If wishes were Facebook groups…

Cassandra Szklarski of Canadian Press has an article this week summarizing the “controversy” surrounding CBC’s Facebook experiment, the Great Canadian Wish List.

To recap, it’s an experiment where Facebook users vote for their greatest wish for Canada’s future.

Simple enough. The “problem” is that the top five wishes are all divisive political positions (in order: outlaw abortion; keep abortion legal; a “spiritual revival”; ban same-sex marriage; and lower tuition fees).

Elaine Corden of The Tyee explains her frustrations with the results, saying that they represent positions that aren’t held by the majority. And, of course, they represent politics she doesn’t agree with.

There’s no arguing that this experiment didn’t reach a majority of Canadians. It didn’t even reach a majority of Canadian Facebook users, despite the CBC’s valiant attempts to publicize it. So like a U.S. presidential primary, when the turnout is low, it’s usually the hard-core extremists who show up instead of the silent majority, and the “special interest groups” take over the debate. This is precisely what happened here.

A key sentence in the CP piece comes from CBC reporter Mike Wise:

We stepped out into an area where, because it was on Facebook, it was beyond the reach of the CBC journalistic policy so it was edgier stuff that we had no control of. However, I think we should get some marks for trying something different.”

Trying something different. Yes. That’s what the CBC did. It got people talking, it got thousands of Canadians energized, and it had a result the CBC didn’t predict and couldn’t control. This is something the CBC should be praised for. Even if it had been a complete failure (and I don’t think it has been), at least they should get marks for trying. Media is changing, and the only way to adapt is to take risks.

I’m not letting the Mother Corp completely off the hook. This is still just another one of their un-thought-out gimmicks to get people’s attention, a sinkhole to throw money into instead of spending it on quality programming. And I still haven’t seen how they’ll deal with presenting both sides of the abortion debate on TV.

But the criticism of this experiment based mainly on the fact that its results were so political is just silly.

The complete list of top 30 Canadian wishes.

Similar thoughts from Mathew Ingram and Tod Maffin.

One thought on “If wishes were Facebook groups…

  1. Josh

    I haven’t read any of the articles about this (so maybe what I’m about to say has already been expressed), but it seems to me that the three right-wing wishes (using that term just for simplicity’s sake) were easy for their constituencies to come together around, since they’re wishing for things to be *different than they currently are*.

    Before gay marriage was legal, it was easier to get people out to pro-gay marriage marches and rallies since those people wanted change. It’s harder to get people riled up to demonstrate in favour of the status quo. Ditto on abortion and the ‘spiritual revival’. Why would I wish for something I already have?


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