The opportunity cost of photo opp’s – Social Media election Ep2

Abbott - a photo opportunity waiting to go wrong

Fairfax photographer Alex Ellinghausen captured this moment when, well, I am yet to hear any good explanation for what is happening.

As you can imagine, the bizarre photo has been gratefully received by political junkies on social media, myself included. Its is simply Abbott meeting a family as he toured a factory.

But if Rudd is a chronic nerd, Abbott is an expert at gawk. The leader of the Liberal Party seems to have a knack for leaving his mouth gaping, for showing his bare chest and for looking down his nose at journalists. To these skills, we can now add hair-sniffing.

If you re-live that horrendous minute of silence Abbott shared with Channel 7’s Mark Riley, you’ll notice Abbott can make at least two of those mistakes at once.

By this point, we must assume that no amount of media training will solve the dilemmas Tony brings to media appearances. His avoidance of an interview with Leigh Sales – he was eventually interviewed by Sales’s colleague Chris Uhlman after months of requests – suggests that the presence of women only exacerbates his problems.

The critics of Abbott on Reddit enjoy hashing over the moment, again on 7.30 Report, when he let his guard down and conceded some speeches are fudged, not a true reflection of his position, not ‘gospel truth’.

Go on, re-live it. The nodding?! Why is he nodding!

I feel certain that to meet Abbott is to encounter a man with good social skills but a poor sense of personal space. He may have more in common with Mark Latham than Kevin Rudd.

Abbott even reminds me of Bob Hawke, with his tendency to “aaahhhh” his way out of answering any question quickly.


It is time for One Nation to change their name to FacePalm.

Stephanie Banister, the One Nation candidate for the Queensland seat of Rankin has become this week’s real political star.

The only thing more astounding than her factual errors are the basting she has received from international media.

I can see Islam from my house

I can see Islam from my house

The Huffington Post's take on our own gaffetastic candidate

The Huffington Post’s take on our own gaffetastic candidate

SMall Brooklyn zine HEEB even picked up the story

SMall Brooklyn zine HEEB even picked up the story

This kind of merciless mocking could have happened just as dramatically without the great amplifier of social media, yet social media has enabled a few new angles to keep this rather entertaining story alive…

But unlike Palin, Banister’s gaffe tape is being cut short…

The social media election – Ep1

If the politicians are going to do some
electioneering in the social domain, it’s only fair that we cast judgment on their strategies (or lack thereof).

The potential for awkwardness, hilarity and/or humiliation is very high. And that’s just within this blog.


Channel 7 reporter Alex Hart uncovered a certain level of awkwardness in political videos previously reserved for Rudd’s off-the-record rants or Tony Abbott’s minutes of silence.

Enjoy it – or, at least, watch it.

What’s wrong with it?

Bernadette wants to be cool. Her first barrier to having us believe this is her first name. She’s your aunty who wants to be your best friend despite forgetting all your birthdays and re-gifting you some crap from CopperArt. She then describes your particularly non-rockstar lifestyle in ho-hum suburbia, punctuated only by realisation your dreams are unattainable (cue Liberal three-word slogans).

Also, she says ‘LOLCATS’ out loud.

Bernadette is big L Liberal with tragically small production values, broadcasting from a world of macro-suede, friends called Suzie and dreams of making a difference beyond her weekly bookstall down the arcade.



Despite the fact it was posted on his party’s Facebook page one week ago, Fred Nile’s Australian Christian Democratic Party gained considerably more attention today when it was spread more widely on twitter.

Before long, Fred’s post – nothing new for a group who likes to target the homosexual lobby’s ‘Equality’ slogan – was being compared to racist discrimination

What’s wrong with it?

Nile’s team pushes a very conservative Christianity agenda using techniques as old and tired as I imagine his average supporter is. The decision to focus on divisive issues and approach them with bitterness means that his efforts online will never resonate widely. Indeed, In the context of social media context where messages need to be truncated, Fred’s approach replaces any complexity or nuance with cheap, often offensive one-liners.

I think that the result of his approach will be to narrow his appeal – even while his posts may get enormous reach within social networks.

This is an example of a post everyone feels safe to retweet without fear of people thinking you endorse the views.

Let me know of you see any good or sensationally bad examples of social media campaigning in the next five weeks. Such a shame it’s not eighteen months like in the US.

5 reasons we can’t resist Rudd

“I’m the glasses-wearing kid in the library.” – Kevin Rudd.

Male nerds have an undeniable appeal to our society. Men with a mixture of oddness and sincerity are the focus of much fascination right now and this obsession with the nerd is reaching dangerous new levels.

Their awkwardness beguiles us as their quirks and smirks distract us from the chance they may not be as intelligent as they seem. Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy, Brett from Flight of the Conchords, media whore Joe Hildebrand and our spasmodic Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

In the case of Rudd, I don’t think many Australian men would aspire to his high-calibre dorkiness – the giggles, the hifalutin diplomatic vocabulary alongside the chummy teen-speak – yet we continue to embrace his personal limitations.

I belieb it is because of these tragically nerdy features…

  1. We need a leader with big, obvious, awe-inspiring flaws
    He swears, he works too hard, he likes seeing himself on TV. Sounds like most people I know.
  2. He’s a hopeless fan of his own family
    While Abbott can speak all he wants about family values, I know Rudd values family because he tweets it, they’re with him at the church gate and he won’t stop droppong them into conversation, sorry, press conferences.
  3. Rudd loves loves Jesus and supports gay marriage
    Most Christians I know can’t reconcile these two things. That doesn’t mean most Christians are against gay marriage but for many people it’s a difficult, complicated issue that is painted as black and white in the vitriol blasting from both sides of the debate. Rudd handed down a considered response with heart, soul and a supporting feature in Woman’s Day.
  4. The man speaks frankly and in tweetable soundbites
    Rudd is a master of the media moment.
    How many people do you know can send a tweet which fulfils none of the three tenants of viral content (funny, risque or original) and it still garners 1200 retweets?
  5. Rudd knows he is a nerd.
    Most nerds believe they are actually pretty cool, that they are not truly nerds. This group includes myself, Malcolm Turnbull, Kochie, Tony Jones, Tony Abbott and most male politicians. Now, ‘coolness’ is itself indescribable, except to say that once you think you are cool, it’s clear to everyone that you are not. Rudd is either uber-intelligent and overplays the nerdy card to precision, or he is a rare form of nerd who can walk the line of embracing his own nerdiness to the point of appearing cool.


Could comedy save us?

Currently, our national conversation feels like being stuck at a dinner party full of people tweeting into their mobile phones.

I’m talking about our political debate and the current state of our election campaign, the stupidity of which is becoming intolerable. And we need relief.

Why does Australia linger on pathetic, trivial stories for as long as we do? I realise we are a small country but we are big enough to know better.

Our water cooler conversation is truly tepid. We make scandals out of misquotes and feature stories out of insults when we all know the topic will usually have blown over in 24 hours.

This campaign lurches from one petty scandal to another, this week focusing on a sexist menu, a shocking shock jock, and our nation’s co-dependent relationship with Kevin Rudd.

It’s a cycle more vicious than Howard Sattler’s camera face.


Perhaps what we need is a good comic to make light of the day’s events, someone to skew the national conversation, to spike the watercooler before the 24-hour news cycle is through.

We’ve not had a sharp-shooter like this since Graham Kennedy. (I am excluding half-baked attempts like Steve Vizard, Mick Molloy and Rove – do remind me if I have missed someone).

I’d back Adam Hills, The Chaser team in their CNNNN format, or News Limited’s Joe Hildebrand. (Give that man a talk show, seriously.)

Stephen Colbert and John Stewart have been doing this for years in the US (albeit to a much larger audience) bringing a hilarious new perspective to issues the nightly news will leave you thinking are actually important. (Scroll down for a good example)

We need talented writers and fast-working producers who will expose the shallowness of it all, shining a light on how pointless all the political hypocrisy really is.

John Clark and Brian Dawe did a great job of this but this stuff needs to be nightly. And sharp. And popular. Like, Daryl Somers popular.

Please, I can’t get no relief. Soon, the only option will be to ignore people discussing these trivialities, which I’ll probably do by tweeting into my mobile.

Best Questions asked of Mr Abbott on #AskTony

When Tony Abbott made himself available via Twitter this afternoon to answer questions, the social network let loose like a classroom left alone with a casual teacher.

That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable but real questions were few and far between.

I, for one, support the idea of such real accessibility. Let’s hope we see more of it from our politicians – because as long as it’s a rarity, it’s only good for entertainment value….

@kinnasurprise “What is love?” #asktony

@BiancaSteman why do you have to be so mean #asktony

@GeorgeBludger: does my black hole look big in this? #asktony

@benpobjie: Why so grumpy, Grumpybum? #askTony

@HelenRazer: Have You Ever Seen The Rain? #asktony

@albericie: When will you accept our invitation to do an interview on #lateline? #asktony

@Chriswhitewrite How many roads must a man walk down? @TonyAbbottMHR #AskTony

@Chrys_Stevenson Are you a folder or a scruncher?#toiletpaperquestion #asktony

@Gwillotine: #asktony How’s Malcom?

@ana_au_: Do you really want to hurt me? #asktony

@AndyofSuburbia Butter or Margarine? #asktony

@maevegobash: Which douchebag staffer told you that doing an #AskTony thing on twitter would make you seem hip and approachable?

@RupertMurdochPRHow @TonyAbbottMHR is it possible for Australia to have the “worst prime minister ever” and yet you are less popular than her? #AskTony

And this piece of platinum Twitter as Mr Abbott signed off…
@RobJamesBoN My planet needs me. RT @TonyAbbottMHR: Sorry. I have to go now but thanks to everyone who responded #asktony

Obama’s campaign – no longer a font of wisdom

A quick typographical look at Barack Obama’s second presidential campaign, so far.

When Barack Obama’s first campaign appeared it was all strength and clarity. The HOPE poster made him and his message iconic. For some, the arrival of Barack Obama in American politics was nothing short of messianic. Now, with Obama facing a second-term showdown with Republican Mitt Romney, comes this…

Your President is now embracing into shabby-chic and oil burners. He wants you to feel warm in your own home – but not with strong leadership, diplomacy and economic stability but with Ugg boots and personalised Snuggies. This looks like something pinned by a pastel-wearing scrapbooker on Pinterest. Surely a message can target women without using mint green?

But it’s not just the feminised approach Obama is taking that is bothersome. His messages are clouded by so many different typefaces that any thread is lost amongst all the marketing tactics they are throwing up.

This poster is obviously not too big to fail. I can’t read it without concentrating closely. The multiple fonts are a mess and it feels like an optometrist’s test.

This is about as far from ‘presidential’ as it gets.Feels like an online t-shirt shop. (So I guess it got that right.)

Slick cases with the chunky block serifs evoking competitive NFL and NHL teams. So, it’s a youthful brand but still a bit combative. I like it. Click pic to see more in the store.

This one doesn’t even mention Obama by name. Reminds me of the woven badges I used to collect as a kid.

Standard Obama typeface in three different versions. And presented like bunting usually seen at a convention or a sporting event. George looks like he needs a Nespresso.

Oooo, that’s clever. And no doubt enough to convince some young voters that Obama is in fact Irish.

This is the most surprising use of frilly fonts to me. The titling of the event looks to be lifted from a cheesy royal wedding mug or the movie poster for a romantic comedy. I realise they are friends but this is taking it pretty far, even for a campaign clearly looking to target women

This underlining and alternating fonts – serif to sans-serif – is a familiar tool the Obama team uses and is brought over from the Obama HOPE campaign. You can scan it and immediately get the big points. What’s new is the rain, which tells us he is steadfast, embattled and he likes Kevin Costner films.

Next week: Romney employs bubble fonts.

Top 7 tweets about Kim Jong-il’s death


My mate Michael Turtle thinks he’s a bit of a travel writer. And he’s right. Read his blog of travels in North Korea.
There’s a great tumblr blog of the countless moments for posterity taken during Kim Jong-il’s reign. It’s called Kim Jong-Il Looking At Things.

Gay marriage debate fail – both sides

Gay marriage, as an issue, is everywhere – I see it in the Op-Ed pages, in the Letters pages, it’s certainly all over Twitter. The latter goes especially mad during the ABC’s programme QandA.

But all of these mediums are one way only. Aussies are spurting out their opinions, nearly all of them pro-gay marriage, and there is very little real debate going on. It’s not happening between our campainingleaders, not between friends or, as far as I can tell, within families.

I have two problems with this.

Where are the people speaking up for marriage as it stands, those who want it to stay between just a man and a woman? So far, the spokespeople all seem to be politicians. You could assume they are all Christians or religious types; this accounts for Fred Nile, Tony Abbott and probably Family First’s gaffe-tastic Wendy Francis,  but that is a generalisation and it doesn’t explain Penny Wong or PM Julia Gillard or much of middle Australia who are not church-going ‘religious types’.

I asked a good Christian ethicist I know for his reasons Christians might oppose gay marriage. He did so but articulating it was difficult even for him. It’s a difficult, complicated issue for Christians. Their views, I’m guessing, can’t be put across in a few sentences, let alone a soundbite, and with so much vitriol coming from the opposing side, who would be game to stand up and speak?

(I, for my part, am continuously looking into this issue, questioning Christians, gay friends and reading books on the topic. Last weekend I had a good discussion with two people at a work party about the ins and outs of it (!))

Secondly, I am concerned at the way many gay marriage proponents approach the topic.  Much of the time it seems like ‘if we just shout louder…’ a method that only stands to silence any alternate views.

In this matter, Twitter, particularly, is getting on my nerves.

Penny Wong’s treatment on Twitter after she toed the Labor line on gay marriage was appalling. Those people apparently supportive of her rights performed the online version of a firing squad.

Be they homosexual or just supportive of gay rights, Penny dared voice a stance not their own and they pounced with enough bile to supply a Latham family Christmas.

Is it too much to ask for people on either to show a hint of decorum? Twitter is a brief communication device but it’s not wholly anonymous and it’s allegedly attracting the more professional, social, mature parts of the population.

If you slander religious types, how are you any better than they if they slander homosexuals?

This basic point is being list on some people who should know a lot better.

Just tonight, one popular political commentator did tweet:
These bloody religious types. Who are they to suggest that people who don’t share their superstitions should be the ones on the defence?

The reverse is also clear and true. If you are religious (a repulsive word to me, a Christian, but alas) then you should know better – your religion says ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. That teaching appears in Christianity, Judaism, Islam and hey, probably even Scientology.

Now, MSBC TV opinionist Rachel Maddow is someone I am growing to like very much. Two times I have wanted to quote her – and that’s just today, so far.

Watch Maddow’s great intro to this story here to see what I am getting at. To me, it defines most of the gay marriage debate so far in Australia.

Maddow says this: When you argue against someone by calling that person names or by saying that the person you’re arguing with is a bad person, that’s called arguing ad hominum. it is to cast judgment on a person’s argument by casting judgment on the person making the argument. Here’s a perfect example. It is a fallacy. It’s avoiding the point to be insulting instead. Here’s a different type of logical fallacy.

So please, if you have a view and you’re prepared to share it on this sensitive topic, why not treat the topic as sensitive?

If this doesn’t happen soon, I fear the gulf between the two sides of this topic may widen and see public discussion of gay marriage as even harder to arrange than getting Gillard and Abbott to have a real debate.

Gillard plunges the knife – exposing Rudd’s humanity

I met former PM Kevin Rudd during a Channel 7 forum organised by my Executive Producer, Adam Boland. I was impressed with Kevin Rudd’s determined approachability. It was the kind of televised event that could be taken as cynical and facetious but for those in the room at least, for those brief moments, we got what we all want to believe – that politicians are just like us, and that they actually like us.

As if to ram this point home, Kevin bounced up to my wife and daughter and I at the end of the broadcast. he spent a minute to discuss parenting and shared a quick story that he his children had ‘bumps’ on their head just like our baby did. We were self-conscious about our baby’s small forehead bump but the PM came down to our level and it felt entirely genuine.

It was classic Kevin.

My lovely baby bumps

Meeting Kev

During the forum, the questions flew at him like those glowing balls on Tron that you deflect with your frisbee. Rudd was a master with the frisbee.

Like every recent appearance on Sunrise, he had no warning of any question – he had to be on his toes, and he performed with class. Unsurprisingly, it was at the peak of his popularity.

When he was directly in front of voters, Kevin would not squirm his way out of questions like he did when in a studio battling the wits of a TV presenter.  He couldn’t avoid saying anything in particular, as became his unfortunate talent, using his stalling phrases ad nauseam – ‘Let me just say this’, ‘The fact of the matter is’ and the rest of them. Double-ugh.

He was a real guy. He was certainly a diplomat and could speak with programmatic specificity when he needed to, but when he was talking to Sunrise staff, or when he was on Rove, I thought Kevin was painfully real.

Ultimately, he was too real to be Prime Minister.

From what we hear he managed his staff like he was a McDonald’s crew trainer burning through teenagers who couldn’t meet unrealistic targets.

Perhaps it was the demanding reformist agenda that needed to burn through one leader along the way, I am not sure, but I think Kevin was a victim of being what we wanted in a leader – one of us.

Kev tried, often too hard to prove it. He quickly mastered twitter and told us what films he saw on the weekend. He said “Are we ready to roll, guys?” at the start of pres conferences. Last week he told Latika Bourke, a press gallery journo, that she had a nice scarf. Hell, he even appeared on Rove. Twice!

He was criticised for all those things. We want a real leader, but not too real.

Yet today, when Kev broke down in his farewell speech, he had us feeling he was on our level again.

Nice scarf, son

Nice scarf, son

Julia Gillard, Rudd’s replacement, is, I fear, what the job needs. A Politician.

Shrewd, precise, Gillard is like the colleague at Maccas who hits their targets every week. Hopefully she learns to have fun too – to be real.

But then – as I think we learned today – that would be asking too much of a Prime Minister.

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