Saturday, March 22, 2014


The aftermath of the Marches in March have been too much for right wing commentator Chris Kenny’s gentle soul to take, and he’s walked away from the ugliness of the lefty-dominated Twitter

Profane, violent and sexist, these attacks usually emanate from anonymous or fake accounts. Both ends of the political spectrum dish it out but, given Twitter's strong green-Left bias, the slurs from the Left dominate, shouting down voices from the Centre Right and spreading the sort of personal hate we saw in the March in March protests last weekend.

Those placards about killing or retrospectively aborting Tony Abbott were shocking to see on our streets but such sentiments would hardly raise an eyebrow on Twitter.

Mr Kenny, like so many right wing figures before him, has proven that he just doesn’t know how to use social media. He was, until a couple of days ago, a frequent tweeter, and because his position is so staunchly pro-Coalition and anti-Labor/Greens, the response to his tweets was often strongly worded…and worse.

That’s Twitter for you.

He’s certainly not alone in being the target of some nasty treatment, but rather than walking away, why wasn’t Mr Kenny managing his Twitter feed? As soon as anyone indulged in unacceptable (as defined by Chris Kenny himself) tweeting, he has the facility to block them. Even Paul Murray, his conservative colleague at Sky News Australia recommended that he stop complaining and just block the offenders. That he didn’t do that strikes me as bizarre. He did not have to endure Twitter abuse; no-one does.

Piers Akerman, Chris Kenny, Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt
 In fact, there are plenty of left-leaning people on Twitter who are ready to engage in polite, reasoned debate - albeit with a little gentle mocking thrown in. Most high-profile conservatives, including Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and Piers Akerman, don’t tweet. Chris Kenny was one of the few, and Australian political Twitterati will be diminished without his input.

It’s awkward to make an unbiased comparison with commentators from the left, as they don’t exist en masse. David Marr doesn’t tweet, although Mike Carlton does. Labor politicians are largely comfortable in the Twittersphere, yet Coalition politicians are discouraged from using Twitter. This imbalance could be why Mr Kenny perceives a Twitter bias favouring the left, and cutting himself off from the collected wisdom and flavour of day to day political tweeting is denying himself valuable insight. It’s not a socialist echo-chamber; ten minutes visiting the #auspol hashtag is all the proof he would need.

Mr Kenny’s Twitter rejection is all too reminiscent of the recent threat by Andrew Bolt to quit his career as a conservative commentator after Professor Marcia Langton blamed him, on QandA, for driving an aboriginal academic away from public life. Professor Langton later clarified her comments, and an apology was issued by the QandA programme for airing the comments.
But Bolt, the Australian conservative defender, used his column to have a mighty sook. It was a piece of psychological manipulation designed to whip his fans into a froth of protective fervour. 

And when Attorney-General George Brandis hotly insisted I was not racist, the ABC audience laughed in derision. Not one other panellist protested against this lynching. In fact, host Tony Jones asked Brandis to defend “those sort of facts” and Channel 9 host Lisa Wilkinson accused me of “bullying”.

That immediate reaction from the QandA studio is similar to the cadence of Twitter. The ABC audience did laugh and the panellists didn’t protest at the idea of Andrew Bolt being anything but racist – that should tell Andrew Bolt something about how he is perceived by an audience that identified itself as 48% Coalition and 48% ALP/Greens.

Of course Bolt didn’t quit, and I expect to see Chris Kenny back on Twitter sooner rather than later. After all, he hasn’t deleted his Twitter accounts, he hasn’t deleted his tweets, and despite this week’s decision, Chris Kenny enjoys the interaction, the profile, the discussion.

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