Are political attack ads the same as bullying?

Two thought-provoking columns (Dan Leger here and Chad Lucas here) and a cartoon today by Michael de Adder — all former colleagues — prompted a thought-provoking question from yet another former colleague.

Stephanie Domet, who is the host of CBC’s Mainstreet here in Halifax, sought the views of parents in Nova Scotia who have tried explaining to their kids the difference between political attack ads and bullying.

I haven’t tried to explain it to my youngest kids, but I think the difference is negligible or non-existent.

The difference as I see it is this. When you’re younger, you go to bed early and eat your vegetables because it’s the smart thing to do and your parents make you. If you have good parents, you don’t bully because they hold you accountable. Then, when you get older, you can stay up late and stop eating vegetables. Why? Because you’re a grown-up and nobody can make you do anything. You can also get away with this form of bullying — different, but in its very essence the same — because there is no one to hold you accountable. Or is there?

The electorate has to hold the people responsible for attack ads accountable. If you can’t do it directly, then make the people they’re designed to benefit pay the consequences.

I prefer my political arguments to be based on fact, not fear or hyperbole. I also like any characterizations of people that are based on quotes be done to fairly with the quote provided in context. This was not the case with the Justin Trudeau attack ads.

Conservative politicians would rightly cry foul if a journalist took one of their quotes out of context and by doing exactly that in their ads, they insult the intelligence of the electorate.

Hypocrisy, it seems, is to politicians as duct tape is to Red Green.

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