There has been a lot going on on Twitter in the last few days, lots of it focused around Judith Collins. I am not going to attempt to cover all of it. But there are a few things I do want to look at.
It was the National Party Northern Region Conference in Auckland this weekend just gone. As was to be expected, the media were in strong attendance. Katie Bradford ran a story on TVOne news saying that Judith Collins wasn’t at the conference. Now this was apparently not the case. But Judith’s response was a bit over the top, and as it turned out, a sign of things to come. I think it is acceptable for politicians to correct the media when they are wrong, but launching an outright attack on the media is not a good look.
“It’s just like when a member of the Press Gallery, about how her then-husband was having difficulty being recruited by the New Zealand Police. She said that was a problem and had been told that her husband wasn’t going to be acceptable as a police recruit because of her family connections.”
“I think you should ask Katie Bradford about that matter.”
Judith followed this up with:
After the story broke and it was clear that the story was going to lead on both of the channels, Judith tweeted the following apology.
I think the apology is a bit half hearted, the fact that Judith asked Brook if wanted to know who it was implies to me that it was planned.
So that is what happened over the weekend, obviously the PM’s office has been drawn into this, with a story in the NBR this morning about the social media aspects.
“Twitter can be very dangerous for politicians,” the PM said on Breakfast this morning.
With Chris Keall starting the article
It seems like National MPs will be told to pull their heads in on social media — at least if the PM’s comments this morning are anything to go by.
Now this is the worry, from my point of view, Twitter is a great way for voters to interact with MPs, to try and learn more about them, to try and apply pressure on issues that voters feel are important. If we have MPs making slip ups, like this, the risk adverse spin doctors who work for the parties will do what they always do, they will attempt to clamp down on what they think MPs should or shouldn’t be doing on social media. In the above article, the PM makes reference to his own use of Twitter.
Mr Key said he used Twitter himself. It was a nice way to acknowledge something like Lydia Ko winning a tournament that didn’t necessarily warrant a full press from his office.
Now I find it funny the PM passing judgement on how his Ministers use Twitter, when he himself has very little, if anything, to do with the actual use of his Twitter account. His entire account is a giant news feed, there is no interaction. There is no interaction because the press secs on the 9th floor want to have absolute control over what goes out and everything needs sign off from any number of people before it is allowed to see the light of day. This suggest to me that neither John Key, nor his press secs, understand the point of social media, the fact that it is about interaction. I hope we don’t see this instance being used as a reason to limit what other MPs and Ministers do on social media.
Most of what Judith said that was questionable was said in the interview, not on Twitter, though it was reinforced and reiterated on Twitter. Don’t blame social media for this, blame the MPs who don’t think before they speak, who think it is acceptable to threaten the media to help protect themselves and their friends. Social media is a healthy thing for our democracy.
“But this sort of stuff I think is a very dangerous space for politicians from all sides of the house and I see people engaging in it, it’s not just our ministers, our people.
“It gets late at night, people get tired, they don’t think it through, like emails, there are plenty of people who write emails in their workplace, hit the end button, then a month later when it’s being read back to them it isn’t quite the way it seemed.”
These are things to keep in mind if you are a Minister or an MP. But they shouldn’t be used as a reason to shut down the use of Twitter. There are plenty of other MPs out there who have said some pretty stupid things, but what makes this different is the target and the implied threats to the Press Gallery, who have a key job in New Zealand’s democracy. but I suspect the press secs on level 9 of the Beehive will be doing what they can to get MPs to fall in line, to pull back on what they do on social media. Even though this attack would most likely still have happened without social media.