Machete Something Edmonton

Well, that escalated quickly1.

GIF created by Jay Runham

This morning at the ONEdmonton Leaders Forum at the Shaw Conference Centre, Mayor Mandel took to the stage to share his thoughts on the impact of post-secondary cuts on Edmonton’s economy. But he also used the opportunity to once again call into question the decision to dismantle Capital Health and form AHS, and to express his distaste with a recent National Post column. Here’s what Chris Selley wrote in the Full Pundit column on Monday:

The Calgary Herald’s editorialists could not be more proud of how those affected by terrible flooding over the weekend in Calgary and other communities conducted themselves. “It all adds up to one giant, collective effort, a well-oiled machine that slipped seamlessly into action with no hitches,” they write. “There was no major crime, there was no rioting. That sort of thing has happened elsewhere because disasters can bring out the worst in people. But that’s not southern Alberta’s way and never has been.” Edmonton, for example, would be a smoking hole in the ground at this point, infested with twitchy-eyed, machete-wielding savages.

As you can imagine, it was that last line that set Mandel off. Here’s a video from the Edmonton Sun with comments the Mayor made later in the day. You’ve got to admire his passion for Edmonton and his boldness in making those remarks! Many have pointed out that the column was satirical, and that the comment was directed at the Calgary Herald, not Edmonton. Mayor Mandel said he found nothing satirical about it, and instead found it “demeaning” and “disgusting”. One of the problems seems to be the difference between the online version and the print version. Brittney was first to share the news this morning, with a photo of the print edition:

The Sun mentioned to Mayor Mandel that the story was getting quite a bit of traction on Twitter. “It should gain a lot of traction,” he responded. “It shows a total disdain for our City, and I think citizens should respond to it.”

And respond they did.

Marty Chan got the party started in true Edmonton-form by making a clever hashtag:

#machetesomethingyeg has been trending all afternoon as dozens of tweets have been posted using it. Some are serious, but most are funny and trying to make light of the situation.

Of course, the humor is what has attracted most people to the hashtag, both online and offline:

It’s easy to dismiss this as merely some Friday-before-the-long-weekend-fun, or to look at the uproar over the National Post’s column as proof that Edmontonians are insecure and overly sensitive. But I think there are some important undercurrents here.

First, it should be noted there’s a sensitivity around media coverage of Edmonton and knives. Two years ago, our city was in the national news because of our alarming homicide rate. Knives factored into that narrative, though much of the coverage was outlandish and sensational. Still, that did long-term harm to our city’s reputation and brand.

Even if the comments in the National Post were meant as a joke, portraying Edmontonians as machete-wielding savages only perpetuates the myth that Edmonton is unsafe. It’s not funny, because it’s not true.

Second, I think this whole episode speaks to the connection Mayor Mandel has with Edmonton. He brings something up, and Edmontonians respond. We’ve seen it in recent weeks after his comments on the post-secondary cuts, and we’re seeing it again right now. It’s clear that Mandel loves this city, and the fact that he’s not shy about it is inspirational. Edmontonians are willing to back him up when he calls the National Post out.

Third and most important, I think this is further proof of the new energy that many Edmontonians have been talking about lately. We’ve always been proud of our city, but we haven’t always been willing to say that. Maybe because we lacked the right words, or maybe because we were simply afraid. But no more.

Things are different now. Gone are the days of us letting someone else tell our story. And gone too are the days of us staying quiet when something needs to be said. Welcome to the new Edmonton.

If you haven’t already done so, check out the hilarious #MacheteSomethingYEG hashtag on Twitter.

UPDATE: The National Post stands by the column: Surely, Edmontonians can take a joke

UPDATE2: You can now get your very own Machete Something Edmonton t-shirt! $1 of each sold will go to Alberta flood relief efforts.