I always thought Facebook was just a cosy corner in cyberspace for idle chat and gossip.
But recently a flash mob of Canadians upset at the abrupt shutdown of Parliament began airing its beefs on the social networking site, and the group has gone viral, attracting more than 10,000 members each day. (Yesterday, more than 150,000 people had signed up.) Now postings are so frequent that within minutes anything put on the main board becomes an “older post” as new comments and information links flood onto the site.
It started with a graduate student at the University of Alberta, peeved by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s New Year’s resolution to shut down Parliament until after the Olympics.
The prime minister apparently thought most Canadians wouldn’t miss the crude display of boorish behaviour that is otherwise known as question period on the Hill.
And I don’t blame most political experts for thinking a Facebook group called Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament wouldn’t fly far in cyberspace, let alone influence the hardball game of politics. But ordinary Canadians have confounded the experts.
As one of those ordinary Canadians, I think I know why.
Parliament may be full of people we don’t greatly admire, but we are the ones who put them there to represent us. Our fractious and frustrating House of Commons is the only democracy we have, the place our elected representatives decide the laws that govern this country.
Stephen Harper may think most Canadians don’t pay very close attention to what goes on in Parliament, and he’s right. But if our democratic space is suddenly, and for no good reason, shut down, we start to smell something rotten in Ottawa.
We might even begin to think that what goes on in our nation’s capital is more important than who’s groping who in the bedrooms of Hollywood. Hard to believe, eh? Well, stranger things have happened. Even on Facebook.