If you're sick of hearing about Andrew Laming, join the club. The Sydney Morning Herald is calling his tweet a "Twitter gaffe" - not what you'd expect from the Member of Parliament whose own Liberal Party website biography describes him as being "Australia’s most innovative user of social media in politics".
It’s the kind of tweet you should never see from an elected official.
I first became aware of Mr Laming’s “innovative” use of social media a couple of years ago when I saw that he was using Twitter to promote a competition he was running on Facebook. The concept was that he would use Twitter to attract followers, and tweet links to his Facebook page. If you followed the link, and then “Liked” his Facebook page, you’d go into the draw to win a weekend away on the Sunshine Coast.
Of course, once you’d clicked the Like button, you would then see everything that he posted to his Facebook page – Liberal Party statements and conservative comments, punctuated with pithy backhanders and sledges aimed at the ALP.
I heard on Monday night via Twitter that Andrew Laming was trending, and wondered what he had done this time. You see, this is not the first time that Andrew Laming has tweeted something controversial. It's fair to say that the majority of Mr Laming's tweets are controversial at best, ill-considered most of the time, and occasionally, downright offensive. In fairness, he's not alone is being a serial mistweeter; his colleagues Joe Hockey, Andrew Robb, Nick Sowden and Barnaby Joyce have all learned the hard way that sometimes, a mere 140 characters is plenty of space in which to make a complete twat of yourself. Mr Laming has been doing it for years.
In fact, I take an interest in what Mr Laming tweets - not because I'm a fan, but because I'm incredulous at some of the things he shares on social media. Yes, I used to mock him for his more foolish tweets, and his response was to block me so that I could no longer see his tweets.
Twitter isn’t that simple. I asked for a copy of yesterday’s “clarification” tweet, and nine different tweeters sent it to me. The only way to ensure that tweetable thoughts remain private is not to tweet them in the first place – which given Mr Laming’s history with social media, might be a good thing for the Liberal Party.
It was Andrew Laming who tweeted three days before Christmas:
“Gutless Gillard nowhere to be seen when ‘balancing the budget’ goes up in smoke”
A flock of tweeps leapt to the Prime Minister’s defence. Perhaps Mr Laming had forgotten that this would be the Gillard family’s first Christmas without their patriarch?
But back to Mr Laming’s tweet this week: the main question on social media has been around whether or not the initial tweet was racist.
I’d say yes, it is a mildly racist comment…although that’s not the most obvious source of offense in his tweet. Logan – which all too conveniently rhymes with Bogan – is one of the most multicultural areas in Australia, with about one in four residents being born overseas, and since the tweet was sent on Monday night, we’ve learned that the feud which lead to the violence is actually between two families who happen to be from two ethnic groups which often clash: Aborigines and Samoans.
That wasn’t what Mr Laming was getting at, though; his tweet was a direct insult to the people of Logan, challenging the sophistication of the population. We all know that in Logan, the demographic is a little different, and that expedient rhyme just makes it easier for people to associate Logan with poorer, less educated, less employable, less mannered people. Aside from the immigrant population, Logan has a 7.2% unemployment rate, which is high. Similarly, the median total personal income is up to $300 per week less than in Brisbane.
So why did Andrew Laming tweet about Logan anyway? By Monday night, it was common knowledge that the violence was occurring in Woodridge, a suburb of Logan. Despite Twitter limiting tweets to 140 characters, there were plenty left, so Mr Laming could have said Woodridge but chose not to. He chose to use the name Logan to ensure that we all understood that he was referring to a set of anti-social behaviours which are associated with Logan.
And if by chance he didn’t think of the connection and the whole thing was an accident, it’s still unacceptable. Mr Laming is an elected representative and should display far more care and maturity and less innovation when using social media.