How did our provincial government turn into an Internet troll?
Last night, I engaged in a debate over Twitter with the Vancouver Sun's Chad Skelton over, of all things, government communications.
The B.C. Liberal regime in Victoria often emails statements to the media rather than having spokespeople or cabinet ministers answer questions on the record.
Skelton believes that reporters have a duty not to withhold information in these statements.
He questioned the ethics of refusing to publish anything in these emails of interest to readers—and then using that as leverage to get an interview.
I argued that we're under no obligation to publish information in these government messages if there's no opportunity to ask questions and ascertain the truth of what's being said.
The debate ended amicably. (You can read it in its entirety here.)
But the more I think about this situation, the more I'm coming to the conclusion that we're really being governed by a bunch of Internet trolls.
I'm not using the English version of Internet trolling, which refers to people who disrupt chats or comment threads by changing the topic or turning nasty.
Rather, I'm relying on the Chinese version of trolling, known as bái mù ("eyes without pupils"), which is explained in this Wikipedia entry:
"...trolling involves blindly talking nonsense over the internet, having total disregard to sensitivities or being oblivious to the situation at hand, akin to having eyes without pupils."
This is exactly what the B.C. government is doing with many of its emailed statements to the media.
It's sometimes blindly talking nonsense, having total disregard to the sensitivities of journalists who might want questions answered for their readers. And the government's declarations are often oblivious to the issues that prompted the media inquiry in the first place.
When reporters publish many of these nonsensical statements without demanding to have questions answered, they are giving a voice to these Internet trolls.
When trolls invade our comment streams, they're often chastised by other readers.
Perhaps it's time that readers reacted in a similar manner when the Internet trolls who govern us decide to invade news stories.
Reporters should be reminded that it's not wise to feed the trolls. That's because this only encourages them.