A Circus starting with P

Donald Trump shocked the nation and sent the White House into complete and utter mayhem, when he won the 2016 US presidential election. But the American political circus didn’t end here, with Kanye West taking to Twitter to announce his candidacy in the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, across the Pacific, Australians comfortably sat back reassured, knowing Australia’s distinguished democratic system was stable enough to prevent such catastrophic madness. However, recent political changes have begged the question… have our Aussie politicians lost the plot?

Since the honourable John Howard’s 11 year stint came to an end in 2007, not one Prime Minister has served a full term.  In the past decade we have seen the rise of Kevin07, followed by Julez Gillard, then Kevin Rudd appeared again (sorrywhat), Uncle Tones came next, then Malcolm Turnbull, and finally, ScoMo.

Yes that’s right,  after five Prime Ministers in just over eight years, we have just upped it to six. You beauty Australia.

Our once reputable and somewhat respected political stage has collapsed and become a bit of a shit show to be frank. I can’t help but wonder, is social media responsible for this series of blunders?

The role of Twitter among many other mediums of social media has been brought to the forefront of politics in recent years. Starting down under, Kevin Rudd’s 2007 election campaign, ‘KEVIN07’ is widely recognised as a breakthrough moment for online campaigning. After the election, he had accumulated a Twitter following of 796,202 having posted over 400 tweets.

Barack Obama followed suit during his 2008 presidential campaign, being the first American to incorporate a strong use of Twitter during the election period and his time in office.

From this moment moving forward, it was a sure thing. If you are a political player, you are on Twitter.

During the #ausvotes movement in 2010, which came about during the 5 weeks leading into the election, 415,009 tweets were collected using the hashtag. Although a large portion of these Tweeters were journalists, this shows how politics has shifted to be a conversation, allowing anyone and everyone to contribute to the stream of public conversation by denoting the hashtag.

More feathers were ruffled the night of the election when dramatic rumours surfaced regarding a potential leadership spill in the Labour Party. This resulted in K-Rudd being axed by his deputy, Julia Gillard, showcasing an early example of an acute, political event, unfolding on Twitter. Activity patterns between 7pm, when the rumours emerged and midnight, when they were confirmed, show that 26,000 tweets using the #spill hashtag were made that night.

This just goes to show that aside from campaigning, Twitter is still entrenched in politics everyday, whether it’s tweets from political bloggers, news sources or by the pollies themselves. This interconnected culture fundamentally blurs the lines between public and private players, who are all using Twitter as a pivotal sharing platform.

It is clear that the inclusive culture Twitter promotes has completely changed the traditional structure of politics, from when John Howard and his predecessors led the country. The days of print media are well behind us and it’s crazy to think that we are well into the digital political stage.

With over a decade of crazy political blunders behind us, I can’t help but wonder… Has the ability for us to contribute to political discussions from screens, anywhere and everywhere by merely using a hashtag, lowered the bar for politics?

Has the fact we can retweet, reply, comment, like and share any of their posts, caused us to have less respect?

But it goes both ways, does the ability for politicians to use social media during campaigns, as well as  to release and respond to statements make them come across as less authentic, when the goal was to achieve the opposite?

Maybe it’s just a coincidence or maybe the rise of social media was destined to turn politics into a live circus.

I guess in the meantime we can sit tight, tune into live updates and pray ScoMo learns to execute his Twitter slightly better…


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