The Conservative Party in Canada became the subject of controversy after the party’s official Facebook page used a terrorist’s threat to advocate for their own policies.
First, the post itself:
The content originates from a video posted by al-Shabab, a terrorist group which made threats against a variety of Western malls, including the West Edmonton Mall, the top tourist attraction in Alberta. The Facebook post also has a link where people can sign a petition to support the Conservative Party’s anti-terrorism bill.
Local MLAs (Member of Legislative Assembly) aren’t happy, and say that the ads are damaging the local economy. Said Thomas Lukaszuk, “[It’s] crass politics…My issue is the impact that such advertising has on Edmonton. Over the last 24 hours, we’ve had cheerleader teams from all over Alberta cancelling their teams out of West Edmonton Mall and will not participate in the event because insurance companies are telling them not to go there, parents are worried.”
Other Conservative MLAs also opposed the post, with MP Laurie Hawn saying, “I wouldn’t have made that post; call it a matter of style.”
Naturally, members of the opposing party are upset. The leader of the National Democratic Party, Thomas Mulcair, said, “[Canadian Prime Minister] Stephen Harper is trying to fundraise on fear and frankly I find that shameful.”
Bizarrely enough, the Facebook post could be a violation of the very law that the Conservative Party is trying to implement. That law, if ratified, would allow for the removal of terrorist propaganda from the internet, and the video uses a quote and a still from the very imagery that could be banned if the law were ratified.
This entire story shows the danger of pushing the limits in political advertising and speech. Using terrorism in politics is certainly nothing new, and invoking national security for political gain has been done by politicians of all stripes for centuries. However, the advent of social media means that a story can spread and have more of an impact than you originally intended. Was this a fail by the Conservative Party? I don’t think it’s appropriate…but, unfortunately, fear is politically effective.