So what happened?

Posted 10.8.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | Post-election, are we to accustom ourselves to a new era of change for the sake of change? So it seems. Voters did want change, but every party offered changes, big lists of promises -- and yet a lot of voters had no idea what was on those lists. The voters knew mainly one thing: "change." This seemed to motivate voters in the US presidential election, in BC and Ontario elections, and now in Quebec. New era, or back to the 1800s?

Commentators will assess this desire for change and draw a lot of conclusions, especiallyfor next year's federal election. What are the issues that attract voters-for-change? That's not so clear. Do those voters even know?

You won't believe how many people asked us, media people, what the parties were promising to do. Many people couldn't even identify party names -- SQ, NDPQ, a PQ with a Hydro-Quebec-like logo. Parties used to run media ads listing their platforms, plank by plank. You read, you underlined, put a question mark, and eventually voted.

This election, the parties relied on flooding: contentless posters, social-media, trolls and bots, automated messaging, and all that stuff; but players from everywhere were involved, and so party messages were simply drowned out.

Just as with Trump's win, the "disruptors" did distrupt -- by flooding the mediascape with all sorts of messaging. That's how social media works, but not how real media works.

We saw on October 1 this is how elections are lost -- by parties which decide not to create an image and enforce it with clear statements and promises. They thought they could out-flood the social-media tsunami!

Newspapers, radio, and TV are suffering in the digital age, in which promises are confusing and suspicions pumped as extreme as they can make them. (I'm a newspaper guy, and I acknowledge my bias.) During this last campaign, the general movement was that the parties (except for the Greens) were going to use non-traditional means to get their messages out.

The wet-behind-the-ears operatives figured this is: a) more effective (reach more, quicker) and b) much, much cheaper. Not only did they not budget real media, they told their candidates not to use it -- the CAQ's Pontiac candidate told me that in person.

The Liberals balked at advertising, as did most parties, and a couple even refused to be interviewed. OK, fair enough. "More effective" and "much cheaper" -- hard to beat those criteria. And how did it all work out? How did this shift benefit everyone, the candidiates, parties -- and the voters?

As for cheap advertising, if you lose the election that's a massive cost, no matter how much money was saved from the radio ads, public notices and TV spots. So, cheapness sort of pays its own way, doesn't it? You get what you pay for.

My objection is that the alternative means were NOT effective. Surely ten million people were targeted, but where were their votes on ballot day?

What might have happened if the parties had crafted clear lists of promises and directions? What mighy have happened -- from Trump to BC, Ontario to Quebec -- if the parties had not tried to out-flood the mechanized trolls? Straight-up committments, promises, and actions -- that's real message control. And it's democracy in action.


Copyright © 2018 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/10.4.18