Harper History site uses satire to educate

by | Oct 16, 2015 | A&E, Federal Election

Brandon-Richard Austin
A&E Reporter

Only 61.1 per cent of eligible voters in the country chose to exercise that right for the 2011 federal election, according to Elections Canada statistics. The numbers were even more dismal for youth under the age of 24, with a turnout of just 38.8 per cent. But does that indicate a lack of civic interest altogether in youth?

“It’s so disingenuous, the idea that voting is the only democratic thing that exists to participate in the system,” said Dan Speerin, YouTube personality and co-creator of popular video series Harper History.

The latter series came about after Speerin and his collaborator Vince Kesavamoorthy created the popular Twitter hashtag #HarperHistory, which even went on to be mentioned on the floor of the House of Commons.

The duo’s YouTube channel is Truth Mashup, on which Harper History is presented as part of the Young Turks network and contains several videos satirically debunking the conservative party’s campaign points and advertising.

“In the (United) States, they’ve had a lot of success with media satire,” said Speerin. “That’s something we’re trying to do with our channel that I feel doesn’t exist here at all… There isn’t that John Oliver, Jon Stewart, even Bill Maher’s show with media and taking things more seriously.”

Speerin believes that Canadians are hesitant to ‘ruffle feathers’ with their media coverage, which was an obstacle faced by him and Kesavamoorthy when they attempted to launch a Daily Show-style segment on Rogers TV.

“Satire that can get a couple of things into peoples’ heads is something that’s worth doing but at the end of the day I think it’s just about people wanting a bit more choice in what they’re getting. Media criticism is something our country needs,” said Speerin.

Kesavamoorthy similarly believes the appetite for political satire will grow.

“You can’t compare it with regular reporting. In many ways, we can’t do what we do without regular journalism.

“Voting is something Dan and I go back and forth on a lot… I believe it is important but politicians need to cater to youth…They don’t understand youth issues. Our project is an attempt to get people interested and engaged in other avenues,” Kesavamoorthy continued.

“I feel like us as young people, obviously we need to be able to exercise our right,” said Ankush Saini, a 20 year old University of Guelph-Humber student.

“I believe a lot of education is being brought up through the Internet, which is one of the main reasons I think the Conservatives are not going to win. My personal bias aside, I think the Conservatives are going to lose because young voters are getting educated on the topic.”

“Maybe we don’t think it affects us,” said Eileen Liu, 20, Guelph-Humber student who voted in the advance poll. “Some people are just not educated like people who don’t read the paper to see what’s going on so they’re not informed.”

Things are looking up with election statistics so far, with results up 16 per cent for advance voting from the last election in 2011 according to Elections Canada.