09 October 2010

Response to BC Iconoclast "The Three Independents"

Bernard von Schulmann raises an important point in his post regarding the two-now-grown-to-three independents in BC's legislature. While he writes specifically of these three politicians - Vicky Huntington (ran as Independent in 2009), Blair Lekstrom (former Liberal MLA) and Bob Simpson (former NDP MLA) -, his key critique could apply to any politician, at any level of government.

The first two independents have done very little to get media attention or made much effort to use social media. Our media is no longer a couple of major papers, radio and TV stations, there is an ever expanding media out there looking for content, but I do not see them making use of it. I can not find a website for Blair Lekstrom and the one for Vicki Huntingdon is boringly irrelevant.

Independents do indeed have a tough time getting noticed by traditional news media, largely because those same media are so enamoured by party politics, a form of politics an increasing number of British Columbians appear to loathe.

Independents are missing the boat if they're not using social media (Twitter, Facebook, their own websites, etc.) to go directly to the people. After all, if you can do nothing to prevent traditional media from ignoring you, then you must reach the people by other means. By using social media, you can not only reach the people directly, you can avoid distortions of your message caused by sensationalist editorial filters.

It continues to amaze me how few politicians take advantage of social media. Is it laziness? Tech-phobia? Fear they'll be exposed as the party clones they are, unable to think for themselves? Fear they'll be found out to have run for office only for the power, salary, cushy pensions and other perks?

If politicians care about representing the people, then they should make every effort to connect with the people, engage with them, listen to their concerns. If that means learning to use Twitter, Facebook, etc. properly (not for vanity advertising please!), then so be it. In fact, politicians including social media as part of their communications strategies should be part of any open government.

As for independents, they should take particular note. Use of social media tools to connect directly with the people could well place them ahead of their noosed party-affiliated compatriots.

ETA: Bob Simpson, who only two days ago was ousted from the NDP caucus by not-a-leader Carole James, has a website and a Twitter account, so in that respect he's headed in the right direction. However, as of now his Twitter account has 63 Followers, 0 Following. Mr. Simpson must get with the program. No engagement is possible with a monologue.

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