No, there’s no misspelling in the blogpost title. Bacn (rhymes with what goes with eggs) refers to solicited e-mail messages from an organization to whom an e-mail addresss was voluntarily sent. If you’ve ever gone to a trade show, seen a contest where you could win a car provided you give your name and e-mail address, and enter, the next month’s e-mail messages from the car dealers pointing you to bargains of the month is called “bacn.” It’s about the same as spam, except that this time you brought it on yourself.
Now the federal Liberals are in a contest of their own, and to help themselves they’ve created a membership category called “supporters,” who are supposed to have a say in who gets to be the next leader. You don’t have to send money, but you do have to send the Liberals your name and e-mail address, as well as promise that you’re not a member of that stinking, jealous, other party — you know? The Greens? (Actually, any other federal party as well — no Nicole Turmels wanted, thank you very much.)
As it turns out, though, becoming a “supporter” has gotten a little complicated — at least at the organizational end of things.
To understand what’s going on, have a look at the supporter recruitment page for the Liberal Party, national level. Now have a look at the supporter recruitment pages for Justin Trudeau, Marc Garneau and
David Bertschi Martha Hall Findlay. (Apparently Mr. Bertschi has a volunteer page where you get the option of getting put in the “supporter” category.)
Do you see the difference? The supporter recruitment pages for the candidates collect far more contact and demographic information than the main, national one. It’s this extra information that’s starting to become a rapid point of contention among the various coteries surrounding the leadership candidates, according to the Canadian Press:
Officials have decided that leadership camps can keep to themselves the names and contact information of supporters who sign up through their websites – at least until the March 3 deadline for signing up new supporters and members, after which a list of all eligible voters will be made available to all candidates.
A supporter who signs up through, for instance, front-runner Justin Trudeau’s website will be known only to the Trudeau camp and will be contacted only by that camp until the final month of the contest.
The party’s stance appears to most benefit the front-running contenders – such as Mr. Trudeau – who are best equipped to sign up large numbers of supporters.
Note that the story talks about “camps,” not the candidates themselves. It’s an important distinction: no leadership candidate (i.e. one willing to put his ego on the line) deliberately sets out to become what is, at base, a spammer. But party activists would, and often do.
It’s interesting, though. What this seems to be saying is that instead of one master e-mail list of “supporters,” the Liberals are collecting 10 separate e-mail lists of “supporters” — individual candidate collections plus the national list. You might have thought that one primary office would be looking after this, if only to ensure that duplicate e-mail addresses don’t happen.
You can sort of understand why the two smaller-audience candidate factions want access to everyone else’s lists: if you’re to have a chance at building support, you want to make a case to the other guy’s people why they should switch over to your guy instead, and with less than 90 days to do your campaign a “master list” of supporters would seem the ideal, cost-effective way to reach your potential audience. And the demographic information collected means you have a chance of “tailoring” your pitch to specific audiences.
All the candidates do have access to the federal website’s list, so certainly there’s some opportunity for mind-changing. But if the lists from each candidate is considered “core” to that particular candidate — well, it’s certainly a big handicap for the lesser-knowns, so it’s understandable why they’re squawking.
Jeff Jedras, who works for Deborah Coyne, has gone so far as to call these rules:
… run[ning] up against what the party members in large numbers voted to do a year ago now, which was to open up the party and make it much easier to get involved.
Actually, this has got nothing at all to do with “opening up” the Liberal Party. The “supporter” category as currently constituted certainly does that. It’s just that I’ll bet that the new “supporters” didn’t quite realize they were signing up with a party that likes to run things the “old” way.