What happened? A friend and colleague, Stephanie Carvin, criticized the government's new stance on the anti-ISIS campaign, and Gerry Butts, one of two principal advisers to Prime Minister Trudeau responded to her. Since Gerry and I have been chatting on twitter off and on since last summer, I jumped in and this happened.
Gerry and I exchanged tweets as I sought more clarification about why the CF-18s are being withdrawn and he kept saying that this was well explained. The conversation was respectful and interesting. And it was not a skirmish nor was it heated (geez, CBC, chillax, it is not your first day on twitter).
Folks were amazed that a member of this government was willing to engage a couple of scholars on twitter for a while. I am too, as the old government would never do such a thing. And perhaps reasonably so given what happened next. For the rest of the day, I accumulated not just new twitter followers (yeah!) but many tweets sent to both me and to Gerry that were either nasty towards him or to me or to both of us. Our respectful conversation led to a lot of disrespectful partisans attacking one of us.
This is not my first day on twitter so it was not that surprising, but Ron Burgundy said it best:
Indeed, it did. Good thing Gerry has a thick skin and that I mostly do so as well (years on political science rumor sites as the only non-anonymous moderator has trained me well for taking fire from random internet people).
I hope yesterday's experience does not deter the government from engaging folks via social media. This government is far more engaging and accessible than the previous one (I was invited to a roundtable at Global Affairs Canada on Monday to discuss Canadian aid policies for Afghanistan so it is not just social media engagement that is going on), and it is a good thing.
Of course, my favorite tweet exchange in all of this was:
@gmbutts @DougSaunders gosh, you are making me blush. now if you required everyone in govt to buy my new book ... pic.twitter.com/CHjFNrxAGx— Steve Saideman (@smsaideman) February 9, 2016
You may have us confused with the last PMO. We'd never require it, but we can certainly recommend it. ;) https://t.co/k5avOgV0gW— Gerald Butts (@gmbutts) February 9, 2016