How many government officials does it take to screw in a tweet?

by Aaron Wherry

Stephanie Levitz discovers how many officials are required to help a minister demonstrate his support for open government and social media engagement.

The two 45-minute chats — one in English, one in French — took more than a month to organize. Three dry runs were held ahead of the main event, with staff even creating bogus Twitter accounts in order to practise using the service. 

More than 40 stock responses were drafted so they could be quickly copied and pasted to reply to questions, while a ghostwriter was engaged to get Clement’s responses out faster. A spokesman for Clement called that a natural practice. ”Use of a moderator (what the department called a “ghost writer”) was a practical decision based on the fact that the minister could respond quicker verbally as the moderator simply typed out the response keeping it within the 140-character limit for Twitter,” Sean Osmar said in an email. ”I should point out too that the minister did take to the keyboard himself for a few responses — he does like to get hands-on sometimes,” he added. Clement was flanked at the Twitter table by two subject matter experts and two other communications staff, in addition to the one moderating the chat and the one acting as his ghostwriter.




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How many government officials does it take to screw in a tweet?

  1. There’s nothing like spontaneity

    • I think you meant to say…That’s nothing like spontaneity…didn’t you?

    • Spontaneity is good. Planned spontaneity is better.

      • LOL Might as well just issue a press release and be done with it.

  2. Milton Friedman ~ There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.

    Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income.

    • Interesting how right-wing Friedmanians always end up the worst offenders…

      • Not really, Friedman’s own quote is saying he’s incompetent and not very good with money.

    • So Tony and Milton are the guys that have the grilled cheese when they’re paying, the steak when its on someone else, and give you a pair of polyester socks for Xmas.

  3. This is the reason why Harper’s spending record is worse than Bob Rae’s (according to Andrew Coyne) while benefits and services are being slashed. Harper has created a massive Soviet-style information-control bureaucracy.

    In his Ministry of Truth, bureaucrats are busy working away at stonewalling and propagandizing access to information requests, muzzling scientists, cooking up talking points and filtering out any information that might potentially make the Harper Government look bad (or offend some group affecting their voter micro-targeting strategy.)

    It’s not surprising this initiative to promote nonexistent open government turned into an Orwellian farce.

  4. I don’t know. It’s a mildly amusing story, but it feels like much ado about nothing to me. To my mind, at worst, the points he loses for being a little too controlling are evened out by the points he gets for trying to use social media to connect a bit more. Pretty much a wash, imho.

    • In pre-Harper times, cabinet ministers would scrum with reporters. Iggy had no problem taking questions from people in the audience when he was campaigning. Harper’s fixation on information-control is not only paranoid and obsessive-compulsive, it is taxpayer-funded…

      • Sure, but is this particular example of a Twitter meet-up really an example of what you describe?

        Fine, the Minister didn’t participate in the Twitter event by personally typing his tweets while sitting alone in his Mom’s basement. In the grand scheme of things, so what?

        • Putting together a team of specialists to tweet 140-character propaganda is the very opposite of open government.

          You sound like Ann Coulter who says the definition of a liberal is someone who lives in his mom’s basement. Ignorance is not a virtue…

  5. “while a ghostwriter was engaged to get Clement’s responses out faster”
    What, they had John Baird tweeting on Mr Bean’s, oops, I mean Tony’s, behalf like he did in the HoC whenever the question of the G8/G20 spending in Muskoka came up?

  6. “Staff used mobile Internet technology in order to bypass any possible network filters, according to the report.”

    What on earth for? Why would any network in it’s right mind want to filter that charade?

    • I presumed this meant simply both network filters that block Twitter in its entirety (as many places of business have on their corporate networks) and/or filters that might block certain tweets coming in from the public based on language, for example.

      • I knew i shouldn’t have commented on twitter. Don’t get it at all.

  7. “A spokesman for Clement called that a natural practice.

    “Use of a moderator (what the department called
    a “ghost writer”) was a practical decision based on the fact that the
    minister could respond quicker verbally as the moderator simply typed
    out the response keeping it within the 140-character limit for Twitter,”
    Sean Osmar said in an email.”

    Er…isn’t that what used to be known as a dictation? I don’t think that’s what this farce seemed to be about at all.

  8. “Yes, we plan to host more tweet chats in the future, the minister
    believes it can be an effective way to hear from and speak with
    Canadians directly on government,” Osmar wrote.

    “Stay tuned.”

    Well, if this story gets wide circulation it should be fun at least. Maybe they can prepare the stock responses in advance? “No no, believe me, this is really me that’s talking to you, it’s just not my words.At least not in this order.”
    I wouldn’t be surprised if they only get the partisans out next time. How on earth is this promoting open anything? If i want something Italian i go to a trattoria…not open up a can of chef boyardee.

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