Posts Tagged twitter
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.
Lupe Fiasco has just released the video for his new single ‘Bad Bitch’. In it, he attempts to tackle the depiction of women in hip hop culture.
To me, Lupe is in a league above most of his contemporaries in the mainstream rap scene. His music has a sophistication that most sorely lack and he has a lyrical flow that is close to unmatched. Great rapping is like poetry — the words have a meter and fit the rhythm of the song even when you are reading them from a page.
At his best, Lupe’s lyrics can contain biting, insightful commentary on the society in which we live. The issue of women in hip hop is not a new one for him to be approaching. Take, for example, one of my favourite songs of his — ‘Hurt Me Soul‘:
Now I ain’t tryna be the greatest
I used to hate hip-hop… yup, because the women degraded
But Too $hort made me laugh, like a hypocrite I played it
A hypocrite I stated, though I only recited half
Omittin the word “bitch,” cursin I wouldn’t say it
Me and dog couldn’t relate, til a bitch I dated
Forgive my favorite word for hers and hers alike
But I learnt it from a song I heard and sorta liked
And then there’s this absolutely brilliant little send-up of standard rap videos from ‘Daydream’ — possibly his most well-known single:
Now come on everybody, let’s make cocaine cool
We need a few more half naked women up in the pool
And hold this MAC-10 that’s all covered in jewels
And can you please put your titties closer to the 22s?
And where’s the champagne? We need champagne
Now look as hard as you can with this blunt in your hand
And now hold up your chain slow motion through the flames
Now cue the smoke machines and the simulated rain
The subject of the post itself can be seen here:
Meanwhile, the song has not been popular with everyone. In a review that is now the subject of a massive Twitter campaign against Spin magazine, reviewer Brandon Soderberg slammed Lupe for ‘mansplaining’:
The whole thing is an impressive exercise in mansplaining. Its hook goes, “Bitch bad, woman good, lady better,” which sounds sweet and all, but does any female want to be called “a lady”? And although the song is a bit more complex than described above — or really, muddled — it is the umpteenth example of so-called “conscious” hip-hop replacing one type of misogyny with another. While listening to Lupe’s well-intentioned grousing, I couldn’t help but think of Azealia Banks, whose pointed use of “cunt” on “212” blew minds and inspired enthusiasm, and whose clothing style might not meet Lupe’s approval. So much of the song’s characterization seems to hinge on the clothes the female character wears (and also how sweet or “nice” she is). …
So often, the appeal of this kind of commentary on hip-hop … feeds on outdated and simplified hip-hop stereotypes. The use of a 50 Cent stand-in for the video also plays into a decade-old understanding of hip-hop as the world of endless thugging and violence, which as I’ve said time and time again lately, just does not represent what rap music actually looks like and sounds like in 2012. …
The use of the word “bitch,” sensitively deconstructed by Jay-Z on “99 Problems,” and currently being twisted and challenged by Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj, and many more female MCs, proves that the discussion doesn’t need a backpack rap hustler selling cynicism. [my bold]
The first thing that popped into my head when I read that was, ‘are we talking about the same hip hop?’
So I looked up the current number one in the US. The most popular rap song there at the moment? ‘Whistle’ by Flo Rida.
The lyrics in that song?
Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Let me know
Girl I’m gonna show you how to do it
And we start real slow
You just put your lips together
And you come real close
Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Here we go
Whistle baby, whistle baby,
Whistle baby, whistle baby
And on the subject of depictions? Perhaps these bikini-clad women on jetskis are the new, modern, respected hip hop women that Soderberg was referring to? Or the one on the horse? I think Soderberg may have been a little too hasty in announcing the end of misogyny in rap music.
But then, Soderberg specifically mentioned a few of the female rappers who are causing rap stereotypes to come crashing down like European banks. He seems especially fond of this ‘Azealia Banks’ character. I guess that would be the same Azealia Banks who sang this:
These niggas ain’t fly, got wings like always
You’re finger-fuckin’ the pussy
Lickin’ it all day
Niggas on me cause my position is real sweet
Niggas on me cause all my fabrics cost change
I see what Soderberg was talking about. I guess women everywhere can take comfort in the fact that they have Ms Banks fighting for their cause.
Lupe’s new single may not be the most eloquent deconstruction of gender depictions in hip hop ever written and it may be a little didactic, however that does not mean that it deserves the kind of criticism that Soderberg threw at it.
In terms of mainstream stature, Lupe is almost in the top tier of commercial success and has been around for almost a decade — making him far more influential than any of the other rappers that Soderberg mentioned. Also, he makes some of the best rap music around — infinitely more listenable than Nicki Minaj’s bland, overproduced pop stylings or Azealia Banks’ monotone drawl laid over God-awful David Guetta-esque backing tracks.
‘Bad Bitch’ may be a little obvious in its message, surely Lupe can be forgiven. After all, he has been discussing this issue for his entire career, at times with sophisticated allusions to rap culture. He has released this song as the preview single from his not-yet-released album, illustrating how important he feels this discussion to be.
Soderberg’s reaction is simply patronising, elitist and counter-productive. He clearly would rather maintain his sense of superiority over the average rap fan than give credit to a mainstream rapper like Lupe for doing something positive and important.
Soderberg elevates people saying far worse things than Lupe to some kind of false pedestal in order to whitewash the issue of women in hip hop, as though it had not been a serious problem since 50 Cent’s debut album. He is pretending that the hip hop world is going through a period of deep introspection so that he can slam Lupe for being too late the party.
It’s really quite pathetic.
For anyone who hasn’t been following, 17-year-old Twitter user @Riley_69 (the ’69’ in the username was a bad omen in the first place) was a little disappointed in British diver Tom Daley for only coming fourth place. He expressed his opinion rather crudely and was later arrested for his thoughts.
See, Daley had previously said this in an interview with the BBC, referring to his deceased father:
Winning a medal would make all the struggles that I’ve had worthwhile. It’s been my dream since a very young age to compete at an Olympics. I’m doing it for myself and my dad. It was both our dreams from a very young age. I always wanted to do it and Dad was so supportive of everything. It would make it extra special to do it for him.
So when Daley did not win a medal, @Riley_69 figured this was the appropriate thing to say:
You let your dad down i hope you know that.
Daley expressed his displeasure, but @Riley_69 did not seem to care much for Daley’s feelings:
Hope your crying now you should be why can’t you even produce for your country your just a diver anyway a overhyped prick.
What struck me about that tweet was the choice to omit the apostrophe in “you’re”, yet include it in “can’t”, and the omission of any punctuation other than the full-stop at the end. I think this actually justifies the use of the term ‘half-literate’.
Moving along, our keyboard warrior later had this to say:
i’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky twat your a nobody people like you make me sick
And in response to criticism from others:
i dont give a shit bruv i’m gonna drown him and i’m gonna shoot you he failed why you suporting him you cunt
For this, Mr Riley was arrested. In fairness to him, when he saw the outcry that his tweets had caused, he did tweet an apology:
@TomDaley1994 I’m sorry mate i just wanted you to win cause its the olympics I’m just annoyed we didn’t win I’m sorry tom accept my apology.
please i don’t want to be hated I’m just sorry you didn’t win i was rooting for you pal to do britain all proud just so upset.
Kenan Malik doesn’t approve of the arrest (my bold):
… I am simply pointing out that once we allow concepts of incitement and threat to become so elastic, then we open up a broader problem for free speech. The reason for being wary of police action against someone like @Rileyy_69 is not because one wants to defend the abuse of Tom Daley, nor because one is sanguine about death threats, but because if we lose sight of the fact that threats have to be both credible and understood in context, then free speech in a broader sense becomes endangered. @Rileyy_69’s tweets, and not just to Tom Daley, were vile, abusive, obnoxious. But read in context, and with a bit of common sense, no one would take them as genuine death threats. This might be an individual craving attention, and perhaps even, as some have suggested, needing help, but not someone who is about to commit a murder.
I get where Malik is coming from, but I have to ask what makes him so sure and if he has really considered the consequences of Riley_69’s behaviour.
I completely understand the argument about free speech and I instinctively feel that curtailing any expression is a bad thing, however it is equally wrong to be absolutist about these kinds of rights. In many situations, absolute free speech will conflict with other fundamental rights and it is a fallacy to suggest that free speech must necessarily trump other rights in every situation.
Malik does recognise this, however I question why this particular instance is such an “elastic” interpretation. The boy very explicitly issued violent death threats against Daley amid very hurtful personal abuse. That kind of harassment and intimidation would be illegal if it were to take place in person or over the phone, the only reason that everyone is up in arms over this is that the communication took place online – a medium that is generally perceived as more remote and impersonal than other forms of communication.
I think that it is about time we drop this assumption that online communication is necessarily less harmful or serious than the same communication offline. Unfortunately, if Mr Riley did decide to go after Daley offline, he would not be the first psycho to take an online obsession and act on it IRL (see, eg, HERE, HERE and HERE) and there have been quite a few cases of online harassment that have led to the victim’s suicide (see, eg, HERE, HERE and HERE).
On a slight tangent, online communication is the primary means of radicalising
Western individuals who later commit terror attacks. The late Anwar al-Awlaki from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the recent subject of one of Obama’s drone strikes in Yemen, was particularly adept at finding vulnerable Muslims online and coaxing them into committing acts of terror – the Fort Hood shootings being an example.
I say ‘slight’ tangent because, while the attacks wouldn’t have occurred but for Awlaki’s communicating with shooter Nidal Malik Hasan directly, most of the vile antisemitic/anti-American extremist propaganda that Hasan had access to before Awlaki approached him was distributed online.
The argument that people should just “challenge” these points of view are valid to an extent, but this method is limited. Open debate does not sway the kind of extremists who believe that all of society is lying to them and it is their duty to kill others; it will not prevent a psychotic stalker from chasing-down a victim; and it does not make victims of harassment feel any less harassed, so will not prevent their being driven into depression and suicide.
Free speech and open debate is vital for our society, but we have to recognise that the cost of not punishing some forms of speech is higher than the cost of prohibiting them.
It’s a grey area, but from where I sit, “i’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky twat your a nobody people like you make me sick” is over that line.
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?