Most dont like to admit it, but we all have our political opinions. Its when a general election comes around that we tend to more vocal of said opinions, and a federal election is slowly approaching. People have expressed their view on politicians in numerous and sometimes hilarious ways, from the political cartoons that satire those in power, to having a one on one discussion with a friend or collegue. The advent of New Media had broadened our outlets of dissent (or compliance?).
This is a typical screen cap from the YLNP facebook page
Social Networking Sites are one such avenue. Using the example of Facebook; we can make a politicaly charged status update, join “groups” of people with similar convictions, engage in legitimate discussion, or even troll. As voters there is little restriction on what we can and can not say, as we are mearly exercising our opinion. Governments however, have restrictions imposed on what they can say to the media.
An example of restrictions on government announcments I would like to cite is “Caretaker Mode”. I wont divulge into detail, but basically means Ministers and their respective departments can NOT introduce or announce any new policy once the election has been called. There are also restrictions on political/campaign advertising, tho these are less stringent.
But where does the line get drawn?. Joe Citizen, of no political persuasion is entitled to voice his concerns regarding current political and social issues, and this is important to democracy so those on the campaign trail can hear the voices of their constituents, or would be voters. However there are citizens who have a political agenda, and who are Members of registered political parties. These party faithful have the same rights to express their opinions as those of the laity. In the old-media paradigm the party faithful are easily spotted: The double breasted suits of clean shaven conservatives are easy to differentiate from the Bearded, Che Guavara shit wearing Socialist Alliance–even without the visual aids, the language used by these groups is un-mistakable. We, the undecided Joe Citizen*, can tell what lies are told by whom.
Admition of Guilt: A member of the YLNP bragging that they are going to troll IRL the ABC television show Q&A
New Media presents us with some new issues. The ability to remain anonymous over the tubez is one such problem, without an identity how do we identify the lies we are told?. Another issue, which is related to the former is that of Trolling. A user has the ability to pretend to be someone else, and enter into an online political discourse of those whos views are dissimilar to that of their own and disrupt the dialog by inserting false, misleading or even defamatory comments with the intent to create political divisions between other users.
The Q&A programme mentioned in the above post(pic)
One only needs to look at the comments on the Facebook posts of Triple J’s radio programme Hack, to see the evidence of YLNP trolling. A traditionally left, youth orientated public broadcaster, would not be expected as an online hangout for Australia’s young conservatives, but the comments testify otherwise.
Not only are the posts misleading but they are often irrelevant and hinder any legitimate political discourse–not to mention the impact they could have on first time voters. If this trolling were limited to one or two disruptive individuals, it would have little to no effect on the discussion. However, it is obvious this is not the case, clearly this trolling is organised politicaly. On researching the profiles of the trollers it reveals that most of the white noise, political red-herrings and neo-con retoric comes from the mouths/keyboards of party faithful.
A member of YLNP boasting about his organisation of the trolling
As more people take up social media, one can only expect the more politically motivated trolling will occur. It follows then that the more trolls there are, the less REAL discussion there is on relevant political and social issues. Adapting or creating legislation to curb this trend may seem like a necessity, tho this action may indeed backfire, as how do we determine those that are political trolling, and who are just politically challenged.
I think its time we looked back at Voltare:
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
Voltaire, (Attributed); originated in “The Friends of Voltaire”, 1906, by S. G. Tallentyre (Evelyn Beatrice Hall)
French author, humanist, rationalist, & satirist (1694 – 1778)
but I think its time we modify it to this day and age:
I may not agree with your words but I will still listen and let you have your say, that does NOT mean I wont ridicule you for being an idiot.
It is important people have a voice–especialy a political one, so legislation is not the appropriate modus operandum. Better action would be to have the logical, moral and intellectual upper-hand, and let these idiots make their cries from the dress-circle because the rest of the audience are here for a show.
And it helps to “block” your profile from known trolls so they can not see your fluid, rational and well thought out argument…
* Im trying to be impartial, tho I can not hide the fact I am on the left of the political spectrum.