IT WAS AN IMPASSIONED PLEA from a Point Grey resident that got John Horgan’s attention Monday.
I’m a parent of four, the email said. Extending SkyTrain to UBC will change our lives. Why isn’t the project on track (as it were)?
Only one problem: The email was sent not to John Horgan, the premier of B.C., but to John Horgan, a psychology professor at Georgia State University and the author of several books on terrorism. If you want to know about the rise of the extremist right, he’s your man. SkyTrain extensions, not so much.
So, down in Atlanta, Horgan replied to the correspondent from Point Grey, saying something along the lines of “Um, good for you for caring, and I applaud your civic engagement, but ….”
He also took to Twitter: “Canadian friends, those of you writing to me to complain about delays to the proposed SkyTrain project deal — I appreciate your frustration and know there are implications for the whole province, not just UBC, but I am not the John Horgan you seek.”
The Georgia man is hardly the first person to receive social-media messages meant for a same-named politician. When Erin O’Toole was elected leader of the Conservative Party of Canada in August, it was a National Public Radio host in Colorado who found herself buried in congratulations/nastygrams.
Likewise, Elizabeth May the bestselling Scottish author hears from fans and foes of the Green Party MP. Vancouver defence attorney Lisa Helps is appalled by the viciousness of some of the mail intended for Victoria’s mayor.
Not sure how many handle it with the aplomb of the U.S. Horgan, though. Monday found him in a cheerful, tongue-in-cheek exchange with a Twitterverse that was having as much fun with the mix-up as he was.
“Enough excuses, John, just build the train,” someone posted.
“Too bad, guilty by name association,” declared another. “Fix the problem John, be part of the solution.”
“You should have thought of that before you decided to have the same name as a provincial politician from a different country,” huffed a third.
(Someone else observed that “I am not the man you seek” is a great breakup line.)
Even the premier weighed in with a tweet of his own: “I knew something was up when I was mailed all these Georgia State University psychology papers to mark.” He also urged Atlanta Horgan to visit “beautiful B.C.” when it’s safe to do so.
Reached by phone Monday, the professor said this wasn’t the first time he has been confused with the premier. Occasionally, he gets emails, but more often it’s a matter of being tagged on Twitter. He’s impressed by the willingness of British Columbians to step up and be part of the process.
Sometimes, when that happens, he’ll do the premier’s job for him, trying to smooth troubled waters by thanking the writers for getting in touch and congratulating them on getting involved, then pointing out that complex issues are at play, yadda yadda yadda…. He always fesses up, though. No need to perpetuate the confusion. “I invariably come clean.”
John Horgan points out that John Horgan isn’t the only John Horgan with whom he is mixed up. “I’ve also been confused with another John Horgan, a big-deal science writer at Scientific American.” That sort of thing is inevitable given the billions of social-media accounts.
It’s why Alberta’s Jason Kenney found himself covered in glory after British cyclist Jason Kenny won gold at the 2016 Olympics, prompting the premier to reply: “I assure you, nobody wants to see me in lycra.”
It’s why when a customer complained to U.K. retail chain John Lewis about its use of single-use straws, John Lewis of Blacksburg, Virginia, replied: “The only time I use straws are when I stick them on my teeth and pretend I’m a walrus.”
And don’t even ask Dee Ford, a nice woman from Kent, England, how fans reacted to an offside penalty by the Kansas City Chiefs lineman of the same name.
Donald Trump was notoriously off-target on Twitter. In June 2019 alone, he A) gave Victoria’s Prince of Whales whale-watching company a ton of free advertising while attempting to refer to Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, B) tried to attack ABC News but tagged the Australian Broadcasting Corp. by mistake, and C) attempted a swipe at U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe but ended up flaming a 21-year-old college student instead, prompting the latter to tweet: “mom come pick me up old men are attacking me.”