Senator Finley’s death and unsocial media

Senator Finley’s death and unsocial media

Cancer took Senator Doug Finley today. He was 66 years old. My condolensces to his wife MP Diane Finley and daughter Siobhan. Losing a loved one is difficult enough. Watching cancer carry out its perverse work is devastating.

Most of the online mentions of Senator Finley were respectful. At least 41% were positive towards the Senator and his family. Political players of all stripes (including Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau) expressed their condolensces, reflected on their experiences and friendships with him, and some even suggested people will partake of a “wee dram of Famous Grouse” in his honour.


Unfortunately, the social web is not entirely versed in social graces. As of 8:30pmET 49 people took the opportunity to take inappropriate partisan shots at the Senator in 79 tweets which crossed a line. Some of those tweets even drew criticism from journalists.


I conducted sentiment analysis based on specific terms and feel the following report is fairly accurate.


Analysis performed using Marketwired/Sysomos Heartbeat and MAP.

  • Layton Bennett

    I think perhaps there may be something missing from your analysis and it can be found simply by visiting and checking out the comments on their piece on Senator Finley’s passing. 18 hours after the story was first posted there are only 80 comments, and while most of them offer condolences to the family, there few kind words for the man. Whats more, many of the 80 comments have been removed by the moderator. Many of the positive comments for Mr. Finley have received a great majority ‘thumbs down’ responses.

    Doug Finley was the main architect of the CPC campaign machine, and given how dirty it was that is no compliment. He was charged with campaign finance fraud and walked after a plea bargain. This is not a smear or cheap shot, this was reported in the mainstream media for weeks, and repeated in nearly every news feed relating to his death. To call that an inappropriate or partisan shot is to ignore the fundamental truth that this man actively participated in undermining our democratic processes. Given a choice between speaking fondly of Doug Finley or pointing out the damage that he and the CPC have done to Canadian democracy, I will defend Canadian democracy. One look at his record on this and it becomes clear that while he leaves behind a family who will mourn him, he also leaves behind a country he had wounded. Perhaps had Mr. Finley not spent a great many years sowing the seeds of partisan attacks even to the personal level, his own death would be less divisive. As the old saying goes you reap what you sow.

  • Mark

    Your point is well taken, Layton. I readily acknowledge Senator Finley was not the most widely respected politician and my post is not meant to defend his record. My post is intended to acknowledge that, liked or not, everyone deserves their day to die without also being kicked around. They do, after all, have loved ones around them who can see the commentary at this time of loss.

    Like participants in social media chatter, media networks and journalists did indeed point out Senator Finley’s political decisions and activities. I believe the difference between the two is in the delivery. The media did so factually and as part of their commitment/obligation to balanced reporting. Those who did so over social media channels did so in a mean-spirited way. One tweet, for example, said “You gave more cancer to liberals then [sic] you got.”

    Some might argue there’s the way of the better person — that stooping to base levels of conduct brings one down to the same level of the person being criticized. Rising up makes “you” the better person. I saw many of Senator Finley’s political foes rise up yesterday.

    I believe it’s fair to say there is a time, a place and a method for criticizing a foe. Yesterday, some people went to far.

    To quote someone I believe would have had issues with Senator Finley’s record and would have risen-up yesterday if he were still around himself… “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

  • harebell

    I’m not a one for saying “but they did it too” in order to excuse boorish behaviour, jackasses will be jackasses especially if they think nobody knows who they are. I do differentiate between online wannabes like the twitterers and the bloggers and so called journalists and information professionals.

    The CRTC is considering SNN request for mandatory carriage and on top of the hideous racism shown by Levant and others, I think Levant and Coren’s abuse of Jack Layton on his funeral day should be factored in too.

    Bloggers like this, while distasteful, hateful and cowardly are just trying for their 15 minutes of fame.

    “News” organisations that permit this are another story.

    Maybe if you’d looked further back in time you could have compared the reaction to the death of a nasty piece of crooked works with reaction by those who are now complaining to someone they hated and understood some of the motivating factors behind the recent outpourings.

  • Mark

    All valid points. Perhaps I’ll write something more general on the topic and cite other examples. It might make a good blog post or a better op-Ed. Thanks for the idea.

  • Nadine Lumley Real

    According to Elections Canada, it’s official:

    The Conservatives cheated in the 2006 federal election campaign.

    Elections Canada laid formal charges on Feb. 24, 2011
    against Harper’s Conservative Party itself and assorted senior officials – including
    former campaign chief and current Senator Doug Finley.

    By Scott Reid, Special to CBC News Posted: Feb 25, 2011 5:58

  • Mark

    His tactics are definitely well known.

    Hey, Nadine, did you ever find the information you were looking for regarding online petitions? The last I heard from you was June 27…

  • Nadine Lumley Real

    If media did their job properly, I would have to spend 24/7 of last 5 years spamming the interwebs:

    Who Killed Canada

    Media Ownership and the Radical Right in Canada

    Part 1, 2 & 3.
    Note: each video about 10 minutes

    No time for video?
    Read review instead:

    Mr. Hurtig begins by discussing the Canadian media and how we
    now have the greatest concentration of media in the western world. In fact, he states this would simply not be
    allowed in any other western democracy.

    And since these same media outlets control newspaper,
    television and radio news; we are essentially only being given one voice. There are few or no alternative views. As stated in the video, a healthy democracy
    should foster a healthy and independent news media.

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