I'm always a bit sceptical of politicians trying to branch out into the new media.
Politicians having blogs for instance. Rodney Hide’s I don’t mind – I’m pretty sure he writes it himself. But John Tamihere never used to write his – this became apparent when one very able press secretary was replaced by another who had issues with sentence stringing. To the uninformed observer it must’ve seemed as though JT had overnight suffered some form of stroke which left him without the basics of spelling and grammar.
And it can backfire. For politicians, the Internet is a wild frontier, a brave new world filled with nutbars, pornography and most alarming of all, people filled with a strong belief in free speech. Worse still, these people have access to the same platforms as you do.
This was well illustrated in the past couple of weeks with the ‘guerilla’ footage of National Leader John Key at the Porirua Markets. A few sound effects, a bit of commentary, and wowsers, John Key suddenly looks like a guy who doesn’t know how to sniff vegetables properly and couldn’t give a toss about the common man.
But you’re a public figure, orchestrating a walkabout to make it look like you’re ‘one of us’, that’s what you can expect.
Likewise, if you post video blogs and speeches on the Internet, you can expect people to respond. Here’s one of my favourites, from a New Zealander teaching English in Japan. Make sure you watch it at least until she refers to Key sounding like he’s giving a drunken speech at the rugby clubrooms, or whatever she says. Defamatory but delicious.
But that’s the Internet. People will say things you don’t agree with. You’re allowed to respond to them, argue with them or ignore them.
What you really shouldn’t do though, when someone offers their reasoned perspective, is ban them.
Which is exactly what the Nats did to “MonarchyNZ” when he posted a few comments on a recent video by Gerry Brownlee.
You can read the comments and judge for yourself whether MonarchyNZ was trolling and should have been banned. But I can’t see anything objectionable there, certainly nothing that would be moderated out on this blog, let alone result in a ban.
Personally I would have been far more inclined to ban the obsequious toad who posted comments like “I'm hoping for something bold, brave and innovative like the [National Party’s] roading policy.”
Have you watched John Keys speech on roading policy? The video is 30 minutes long but I think it's well worth watching.
MonarchyNZ’s only offence as far as I can see – and God knows there’s a few people on various comments threads who’d see you shot for it – is to prefer Labour. But the fact he actually SAT THROUGH a four minute video blog by Gerry Brownlee should at least give him the right to comment doesn’t it? If it were me I’d be asking for four minutes of my life back (and I say that not for a second against Gerry or National, simply that I can’t imagine willingly sitting through four minutes of ANY uninterrupted political diatribe).
I don’t know who NatNZ is, in the sense of which person clicked the ban button, but for someone in charge of the Nat’s on-line musings it’s pretty rubbish behaviour. This guy either has a) no idea how the Internet works or b) is high on the power of being gatekeeper to the National Party’s e-missives.
This line particularly makes me laugh:
“If you ever find you have something constructive to say, you'll be welcome back.”
NatNZ if by chance you’re reading, here’s a link you should click.
See how "constructive", in it’s erm, more conventional sense, does not mean “in favour of the National party”? See that?
And while you’re there, check this one out too.
Now. On another related matter. I don’t necessarily agree with GayNZ and other media’s line regarding Bill English’s son and his alleged comments on Bebo. As I think Russell was getting at last week, many of the comments, while foul, aren’t anything I wouldn’t expect to hear directed from the boys of one school to another. Certainly they have a very familiar ring to what I remember being yelled from the Upper Hutt College school bus when it drove past St Pat’s Silverstream. Does it make everyone that yelled those comments homophobic? No. Does it make it right? No. But I don’t think it should mean Bill English should be singled out.
Interestingly though, walking down Lambton Quay I overheard a young man on his way to luch, bragging loudly to his two female companions. Paraphrasing:
“So yes, after that whole thing with Bill and his son’s comments on Bebo, I went on-line and checked, and there were four of the MPs kids who had sites with the same sort of thing. So I told Bill about it, and they’ve been set to private now…”
“Which kids were those?” I asked, turning to him mid-stride? He blushed and went quiet. I hope I didn’t ruin his chances with the girls.
Anyway, I don’t care which kids they were, or what comments they made (I don’t imagine they were half as bad as young Master English’s alleged comments), but chances are half the things teenagers say when they think they’re not being watched are going to be potentially embarrassing to an MP.
The point being, the Internet’s a dangerous place. With election year coming up and all votes counting, the Net can certainly Giveth, but it will just as quickly Taketh Away.