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Voter Engagement

Scatological attack on Stephen Harper's record goes viral Add to ...

Stephen Harper may be leading in the polls, but the anti-Harper forces appear to be winning the viral-video war. A handful of comical videos, including a potty-mouthed entry that tore up Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday, are pulling in big numbers and offering Harper haters a forum to express their mutual disdain for the Conservative Leader.

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The fastest-growing video features five scruffy hipster types talking trash of Mr. Harper and suggesting viewers check out the website ShitHarperDid.com. (In addition to the rough language, it leverages the other special ingredient of viral videos - cats - by concluding with an image of Mr. Harper cradling a kitten.) That website offers nuggets of information about Mr. Harper's alleged misdeeds, delivered in a lighthearted manner. The website proved so popular that it crashed Wednesday afternoon, with organizers claiming it had received more than one million hits.

One of the video's producers said he felt compelled to engage prospective voters with entertaining content. "I think Mr. Harper is reshaping this country in quite appalling ways, and I think people haven't really taken notice because Canadian politics is kind of boring, and I think Mr. Harper is actually using that as a strategy," said Sean Devlin, 27, a Vancouver comedian and video producer, adding that the initiative was the product of about two dozen people from across the country. "When he is attacked, or when really serious issues are brought up, he tries to make them seem boring, almost because he wants people to not pay attention.

"We thought, let's get some of this above that white noise, and especially let's get it out to the two-thirds of people under 35 who don't even pay attention to the news. Let's take everything he's done that we find so shocking, and let's package it in an entertaining way."

The effort got a boost from Margaret Atwood, who tweeted about it Wednesday afternoon to her more than 160,000 followers.

The Liberal Party has also shown a fleet hand at turning around offbeat videos that address issues as they erupt on the campaign trail. Last week it released Hey Stephen Harper, stop creeping me on Facebook on its official YouTube channel after word got around of a university student who had been removed from a Conservative rally because she had a picture of herself and Michael Ignatieff on her Facebook page. That has pulled in over 150,000 views since being posted Apr. 6.

On Tuesday, the party released It's time to stop the Stephen Harper gravy train, mocking the $50-million in G8 expenditures, much of which was spent on buildings and street furniture far away from the summit site. It received more than 10,000 views in the course of a day.

Most of the Conservative Party video offerings, meanwhile, have pulled in only a few thousand views on YouTube. One of their TV ads, a patriotic number called Our Country, has been seen by over 81,000 people, spurred in part by suggestions that it was heavily inspired by an ad for a U.S. politician backed by the Tea Party.

The Conservatives' fear of criticism may be holding them back from gaining a wider audience. Social media experts say people are more likely to share videos if they're allowed to offer comments. In contrast to the Liberal YouTube channel, where viewers are having frequently raucous discussions, comments have been disabled on the Conservatives' YouTube channel.

Follow on Twitter: @simonhoupt

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