Saturday, 4 January 2014

Twitter, Politics and stupidity - A dangerous mix

I have come to the conclusion that Twitter is a dangerous and corrosive form of Social media. It is especially dangerous and corrosive when people use it as a political campaign tool. Now I am not going to be a hypocrite here. I am just as guilty as the next person of indulging in silly political point scoring as the next person. If someone is rude about me or a friend of mine, I am rude back.  I have come to realise that Twitter has become a playground for developing the worst aspects of human behaviour.

I resisted the desire to Tweet for a long time. I found it banal and boring. Occasionally I'd have a look at it, just to see what was going on. Eventually, following requests from readers of the blog, I succumbed and started a Twitter account. My original intention was simply to use it to inform readers when I'd posted a blog. Sadly Twitter is like very corrosive addictive drug. You think you will simply post one message, to let off steam and then you end up wasting a morning exchanging tweets of ever increasing banality with people who you would not normally pass the time of day. People I would normally cross the road to avoid can engage me in discussions I don't want and get me to expend energy I'd rather not waste, simply correcting untruths and deliberately misleading statements.

Occasionally someone I follow will post something of such utter stupidity that, despite the rational part of my brain saying "don't bite", I get involved in a completely pointless debate. The worst thing though is when they are simply rejurgitating opinions on behalf of political masters, because their particular party machine has deemed it "time to get active on Twitter". What these people don't quite get is that most sane, normal swing voters don't follow politicians. The people who generally follow politicians are other politicians and political wannabees. Parties encourage their "attack dogs" to follow opponents, so that "claims can instantly be rebutted". Sadly often both the original Tweeter and the rebutter are completely clueless about the subject they are discussing.

I have come to the conclusion that in many ways Twitter is for many people a psychological prop to fill in the gap left by the lack of an active sex life. The logic for this is that anyone with anything better to do would not spend their evenings exchanging 140 word messages with people they don't like in public. Often it is quite intuitive as to why such people are perhaps a bit sad and lonely. A desire to control comes to the forefront. Such people use such manipulations as shady threats of legal action (hoping the person they are threatening isn't aware that litigation costs tens of thousands of pounds). Another common "controlling" activity is to block someone on Twitter and then tell the world about it. Tweets saying things like "I've had to block another troll tonight" following a robust exchange of views is typical of this. To the Tweeter it is a sign of their strength and their ability to control their environment. To the rest of us, it just shows us that they are a bit thin skinned and are better at dishing it out than taking it. Often such people will have several accounts and will continue to keep an eye on the activities of those they "publicly blocked".

What never ceases to amaze me is when people who are intelligent enough to know better say things of such crass stupidity that any sane person simply winces. One such comment was left by a former Conservative PPC yesterday. The comment said

"Labour have called 95% of economic & social issues wrong in the last 100 or so years."

Now of course one would expect a Conservative supporter to be critical of Labour policies, but to make such a sweeping statement. Anyone who understands Politics and policies would realise that such a sweeping statement is idiotic. First, the Conservatives and Labour policies are probably identical for 80% of economic and social issues. Since the second world war we've had long periods of both Tory and Labour government.

Things like the maintenance of the NHS are pretty much agreed by both parties. It is only when you go to the USA that you realise that this is actually a highly political decision and that the Tories are far more left wing than most right wing parties across the globe. Then there  are social issues such as abortion, legalisation of homosexuality, age of consent, euthenasia, adultery etc. There is a broad consensus and we are one of the most socially liberal countries on earth. Neither party supports stoning of adulterers, but this is legal in quite a few countries. Even issues like legislation on drugs, gambling, alcohol, prostitution are issues where there is any great party divide. Again if you look at other countries, many have totally different regimes on these. For instance in Colorado smoking cannabis is now legal, in several states alcohol is illegal.

What about the EU? Again there is a Tory/Labour consensus. Membership of NATO? A Tory/Labour consensus. Even on issues such as privatisation & nationalisation, there is more consensus than the parties make out. Labour had a huge majority post 1997, yet failed to renationalise railways, despite this being the least popular of all privatisations. The first economic decision of Gordon Brown was to follow the Tories spending plans for three years.

So if our commentator is correct, then if Labour have been wrong on 95% of economic and social issues, the Tories by default must have been wrong on at least 75% of these issues as well.

This is the sort of thing which cannot be discussed in 140 lines on Twitter. All that our friend got was  a barrage of people pointing out the error of their ways. Unlike this blog, the format means that none of these issues can be properly discussed.

Now if I was a potential Candidate for Parliament, would I want people to vote for me on the basis of statements I knew to be highly misleading? I for one would not. If people disagree with me, I try and change their mind. If their arguments hold water, I change my mind. If they cannot substanciate their point and lose the argument, I'd hope they would change their mind. Sadly I have yet to see a single case where a politcal zealot has ever changed their mind or admitted they are wrong, even when faced with overwhelming facts. They simply walk away from the argument. As far as I am concerned, that is why this country finds itself in a bit of a financial mess. Politicians are not interested in having a debate. They are not interested in the electorate understanding the issues. They simply want votes with no effort at all.

I started writing this blog because I believed people may be interested in a bit of intelligent comment and debate. To stimulate this I've always encouraged guest bloggers. The fact that there have been over a million hits on this blog show that there is an apetite for a bit of intelligent debate and comment. As far as I'm concerned Twitter is great for witty one liners and for links to stories. I quite enjoy the pictures of three legged dogs playing football in the park. When it comes to politicians campaigning, I'd rather nail my scrotum to the wall than read their tweets. The debates are banal and the level of comment is generally verging on puerile.

As I write this I am sure there are teams of wet behind the ears, chinless wonders devising their nect "really cool Twitter campaign" for their respective parties. They wonder why people are getting ever more disengaged from Politics. I don't


John S said...

So very true, one thing you chose not to mention no doubt to remain uuncontroversial.Is a number of those that choose to use Twiitter to spread lies rather than engage in face to face debate, are spineless gutless bully boys, the purveyors of gutter politics, a complete waste of energy or consideration.

They are the dregs of politics, that do harm to our democratic process, a democratic process being eroded by the minute by their pernicious behaviour.

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