Categories for Feature

My biggest tweet ever

I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure this is the most-noticed tweet I’ve ever sent out into the Internet ether.

  • 2,300 retweets
  • 7,100 likes
  • Nearly half a million impressions

 

It’s a photo of a woman holding a funny but important message, at this past weekend’s March For Our Lives.  One word description, that’s it.

What it tells me is that social media – previously the exclusive preserve of the Troll-in-Chief, Donald Trump, and his feral winged monkeys – is possibly getting a lot more progressive.  That tweet was pro-women, anti-gun – and it took off like a rocket.

The so-called whistleblower in the Cambridge Analytica scandal is testifying before the British Parliament as I type this.  CBC is covering it live – because he’s a Canadian, and because he and his cabal were paid plenty to do work for the Canadian Liberals, the British Brexiteers and the American Republicans.  All of whom won, hugely, in circumstances where no one – no one – thought they would.  And now people are taking notice and speaking out.

All of this comes together to suggest to me that something is happening out, there, perhaps.  Something positive.

We shall see.  In the meantime, I remain amazed about that one little tweet.

 


Column: as with Trump, what if they won by cheating?

It almost seems kind of quaint, doesn’t it?

Back when the Conservative Party was running things, the commentariat were apoplectic about something called CIMS: the Constituent Information Management System (CIMS).

“Tory database draws ire of privacy experts,” went one CTV News headline.  An “unethical invasion of Canadians’ privacy,” thundered Conservative-turned-Liberal MP Garth Turner.  It was “chilling,” warned University of Ottawa privacy expert Michael Geist.

A decade ago, the Conservative Party started using CIMS for targeted appeals to voters, for donations, and to Get Out the Vote on election day.  CIMS relied upon information gleaned from door-to-door canvassing, phone banks and direct mailings to gather information – and it gave the CPC a decided edge, too.

CIMS provided the Conservatives with what is called “psychographic” data – that is, very specific information about a person’s personality and attitudes, their values and interests, and their lifestyle.  It was much more than a voter’s street address, postal code and voting history: CIMS offered the Tories data about a person’s IAOs – their Interests, Attitudes and Opinions.

The value of all that stuff was certainly apparent to the Liberals and the New Democrats, who started to lose to the Conservatives right around the time that the CIMS machine was humming away in a CPC backroom.  CIMS gave Harper’s team a better way to identify supporters, and communicate with them.  It also gave them a means to micro-target and then mobilize supporters and potential supporters.

As noted, CIMS seems a bit old-fashioned now, like dial-up modems and Blackberries.  It has been overtaken by something that is far more invasive, and far more dangerous.  And it has a moonish, bland face: Christopher Wylie.

He’s a Canadian, as the entire planet knows by now.  Among other things, he has hammered the reputation of one of the biggest companies on Earth (Facebook), he has gutted the markets ($50 billion, from Facebook) with his revelations about illicit/illegal activity, and he has set off a firestorm in political capitals around the world (Washington, Ottawa and London, all focusing on Facebook).

He calls himself a whistleblower, but that seems to be a bit of mendacious spin and proactive self-preservation.  In reality, Wylie was the guy who helped create the companies which stole highly personal information about millions upon millions of voters.

And he did that kind of work for the Liberal Party of Canada, too, for successive Liberal leaders.  Including the current one.  The Prime Minister.

For the record: during the blessedly brief period when I was advising Michael Ignatieff, I did not ever meet young Mr. Wylie.  I am told now that he hung out with what I called the propeller-heads – the ones who manipulated data down in the bowels of the various offices of the Leader of the Opposition.

No one in Liberaldom wants to admit to knowing Wylie these days, of course, because they correctly sense that a genuine scandal is in the offing.  The guy who helped engineer one of the biggest data breaches in human history worked, as it turned out, for them.

Usually, when an individual has become radioactive, politicos adopt a standardized approach.  The revolving-door Trump White House uses it quite a bit.  First, claim the individual in question was “just a volunteer,” nothing more.  If that doesn’t work, insist the aforementioned individual is unimportant, a “coffee boy,” in effect.  And if none of that works – and it rarely does – join the pile-on, and say, with a straight face, that the President/Prime Minister/Potentate “never met with this person, and is cooperating with police.”

Pat Sorbara was the Grits’ 2011 deputy campaign boss – and, in 2014, a very senior campaign advisor to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.  She is one of the few who has been willing to speak about Wylie on the record.  Wylie was “way ahead of his time,” Sorbara marveled in the Globe.  The two of them spitballed various microtargeting techniques.

“[Sorbara] was impressed by his ideas,” reported the Globe and Mail, “but said that after his initial presentation she had to reject his proposals owing to a lack of time and resources.”  So the story changes, yet again: the Ignatieff Liberals didn’t reject Wylie because what he was suggesting was unethical and possibly illegal.

No, they didn’t use him because they couldn’t afford it.

Regrettably for Ignatieff’s successor, that all changed in 2016.  In that year, Christopher Wylie was paid at least $100,000 by Trudeau’s own political hit squad – the Liberal Caucus Services Bureau.  It is impossible to claim that the bespectacled, cherubic computer whiz with the technicolour tresses is a mere coffee boy – as the Trudeau spinners initially did – because they paid him, they now admit, $100,000.

That’s more than what most of their full-time tech folks are paid in a year, Virginia.  And that, therefore, has all the makings of a full-blown scandal.

Stephen Harper, sitting in a Calgary office tower looking at the yellowed press clippings about the scandal that was CIMS, must be having a good old chuckle.

 


How to deal with online assholes

[From the archives, but still valid.]

I’ve been doing this web stuff – it’s a web site, people, not a blog – for almost two decades.

At the start, I didn’t have comments – partly because the web-site-based platform I used, designed by Bjorn and Boris, simply didn’t permit me to do so – and partly because I wasn’t wild about providing an open forum for some jerk to libel someone else, and get me sued in the process.

In 2007, I finally decided to give comments a shot. My web platform had been modernized, and the law had become a bit less muddy. So I opened it up, and was glad I did: I think my commenters are pretty darned smart, and they make me think. Hopefully they make you think, too.

Anyway. With the good, of course, comes the bad.

The trolls. The haters. The defamers. The stalkers. The assholes. Because they have no life – they tend to be unattractive, unsuccessful, unemployed men, between 30 and 55, who are consummate losers – the online world is where they live.

They have all sorts of fake names: Bocanut, Sattva, Skippy, others. They come and go, but one thing is constant: they hate. They live to make others feel lousy.

The New York Times has a fascinating story about these assholes I encourage you to read, here. It has some good tips on how to deal with haters.

Now, through a decade-and-a-half, I’ve developed some tips of my own. Here they are, for you to use, gratis:

Call the cops: If they’re really bad – if they are persistently stalking or harassing you – call the police. This week, my wife and I again did that, and the neo-Nazis at Your Ward News will soon be hearing all about it.

Expose them: Lots of tools now exist to track a hater’s IP, his geolocation, you name it. (Hell, I’ve got software they tells me what kind of computer and operating system trolls use.) Use them. When you are sure about a hater’s identity, shame them online. When you are unsure, seek help: whenever I do so, very talented folks always step forward to help flush the knuckle-draggers out. Thus, thanks to free online tools and online good samaritans, “Bocanut” becomes who he really is – Borys Demchuk, recently let go by Johnvince Foods of North York, who harasses women online. And who we’re going to sue (see below).

Sue them: I have, plenty of times, and I’ve won plenty of apologies (see here). I sue when someone goes after my family, my business, or my professional reputation. Suing someone in Small Claims Court, for real and meaningful defamation, is your legal right – and it’s quite inexpensive and easy to do. You don’t need a lawyer – just a real case, and a determination to see it through. Take my word for it: when you hit them in the pocketbook, they thereafter tend to be much more careful. Or they disappear.

Block early, block often: That’s the advice of my pal Steve Ladurantaye, and it’s advice I’ve been following for years. If some anonymous creep has been coming after you on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere, block ’em. Their mission in life is to make others feel as worthless as they are – so don’t let them. Turn them off. You’ll feel better when you do.

Read the Terms of Service: If a troll is relentlessly stalking you, defaming you, and upsetting you, check the terms of service for the web platform they favour. Inevitably, their attacks will contravene the rules. Carefully document what’s happening and file a complaint. Nine times out of ten, the troll will be shut down.

Consider the source: The Internet is a bit of an equalizer, which is good: it gives a voice to people who would not otherwise have one. But there’s an unhelpful side to that, too. Namely, it gives a platform to cruel bastards, one that sometimes seems far out of proportion to their significance in real life. So, always consider the source: if some anonymous piece of human garbage is sliming you on Twitter, check their metrics: you’ll inevitably find that they are followed by no more than a dozen people. That is, practically nobody cares about them. You shouldn’t, either.

Consider what they have to say: Sometimes – just sometimes – a critic will have something to say that you need to consider. Sometimes, their criticism of you will be right. Sometimes, a critic won’t be a troll; sometimes, they’ll be a thoughtful person with some thoughtful (but critical) things to say. Heed them, if you can. I try to, by opening up comments every day – and I inevitably receive criticism that gives me pause. Criticism doesn’t always equal hate.

Anyway, that’s my list of tips and tactics. Hopefully, you found it useful. And, if you didn’t, I say:

Everyone’s a damned critic.


Adler-Kinsella: why the Wylie scandal matters

Fifty billion in market value, gone. One of the biggest companies in the world in chaos. Governments announcing probes. And the Trudeau government looking quite nervous.

Charles Adler and me on the Christopher Wylie affair. I think this one could be very big.  Here’s a snippet from next week’s column about it all:

Usually, when an individual has become radioactive, politicos adopt a standardized approach.  The revolving-door Trump White House uses it quite a bit.  First, claim the individual in question was “just a volunteer,” nothing more.  If that doesn’t work, insist the aforementioned individual is unimportant, a “coffee boy,” in effect.  And if none of that works – and it rarely does – join the pile-on, and say, with a straight face, that the President/Prime Minister/Potentate “never met with this person, and is cooperating with police.”

Pat Sorbara was the Grits’ 2011 deputy campaign boss – and, in 2014, a very senior campaign advisor to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.  She is one of the few who has been willing to speak about Wylie on the record.  Wylie was “way ahead of his time,” Sorbara marveled in the Globe.  The two of them spitballed various microtargeting techniques. 

“[Sorbara] was impressed by his ideas,” reported the Globe and Mail, “but said that after his initial presentation she had to reject his proposals owing to a lack of time and resources.”  So the story changes, yet again: the Ignatieff Liberals didn’t reject Wylie because what he was suggesting was unethical and possibly illegal. 

No, they didn’t use him because they couldn’t afford it.


Political parties and data mining: a whodunit

Young Canadian Christopher Wylie has been much in the news lately – among other things, for single-handedly hammering Facebook’s market value, and causing lots of political earthquakes in the U.S.

When Wylie was kicking around the Liberal Party of Canada, I didn’t know him.  “Couldn’t pick him out of a police line-up,” I told an enterprising Canadian Press reporter calling around about Wylie.  “Which may be where he is heading.”

As a result of all the controversy, the Liberal Party is being asked if it went along with Wylie’s apparent plan to illicitly/illegally abscond with the personal information of millions of voters.  The Liberals should be be asked those questions. The people who create the privacy rules should be expected to know and apply those rules.

But – as I just told a Walrus writer – it is ridiculous to think that just the Canadian Liberals and the American Republicans were the only ones doing this seamy data mining.  They weren’t, I assured her.

Here, ipso facto, is a presentation I gave many years ago about what the Harper/Kenney Conservatives were up to – and long before Christopher Wylie showed up in Ottawa. The Tories, I think, were in this space before anyone else in Canada.

Winning the Ethnic Vote Presentation – March 23 2011 by Warren Kinsella on Scribd


Fish where there’s fish


…that’s something I say so much about campaigns that my staff have heard it a billion times. Talk about the stuff voters want you to talk about. Manage the dialogue.Thus, this from Campaign Research:

“The PCs have a significant lead over both the OLP and the ONDP. This is because the policy issues that matter the most to the electorate also happen to be the policy planks that Doug Ford is seen to be performing much better on. If Doug Ford and the PCs remain focused on these policy planks, the PCs could hold onto their lead…Kathleen Wynne and the OLP are outperforming in a significant way on some of the policy planks, but at this point those policy planks are not seen as being as important.”  – said Eli Yufest, CEO of Campaign Research Inc.

So, ipso facto, the current situation: Doug Ford is way ahead of Kathleen Wynne because he’s talking about the issues people care about. Wynne, not so much.

That’s also reflected in the latest Angus Reid, seen here.

Which brings to mind an anecdote from a few months back, when various Ontario Liberal folks were getting plenty nervous. A couple meetings were convened, at which the Ontario Liberal leader and her “chief strategist” described how they would win.

Basically, they told the assembled Nervous Nellies that, if they talked a lot about the sex-ed curriculum and stuff like that, they’d do smashingly. But no one, I’m told, asked this question: “But what if the campaign is about affordability and our perceived indifference to regular folks who don’t drive Volvos and listen to CBC and live in the Annex?”

Of such things are victories made. The other guy’s.

When you talk about stuff people don’t care about it…well, you know what happens then.



Mainstreet: PCs “lead in every region”

Mainstreet – who, full disclosure, is one of the polling firms with which Daisy Group does business – dropped a big poll this morning.

It’s not good news for the governing Ontario Liberals:

The Progressive Conservatives would win a massive majority with new leader Doug Ford at the helm if an election were held today, a new Mainstreet Research poll finds.

The poll finds that the PCs have 47% support among decided and leaning voters. The governing Liberals under Kathleen Wynne are at 26.2%. The NDP led by Andrea Horwath have 18.6% support among Ontario voters, while the Greens currently are at 6.4%.

“While we fielded this survey before yesterday’s Throne Speech, the PCs are in pole position to get an overwhelming win in June”, said Quito Maggi, President and CEO of Mainstreet Research. “This is thanks to the PCs’ large lead in nearly every region in Ontario.”

This graphic is pretty revealing, too:

The PCs are leading in every part of Ontario – Hell, they’re even in play in Metro Toronto seats where, historically, they’ve only been protected by endangered species laws. How could this have been avoided? As written below – here and here – Ontario Liberals needed to:

  • Get rid of the Wizard and the Board.  They didn’t.
  • Get lots of new blood and new ideas.  They didn’t.
  • Get new face(s) at the top.  They didn’t.

Can the PCs still blow it?  Of course.  They’ve done so in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2014 – but they seem highly focussed on not doing that again in 2018, don’t they?  Also: can Andrea Horwath be the main beneficiary of all the Ford-fearmongering the Libs are about to unleash?  Of course.

The conventional wisdom is always that “campaigns matter.”  Sure, they do.  But Lisa and I worked on the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016, and we can tell you that Hillary had a much better campaign: more money, more people, more organization, more ads, more policies, more ideas, more everything.

And we still lost.

So, yes, campaigns matter.  But when folks want change – and, in Ontario in 2018, they assuredly do, as they assuredly did in the U.S. in 2016 – I don’t think the campaign matters as much.

Change > campaign.