Monday 24 November 2014

Notes on #CameronMustGo

At the Stoke Central Labour annual fundraiser on Friday night, our guest Alastair Campbell argued it was absolutely necessary for Labour people to use Twitter, despite the "difficulties" Emily Thornberry had got herself into. For Alastair, social media was a platform by which we could reach huge audiences, shortcutting the gatekeeper functions of the press and TV news. Not an original musing it has to be said, but a truism borne out less than a day later with #CameronMustGo. Last weekend #webackEd achieved the similar, and many of the people who were behind that did the twitterly spadework to get this one off the ground. The key difference is #CameronMustGo is much bigger.

Since Saturday, it's been menacing - and occasionally capturing - the top trend spot. According to DataRank it's had about 300,000 mentions and has therefore reached the feeds of millions of users. Attempts at trolling and/or derailing have simply been swamped by the tidal wave of bad publicity pointing at child poverty, the victimisation of the disabled, and exponential growth of food banks, and other stories that tend not to get much serious treatment by the media. As I said last week, for virals to take off there has to be a palpable sense of grievance and looking at Twitter there are many, many tens of thousands who do feel aggrieved that the Tories get an easier ride than Labour do.

Nothing like this wouldn't be anything like this if it didn't attract its share of snarks. And one variation on a theme has made me bristle/shake my head. It goes something like this: "I bet Cameron's definitely going to resign now because bad things have been tweeted about him." You can almost see the superciliousness dripping off their tweets, and the smug grins of those who write them. Fools. Education about how official politics works in Britain isn't what it should be, but do they really, seriously suppose anyone is daft enough to think Dave will pack his bags because of a trending topic? That's almost as daft as thinking there are people out there who really think that. Second, they're missing what this political tweeting malarkey is about. Twitter has been used to draw in a web of loosely connected people around a common political project twice. It has cohered an online bloc that can and will be used to disseminate information and news during the election campaign. In this age of churnalism, of newsrooms cut to the bone and column inches paraphrased from social media outpourings, day after day of pro-Labour trending topics will inevitably ingress into the mainstream. What originally started off as a protest against the media might find itself nudging that coverage.

There is another aspect to this too. Not everyone tweeting about Dave is a Labour person. Yes, it was Labour activists behind both operations and they have been seized with much gusto by MPs and other party-related Twitter celebs. But what it gives the appearance of is a sense of community, a shared identity, and a common endeavour. Let the snarks snark, Twitter events like this raise awareness and, crucially, establish weak ties that can - and do - translate into real world action.


Anonymous said...

Essential and life changing pearls of wisdom from campbell, it was so worth the wait. Alistair, you complete me (said as figuratively completing the circle with each index finger)

Anonymous said...