Posts Tagged facebook
As readers will probably have figured out, I like to follow Australian politics. As you may have guessed (and those who know me would know), I also like to talk about Australian politics. People I associate with know this, so they tend to engage me whenever an issue in Australian politics catches their attention — I even have some friendships based around these conversations.
So when there is a huge scandal in Australian politics that the whole world is talking about, I expect that it will come up somewhere. Sure enough, a lot of people have been asking me about Julia Gillard’s now world-famous speech calling Tony Abbott a misogynist. My answer has surprised a few people, so I now feel the need to write a post and justify it. Simply put:
I don’t really care.
It just doesn’t really interest me. I watched a recording of the speech and got bored after a couple of minutes. Since it was such a big thing, I went back and watched the rest later, but now I just want that 10 minutes back.
So why this uncharacteristic apathy? Well, I don’t really see this as anything new. The issue that was much more important/interesting was the resignation of Speaker Peter Slipper because of the revelation of lewd and offensive text messages that he sent his former staffer.
The Slipper issue I care about. In fact, I might care enough to write a whole post on the right to privacy and the dilemmas that this kind of situation brings up (ie should someone be forced to resign over what were really private comments, no matter how offensive they were?)
Gillard’s speech? Well, the reaction says it all really. Below are a few responses from friends on my Facebook and Twitter feeds (for obvious reasons, I am not mentioning any names and have slightly edited some of the comments for length):
Wow go Julz! She schooled Abbott #likeaboss
Julia Gillard strikes me as the sort of university feminist who screams “chauvinist pig!” when you hold the door for her and “woman-hater!” if you just let it swing back in her face.
Look, I just had to post it. Fucking brilliant. I could watch this over and over again. … There should be a whole channel devoted to this one video.
I look forward to the rude shock that the lefties who are currently engaged in self-congratulation and saying how amazing Gillard’s performance yesterday was will receive when they realise voters havn’t fallen for her BS…
Yes, Tony Abbott, you were just destroyed.
Gillard stands by Thomson after prostitute revelations. Now stands by Slipper after texts. Yet says Abbott is misogynist. #chutzpah
Amazing speech by our PM. Showing some serious leadership.
And so on.
What was really remarkable about these comments were that there was a very clear divide, but it was not on gender lines, nor was it even on the lines of people who are generally feminist versus people who aren’t. The responses that I have seen were split exactly down party lines. Labor supporters loved it, Liberal supporters mocked it.
And there is the reason why I find the whole thing boring.
Gillard’s speech was not a scathing attack on Abbott to expose his deeply held sexism, and neither was it a blatant display of hypocrisy in defence of a real misogynist.
What was it? An uninspiring partisan response to a successful partisan power-play. It was smart PR — a very clever way to divert the public conversation away from the Slipper debacle.
Abbott was trying to embarrass the government while also taking away the vote that they had from Slipper being speaker, Gillard was trying to defend her majority by recycling old allegations at Abbott.
I have annexed a breakdown of the arguments that Gillard used at the end of this post, but more important than what was there is what was missing: there was absolutely nothing about Abbott’s record in office or any policies that he has proposed which harm women, it was a purely personal attack on Abbott’s character. There is no real policy issue at all and it contributes little to the Australian debate, it’s just boring.
That is why its effect will never be anything other than to provoke cheers from Labor supporters and jeers from Liberal supporters. It was not aimed at ‘exposing Abbott’, so much as spurring-on people who already don’t like Abbott. The Liberals had a bit of a coup when Slipper’s text messages were made public and Labor countered with a clever diversion to mitigate the damage. Yawn.
Until I started this post, I had been filtering out the discussion around this issue. It has joined the categories of things that set-off my mental killswitch — like the carbon tax, Gillard “backstabbing” Rudd, and anything that uses the phrases: “clean energy future”, “working Australians”, “great big lie”, there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead”, ”
fair go”, “getting on with the job” etc etc.
Now that I am done, I am free to go back to not caring. Trust me, that’s a relief.
He has said, and I quote, in a discussion about women being under-represented in institutions of power in Australia, the interviewer was a man called Stavros. The Leader of the Opposition says “If it’s true, Stavros, that men have more power generally speaking than women, is that a bad thing?”
And then a discussion ensues, and another person says “I want my daughter to have as much opportunity as my son.” To which the Leader of the Opposition says “Yeah, I completely agree, but what if men are by physiology or temperament, more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?”
Then ensues another discussion about women’s role in modern society, and the other person participating in the discussion says “I think it’s very hard to deny that there is an underrepresentation of women,” to which the Leader of the Opposition says, “But now, there’s an assumption that this is a bad thing.”
I have looked for a full transcript of this discussion and I can’t find it anywhere online. Abbott was not expressing a viewpoint in those comments, they were inquisitive and hypothetical. In context, they could well be completely innocuous. Then again, they may not be, but I will not make up my mind until I am shown a full transcript. A couple of soundbites extracted from a whole conversation is not sufficient to condemn anyone.
This is the man from whom we’re supposed to take lectures about sexism. And then of course it goes on. I was very offended personally when the Leader of the Opposition, as Minister of Health, said, and I quote, “Abortion is the easy way out.” I was very personally offended by those comments. You said that in March 2004, I suggest you check the records.
Doesn’t convince me. Whatever Abbott’s stance may be on abortion policy, there is no reason why he has to personally support it.
I was also very offended on behalf of the women of Australia when in the course of this carbon pricing campaign, the Leader of the Opposition said “What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing…” Thank you for that painting of women’s roles in modern Australia.
Gotta hand it to the PM, this one is pretty convincing. I am very reluctant to attribute anything to a “gaffe“, but this does show that Abbott harbours a degree of subconscious discrimination. But then, there is the whole “gaffe” issue.
And then of course, I was offended too by the sexism, by the misogyny of the Leader of the Opposition catcalling across this table at me as I sit here as Prime Minister, “If the Prime Minister wants to, politically speaking, make an honest woman of herself…”, something that would never have been said to any man sitting in this chair.
That I don’t agree with. I have no doubt that an unmarried male Prime Minister would be attacked on the grounds that he was unmarried.
I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition went outside in the front of Parliament and stood next to a sign that said “Ditch the witch.” I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition stood next to a sign that described me as a man’s bitch.
Now that is just spurious. So Abbott was photographed standing next to the wrong sign at an anti-carbon tax rally, what does that have to do with anything? I have seen several prominent Labor and Green MPs standing next to the flags of terrorist organisations and nobody batted an eyelid.
A very powerful and provocative 30-minute video by an NGO called ‘Invisible Children’ seems to have become a huge viral sensation in a matter of hours. The hashtags #Kony and #Kony2012 are all over Twitter and my Facebook wall seems to be inundated with people talking about this.
I will admit at this stage that I do not know too much about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, about whom the film was made – although I intend to do so by this time tomorrow. In fact, I do not follow Uganda that closely; I am very much in favour of caring more about Africa, but I tend to pay more attention to Somalia, Sudan and South Africa. I can see a lot of appeal in the video – there is no doubt that Kony is a disgusting human being, and violence against children is always a good tearjerker. That said, everyone seems to have missed what is actually going on in the video. Let me spell it out for you:
They want America to invade central Africa.
The video calls for military intervention in central Africa, it celebrates the fact that Obama was compelled by their group to commit a small number of troops there already and it is calling for more action. It even seemed to be hinting at a potential targeted assassination.
This is a *bad* idea! military intervention into the middle of a foreign war zone is a tough call at the best of times and generally should only be entered into when there is a substantial threat to world peace (i.e. to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon) or in a situation like Libya or Kosovo where there is clear disproportionate warfare going on and hundreds of innocent people are being slaughtered by an enemy of the West.
Taking out Kony has no strategic value whatsoever; the man is a tyrant, but he is in good company in Africa and is far from the only game in town when it comes to recruiting child soldiers and other crimes against humanity. In fact, I bet that the Ugandan army itself is not exactly made-up of angels. This is not at all to say that we shouldn’t be trying to find a way to stop him, but we have to pick our wars and nothing about this one looks particularly appealing.
As I was writing this post, I was been referred to this site (currently censored on Facebook), which gives some more in-depth information:
Still, Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.
It’s worth clicking through and reading the full piece.
Really though, I am quite amazed at the bloodlust that seems to have been going on in my social media. I never thought that I would see such a strong viral phenomenon calling for war.
Meanwhile, expect a post with a full breakdown on the situation regarding Kony to appear on this blog in the next 24 hours.
For a full briefing on Kony, see HERE.
I came across this article in ABC’s The Drum Unleashed by Charles McPhedran, an “Australian journalist based in Berlin”. Reading McPhedran’s argument, it is quite clear that he is coming from a…very
trendy particular perspective:
Minutes later, Barack Obama, standing before a gilded 18th century fireplace and framed by the stars and stripes, reported that Hosni Mubarak had pledged to create a “better democracy” in his land. Obama himself wanted greater “freedom, opportunity and justice” for Egyptians, remarking rightly that this is what everyone everywhere wants. Like during his election campaign two years ago, Obama’s authoritative tone convinced – even as his words remained vague.
Like the imagery there? The rich an important American president speaking empty words about democracy while supporting a dictator? Of course, this is the year of Mark Zukerberg, and the real hero here who totally brought down the establishment was social media.
On Twitter, a cacaphony reported on events in Suez, Alexandria and the Egyptian capital in a dozen languages. On Facebook, protests were organised in every major city worldwide. A global public community emerged, exposing every lie and untruth of those leaders who refused to help the Egyptian people move towards popular democracy in Egypt.
Obviously this global roar of outrage wouldn’t have occurred without the public protest of millions of Egyptians. However, it has been the social networks that have amplified the message from Cairo, and helped to make a quick massacre of protestors less likely. Even though Twitter and Facebook are controlled by large corporations, over the past few days they have provided a space in which there is a global exchange of short reports and views going on.
I love social media probably more than the next guy, and I would love to thank Twitter and Facebook for everything that happens in the world, but it’s not always the case. For instance, Syria doesn’t seem to think it’s such a problem anymore. There has been a lot of debate recently in slightly more reputable publications than The Drum about how much political impact social media really has.
One of these was Malcolm Gladwell, possibly the most influential social commentator of our generation, in The New Yorker.
He outlines exactly how people like McPhedran are thinking:
The world, we are told, is in the midst of a revolution. The new tools of social media have reinvented social activism. With Facebook and Twitter and the like, the traditional relationship between political authority and popular will has been upended, making it easier for the powerless to collaborate, coördinate, and give voice to their concerns. When ten thousand protesters took to the streets in Moldova in the spring of 2009 to protest against their country’s Communist government, the action was dubbed the Twitter Revolution, because of the means by which the demonstrators had been brought together. A few months after that, when student protests rocked Tehran, the State Department took the unusual step of asking Twitter to suspend scheduled maintenance of its Web site, because the Administration didn’t want such a critical organizing tool out of service at the height of the demonstrations. “Without Twitter the people of Iran would not have felt empowered and confident to stand up for freedom and democracy,” Mark Pfeifle, a former national-security adviser, later wrote, calling for Twitter to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Where activists were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools. Facebook warriors go online to push for change.
Then after looking at different examples of revolutions, he goes on to look at how social media really affects things:
The kind of activism associated with social media isn’t like this at all. The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life
…The evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend and that signing up for a donor registry in Silicon Valley today is activism in the same sense as sitting at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960. “Social networks are particularly effective at increasing motivation,” Aaker and Smith write. But that’s not true. Social networks are effective at increasing participation—by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires. The Facebook page of the Save Darfur Coalition has 1,282,339 members, who have donated an average of nine cents apiece. The next biggest Darfur charity on Facebook has 22,073 members, who have donated an average of thirty-five cents. Help Save Darfur has 2,797 members, who have given, on average, fifteen cents.
Disputing internet “guru” Clay Shirky, adjunct professor in NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, his take-home point is that social media can help make people care more about something, but it is not about to change the world into a democratic haven overnight and cannot actually replace genuine protests. That said, Egypt has seen genuine protests, not just a series of Facebook groups, so there must be more to it.
Clay Shirky responded in Foreign Affairs, arguing that while social media is not the solution to all of the world’s despots, it does allow resistance movements to better organise themselves through facilitating communication:
Despite this mixed record, social media have become coordinating tools for nearly all of the world’s political movements, just as most of the world’s authoritarian governments (and, alarmingly, an increasing number of democratic ones) are trying to limit access to it. In response, the U.S. State Department has committed itself to “Internet freedom” as a specific policy aim. Arguing for the right of people to use the Internet freely is an appropriate policy for the United States, both because it aligns with the strategic goal of strengthening civil society worldwide and because it resonates with American beliefs about freedom of expression.
Finally, he points out that social media cannot change the world overnight, but it can effect change long-term, simply by allowing populations to be more informed and connected:
It would be nice to have a flexible set of short-term digital tactics that could be used against different regimes at different times. But the requirements of real-world statecraft mean that what is desirable may not be likely. Activists in both repressive and democratic regimes will use the Internet and related tools to try to effect change in their countries, but Washington’s ability to shape or target these changes is limited. Instead, Washington should adopt a more general approach, promoting freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly everywhere. And it should understand that progress will be slow. Only by switching from an instrumental to an environmental view of the effects of social media on the public sphere will the United States be able to take advantage of the long-term benefits these tools promise — even though that may mean accepting short-term disappointment.
Gladwell responded with:
This is the question that I kept wondering about throughout Shirky’s essay-and that had motivated my New Yorker article on social media, to which Shirky refers: What evidence is there that social revolutions in the pre-Internet era suffered from a lack of cutting-edge communications and organizational tools? In other words, did social media solve a problem that actually needed solving?
And Shirky had the last word:
Even the increased sophistication and force of state reaction, however, underline the basic point: these tools alter the dynamics of the public sphere. Where the state prevails, it is only by reacting to citizens’ ability to be more publicly vocal and to coordinate more rapidly and on a larger scale than before these tools existed.
This seems a little different from McPhedran’s idea that the world was informed about Egypt because of Twitter. From what Gladwell and Shirky were saying, the revolution in Egypt would probably have happened regardless of Facebook.
Another thing to consider is what Facebook and Twitter themselves could have done regarding Egypt. Adrian Chen at Gawker even argues that Facebook is getting in the way of the protestors and should be doing more to help the revolution along:
In many ways, Facebook has made itself actively hostile to those who would organize against a repressive regime or advance an unpopular idea. Most problematic is the policy that bans pseudonyms. Facebook defends the policy by saying their service is about “real people making real-world connections.” But what if the real world is full of secret police looking to crack down on dissent, or snooping bosses who might be supportive of a regime? Harvard Internet freedom expert Jillian C York calls the real identity policy “ludicrously out of touch.”
…Facebook should earn Egyptians’ thanks by doing more to enable protesters and activists to use their service safely. This isn’t just a matter of human rights, but of good business. Imagine if Facebook worked to improve its privacy and security practices to the point that an Iranian dissident would feel comfortable using the site to organize anti-government actions. (Under a pseudonym, of course.) There wouldn’t be much left for us to complain about! (To its credit, Facebook did something like this when it responded to the Tunisian government’s mass-hacking of Facebook by boosting security for all users, including Tunisian protesters.)
Chen does have a point, in that these social media giants wield huge international power without having any real policy, which is a strange situation to be in. It is possible that, had they made a decision either way, Facebook and Twitter could have stifled or spurred-on the revolutionaries. McPhedran’s Messiah complex aside, this is really the way in which social media could affect change, and is kind of worrying. What if one of the networks falls into the wrong hands?
The AWL’s Choire Sicha made a good observation about the internet:
2 Girls 1 Cup took the web by storm—back in summer of 2007. Goatse—the infamous picture that first gaped at us in 1999!—has been popular and not popular in waves over the years since, but the last few years? Not so much. Whatever happened to Tubgirl and Eel Girl? (If you have never seen these things, worry not!) There was also, a few years back, some website that was supposed to be the future of the Internet, devoted to tabloid play of death and destruction video. Now I can’t even remember what it’s called and can’t even Google it up….
What happened? The Internet was great at being a foul cesspool of shock, but it looks like that’s over now.
Her answer is that since everything’s become more professional and most of the “hub” sites are owned by “grown-up” organisations like AOL and the Huffington Post, everything is self-censored and material like tubgirl just doesn’t spread like it used to.
The enjoyable and more mainstream websites that propagate meme-related stuff on the web, like Urlesque (currently most-popular: Cab Driver Does Spot-on Michael Jackson Impression) and Buzzfeed (most popular:Top 10 Crazy Texts From Parents), are actually grown-up entities and can’t and won’t handle actual shock material, as seems quite correct. (One is owned by AOL; the other is the team behind the Huffington Post.) And so there’s really no one left to identify the next famous Brazilian lesbian scat porn trailer and force it upon its non-intended audience.
I think there’s a point here, but I also think a big factor is the migration of social interaction from messageboards and chatrooms to sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as the takeover of…life by Apple. You see, forums didn’t really moderate for material like this and it was very easy/funny for someone to post a picture to a whole bunch of random people who they didn’t know and then sit-back and laugh at the reactions. These new social media giants can restrict certain links and the whole process is made much more difficult by the fact that you are no longer an anonymous screen name, you need a whole extensive profile that takes a lot of time and effort to build and can be traced back to your real identity.
Add to that the fact that Steve Jobs’ own morality prevents any inappropriate material on iPhones and iPads and seeing shock sites is becoming harder and harder.
I do agree with Sicha though, while it’s obviously pleasant to not be watching a video of a jar breaking…inside some guy, there is a certain charm that the young internet had that all this growing up has caused it to lose. Sad…