My October 7 post on political operatives calling talk radio shows has generated a lot of comment, though, ironically, most of it is coming to me via email because the responders wish to remain anonymous.
I received another comment from the anonymous (former) operative who started it all, to clarify their own position on planted callers. This person thinks that, despite the questionable tactics, political plants do help to elevate the level of debate on these programs. Here's that person's comment:
I'm sure some people would argue that political plants are beneficial to the shows themselves. If you have a well-versed individual who is knowledgeable on the issues of the day, it provides a greater, more intellectual sort of debate for the moderator, who is also well-versed on these issues, and usually, they would probably know who a plant was and try to play "devil's advocate." In theory, political plants try to simplify complex issues for the listeners, and for the government, it's an effective way of getting a point across that may have been missed by the media from a press conference, for example. It's a highly effective point of communicating "the message." There are four hours of these shows on VOCM during the day, and four more at night, five days a week. Those plants would tell you that's enough time for both political plants and "ordinary" callers to get their points across Now if only the opposition could have some supporters to level the playing field.
I received another email from a former communications staffer within a government department, who said that their instructions were not to participate in Open Line.
"It was well known that political staffers were expected to round up the troops and call in to Open Line etc on hot issues, but as a public servant I was never asked to do that," the person said.
This is an important distinction and I'm glad the writer made it. It does raise the question of whether that policy is still being applied within the current government. Persons with inside information on this subject are welcome to drop me a line.