27 Feb McNeil vs. the Confederacy
If you comment on Facebook or Twitter in support of the Nova Scotia government’s proposed changes to education governance, a Confederacy of Denouncers will arise to smite you.
The Confederacy is large, intemperate, and prone to personal attacks. It accuses any who dissent from NSTU orthodoxy of “having a hate on for teachers.” It presumes any who support the government plan must be Liberal shills. It insists its critics have no right to opine about an issue on which it is the sole authority. It betrays an incapacity for logical thought that makes one weep over Nova Scotia’s antediluvian teacher-hiring methods.The Confederacy appears to consist mainly of NSTU officials, teachers, and their families. It is noxious enough that many citizens who want to loosen the NSTU’s grip on education policy choose to stay out of the fray.
Graham Steele learned this when he observed on Facebook that Stephen McNeil is a savvy politician, and offered a list of tactics that could be effective in changing his government’s policies. The Confederacy responded with a flood of comments denouncing Steele for “praising” McNeil. Steele‘s pleas that he was actually offering strategic advice for defeating McNeil barely registered amidst the din.
This social media trolling campaign has created a distorted impression of public opinion. If you spend much time on Facebook or Twitter, you might assume public support for the NSTU hovers around 80 percent. The Chronicle Herald, traditionally a voice for fiscal prudence and governmental rectitude, has reinforced this impression by converting its editorial pages into an organ of the Confederacy.
But if you could see the private messages I received, in person and online, after speaking out in support of the government’s position, you might have a different impression: that public opinion favors the government plan by a substantial margin.
Senior ministers in the Hamm and Dexter governments knew education reform could not succeed without reining in NSTU influence over policy, but they lacked the political strength to take on the Confederacy. McNeil’s greatest virtue as Premier is his willingness to spend political capital on battles he deems essential to the province’s future. (This is, of course, the very trait that makes the Confederacy revile him.)
Now, faced with the Confederacy’s social media trolling and the Herald’s inexplicable veer into union advocacy, McNeil seems to be losing heart for the battle. Since Friday, he has signaled his willingness to retreat.
For once in my life, I wish the Liberals would do some polling. I believe they have more political muscle than they realize—more than enough to make these reforms stick. Whether they still have stomach for the fight the next few days will tell.