Politicians and how we treat them online

“Politics is a rough old trade”, John Major noted in his concession speech in 1997. I suppose it comes with the territory of being a politician, you put your name out there and you should be willing to take some flak from the public.

Now, this is not a piece defending politicians I have to stress. I read dozens of news stories everyday and lament the missed opportunities and failures of leadership that we often see on our TV screens.

However, since I have had some role in running this sites social media account, I have witnessed politicians who have made some of the most netural comments come in for a torrent of abuse. Some of the most vile things that you can imagine being said are hurled at politicians across parties and most of the time for no other reason than they hold a different political opinion.

I engage with politicians across our society on a regular basis and yes, sometimes criticise them. But, this has never stopped me from separating the politcs from the personality behind it. Most of the politicians I engage with are on a personal level nice people, some of whom I think their policies are for the birds but that’s another days work.

Yet, I am always concerned when I witness these same people recieve something that goes beyond criticism. Some of the most personal, insulting and hateful abuse that you can possibly imagine thrown out on Twitter/Facebook by people who appear to just be filled full of hatred.

I would suggest that if you’re spending your free time goading politicians and sending out abuse left, right and centre, then you really need a new hobby.

I know political leaders let us down, but the great thing about a democracy is that no politician can hold office forever or without the support of the electorate. If you’re so annoyed at a politician bide your time and vote them out at the next election. Don’t sit and hurl abuse from behind a computer screen.

Social media can be a brilliant way of engaging with your public representatives, but it’s a real shame that we see many looking to pander to a mob mentality of thinking they can just throw anything they like out there.

When you’re watching TV later, just pause for a moment before you send that tweet or make that post and think is there a better way for me to put this. If you are worked up about an issue and have been continously trolling a politician ask yourself is this really an effective use of my time?

Use social media to engage with your representatives, not to troll them. You wouldn’t expect your Mum or Dad to put up with a huge level of abuse,  nor should an elected representative.  Just because you politically disagree with someone, doesn’t mean you have to hate them.



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  • Zeno3

    ” If you’re so annoyed at a politician bide your time and vote them out at the next election.”

    We don’t have that system. If we had I would even vote myself. Imagine being able to tick a box to show our disgust at them.

  • mickfealty

    Grrrr. Got out of my sickbed to write a seven point response and bloody Disqus got indigestion so I’ve lost it all. No chance of writing it all out again in my present state I’m afraid.

    So just this from John Kellden (http://goo.gl/FcINDx) on what might be possible from a pol’s pov…

    In the social era, we are facing the opportunity and challenge, to rediscover what “social” is. In the old gents club, the industrial age or whatever we want to call it, it was a select few, old, male, gents.

    Hierarchy. Artificial scarcity. If you got in the club, you had it made.

    There’s an opposite reaction right now – people believing they need to go full frontal immersion in the stream – the attention economy. This will never work.

    Spending fractions of a second on every person in our network, is making us tired, stressed and leads to a sense of diminishing of true options, there only being 24 hours in the day to keep up with the firehose of “social” info.

    In between, there might be a sweet spot.

    I think David may be looking down the wrong end of the telescope here. People fight wars through social media and they cannot be conformed to artificial politeness en masse.

    The fixing of politics in the digital era requires a shift in political philosophy by political leaders themselves from viewing citizens as people who have to be bought off to people who can help find answers to common problems.

    The alternatives are in Kellden’s view, “power narratives, persuasion plays, and authoritarian forms of leadership…”

  • kalista63

    I don’t get the article at all. Facebook was one step but Twitter was a massive step in immediate communal expression, especially with thanks to the hash tag. The idea that you can express yourself every 5 years is a total nonsense as anyone skimming over a precious electoral manifest will testify eg. no top down reorganisation of the NHS.

    Last week we had a British minister sitting on the bench looking as if he has resumed an old habit of his. A Vine was posted and a hashtag quickly brought our comments and observiations together. Why do this? Well, we know that no MSM would have the cahhonas to pick it up. And this brings me to another point, the complete state of the MSM. The recent judgement on the Andrew Mitchell case left the usually well regarded Michael Crick with egg on his face, people voicing disappointment in him for the, now, seeming suspect Dispatches they did on Plebgate.

    One might also want to link to the article the Tory loving papers that are whinging about #CameronMustGo, which is now over a million yet still ignored by the BBC etc.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Most of the politicians I engage with are on a personal level nice people” must always be a very subjective evaluation. A little dash of cold water, after a distant family member of mine, a Young Liberal in England, was abused by Cyril Smith, I raised the issue privately with a number of people in and out of politics. “But he is such a nice person”, and “He does so very much for his constituents” and “He is very, very active for charity”, are just a selection of the comments that I was offered. I am not suggesting anything so dispicable as Smith’s behaviour about our own politicians, but surely you have not forgotten that being able to present a very personable public face is almost the first item in a politicians job specification? And many of those who met Hitler before the war spoke of his tremendious charm, something they regarded as a corrective to the concerns others had about his policies. My grandfather heard this at first hand from Lord Londonderry.

    I’ve been around both British and Irish politicians since I was born and cannot ignore the erosion of character even a smidgen of power seems to effect. Even the best of them are touched by it.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Absolutely true, Mick, the “buy off” approach has lost representation any credibility it ever had. Why, with rapid communication systems, we still require hierarchic authoritarian leadership stumps me! I’ve no illusions that my own preference for full participatory politics will ever happen in my lifetime (unless, perhaps, I make my second century!) but to restore any credibility active participation is teh only thing that can educate everyone to responsibly engage in some form of direct democracy, something incresingly possible technically as Beppe has pointed out to the more savvy Italians.

    Get well soon!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Slogan quickly painted over at Short Strand during last election “If voting changed anything, they’d ban it.”

  • Zeno3

    I can’t see any logic in voting other than to keep themuns out. I mean no one could be electing these people based their ability to improve society or even take simple decisions for the greater good. Maybe the voters just want people who are good at fiddling expenses and telling porkies while engaging in sectarian eye poke politics with the other side?

  • kalista63

    I re ember when another site got attacked by politicians, commentators and media types in the south.i think the members were called chattering monkeys then muppets, avatars were changed appropriately.

    God help them if they ever heard what we say about them in our pubs and living rooms, which is what certain elements of social media can be seen as an extension of.

    You can count the amount of NI politicians who are up to debate on social media on one hand, the rest being fond of the block button when faced with FACTS, never mind abuse.

  • Mister_Joe

    Meanwhile, today or yesterday SF was calling for the creation of yet another “Peace” investment fund to be paid for by others. For how long do they think they can milk that particular cow? It surely must be dry by now.