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A social media primer for progressive candidates

Written By: - Date published: 8:36 am, March 4th, 2017 - 15 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, Dirty Politics, labour, Media, social media lolz - Tags:

Labour Party General Secretary Andrew Kirton recently sent out a message to Labour Candidates which of itself was a lesson on all things social media.  The text was to warn them to review their social media and delete all the stuff that might be embarassing. But things went astray when it was texted to reporters …

From Newshub:

Labour MPs, election candidates, and staff are under orders to clean up their social media profiles.

The Party’s general secretary Andrew Kirton issued the directive in a text he also accidentally sent to reporters today.

Mr Kirton’s directed them to check their social media feeds to remove any potentially embarrassing material – specifically old posts from before they were candidates.

He’s telling candidates their social media accounts should present them as being professional and in touch, and has asked they delete images showing them drinking or making inappropriate gestures.

It asks Labour candidates to check for any old social media posts which could “embarrass you or the Party” – even if they were taken before the person joined Labour.

Warning that Labour’s opponents were searching through candidates’ pages, Kirton said: “Your social media accounts should present you as a professional and in touch person.

“Images of you drinking, making inappropriate gestures etc etc should be deleted.”

It also says any criticisms of Labour policy, current or former leaders “will come back to haunt you and us”.

And here is the text:

I am sure everyone had a laugh and that Andrew is feeling just a little bit embarrassed right now. At least his text had nothing which was actually sensitive. And the incident contains a very important lesson, if there is something that you want to share that is important and you do not want the media to report it, then do not text/email/message/use a computer or cellphone to spread it around.

Apart from the lesson concerning the inherent weakness of modern social media and how it should be avoided for sensitive messages there is one aspect that I want to comment on and that is the suggestion that having been historically critical of the party or doing something slightly inappropriate like drinking should be considered to be a negative.

I think this is a mistake.  Call me a heretic but I think that we should have proud passionate outspoken candidates, and I don’t believe that sanitising backgrounds is a good thing to do.  Bob Harvey is one of the politicians who I admire the most and he has always outspoken.  He may have caused headaches for his personal advisors but people always knew exactly, precisely where he stood on issues and what he thought.

I appreciate this is the modern way, with parties through message discipline seeking to advance their framing of issues through the media who are intent on spotting and highlighting divisions and differences.  But this ignores the importance of local politics, that communities support candidates who know the local issues and are prepared to advocate for them.  Yes there is a national aspect to all politics but there is also a local aspect which sanitised direction setting can damage.

Of course the opposition is searching through candidates’ social media pages.  Dirty politics is what they do.

And I would be interested to see how the dictum would handle this photo …

15 comments on “A social media primer for progressive candidates”

  1. Anne 1

    My guess is: someone – possibly a sympathetic journalist – told a senior member that the Nats are digging through all the social pages for anything that could be used to undermine Labour during the campaign. The hierarchy had a collective hissy fit and hey presto… the memo.

    It should be a foregone conclusion that Labour candidates will be trawled extensively by the Nats (and not just social media) but there will always be a few candidates who are inexperienced or naive (or both) and end up embarrassing Labour. We’ve seen quite a few of them over the years.

    It is better to get these types of messages across verbally and NOT to rely on the written word. This time it was an address error but next time it could be an illegal hacking job. Slater’s “hacking” of Labour’s computer system a few years ago shows it can done with impunity if you’re on the “right” side of the fence.

  2. tc 2

    Amateur hour has begun in earnest, does the Luddite not realise that copies of all relevant material is probably already been sifted through, sorted, categorised and saved in multiple physical locations awaiting use.

    The act of deletion would give an opportunity for mischief.

    Totally agree mickey, it should remain for all to see. Nothing to hide etc as having a drink isn’t a crime is it.

    • mickysavage 2.1

      Not in Aotearoa!

      I put up that photo of Andrew to suggest that slightly embarrassing photos can actually be very powerful. I thought it showed what a wonderful sharp sense of humour he has.

      And the BLinglish sheep shearing episode apparently went down very well in national polling and focus grouping land. I bet he practised for days beforehand so that he did not make a complete mess of it …

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    I think this is a mistake. Call me a heretic but I think that we should have proud passionate outspoken candidates, and I don’t believe that sanitising backgrounds is a good thing to do.

    I agree. People have their foibles and make mistakes. Sanitising those is like trying to make the MPs seem more than human.

    Of course the opposition is searching through candidates’ social media pages. Dirty politics is what they do.

    Yep and the correct response isn’t to cringe and try to hide it but to laugh and say that we’re all human and have human foibles.

    This is how you connect to people.

    To try to hide them and be more than human is to disconnect from them. That may have worked for the Ancient Egyptian God-Kings but it doesn’t work in a democracy.

    • Karen 3.1

      +1 Draco (and Mickey).

      • xanthe 3.1.1

        yes the greens in years past were very good at just saying “what of it, we are all what we are” works very well and the media soon learns nothing to see here.

    • “I think this is a mistake. Call me a heretic but I think that we should have proud passionate outspoken candidates, and I don’t believe that sanitising backgrounds is a good thing to do.”

      “I agree. People have their foibles and make mistakes. Sanitising those is like trying to make the MPs seem more than human.”

      I agree with both of you. The dumbing down of candidates and MPs and parties is one of the biggest turnoffs for voters and is party of the reason for shrinking election turnouts. The Mt Albert by-election may have displayed niceness but it didn’t engage much interest, hence the media switching to promoting a leadership change even before election day.

      For all his foibles and acts John Key didn’t allow himself to get boxed into a PR corner.

      David Shearer’s initial promise was strangled by attempts to repackage him. To an extent Andrew Little has suffered the same but there are signs of him emerging from that at bit.

      Jacinda Ardern suffers from celebrity packaging (although the media like it).

      Winston Peters keeps being successful (to a degree) by being outspoken.

      Sure every candidate should have a good look at their online history in case something could be used to damage them, but passion and beliefs should not be erased for fear of being seen as something other than a party sheep.

    • Yeah, this is the one thing there is to admire in the US Presidential system, it allows for airing a debate inside the party in the public sphere, rather than keeping all the internal debates private and sanitized. (of course, the downside is that the candidates try to sanitize that internal debate for the public as well, and this may have contributed to the rise of corporatism within the Democratic Party, but that’s way too much of a tangent to explore in detail)

      If Labour’s going to continue to be a big tent, I would much rather they air their different visions of the party in public in a constructive and collegial way, and then have Andrew Little piece them all together into a whole, and finally argue why it is a good thing that they bring together voices that disagree so much, and why New Zealand will benefit from being governed by a party with diverse perspectives.

      There’s a certain amount of democracy theatre involved with being a real democratic party. (because it’s not enough to actually be democratic, you have to be seen to be democratic) The Greens get this, it’s why they hold votes in their AGM on so many critical issues, why even when the executive gets to make certain key decisions, they’re still informed by member votes first.

      If Labour want to be a big tent, they need to act like that’s a strength, play to it, and then punch National in the nose for being a party that appeals to only one type of New Zealander, and is ruled from the top down, rather than democratically governed. That’s how you fight back to them trawling your facebook feeds or whatever.

  4. Just at the moment the msm are frantically attempting to defend the indefensible. They can’t fully concentrate on attacking the left so are, and have no doubt already been storing up a supply of potential future targets. Required in the main, when they get time,to foil or divert attention from their seemingly on going stuff ups .(any thing is better than nothing-it can be skewed.}

  5. Skinny 5

    Kirton makes a valid point, messaging maybe should have been sent out via the LEC’s. Oh well no big issue other than a GS boxing things off.

    I guess all those on the Left should ease up on the hard line stuff on social media. Bit guilty of ranting out loud the other day, which in hindsight would have been best not to. Just gets a bit frustrating after 9 years in opposition and you see patterns from past failing reoccurring so you get a bit knee jerky. My apologises the crew is firing with great strength under our best leader since Clark. Onwards and upwards, cheers.

  6. EE 6

    Re Photo: And what’s wrong with a man showing off his sausage?

  7. Ross 7

    and has asked they delete images showing them drinking

    Nothing wrong with drinking…but I suspect the text was directed at people like Poto Williams. Especially the comment about being “a professional and in-touch person”. It’s not professional to publicly criticise another Labour candidate and, by implication, the leader who has endorsed that candidate.

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