Danielle Smith: The wheels on the bus go round and round

March 21, 2012 | By | 6 Replies More

Media plays teenage boy gamer while politicians flunk their humanity

Bruce Stewart

Photo: Bruce A. Stewart

By: Bruce A Stewart     

Just once I’d like to see politicians do the right thing.

Do it, that is, without having to poll first, test the waters, try out six approaches, debate endlessly, squeeze the life out of it.

Danielle Smith and the Wildrose party unveiled their campaign bus this week. By now everyone coast to coast knows that her photo was positioned above the wheels.

And that, in the puerile minds of our news media, that’s a story, because the wheels now represented her breasts.

Funny. I saw the picture and I saw wheels. Bus wheels.

This sort of nonsense is what passes for news these days.

Parties, in turn, live in fear of these outbursts. It’s (drum roll, please) an uncontrolled message!



Can’t have that, say the strategists. So the bus will be taken care of.

But where were the other parties?

Where was the Premier? Certainly a simple “I don’t see it that way, get your minds out of the gutter” would have been appropriate?

Where was the Liberal leader? The Alberta Party leader? The New Democrat leader? (Keep going, there’s more to choose from.)

All of them have a vested interest in putting a stop to this sort of nonsense. Any of them could be the next victim of “bad news” and “uncontrolled messages”.

Your bus never breaks down? You’re sure about that?

But, no. Don’t do the humane thing and speak up. There’s points to be gained!

This sort of trashy behaviour has to stop. It, more than anything else (forget “robocalls”), suppresses voter turnout.

Oh, yes, I forgot: parties like voter turnout to be low. Get the “controlled” voters out: the ones you know will vote for you. The independents who actually make up their mind rather than reacting? Better if they stayed home.

So goes the thinking these days in politics.

The media’s not going to rein itself in. This story had everything they like: a visual (essential for television), an easy story to tell, hours of follow-on chatter amongst talking heads (cheapest thing to air on radio or television) available, and column after column of tongue-wagging possible.

Real news? Who needs that when you’ve got scandal?

So it’ll be up to party leaders to fix this.

Danielle Smith should have stood her ground: “what are you, thirteen?”

Alison Redford should have been in there: “Get your minds out of the gutter. We disagree on policy. We stand together on this.”

Do you think one vote would be lost by doing the right thing?

It’s called acting ethically. It’s also called taking the long view: acting strategically instead of tactically.

The next “invented crisis” in the media may affect your party. You should speak out and put an end to it now.

And you should do it because treating Danielle Smith this way was inhumane.

Political opponents are people, first and foremost.

Throw the media under the bus, instead.

Bruce Stewart is a consultant, educator and philosopher with a passion for public affairs currently located in Toronto. He is well known across the Internet for his blog Just a Jump to the Left, then a Step to the Right and for his daily stream of snarky comments on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can reach him at bastewart.toronto@gmail.com.


Tags: ,

Category: Alberta, Opinion

Comments (6)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Mae Smythe says:

    So politicans who choose not to comment on this sort of trash are now getting bashed in the name of women’s rights and general decorum? I’m confused.

    • bruces says:

      Hi, Mae, and thanks for commenting.

      My point was that it’s in every politician’s interest to put an end to this sort of “nonsense non-issue”. All of them will have some event not come off, some bus trip have a mechanical difficulty, etc. They will all produce campaign material — leaflets, billboards, adverts, and, yes, the sides of their buses — where someone will “read something into it” that really isn’t there.

      Staying silent, in other words, keeps you out of the news. Speaking up about how idiotic the whole thing is helps frame it so that you and your party don’t get this treatment in future.

      Not to mention, but it’s the proper moral course of action. There are enough reasons for people of different parties to put each other down over policy. They don’t need to sit back and laugh at one of their opponents being in the media’s gunsights today for no reason other than the equivalent of teenagers giggling.

      • Thanks for speaking up about this, Bruce. I think it’s worth noting that while the internet went wild on this issue, the Alberta Legislature was busy passing an Opposition bill into law protecting children from second hand smoke in vehicles. This was a much more newsworthy item on many fronts (all parties supported it) and yet, it is still playing second fiddle to schoolyard jokes about breasts. It’s all very discouraging and we need to ask ourselves why we would much rather enjoy a laugh at the expense of others than work to elevate the level of political discourse. The media showed very little leadership on this (although I was pleased to hear Markham say the Beacon did not cover the whole embarrassing sideshow) and most of them were taking part in the raucous discussions on line. And the joking was not just men, I’d like to point out. Some of the women were particularly harsh, ridiculing anyone who didn’t see the humour. Unless something changes and people speak up, we could be heading for a Jersey Shores election battle, where the personalities, drunk on their own celebrity, resort to scratching each other’s eyes out and the real issues take a back seat to the reality-show dramatics.

        • bruces says:

          Hi, Jody, and thanks for commenting. I should not be surprised any longer at things like you describe. It does make me angry that it seems so “acceptable”. Well, I do not intend to stop trying to make it clear that we deserve better than we get today.

        • Laurie Hodson says:

          Okotoks (Councillor Clark) brought this before Council last term and succeeded in having ByLaw introduced. Stephen can be proud of his initiative.


  2. Greg J says:

    I think you’ve got it backwards Bruce – the other parties and leaders did the right thing by ignoring the topic. How could anything they said make a difference, except to pour added fuel on the fire of what was a Facebook and Twitter phenomena? It just needed to burn out – as indeed it seems to have. It was an embarrassing gaff, and it went viral on the Internet precisely because it was a funny/odd visual and practically begged for people to add their own caption. For the other leaders to comment, even to say “drop it” might just as have been seen as trying to draw out or draw attention to the story – better not to dignify it with commentary and feed the ‘Net and media cycle. I think Smith did the smart thing too, waiting a few hours to comment and then apparently shrug it off as an “oops”. I doubt that was easy for her – she hasn’t struck me as a woman of much humour. But she was smart enough to wait, not comment when she might have been angry, and simply acknowledge it was a bit of an unfortunate visual and it’ll be fixed.
    Insofar as it goes, Smith and the Wildrose come off looking pretty good in this little tempest in a teapot – they seemed to handle the gaff with reasonable aplomb, and even a bit of humour, and it did garner a whole lot of attention intentional or not. I suppose you could fault the media for picking up the story – but it was a wildfire Web phenom. It’s hard not to pick up on something like that, even if it is pretty much a fluff-piece.

Leave a Reply

Tell your Story