Written By: - Date published: 9:27 am, October 10th, 2014 - 70 comments
Categories: blogs, david cunliffe, election 2014, grant robertson, labour, Media, national - Tags: andrew little, cameron slater
Right now is an ideal time for the left to rethink our approach to social media and in this post I will outline a couple of examples showing why there has to be a better way.
This week I did something that should give me automatic entry to lefty heaven. I waded through the filth and debris on the site known as Whaleoil and counted the number of posts this year that have been posted with the David Cunliffe tag.
There were 973 of them. Nine hundred and seventy freaking three of them. Three point five posts every day, every single day including Sundays and holidays. One could describe the obvious fixation as being somewhat obsessional.
There were basic all out assault type posts, silly cartoons, pictures with naff comments, amplification and regurgitation of rumours and claims about leaks within the labour party. There was lots and lots of advice for the Labour Party which I suspect was not motivated by a desire to help.
The posts were all utterly negative. Cameron obviously has a terribly distressingly negative view of the world. Of course he may not have written them all himself. In fact from the disclosures in Dirty Politics it may be that the National Research Unit wrote most of them.
But really? 973 of them? They must have had some effect on Cunliffe’s reputation. Of course the actions of some within the party have also have had an effect. But that is a story for another day.
It is not only progressive politicians who have felt the damaging effect of Slater’s particular form of blogging. Yesterday David Fisher in the Herald reported about Matt Blomfield and his trials and tribulations with Slater. The article starts off with this passage:
Matt Blomfield was beaten bloody. A shotgun blast ringing in his ears. Blows from the stock of the weapon splitting skin to send blood running down his face.
It was a horrifying attack at home. His children were watching. One stood at the window as her father grappled with the intruder. The other sought shelter in the house, seeking safety from the armed man who brought violence to their home.
Blomfield had fought off the attacker, fiercely enough that police later found blood from which they took DNA.
He struggled to think who might want him hurt, or worse. In the end, he came up with a suspect list of 285,000 people – the monthly readership of the Whaleoil blog, who he believed had been given every reason to think he was one of the worst people in New Zealand.
Blomfield obviously believes there to be a link between the treatment he has received on Slater’s blog and the physical treatment he received during the attack. Dirty Politics has given many other examples of difficulties created for innocent individuals by Slater’s particular mode of blogging.
The really sad thing about the election result is that Dirty Politics seemed to have no effect on the result. The system was detailed for us. The collation of information using Beehive resources, the bundling of stories, the breaking of these stories on Slater’s site so the media could then report on them. But nothing has changed. Slater continues in his way posting multiple posts each day, attacking people, feeding stories to the media and continuing his media speaking slots with tame right wing media institutions.
There has to be a better way because the thought of the continuation of the status quo is somewhat disturbing. For Labour if David Cunliffe retains the leadership these attacks will not stop. And if he is replaced then there will be continuous attacks on the new leader in an attempt to undermine and suck confidence. Slater already appears to be gearing up for a possible change. For instance Grant Robertson has had 128 tagged posts this year but the rate is increasing with 45 since the election. Andrew Little has had 44 in the past year with 13 since the election.
Progressives need to have a discussion about how we are going to handle social media over the next three years and counter the negative effect that the right is having on general media discourse. I believe the Standard has an important role to play but the effectiveness of Nicky Hager’s particular form of journalism is impossible to ignore. An enhanced blog presence with sufficient resources to allow for some research may be the solution because clearly currently there is a severe resource imbalance. Whatever change is made allowing the current right wing dominance to continue should not be an option.