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It’s time to stop cancelling politicians for old tweets

Last week, Dock Currie, an NDP candidate in rural British Columbia, was pressured into resigning his candidacy in the upcoming federal election. His career was ruined through wrath: or, more specifically, telling a journalist who covers energy that he would “like to break his jaw” on social media.

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be accurate.

Nico Johnson Montreal, QC

Last week, Dock Currie, an NDP candidate in rural British Columbia, was pressured into resigning his candidacy in the upcoming federal election. His career was ruined through wrath: or, more specifically, telling a journalist who covers energy that he would “like to break his jaw” on social media.

This proclamation is, of course, unseemly for any proposed representative of the people. Especially so for a candidate of the NDP, whose party’s policy on smacking pro-oil hacks stops begrudgingly short of this. And so, unlike the Liberal Party (who are perhaps more forgiving) the NDP found these comments to be too embarrassing, or too extreme, and so Currie was tediously swept away to join that ever-growing caste of politicians whose careers have been ruined through thoughtless posts on social media.

Threatening journalists should probably be considered unacceptable for any proposed electoral candidate, or even an activist engaged in civil society. Yet, Currie was not a parliamentarian nor even an activist at the time of this post; he was only a university student “without any designs on public life.”

It seems slightly cruel, then, that Currie, who by all means was a qualified and sober candidate, has had his political career devastated through a stale act of youthful indignation. Yet this fact did not matter to the Twitter inquisitors, who attributed those comments, not to an impassioned young student whom they could forgive, but a politician who had promised to be restrained, upright, and rational.

This discrepancy between the younger, angry Currie and the professional, mature one should be viewed as natural: at Currie’s age, who hasn’t changed their outlook or personality in a matter of months, let alone years? Instead, Currie was viewed as a hypocrite who had hidden his anger beneath a calculated facade. He became the stereotypical modern politician.

This matter seems especially unfair when considering Currie’s generation. He would have grown up as a part of that awkward breed that had unlimited access to social media, yet no education or socialization in its recently formed conventions. Thus, any spotty teenager, who has had some limited access to the internet and a sticky keyboard is entirely at the mercy of their hormonal misgivings.

By having your cognitive development on display, with all that subsequent youthful clumsiness, any self-respecting teenager is bound to post a comment that could ravage a career at a later date. It is slightly eyebrow-raising then, that so many members of this generation revel in taking offence from these online transgressions.

This social phenomenon appears as almost sadomasochistic, especially as we approach an age where every politician, actor, and writer will have their mistakes permanently engraved online. Perhaps Dave Chappelle, in his controversial new Netflix special, illustrated this point most precisely.

It comes as a relief, at least to this spotty teenager, that Andrew Scheer this week promised to stand by candidates who have apologized and accepted responsibility for these past remarks—the only party leader to do so. Surely we have grown tired of those perfect politicians, “fixed in a formulated phrase,” that have methodically calculated their ascent to power. Our representatives should be those who have committed these adolescent misgivings. At the very least, they shouldn’t be ostracized for it.

With files by Jack Wild.

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