Bassili, Monica writes a weekly column for Ladiescorner.ca
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What Twitter Can’t Do | Monica Bassili

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Since the dominance of Twitter, politicians have utilized the online platform to set their political agendas. There are numerous other platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, yet,  politicians still cling to the performative nature of Twitter. Although many voters are not active on Twitter, Twitter is the primary online platform for journalists to support or oppose politicians and their political affiliation.

 

With this in mind, it is significant to note that Twitter is an extension of political theatre. Beyond any provincial or territorial legislature, Twitter is an extension of arguments, beliefs, and political agenda-setting. Alberta politics is no exception. The United Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party use Twitter as a form of political manipulation to steer like-minded voters to their platforms.

 

What is the Thought Police?

 

Like the fictional setting of Twitter, a minority of Twitter users take it upon themselves to track down past tweets from politicians to degrade their campaigns, constituency, and beliefs. The thought police, in this sense, is nothing more than a handful of politically charged users. Topics such as LGTB+ issues, minority rights, and resource extraction are among the tweets being tracked and brought into the mainstream media. 

 

The traditional playbook politicians use is fading fast, leading many towards mainstream social media platforms. With this in mind, the rules of the game have changed. Politicians in today’s social media era cannot utter a view that could cause the thought police to attack them. Consequently, politicians who choose not to censor themselves and post their genuine beliefs are labelled as “fringe” and “alt-right/left.” In turn, such beliefs are marked and set aside, allowing any user to disregard that politician’s view as nonsense. 

 

Recently, Sharif Haji, NDP candidate for Edmonton-Decore, has been called out for a 2015 tweet calling out Caitlyn Jenner for being biologically male. The tweet was called out as being “transphobic.” What does this mean? The Marriam-Webster dictionary states that transphobia refers to an “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against transgender people.” Did Haji’s comments truly reflect transphobia?

 

The answer to this question can be yes and no. Sure, if you are a trans-Albertan reading that tweet, you would be uncomfortable and most likely stop following Haji. Yet, if you hold different beliefs, Haji’s comments reflect his understanding of anatomy, science, and his own experiences. Ultimately, Haji’s statements do not constitute any form of violence, hatred, or incitement of harm against trans people. Although this could be contested, there is an essential distinction between online comments and actual, tangible harm.

 

Not Everything is a Scandal

 

In response to being called out on Twitter, Haji posted numerous tweets apologizing for the “harm” his comments have caused. The harms caused by Haji’s 2015 comments remain unknown; however, the nature of political theatre requires politicians to double down and rectify their past “mistakes.” In this sense, Twitter’s thought police believe that “bad” comments made by politicians over seven years ago are “mistakes” and must be rectified.

 

Why does this matter? Well, in short, it doesn’t. The essence of online comments, especially on Twitter, is inherently performative. Little rationale, logic, or critical thought is placed on online statements. How much substance can one take from 280 characters?

 

Not every comment, post, or thread online should be placed at the level of “political scandal.” As Haji is yet to be voted in as an NDP candidate, any Twitter “scandals” should be regarded as an extension of political theatre. What is truly important is learning what Haji works for and supports once announced as the NDP candidate for Edmonton-Decore. 

 

Taking the Time to Know Your Candidate

 

Notably, Haji is the Executive Director of the Africa Center, a crucial organization providing resources, services, and support to Alberta’s African peoples. With his experience in the public and private sectors and non-profits, he is well-positioned to help the diverse residents of Edmonton-Decore. As per the 2016 census, Edmont-Decore is made up of over 30 % immigrants, being one of the highest percentages in an Alberta constituency. Thus, nominating a candidate that has substantial experience in helping diverse populations is critical.

 

Accordingly, to access any information to sway your vote, Twitter is not worth it. From the thought police’s pursuits of excavating seven-year-old tweets, Twitter can only provide so much content for you to decide your political affiliation.

Thus, if you are interested in supporting and promoting accessible and available public healthcare, affordable housing, and inclusive community environments, please take the time to research Haji’s work.

Numerous candidates are also running, including incumbent MLA Chris Nielsen, meaning it is crucial that residents of Edmonton-Decore vote for their desired NDP candidate.

To vote for Haji as your candidate for Edmonton-Decore, please go to Rosslyn Inn and Suites 13620 97 Street NW, Edmonton, today from 10 am — 4 pm.

 

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For the Love of Mothers! | Monica Bassili

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