Increasingly, we are seeing more and more tweets by politicians using Twitter to comment on various national and international policies and to attack opposition party members and foreign governments.
Exhibit A: Donald Trump, who is well known for his Twitter rants.
No doubt, he has inspired many other politicians around the world to follow suit, including Canada, where we are seeing politicians of all stripes attacking each other on Twitter — and making comments about foreign governments.
One such seemingly harmless comment on Twitter recently by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland about Saudi Arabia has blown up into a diplomatic standoff, with Saudi Arabia taking retaliatory measures. And there is no end in sight to the riff; it appears that the two nations will remain at odds with each other for a long time to come.
In hindsight, Chrystia might be wishing now she hadn’t posted that tweet. It may seem harmless considering the vile comments being made by other politicians on Twitter these days, but Saudi Arabia is clearly offended by the apparent lack of diplomacy — and the Kingdom is making it clear to everyone that it won’t tolerate that sort of behaviour.
Of course, if Chrystia had gone the diplomatic route and voiced her concern directly to the Saudis in, say, a phone call, she would have been told to mind her own business and her protestations would have been shrugged off.
No doubt Chrystia wanted to take this to the world stage, hoping to see allies apply pressure on Saudi Arabia — but the allies have been quiet because they don’t want to mess with the Saudis. So you can’t blame the Saudis for thinking that Chrystia was trying to embarrass them.
Chrystia’s tweet was ultra-tame when you compare them to some of the comments being made by Canadian Conservative MPs and senators on Twitter these days. The Conservatives are the official Opposition and with a federal election coming next year, they are ramping up Twitter attacks on the governing Liberals.
And it will only get worse — with vicious tweets from all parties — until election day.
It’s sickening, quite frankly. I recently blocked a Conservative senator because of his comments on Twitter, and I know I will be blocking many more politicians because I just don’t want to see their gutter snipes.
Of course, one could say that crass politicians are showing their true colours on Twitter while doing their parties a disservice by scaring away voters.
And some would no doubt say that politicians have a right to free speech, too. Except, of course, there are limits on free speech in every nation, some with wider parameters than others. And many individual workplaces have a code of ethics for employees in social media settings — and if you cross the line, you’re fired.
But in Canada, at least, and perhaps several other nations as well, there doesn’t seem to much of a code of ethics for politicians using Twitter.
As public servants — because that is what they are — they shouldn’t have the right to start wars on Twitter, be it with individuals or nations. And they shouldn’t have the right to use Twitter to besmirch the reputations of anyone.
Indeed, it is time for politicians in Canada — my home country — to be banned from using Twitter for political reasons, be it policy commentary or attacks on opposition parties.