“I think the politics has become hurtful and hateful, and that’s not what we’re about. And that’s not what we should be about.”
— Rural Development Minister Shawn Skinner
Just hours after a woman in Harbour Mille jokingly mused about the size of the premier’s private parts in her Facebook status, her name was making headlines across the country, from 570 News All News Radio in Kitchener, to the Chronicle Herald in Halifax, to CanIndia: Your Favourite South Asian Newspaper in Mississauga, to a blog called Pissed.ca in Alberta.
Somehow, I don’t think this was the kind of broad audience Pamela Pardy Ghent was going for when she posted what she says was meant to be a joke.
Her comment ended up getting her dismissed from a volunteer position on the province’s Rural Secretariat.
It is, as BloggingCanadians.ca so wryly noted, a “Lesson for political volunteers: don’t make dick jokes about your leader.”
We live and learn.
The incident has made Pardy Ghent’s name a household phrase, at least for a while. You’d be pretty surprised if there was anyone left in the province who hadn’t heard it by now.
So imagine my shock when I discovered that at least one person in the province was taking my name in vain and linking it to her Facebook comment.
And I’m not even on Facebook.
I received this nasty missive at 1:29 p.m. on Monday, via my work email.
“Do you consider yourself a journalist? Do you have some professional standards? After hearing what you posted on your facebook, firing you from the Secretariat was fully justified. The Telegram, if they have any standards, would do the same.
“To write such disgusting things about the Premier of the province is totally off the wall. Where’s the joke? You have young children, don’t you? Don’t you care what you are teaching them? Will you be cautioning them about Facebook and the Internet. Where do you have that moral liberty?
“You are an embarrassment to your children and your husband. I hope your children are not old enough to be questioned by other kids at school. A genuine apology on air and by letter is needed to help put this right. This will help repair your ‘badly soiled’ reputation in the public. I suspect that your ‘dingbat’ move will follow you for a while (Pam Frampton — Oh that’s the person who wrote...)”
Now, clearly the author feels strongly about the issue, but I’m not naming him here, for two reasons. No. 1, he knows who he is; and No. 2, he merely serves to illustrate that old adage about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.
So much vitriol, so little time for fact-checking.
You can also infer from this poison pen letter that the author is a supporter of Premier Danny Williams. Fair enough. The premier has many qualities worth defending.
But I think the premier would be the first person to admonish anyone who attempted to defend him by wrongly accusing someone else.
After I received the email, I immediately fired off a response, telling the author he had got the wrong person and asking for an apology.
My boss did the same soon after.
As of this writing, I haven’t even received an acknowledgment of the error, let alone the apology.
I am sharing his reprehensible message here in order to make an observation. Something rotten is happening in this province. It’s one thing to disagree with someone’s politics or another person’s idea of a joke. It’s quite another to rip someone to shreds personally because you don’t share their point of view.
If the message sent to me had made its way to Pardy Ghent, would she have deserved it? Is it fair to tell someone she is an embarrassment to her family and that she has no morals and that she is a bad parent because you don’t like what she posted on Facebook — a comment, I might add, that has already caused Pardy Ghent to be stripped of her position on the Rural Secretariat, which was volunteer work to which she seemed genuinely committed?
Must she be tarred and feathered, as well?
Rural Development Minister Shawn Skinner made no bones about the fact that he did not approve of Pardy Ghent’s attempt at humour and that, for that reason, he did not feel she was an appropriate person to serve on the Rural Secretariat.
Whether you agree with him or not, that is the government’s prerogative.
Some might say that by posting what she did on Facebook, Pardy Ghent set herself up for quick reaction and ridicule.
Perhaps, but there’s something very over-the-top and rabid about the response the incident is getting; something unpleasant in the extreme. And it’s been happening a lot lately in this province, often in acid-tongued defence or attack of the Williams government and its policies — not that the government can be expected to control every word out of the mouths of its followers or its detractors.
Hurtful and hateful, indeed.
As for the scathing message I received? Its author managed to get one thing right: “A genuine apology on air and by letter is needed to help put this right.”
But don’t worry, I won’t be holding my breath.
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s story editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, but please don’t send her a message if it’s intended for someone else.