The infiltration of social media into politics has provided a new way for adversaries to call each other into question over party policies. This weekend it was Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd who came to ‘blows’ over Twitter.
The Coalition’s alternative plan for the NBN not only raised eyebrows in Canberra, but industry experts warned it was a short-sighted false economy which simply wouldn’t deliver the optimum result. Friday saw Kevin Rudd (Twitter handle @KRuddMP) jump into the furore with his Tweet pointing out that where he lives in Brisbane would suffer, “Under Abbott, much of my community gets zero upgrade”. Not to be outdone, Malcolm Turnbull (Twitter handle @TurnbullMalcolm) refuted the comments on Saturday by Tweeting “@KRuddMP not correct Our plan will improve your area's bband speeds by taking it from adsl to vdsl most wd have 50 megs - 25 is the minimum”, which basically means that greater speeds are achievable if the type of digital line was changed.
The barbed responses were sent back and forth, with an anonymous tweeter, only known as @geeksrulz, jumping to the defence of Kevin Rudd, or at the very least the Government’s plan, with the Tweet, “@TurnbullMalcolm Your 25 to 50 are not achievable over 5kms from exchange via copper @KRuddMP”.
With the eyes of the Twitter world upon them, the back and forth continued over the course of Saturday morning with, as you would expect, neither party backing down from his position. While much of the debate centred around the actual performance and cost of both party’s NBN submissions, it was the last two Tweets which signalled the banter was at an end. Kevin Rudd’s parting shot was, "@TurnbullMalcolm Malcolm, if it looks like a sloth, moves like sloth, it probably is a sloth of a policy. I like sloths. But not for BB", with Malcolm Turnbull responding, "@KRuddMP a sloth wd be ashamed by your NBN project which after four years hasn't even managed to activate 20,000 premises."
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald.
It seems that politicians now have no place to hide, with social media buzzing with the latest fracas over the NBN, but is Twitter really the right forum to conduct a political debate?
What can you honestly say in 140 characters – the limit for each feed on Twitter, or Tweet as they’re commonly known? Apparently quite a bit if you allow for abbreviations and aren’t so hot on grammar and punctuation. While many of us look forward to weekends without being inundated with political debate, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull appear to be relishing the opportunity to continue to have their say, with social media providing the perfect medium. There’s no need to be booked to give a speech or be scheduled to make a media appearance, all you need now is to turn to Twitter, which seems to be the medium of choice, and simply let rip.
One problem with such a forum is that few ‘normal’ people are following what is happening on Twitter 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, while you might be making an incredibly insightful observation, the chances are that it will pass most people by. Unless of course you happen to have @KRuddMP or @TurnbullMalcolm as your Twitter handle, then the whole media world is watching and waiting for every little gem to be released into the ether.
This is exactly what Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull were banking on as they embarked on their Twitter tirade against one another. If Kevin Rudd really wanted to put forward his point to Malcolm Turnbull, surely he would have just picked up the phone, or sent an email? But where would be the fun in that? Kevin Rudd’s message was aimed at putting Malcolm Turnbull on the spot, he was firing an arrow which he hoped would hit where it hurt. With his withering responses, Mr Turnbull proved he is more than a worthy opponent in the game of tit for tat.
While Julia Gillard and Tony Abbot use the more traditional media to trade barbs, their political understudies, or as some would say ‘wannabes’, are proving that they’re not adverse to using any means possible to be heard.
Do you think Twitter is an acceptable forum for political debate? Or are Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull simply using it to advance their own political means?
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