How to Game an Election

Written by Harold McNeill on September 18th, 2019. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts, Editorials


This post is written as a less provocative introduction to a nasty game being played out across the nation as we move towards the October election. Two examples of the game are provided above and both happened today (Sept 18).

One was a fake news story about the Prime Minister, and the other, the doctoring of a Rick Mercer meme. Both were discovered by CBC news. We can expect much more of this stuff over the coming weeks and most of it will emanate from the Conservative Party and their backroom social media experts.

In an election as close as the one, where every vote counts and, short of a complete disaster on the part of one party or another, social media is absolutely the best bet for gaining undecided votes.  Following, are a couple of polls showing how things stood in July 2018.

Table I  “Would you consider voting for one of these parties?”

The numbers have not changed all that much over the past year. What happens to the Greens and NDP, has a considerable impact on the Liberals – not so much on the Conservatives. Clearly, the movement of voters between the Greens, NDP, and Liberals is more likely to affect the outcome of the election.

All the Conservatives need do is develop strategies to keep the Greens and NDP focussed on the Liberals while keeping their own party members solidly attached. A large part of that strategy involves heaping as much negativity as possible on the Liberals.  If the Greens and NDP help them out, so much the better.  Next up, the change between how you would vote in 2018 and 2019.

Table 2 

For the full set of 2018 tables link here.

Skipping forward to Sept 16, 2019, the vote percentages are little changed.  Conservatives 34.4% vs Liberal 34.1%, the NDP down 4% and the Greens up 2.5%.  The balance has pushed the Conservatives and Liberals slightly closer (Liberals down, 1.5% and Conservatives up .5%) When dealing with percentages this close, very small advantages can make all the difference in who occupies the Prime Ministers office after the election.  That is where social media set the standard.

Gaming the Political System

For the better part of the past decade, politicians around the world have been gaming the political system by using third-party social media sites to spread all kinds of memes and videos in which hate, fear, and fake news are the main ingredients.  In their quest, women, particularly women in politics, along with visible minorities, migrants, and immigrants are targeted in the most unseemly ways. Every country is under attack with the most visible recent examples being Brexit and the US Election.   Is Canada immune?  Most certainly not.

I support the Liberals, NDP, and Greens 100%, as across the spectrum of party positions they are very similar. In their quest for votes, the Greens and NDP  tackle the Liberals at every opportunity while giving the Conservatives a free pass. The Greens can also chew on the NDP as a possible source.  For the Conservatives, their opposition is the Liberals and for the most part, they sit back and watch the Greens and NDP attack on their behalf.

While the parties of the centre-left (Liberals, NDP and Greens) are supported by nearly 65% of Canadians, they are deluding themselves if they think they can win or tie, using traditional electioneering methods.  Sure, every little bit helps and if you are good on the hustings and have a reasonable platform, you can gain points, but those traditional means are labour-intensive and expensive and their worth pales in comparison to the returns to be gained in the on-line world where a large percentage of the population get their news and views.

Over the past five years, the Conservatives, under the guidance of experts in the field, have found the ways and means to gain an edge in that game through the effective use of third party supporters. Sure, they play a dirty game, but no matter how low you go, it’s entirely legal and Elections Canada does not have a leg to stand on in terms of reining in the worst offender. You may think all this back-room work is all done at arm’s length to the party, but you would be mistaken. Yesterday, September 16, 2019, the Conservative Party of Canada was sanctioned for posting fake news in the form of a meme (Opening graphic of this post). They removed the meme along with an apology (of sorts).

A short time later the North Seymour Conservative Association was also forced to remove a meme, one of Rick Mercer asking young people to Vote Conservative.  The post was doctored by adding Conservative after the word Vote. It was also removed.

The Federal Conservatives and Seymour Riding Association complied but one day later those memes will be shared by every third party social media site and by thousands of supporters where the messages will be taken as statements of the fact.  Five years from now those memes will still be circulating of how Trudeau was investigated by the RCMP.  Link here to the background on that affair.

Where do the majority of these memes and thousands of fake news posts come from – third-party social media advertisers of course. The managers of those many dozens of social media sites and blogs have close ties to both the provincial and federal arms of the Conservative Party.  Having memes such as the ones above posted by a third-party allows the party to maintain plausible deniability as to being complicit in their production and circulation.  That the sites and the party are one in purpose, just follow the managers.

Larry Brandt, was Andrew Sheer’s Manitoba Campaign Chair, before becoming a social media and blogging specialist.  Others, including Jeff Ballingall and Ryan O’Connor, who hail from Ontario, have long ties to the backrooms of the Conservatives. They cut their social media teeth during the Ontario election that propelled Doug Ford to office.  Since that time they have crisscrossed the nation working the backrooms.

Two days ago I wrote a full post on how this has played out across Canada but I was not happy with having come across so strong with the title and in particular one word.  I will change the title to something less provocative but in the meantime, I will use this post as an introduction to the challenges we face over the coming weeks. A link to the original post is provided below.

The Greens, NDP, and Liberals have a choice to make over the coming weeks.  They can choose to work together to tackle critical issues such as climate change or they can go their separate ways, pick at each other, and put the Conservatives in power.

If you wish to gain an understanding of the full scope of the Conservative social media machine, read the material in this link on how the King of Conservative Social Media does the dirty work.

Harold

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  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.