Something incredible happened last week during the national leadership debate on CBC.
Something, I feel, almost miraculous.
Leaders did not refrain from telling untruths (Mr. Harper, are you worried you would seem hypocritical by admitting to the backroom deal you were a part of in 2004 with the Bloc and the NDP when the LIberals were in power now that you are spending millions on attack ads building fears of opposition parties forming a coallition? You are right, you would).
Leaders did not refrain from repeating ‘sound bites’ again and again (Mr. Ignatieff, we got you the first three times you said we need a leader who “respects democracy”).
There were cheap shots, and playing off of one against the other by the NDP, but there was an entire dimension to the debate I had previously never experienced, and it changed my view of debates forever.
I found it …wait for it …interesting.
And it was all thanks to a little thing called Twitter.
Twitter changed my debate experience forever.
There I was, just after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, at my desk, madly finishing up some calls so I could watch the live stream of the debate on CBC, thinking it would have been a much more interesting experience in a pub with other journalists to discuss (read: heckle) the whole thing and a pint of cold beer in hand.
But after watching five minutes or so, I flipped over to my Twitter feed and searched out #db8 #elxn41 while I listened to the leaders.
Now, I’m pretty new to Twitter, and I just sort of bumble along for the most part, but one thing I have learned that is great about Twitter is how you can see this huge public discourse on subjects, and be a part of a larger conversation on a topic.
When people are discussing a certain thing on Twitter, they have what is called a hashtag to mark the conversation, so other people can see what everyone is saying on that topic and join in or just check it out.
You don’t have to be friends with the people or ‘following’ them, it is a way to make a statement to everyone on a topic.
The hashtag is the “#” symbol and all you have to do is put that mark in front of whatever you want and you can see what people are saying about that particular topic.
So when I put in #db8 and #elxn41 (the shortened versions of debate and election 41, to save characters in Twitter’s limited characters) in the search bar, I found out what everyone was saying about the debate, while it was happening.
And you know what, it was seriously interesting.
Young people were paying attention, and making statements.
Elizabeth May was tweeting her responses to the questions.
And then there were the real doozies.
From Rick Mercer to a Don Cherry wannabe, people were making some pretty hilarious comments.
I mean, of course there were the dweebs who had to say something about how wonderfully their favourite leader was performing, that’s a given, but there were also some gems (hashtags have been removed for clarity).
Here are a handful of my favourites:
“If I was in charge of debates there would be red carpet & kleig lights.” – Rick Mercer
“Iggy has handed his blackberry to @adamgoldenberg so he can live tweet. Adam, what’s his brickbreaker high score?” – Rick Mercer
“Not sure why I’m watching the (election debate) again, but SH’s way of not looking at the other debaters seems even weirder the 2nd time around.” – traceyyyyz
“Layton to Harper: ‘I’m not sure why we need so many more prisons…the crooks seem quite happy in the Senate.’ (snap)” – jianghomeshi (Jian Ghomeshi)
“Is lizard-in-the-headlights a saying?” – flematic (Andrew Fleming)
“How about white collar crime? We need protections from shady investment advice. Our laws leave innocent citizens w/out remedy.” – ElizabtheMay (Elizabeth May)
“I have a long gun that needs registering … In my pants” – DonCherryThinks (WhatDonCherryThinks)
“Zing! ‘If you don’t show up to work you don’t get a promotion.’ Layton to Ignatieff. Nice one.” – marcellam (Marcella Munro)
And of course, the simplistic analysis Twitter allows:
“During (debate) @jacklayton leads by picking up 717 twitter followers, @M_Ignatieff picks up 609 and @pmharper gets only 351” – cdint (Canadian Interest)
I could go on and on, there were hundreds of comments during the debate, and of course, continuing on afterwards.
“Reporter: How do you thnk the debate will be different tomorrow night? Gilles Duceppe: ‘It will be in French.’ (nicely done)” – jianghomeshi (Jian Ghomeshi)
“English (debate): Harper sat back on defense, Iggy ad a little trouble getting words out, and Greens should have replaced the Bloc. (my opinion)” -jmcontenti (Justina Contenti)
Thanks Twitter, for making this the best debate yet.
Politics is a bit frustrating at times, so I appreciate a little comic relief. Oh, and I like getting to see what people are thinking, ya, that too.
So in the future, I will only engage in observing political debates with Twitter alongside -beverage optional.