Controversy Over Bulte Comments at All Candidates’ Debate

12 Jan ’06

Boing Boing has linked to video shot by Accordion Guy at last night’s All Candidates’ Debate in Parkdale-High Park, the riding of the Liberal MP Sarmite Bulte. Bulte has been at the center of a controversy lately over the media lobby’s involvement in a campaign fundraiser (on which I’ve blogged here, here and here – for the definitive coverage, see Michael Geist’s blog and his sidebar index of posts on the topic).

Bulte lashed out at her critics yesterday, accusing them of being “zealots”. From Boing Boing:

In this video, shot by AccordionGuy, a geek who lives in her riding (district), Bulte is asked whether she will take the pledge, and she responds with bile, vowing not to allow “Michael Geist and his pro-user zealots, and Electronic Frontier Foundation members” to “intimidate her.” Her entire response is an embarassment to her and her party, and it’s must-see video for anyone going to the polls in Parkdale/High Park.

From Techdirt, which has also just posted on the issue:

Boing Boing points to a video where Bulte is asked to sign a a Copyright Pledge that says those crafting copyright policy won’t take money from interested stakeholders. Her response starts out by insisting she’s just protecting the artists (a favorite excuse given by the industry, but often disputed by actual artists). However, then she lets her anger get the better of her, dismissing Michael Geist, the EFF and “pro-user zealots” who are trying to “intimidate” her and “silence” her voice. First of all, no one is trying to silence her at all — they’re just saying she should be fairer to other stakeholders. However, more importantly: pro-user zealots? The people who are actually supporting the content industry by being the consumers of it clearly deserve a seat at the table concerning policies that impact them — and are being written off as zealots by a politician taking money from the industry side. It doesn’t exactly raise the confidence level on her ability to legislate fairly on the issue.

(Such accusations against Michael are sublimely ridiculous and not really worthy of a response, but if you must, he has responded to a similar accusation by Bulte – and at least one other similar campaign by CRIA in the past – on his blog. Michael is a well-informed and widely admired commentator on these issues, and is quite obviously determined to ensure that citizens understand the public policy implications of copyright law. We need more like him. At the end of day, such attacks say more about the character of his critics than anything else.)

It seems to me that with several all candidates’ debates still remaining (including tonight), lashing out at her critics was perhaps not the best strategy for Bulte to adopt. These critics will be back, and I’m going to hazard a guess that they will bring (i) friends, (ii) more videocameras, and (iii) prepared responses to her latest claims. There may even be pirates. Also expect a lot of traffic in the blogosphere and in the major media on this topic over the next few days. Bulte should address her critics with substantive responses to their concerns. She should do this in a written statement, and at the remaining all candidates’ debates if the issue is raised again. Responding with ad hominem attacks instead simply raises continuing questions about her judgment and inflames critics who, I suspect, will not go away quietly.

Sidebar: this episode provides a textbook lesson in the democratizing power of blogging and the peril that faces established, moneyed interests who ignore it or clumsily attempt to control it or banish it from the debate. A great deal of what has been interesting in this election has not come – at least originally – from established media. It has come from citizens eager to use their new powers of communication in the electoral process. This is a development of profound importance. (It is also, inexplicably, an apparent surprise to the Bulte campaign managers.)

[tags]Publishing, Media, Music, DRM, Bulte[/tags]

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