The fall of Chris Andrews and how some think the road of twitter can never lead to the tweet of wisdom… Well, not so fast there! August 23, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
Reading Stephen Collins in the Irish Times at the weekend where he considered the demise of Chris Andrews and joined the chorus of voices that complains about twitter… well hold on a second, that’s an interesting topic in itself. For he, John Waters and others are convinced of the intrinsic awfulness of social media or something like that. He’s scathing in his analysis:
The mainstream media has given an entirely undeserved credibility to such outpourings by paying so much attention to what is essentially online graffiti, whether anonymous or not.
So there! But not only but also…
Bogus tweets are just one way in which the so-called new media has begun to undermine the credibility of political debate. Much of the commentary about Irish politics on the internet is unreliable, nasty and of dubious origin – but some of it manages to leach into the mainstream debate.
The vicious tenor of debate on Twitter or the internet is not restricted to those using the cloak of anonymity. Some people with supposed professional authority appear to have no problem tossing insults and taunts at people with whom they simply happen to disagree.
Writing in this newspaper a few weeks ago, John Waters remarked on the way in which internet discourse was not only coarsening public discussion but was reducing debate to the level of exchanges between “fishwives and pub bores”.
Look, I spend more of my life moderating this site than I really should have to, but all this stuff about graffiti etc is entirely overblown (not to mention there’s something kind of offensive about the fishwives line in Waters comment… can’t quite put my finger on it, but perhaps it’s just the glibness). But one way or another it’s unlikely to go away. So get with the programme and accept that there are now multiple channels of expression.
Though Collins can’t quite make that leap:
There is a striking difference between the considered and frequently witty tone adopted by people who write letters, or emails, to this newspaper for publication, and the at times unpleasant and boorish commentary of some of those who post comments on the web version of the paper.
Well, yes. Because the printed version is has gate keepers. But what does he expect? Liveline ain’t no picnic either. Indeed anywhere that expressions of opinion are made is likely to include the full spectrum from good to bad, saintly to offensive. But it’s not my problem, and truth to tell it’s really not his either.
Interestingly in the Guardian this week the point was made that twitter might actually be a somewhat leftwing, and if not left wing at least ‘progressive’ forum. Both Peter Hitchens (natch) and Suzanne Moore argued that case. I smiled though when I read some of the assumptions underpinning that idea from sociologists:
Dr Rachel Gibson, professor of politics at Manchester University, has studied digital politics since 1999, with funding from the Economic and Social Research Council. She says there is evidence Twitter and other social networking sites tend towards the progressive.
“But this is because Twitter users are early adopters who have higher levels of education than the rest of the population, so tend to be more progressive and open. Also, Twitter is not a mass medium like television. It is still only used by a minority of the population.”
Hmmm… higher levels of education. Progressive and open. We’ll see. We’ll see.
On a very slight tangent this was interesting:
There is hardly any linkage between left and right online. Rightwing bloggers link to others of the same persuasion and the left do the same, Gibson’s studies have shown. “People don’t tend to link to those they disagree with. This has led academics such as Cass Sunstein, who wrote Nudge and The Republic 2.0, to talk about the ‘balkanisation of the net’, where you only see views you agree with and lose accidental exposure to other views such as those you’d get in a news programme.
Yeah, well. A week exposed to the Irish media might make Sunstein change his tune. Nothing accidental about that (and of course television media and print media are still consumed by the bucket load).
Anyhow, away from the rather snooty pronouncements of Waters and Collins back to Chris Andrews.
For Collins is convinced that:
THE PATHETIC end to Chris Andrews’s political career, as a result of his involvement with a bogus Twitter account, should be a salutary warning to politicians and journalists about the pitfalls of the social media.
Now we have seen the former Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin South East destroy his chances of ever returning to national politics after he was unmasked as having used a bogus Twitter account to try to gain political advantage over a constituency rival.
Ironically, he was tracked down and unmasked by an individual who set up another bogus Twitter account to set a trap for the former TD.
How Andrews allowed himself to be persuaded into setting up a bogus Twitter account to further his political ambitions beggars belief, but the episode should again highlight the sheer lack of credibility that attaches to so much of what passes for political comment on Twitter and the internet itself.
Yes, how indeed? Could it be the new found love of social media by political parties? Could it be that during the last election campaign where there was a considerable emphasis on same that he discovered the temptations of Twitter? Surely not!
I’ll bet that neither Labour nor Fine Gael will eschew such lines of communication any time soon.
But a more interesting thought is why on earth should this ‘destroy his chances of ever returning to national politics’? Hyperbole much? Consider those who’ve committed much greater transgressions retain their positions or sail back in either in their original party or as Independents.
One can only be amazed/amused at Andrew’s lack of awareness of how much this exposed him as a recent public figure. That’s what is so strange about this. Did he have no sense of what he was doing? I don’t want to overstate this, but it does point to an intrinsic lack of seriousness on the part of some in Irish politics. And also a lack of a willingness to nail colours to the mast (and before there are any complaints about my anonymity and that of others on the CLR the clear distinction is I’m not a former national politician and I’m not a member of a political party). The cold hard reality that it would require a slog through the electoral jungle is a lot harder to face up to than tweeting stuff like the above. And a lot more demanding. Andrews may not be typical of attitudes within FF – or further afield, but then again perhaps he is, and if so it would seem that there’s a layer of complacency, even a sense of entitlement, that is remarkable.
Yet even still, is it remotely likely given the nature of Irish political activity that he’ll never get the nod should the opportunity arise? That given the right combination of circumstances he’s out for good? I think that Collins protests too much (though whether he should be is a slightly different question). Granted in his own constituency he’s probably not going to be in the running for quite a while, but knowing parties as I unfortunately do I’d be immensely surprised if that’s it for him.
Though, probably best he stays off the social media for a while. A long long while.