A few days ago, comedian, turned online columnist, Mark Critch got into a Twitter been with MP Paul Calandra. Mr. Critch called Mr. Calandra a slippery tool, was blocked by the MP, then told his followers he would donate a dollar to charity for every person who tweeted at Mr. Calandra to call him a tool, and then got into follow-up beef with Ezra Levant about whether he was being too partisan. It was odd to see someone as unwaveringly good natured as Mark Critch suddenly resort to seeking the public’s help in essentially cyberbullying an elected official, but Mr. Calandra seems to bring out the worst in people.
Few politicians have been as infuriating to so many as Mr. Calandra, who made a name for himself by so blatantly avoiding questions in parliament that he ended up making a tearful apology in the House of Commons for his behaviour. Rather than retiring to the sidelines, he has only become more prominent since that incident, and while he is not so blatant as to talk about Israel when asked about Iraq, he remains one of the most dogged repeater of party talking points that you will ever see in any party. It is perhaps because of his ability to stick to a message that he has become the de facto Conservative Party spokesperson who appears on political affairs shows like Power and Politics, which was where his tiff with Mark Critch began.
Power and Politics’ host, Rosie Barton, repeatedly corrected Mr. Calandra when he was a guest of the program for various comments that were not entirely accurate. Afterwards, Mr. Critch complimented her for how she handled the exchange and called the Conservative MP a “slippery tool”. Mr. Calandra, who apparently does not like Mr. Critch and/or being called a “slippery tool” on social media, then blocked him on Twitter.
I have been a fan of Mark Critch since I first saw him performing as a member of Cat Fud over twenty years ago at the Holy Heart auditorium in St. John’s, and I have disliked Paul Calandra ever since I first saw him on television, but I feel that it is the comedian, and not the MP, that is more in the wrong in this case. The attack on Mr. Calandra was both disproportionately mean-spirited and misguided.
The relentless and mindless repeating of talking points is one of the most annoying aspects of modern politics, and I applaud anyone who calls out this practice, I believe it is misguided to focus on the messenger instead of the one who is sending the message. Paul Calandra no doubt believes that the Conservative Party with Stephen Harper as its leader is the best option for Canada, and so he has chosen to be a loyal foot soldier. When he repeats talking points in Parliament or on political affairs programs, he is only dutifully carrying out orders. If the PMO asked him to pour soup for the homeless, he would no doubt put as much effort into it as he does in repeating talking points. I have no idea if Mr. Calandra is a good guy, a bad guy, or like most people, somewhere in between. If what he says makes you angry, don’t direct your anger at him, direct at the person who is telling him what to say. Every political party has loyal foot soldiers, and any anger directed at them only serves as a distraction from the people at the top giving the orders.
It is also important to not let exceedingly infuriating politicians anger you to the point where you start hurling insults in frustration, as this only serves to make your target a more sympathetic figure. I get every bit as infuriated as Mark Critch does watching Paul Calandra evade questions on television, but I could not help feel sympathy at the thought of hundreds of people tweeting at him to call him a tool. The problem with politicians like Paul Calandra is that they lower the quality of public debate on important issues. Bombarding them with insults doesn’t help fix the problem; it actually makes it worse.