By now you’ve probably heard that Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi called Uber President Travis Kalanick and the people who drive for his ride-sharing service “dicks.” It was a moment in his tenure as a superhero Mayor that deserves serious consideration.
Notwithstanding the Mayor’s remarks, this was a gross violation of privacy and trust. Watching the video, it’s clear Mayor Nenshi has no clue he’s on camera and that the driver is pleased as punch (often speaking and smiling directly to the camera for effect) that he has a high-profile guest on his live stream. He may not have specifically intended to draw out controversial remarks, but it’s clear he knows he has a guest whose remarks are going to attract an audience.
“This is just a casual ride”
When Mayor Nenshi drops the d-bomb, the driver plays on the moment for more marketable content. He asks the kinds of questions and makes the kinds of enthusiastic remarks that draw out more of the Mayor’s thoughts. The driver plays things up even more, assuring the Mayor at 11:33 in part 1 of the video while smiling mischievously at the camera “’cause we’re all friends, and this is just a casual ride.”
That “bonding” moment faces an awkward chaser when the backseat passenger clues into the video, asking why words spoken in the car are suddenly appearing in text on the screen. You can feel the driver panic, leaning back in his seat, realizing he’s just been caught. But he squirms his way out of it.
I won’t pretend this isn’t an embarrassment for Mayor Nenshi. And, I also won’t pretend that his remarks don’t appeal to many people, even those who love Uber. That is, Travis Kalanick has frequently presented himself as a misogynist, more concerned about being a successful entrepreneur than cultivating a positive image and creating a showcase corporate culture.
Because of his passion and commitment to productive and positive service to his city, Mayor Nenshi has political capital to spare. He will survive. He’s popular and people, for the most part, will see this for what it is — a man sharing his informed thoughts, believing them to be part of a private conversation between two engaged people.
Driving a wedge between ourselves and our elected officials
However, there’s something more important to consider: we expect our politicians to do things on the cheap. We want them to fly coach rather than business class, take taxis rather than have drivers or pay for expensive car services, etc. We want them to trust us and they generally do trust us with the care of their candid remarks. The more we set up our politicians then haze them for having and expressing their opinions, the more they say things under what they consider to be safe conditions and then be blindsided, the more they will have a justifiable reasons to hire private drivers, expensive car services, fly in private jets and clam up when confronted by us. Our desire for the status of shaming our politicians will justifiably make them reclusive.
One more thing…
How come noone is outraged that the driver handles his cell phone at 10:10 of part 1 of the video, that he ALWAYS scans the screen to read viewer comments, and that he says “you’re the mayor of Toronto in Calgary”???