Why politicos shouldn’t fight online

10 Nov

I love the way new media and digital communications have become intertwined with political discussion. It will hopefully lead to a bright future of government, political debate, public interaction and general engagement. But It is important to remember, just because it is a public conversational tool, doesn’t mean you need to have a public conversation. People who use social media for reasons other than just saying hi to your friends, should be clever about it and aware of potential ramifications, especially people who are in positions of respect and power.

This was what David Cameron meant when earlier in the year he said that twitter could cause problems for MPs because tweets can be taken out of context or the MPs could get involved in conversations that normally they shouldn’t. These conversations are also permanent and can be dug up at any time.

It is with these comments in mind, over the past few days, I have been watching an argument between Kerry McCarthy MP, Labour Twitter Tsar and Shane Greer, the executive editor of Total Politics.  Both of these people are in positions of power and respect. A senior and respected Member of Parliament on one side and a journalist who has a vast number of followers and loyal readers and edits a magazine with no-particular party politic on the other. People follow what both of these individuals say with interest and they, as a people’s representative and as a member of the fourth estate respectively,  are in a position where it is important where they act and carry themselves properly.

But as you can see from this twitter conversation, things have become a bit out of hand. Remember this all started over what music people should like as a display of their political ideals.

I won’t go into detail about what each said, but to be sure, it has clearly been a case of misrepresentation by both parties. Kerry McCarthy is at fault because she took the bait. But what is concerning is she has taken the bait before as you can see from these conversations with Nadine Dorries MP. In this case, as the Labour Twitter Tsar, Kerry should know better.

Shane Greer is at fault because from what I read, he is being antagonistic from the start. Reacting to a reasonably irreverent comment from Kerry, Shane has gone overboard. The tweet that made Shane bite was “@wallaceme @shanegreer To use that well-worn political phrase, I’m not taking any lessons about Northern Ireland from you two. Or music.”

As you can see, Shane went into a diatribe about being from Northern Ireland and his time there which sounds awful. But if Kerry hasn’t met him or heard his accent and she is right, there is no reason for her to research Shane’s birthplace or personal history. She is also right to suggest it is fairly egotistical to suggest she should know his heritage and she is right to not apologise. He then proceeded to blog about it with gusto.

A spat between these two is fine, it happens. But when these two started off at each other, each others followers and supporters joined in and attack each other. Together they produced this;

As I said, both of these people are in positions of power and respect. Arguments like this turn people off politics, getting involved at the local level and engaging. As you can see, it is a pack mentality, but that is politics, but sometimes, someone needs to be the adult.

This whole argument won’t have any severe ramifications. It won’t lead to resignations and won’t even make the news. But it turns people off. As I said, it is important that people use social media conversational tools wisely.

What are your thoughts?


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