past. Often they were expected to. At least politics isn’t that brutal anymore.
I’m not saying we need to see our politicians being nice to each other all the time. They can fight over matters of policy as much as they like. I want them to do that. But why the cheap shots? Js it because they are effective on the lowest common denominator of the population? Have we really not grown up that much at all?
Personal attack ads are bullying and should be illegal if the government is sincere in its quest to outlaw the practice for all of us. This is not a “do as we say, not as we do” situation, is it? Sorry, that doesn’t work on adults. Wait... it all too often seems to in this country these days. But it darn well shouldn’t.