The home page for the Conservative Party of Canada, also known as the governing party of Canada, is typically covered in oversized, unflattering and almost always doctored pictures of Liberal opponent Stéphane Dion.
On the sidebars, there are loud colours, puerile illustrations (remember Conservative cartoon character Oily the spokesblob?) and a picture of a dumbfounded adolescent representing the party's youth wing. Essentially, it's a page of distractions.
Last week, though, attention-grabbing techniques at Conservative.ca were on target: the front page featured a banner-width image of Dion surrounded by what looked like bullet holes.
Several bloggers - vociferous hyper-Liberal Jason Cherniak and McGuinty strategist Warren Kinsella among them - inferred that the image was making light of assassination. "[If] a person ‘jokes' about shooting an opponent (or anyone), call the cops and let them sort it out," wrote Kinsella under a screen shot of the hole-ridden graphic.
Speculation online is that the alleged bullet holes are a response to an ill-advised joke in a recent Liberal newsletter, in which a party member joked about PM Stephen Harper and his wife dying in a plane crash.
But the Conservative's director of communications vehemently denies the holes in the image are bullet holes. In an interview, Ryan Sparrow said they are just holes "like there are in Stéphane Dion's policies." And, in apparent unintentional irony, Sparrow framed the criticisms from blogs as Liberal partisans trying to "shoot the messenger."
"It's pretty evident Liberals are sensitive about bad policy," he continued. He also said there are no plans to clear confusion about the holes.
Surprisingly, aside from the aforementioned online commentators, Liberal outrage over the image has been somewhat muted. Most of the negative reaction has come from within the Conservative party's ideological ranks.
"It's shocking how utterly pathetic the website Conservative.ca has become," wrote Greg Farries of the Conservative group blog ThePolitic. "[T]he front page is riddled with childish shots and games aimed at the Liberals, and particular [sic] Stéphane Dion. The rest of the site is extremely short on substance and high on rhetoric and meaningless platitudes. How can anyone take this party seriously when they have such a poor website?"
ThePolitic, it should be noted, is a member of the Conservative online collective the Blogging Tories.
The sentiment was echoed by the country's most popular anti-Liberal, anti-left site, Small Dead Animals. "There exists a persistent misconception inside political/media circles that the political interweb is the domain of ‘tech-savvy 20-somethings.' The Conservative's website has, in all likelihood, been influenced by this ridiculous assumption, and that means it's time to fire some of the high-priced help," wrote site author Kate McMillan about the image.
Bullet holes or just holes, not offering clarification is the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. The continued bluster, immaturity and overall poor design of the Conservative site, however, is more like putting a gun to your head.
Leak of the week
Two weeks ago, pictures showing Miami rapper Rick Ross at his former job as a corrections officer emerged on rap blogs. Ross, who has always claimed to be a drug kingpin prior to his music career, responded that the photos were fake. This week, a Florida Department of Corrections confirmed his work (and salary!) as a C.O., putting the real Ross on the opposite side of the law from his rap persona.