Stephen Fry explains why he has left Twitter

February 19th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stephen Fry on Twitter:

Oh goodness, what fun twitter was in the early days, a secret bathing-pool in a magical glade in an enchanted forest. It was glorious ‘to turn as swimmers into cleanness leaping.’ We frolicked and water-bombed and sometimes, in the moonlight, skinny-dipped. We chattered and laughed and put the world to rights and shared thoughts sacred, silly and profane. But now the pool is stagnant. It is frothy with scum, clogged with weeds and littered with broken glass, sharp rocks and slimy rubbish. If you don’t watch yourself, with every move you’ll end up being gashed, broken, bruised or contused. Even if you negotiate the sharp rocks you’ll soon feel that too many people have peed in the pool for you to want to swim there any more. The fun is over.

To leave that metaphor, let us grieve at what twitter has become. A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended – worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know.

It has become a home of permanent outrage aided by a media who do daily stories on the basis that somewhere in the world someone has been offended by what someone else said on Twitter.

It’s as nasty and unwholesome a characteristic as can be imagined. It doesn’t matter whether they think they’re defending women, men, transgender people, Muslims, humanists … the ghastliness is absolutely the same.

He is sadly right.

But Stephen, these foul people are a minority! Indeed they are. But I would contend that just one turd in a reservoir is enough to persuade one not to drink from it. 99.9% of the water may be excrement free, but that doesn’t help. With Twitter, for me at least, the tipping point has been reached and the pollution of the service is now just too much.

I used to love Twitter. Now it is very depressing.

The most powerful women on Twitter?

November 6th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

If Michelle Obama wants to up her game on social media, she could do worse than turning to former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark for a few tips.

Clark, who heads the United Nations Development Programme, has been named the sixth most influential female leader on social media by online business, economics and finance magazine Richtopia.

Her ranking on the Top 100 list puts her ahead of the First Lady of the United States, who came in at eighth, and Huffington Post editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington, who took out the ninth spot.

The list is of course subjective. Let’s look at something perhaps more objective, such as number of followers on Twitter for the top 10:

1. Hillary Clinton – 4.61 million
2. Oprah Winfrey – 29.5 million
3. Nancy Pelosi – 0.68 million
4. Maria Shriver – 2.33 million
5. Dilma Rousseff – 4.17 million
6. Helen Clark – 0.10 million
7. Katie Couric – 1.38 million
8. Michelle Obama – 5.39 million
9. Arianna Huffington – 2.16 million
10. Emma Watson – 19.8 million

So I don’t think Michelle Obama will be too worried!

Philip Matthews on the Twitterati

September 12th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Philip Matthews writes in Stuff:

It was a Monday morning much like any other. There were jokes to make, news stories to mock, zingers to zing. Twitter was ticking over as it should, running as an infernal engine of bad humour and good information. And then it all went horribly wrong.

I blame the Wiggles. A story appeared on Stuff informing us that two of the Wiggles were now dating. It helps to know that following a lineup reshuffle, there is a woman in the previously all-male band. And that woman was seeing one of the band’s three remaining men. Having just read something about former Sonic Youth member Kim Gordon’s book Girl in a Band, in which a painful relationship breakup led to a sad band breakup, such issues were on my mind.

So I quipped to my Twitter followers, “Why you should never have chicks in the band. Couples break up, then the band breaks up”. And I linked to the Wiggles story. It all seemed fairly innocuous.

Then, out of nowhere: social media outrage.

“When do we call women ‘chicks’? Never!” thundered a male Twitter follower (I have added punctuation to his urgent tweet). A woman I don’t know demanded that I apologise immediately, but I would not.

“You’ve been asked not to use the term, apologise and move on,” she insisted. “Stop trying to defend this.”

Another person informed me, in all seriousness, that women are not poultry. A man compared me to the lowest form of life on the Internet, the “Gamergaters” who had only recently kicked up a sexist stink about women and video games. In all but one case, these attacks came from people I had never met.

It was exciting and utterly absurd. For about half an hour on an ordinary Monday in March, Twitter hell broke loose.

I’ve had a couple of those also. Twitter seems to be a home for permanent outrage. One US magazine actually did a calendar showing for every day of the year, what was causing outrage on Twitter that day.

Sadly the media partly fuel this. They now seem to add to half their stories, some random comments from Twitter.

When I’ve been the centre of abuse on Twitter, I simply turn notifications off and don’t check in for a day or two.

A woman named Adria Richards was in the audience at a technology conference in California when she overheard a couple of dudes making barely audible jokes to each other about “dongles”. It was probably a long day in an airless room. Richards took a picture of the two guys, put it on Twitter and shamed them as inappropriate sexists. One of them was fired as well.

An invasion of privacy. They were not the guest speakers, just in the audience joking to each other. And you had the recent example of the person who published photos of a couple breaking up on a plane, shaming them to a global audience.

I asked Twitter who the Twitterati are and the first answer was “you”. I guess I was asking for that one. But more serious answers followed. They are Left-leaning and self-important, they hunt in packs and devour their own. They are Wellington-based and professional, often posting anonymously because they have government jobs. They are outside the MSM (internet shorthand for “mainstream media”) and critical of it, and they see the worst political crime as being old, white, straight and male. Even if you can’t help being old, white, straight and male.

Not a bad summary. Those of us who fit at least two of those three have privilege and as far as I can tell, this means we must be in a continual state of atonement.

One name kept on coming up: Patrick Gower. Why him? Somehow he had come to embody everything the Twitterati hated. His reports on 3 News are provocative at times and often personalised but he seemed politically neutral. No-one could guess how Gower votes from how he reports. Paul Henry and Mike Hosking seemed much more pro-government.

Was there was something jagged and disruptive about Gower that was breaking up the smoothness of commercial television and was it getting under the skin of the Twitterati?

It didn’t take long to see that he had been winding them up. When other mainstream journalists are called government shills or stooges by the angry Twitter Left, they might ignore it or block it out. But Gower was giving it back to them. Media companies want journalists to be engaged on Twitter and other social platforms but Gower was taking engagement to a whole new level.

I admired it. It was lively stuff but there was an unreality about it all too, as though Gower was just amusing himself while getting on with his real work. Maybe this is what annoyed his Twitter critics so much. Perhaps they sensed that he wasn’t taking it as seriously as they were.

They would criticise his reports. He would reply “Yawn”.

Gower has had huge abuse on Twitter. It used to really impact him. He tried ignoring it but then worked out that you fight fire with fire, and he often will troll the trolls.

Twitter became a hive of “intolerant argument and abuse”, said former political journalist Bill Ralston in a Radio New Zealand discussion after the election. Like Gower, Ralston started some of those arguments as well as being on the receiving end of some of the abuse. But Ralston also thought that the mainstream media looked at Twitter, saw a lot of Left-wing activity and misread the wider electoral mood. In reality, the centrist New Zealand that isn’t on Twitter and doesn’t follow a handful of political bloggers did what it always did.

There is a kind of angry impotence about the Left on Twitter. You saw it when social media noise misled Labour supporters in the UK just as it misled them here. After Labour’s Ed Miliband lost, Helen Lewis in the New Statesmantalked about the Left-wing echo chamber that is social media, which lures the Left into “cosy delusion and dangerous insularity”. You surround yourself with people who think the same.

Many only follow people with views they agree with. Or sometimes they will follow others just so they can abuse them and tell them they’re wrong.

It is much worse on Twitter than Facebook. I’ve blocked probably two people on Facebook but off hand probably 200 to 300 on Twitter for abuse.

Don’t take photos of strangers

August 25th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

As far as in-flight break-ups go, at least it wasn’t the fuselage.

Rather, it was a relationship that disintegrated on board a delayed flight out of Raleigh, North Carolina, captured in all its devastation by a fellow passenger and broadcast to the world.

When Kelly Keegs live-tweeted the split as her plane sat stranded on the tarmac, it quickly went viral. The saga garnered thousands of retweets as followers hung on every word, and the hashtag #PlaneBreakup became a home base for observers to discuss the unfolding chaos.

I don’t have an issue with people live tweeting something happening in a semi-public place. But I do think it is appalling when you also take a photo of the people involved, and make that public. That humiliates them to all their friends and family, and shames them on a global basis.

Twitter has a very nasty streak to it, where people revel in public shaming.

Political Positioning on Twitter

August 24th, 2015 at 1:42 pm by David Farrar


This analysis comes from Litmus Marketing.

They did text mining of tweets from National and Greens MPs. Their take:

  1. National are the ‘one trick pony’ all about the Economy – nothing new but interesting to see it coming out
  2. Greens are definitely about social policy but have clearly got content out there that is evenly split between the Environment and Human rights. 
  3. This may be too much as ‘you’d expect’  but there is value in better understanding how parties ‘position’ themselves
  4. Next steps is to look to time box the analysis to see if things change over time, through the last election etc.

Would be interesting to see how this changes over time.

It also suggests that National MPs are very disciplined with their tweets and messaging.


March 16th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar reports on the spectacular backfiring of Hamas attempting to reach out with a #AskHamas campaign on Twitter.

My favourite response was:

If a tree falls in the woods, and there’s no one to hear it fall, is it still Israel’s fault?

Other good ones are:

  • how it chooses human shields
  • Given a choice, is it better to hide a weapons cache in a hospital’s radiology or pediatrics unit?
  • Why did you murder 30 civilians, including 20 people over the age of 70, at a Passover Seder in Netanya in 2002?
  • Are your brave billionaire ‘leaders’ still urging you and your children to martyrdom from the luxury of a 5-star hotel in Qatar?
  • When is the Gaza City gay pride parade this year?
  • Please provide the exact date of your next rocket campaign vs . And how many dead civilians before you accept a ceasefire?
  • Why did you murder my friends Orit Ozarov and Livnat Dvash and 9 other innocent Israelis at the Moment Cafe on March 9th, 2002?
  • When you drag someone into the street to execute them do you prefer paper or cloth bags over their heads?
  • Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?

Is it time up for Twitter?

December 31st, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Danyl McL blogs:

But two weeks of not-being-on-twitter made me realise something: somewhere along the way twitter became completely awful, and not constantly exposing myself to – and participating in – this endless cacophony of advertising soaked shrill, mean-spirited outrage is a wonderful experience. I encourage other compulsive twitter users to try it.

I’m not quite at this point, but I have to say I’m not far off. Twitter has become somewhat awful. The constant outrage is wearying. Slate even has a feature showing how on every day of 2014, there was a different thing people got outraged over on social media.

I think I’ll follow Danyl’s lead and have a break from Twitter for a couple of weeks. I suspect I’ll enjoy that.

Tweeting MPs

December 30th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald looks at some MPs worth following on Twitter.

  1. @jacindaardern. 25,200 followers
  2. @AndrewLittleMP. Followers: 4840
  3. @cjsbishop. Followers: 1850
  4. @grantrobertson1. Followers: 10,400
  5. @jamespeshaw. Followers: 2220
  6. @paulabennettmp. Followers: 3853
  7. @TrevorMallard. Followers: 7391
  8. @winstonpeters. Followers: 9257
  9. @PeterDunneMP. Followers: 5698
  10. @tauhenare. Followers: 6061 (Tau is there as honorary Minister of Twitter outside Parliament).

Some amusing extracts:

Most memorable exchange this year was after someone proposed a sitcom starring Judith Collins and Robertson. Robertson suggested George and Mildred “but with weapons”. Collins replied he was being hard on himself given George was “a lazy, do nothing, gambling moaner”. Robertson replied: “Who said I was George?” Is also humble – of his low ranking on a blog’s “hottest MPs” list: “my hotness is so powerful it is not necessary to talk of it.”


After Samoa’s Prime Minister urged women MPs not to forget their housewifely duties, Bennett tweeted: “can’t read the full story, rushing home to cook husband dinner.”


Suppressed name

November 18th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A complaint has been lodged with police against a former politician who tweeted the name of a prominent Otago man who has permanent name suppression.

The man’s lawyer, Jonathan Eaton, QC, confirmed to the Otago Daily Times a “formal complaint was lodged with the NZ police last evening”.

That complaint related to a tweet by a former politician who named the man on Twitter.

The Herald have not named the former politician. It is not hard to guess though. I’m interested in where liability may lie if you do name the former politician who tweeted. Think through these scenarios.

  1. If I retweeted the tweet naming the prominent Otago man, then that would very likely mean I breached the supression order also
  2. If I did not retweet it, but provided a link on my blog to the tweet, would that make me liable? Probably.
  3. What if I do not link to the specific tweet, but did link to the twitter account. Would I be liable? Less clear cut.
  4. And what if I named the former politician who tweeted, but did not link to his twitter account. Is simply naming him something that could make me liable? I would hope not, but like the Herald won’t risk it.

The former politician still has the tweets up, and has repeated the name in a subsequent tweet, so I don’t think he cares if he gets prosecuted. Hard to imagine he won’t be, as the breach is deliberate and sustained. I have sympathy for what he did as I think name suppression should not have been granted, but think it is unwise for anyone to deliberately breach a legal order.

Any commenter who names (or hints at identity) of the tweeter (or the supressed) will get a strike.

Labour MP vs former candidate

September 29th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Beveridge blogs an an extraordinary series of tweets between Labour MP Clare Curran and former Labour candidate Tat Loo. Basically Curran claims Loo has no standing in Labour and that his branch is not constitutionally recognised. That may or may not be the case, but having ths dispute in public on Twitter dismayed many Labour supporters.


If you want to follow the 100 recommended on Twitter

August 18th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Geoffrey Miller (who co-authored the list) has set up a Tweet list of the 100 accounts to fllow for the election, for those interested.

Actually the list only has 99 members on it, because for some reason Martyn Bradbury has blocked him!

100 people to follow on Twitter

August 17th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Bryce Edwards in the NZ Herald gives a list of 100 people to follow on Twitter for the election.

Redbaiter will be delighted to have made the list. Well done Red!

The slightly sad thing is I think I was already following 99 of the 100 people listed (can’t follow myself!)

Not even close

July 3rd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key holds a clear advantage over his rivals on social media heading into September’s general election.

Key has almost three times the followers on his Facebook page and Twitter account than all other party leaders combined. 

His official Twitter feed has 110,000 followers; almost 10 times as many as the next most followed party leader on Twitter – Russel Norman of the Greens with 11,500. 

Labour leader David Cunliffe commands a Twitter audience of 9926. 

How does this compare to other countries? How many Twitter followers per 1,000 populations do the PMs and Opposition Leaders all have. Here’s their followers per 1,000 population:

  1. John Key (NZ) 25.0
  2. Steven Harper (Canada) 13.8
  3. Justin Trudeau (Canada) 11.2
  4. Tony Abbott (Aus) 13.0
  5. David Cameron (UK) 11.1
  6. Eed Miliband (UK) 5.1
  7. Bill Shorten (Aus) 2.8
  8. David Cunliffe (NZ) 2.2

So the NZ PM has twice as many Twitter follows per capita as the Canadian, Australian and UK PMs. And David Cunliffe has fewer followers than any of the other opposition leaders.

On Facebook, Key’s official page has 149,873 likes, while the official pages of all the other party leaders combined have 45,038 followers/likes. 

Interesting the leader with the 2nd most “likes” on Facebook is Winston Peters.

Tweet of the Day

May 30th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar


MPs tweeting and privilege

May 21st, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The MP whose tweet caused the Speaker to refer the issue of Twitter to the Privileges Committee does not resile from his description of the Speaker as a “Mafia don”.

The Speaker has referred the use of Twitter and other social media by MPs in Parliament to the Privileges Committee to consider how social media use affects Parliament’s rules, such as contempt and privilege.

It followed concern from National’s Gerry Brownlee about an MP using Twitter to criticise the Speaker. He did not name the MP, but Labour’s Trevor Mallard had just objected to a decision by the Speaker, tweeting: “2nd week in a row where the Speaker looked like Mafia don running his @NZNationalParty protection racket.”

In his ruling, Mr Carter said MPs needed to be clear about the rules, which should be reviewed. Tweets were actionable in court and could result in findings of contempt in Parliament.

“Accusations that the Speaker has shown partiality in discharging his or her duties have in the past been judged very seriously, given the special position the Speaker holds.”

I think that generally what an MPs says on Twitter should not an issue for the House.

But I do think it is unacceptable to have MPs live tweeting from the House, making extremely derogatory comments about the Speaker, in response to his rulings. The place to interact with the Speaker is in the House – not to character assassinate him in Twitter.

The Privileges Committee will consider this issue. I don’t think they should over-reach and try to generally bring MPs tweets under Standing Orders. But I do think there has to be some restrictions around being derogatory of the Speaker during sessions of the House.

MPs on Twitter

May 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar


These social media stats for MPs were collacted by Brand Gauge, a social media metrics site and tool.

No surprise the PM has the most followers. Interesting that David Shearer still has more followers than David Cunliffe.

The top tweeters are Tau Henare, then Clare Curran and Trevor Mallard. Gareth Hughes and Kevin Haguge are also above the 10,000 mark.

MPs and Twitter

May 6th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Embattled justice minister Judith Collins is abandoning Twitter, and Prime Minister John Key says he backs her decision because it’s full of “trolls and bottom feeders”.

Key said he had not given Collins an edict to stay off social media and it was her idea to remove herself from the twittersphere.

“She’s volunteered. She’s said to me I’m going to stay off,” Key said.

“My view is there’s a lot of trolls and bottom feeders on that and in the end they get in people’s head. It’s an anonymous situation it’s a form of cyber bullying, I don’t engage in that.”

I think that is an unduly negative view of Twitter.

Yes there are trolls out there. Lots of them. But you don’t have to respond to them, and/or you can always block them.

There are also lots of journalists, commentators, and political activists out there who are worth engaging with.

While there is a balance to be achieved, I think it is good for MPs to use Twitter to engage, not just broadcast. Steven Joyce does that for example, as does Russel Norman.

And for what its worth, I think generally Judith’s engagement on Twitter has been productive, useful and amusing. Obviously excluding the Katie Bradford tweet.

Abandoning Twitter to Labour and Green MPs is not a great social media strategy – for my 2c.

Turkey vs Twitter

March 24th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Turkey’s government on Saturday accused Twitter of allowing “systematic character assassinations” a day after social media users easily evaded a government attempt to block access to the network.

The attempted crackdown came after links to wiretapped recordings suggesting corruption were posted on Twitter, causing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government major embarrassment before local elections on March 30.

The government’s effort to shut down the service backfired on Friday, with many finding ways to continue to tweet and mock the government for what they said was a futile attempt at censorship. Even President Abdullah Gul worked around the ban, tweeting that shutting down social media networks cannot “be approved.” Turkey’s move to block Twitter sparked a wave of international criticism.

Sad to see a country head down the path towards attempted censorship of the Internet. Of course it has backfired.

How the world has changed

September 28th, 2013 at 1:38 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Breaking a third-of-a-century diplomatic freeze, President Barack Obama and new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have spoken by telephone and agreed to work toward resolving their deep dispute over Tehran’s nuclear efforts.

Rouhani, who earlier in the day called the United States a “great” nation, reached out to arrange the 15-minute call. The last direct conversation between the leaders of the two countries was in 1979 before the Iranian Revolution toppled the pro-US shah and brought Islamic militants to power.

Obama said the long break “underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history.”

“While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward, and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution,” Obama told reporters at the White House. Iran’s nuclear program has been a major concern not only to the United States but to other Middle Eastern nations especially Israel and to the world at large.

Rouhani, at a news conference in New York, linked the US and Iran as “great nations,” a remarkable reversal from the anti-American rhetoric of his predecessors, and he expressed hope that at the very least the two governments could stop the escalation of tensions.

It’s only a phone call, but it is a very encouraging sign that Iran sees benefits in rejoining the mainstream.

What is remarkable is not just the phone call between the two Presidents, but the fact that news of it broke on Twitter – from the Iranian President. We do live in a very different world to 1979!

10 mandatory tweets of the Left

August 17th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Dan Hodges provides his 10 mandatory tweets for the left:

1) “Great day campaigning on #Labourdoorstep”. To the uninitiated this may seem like some sort of code. But it simply means “I have pushed 30 leaflets through various letterboxes. I am a hard-working Labour party member. Now can I please be selected for a safe seat?” If possible, tweet with an attached photo of you standing next to Luciana Berger.

2) “Typical. [name of evil member of the Right] constructs another straw man”. This must be rapidly tweeted any time you see another member of the Left losing an argument on Twitter. It can also be combined with some sort of imaginary scoreline, such as “Oh dear. [name of member of the Left] 1 [name of evil member of the Right] 0”.

3) “Prayers/thoughts with Nelson Mandela”. Actually, that’s wrong. If you want to be a real member of the Left, you must always refer to the former South African president as “Madiba”.

4) “Why is it we never get any women x”. The x doesn’t actually matter. “On the Today programme” is a particular favourite, but any other current affairs news program will do. Women in positions of influence. Women talking about lumberjacking. Women elephant racing. Basically, the subject is up to you.

5) “Solidarity with x”. Every member of the Left must send a “solidarity” tweet once a month. You can express solidarity with anyone or anything, so long as they’re not officially an evil member of the Right. The great thing about this tweet is it neatly fits into 140 characters. You don’t need to bother explaining why you are in solidarity with your subject, or even what “solidarity” actually means in this context. In effect, solidarity becomes a verb. So having expressed your solidarity with, say, a group of Venezuelan miners stuck 500 feet underground, without air, water or hope, you can then go and make yourself a nice cup of tea.

6) “Louise Mensch”. One tweet a year must include a reference to the former Conservative MP for Corby. Why isn’t exactly clear. Some people on the Left have been pushing for her to be officially replaced on the LMT list by Melanie Phillips, without success. So for the moment, stick with Mensch. All tweets must be harsh and critical. But not sexist.

7) “Ed Miliband needs to be more x”. This is a relatively new addition to the list. Until recently the LMT would have been “Thank you Ed Miliband. Finally a Labour leader is saying x”. But the Left are now becoming a bit concerned about Ed. “He may win, he may not win. Ed Miliband needs to be [more proactive/clearer about what he believes in/taking the attack to the Tories more/etc]” is a much safer bet at the moment.

8) “Why don’t you just go away and join the Tories?” This should be tweeted at anyone on the Left ever caught disagreeing with anyone else on the Left. “Go away” is not compulsory; any hostile phrase will suffice. In fact, the more hostile the better. Can also be combined with the epithet “traitor”.

9) “It’s good, but not as good as the Shawshank Redemption.” For some reason, the Shawshank Redemption is the greatest film any member of the Left can ever see. As with many other LMT’s, the reason for this is shrouded in mystery. If, for some reason, you have never seen the Shawshank Redemption, it is now permissible to tweet something positive about “The Spirit of ‘45” instead. Or anything by Mike Leigh.

10) “Time to boycott x”. At least once a year every member of the Left must find something to boycott. The boycott has in effect become the Left’s version of Lent. Since the collapse of apartheid things to boycott are a bit thinner on the ground. But persevere. If you look hard enough you will eventually find something to not buy, watch or attend. And remember, it is not necessary for you to even have to been buying, watching or attending these things in the first place. It is perfectly permissible to boycott things you would never dream of touching with a barge-pole.

I must confess I also love the Shawshank Redemption.

The perils of being an MP

August 15th, 2013 at 7:31 am by David Farrar


Now for most people, complaining about poor service on Twitter is a good idea. Companies tend to be pretty responsive to you when you have an audience.

But I have to say if you are an MP, companies are already pretty sensitive to keeping you happy. Using a public forum to complain about service is just not a very good look.

Hat Tip: Whale

Reading tweets is not spying

August 5th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Gregory Hussey is wondering if “spooks” are monitoring him on social media after the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) demanded he remove a tweet just 20 minutes after he wrote it.

The Timaru man was working for a private company in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province at the time and had only eight Twitter followers – two of them journalists.

Hussey said a friend, also in Bamiyan, contacted him on August 19, 2012, to tell him there was a gunfight happening 2km away and “not to go up there to the valley on your motorbike”.

Hussey tweeted : “Poor Kiwis under fire in Bamiyan :-(“.

Just 20 minutes later he was contacted by a member of the NZDF, told to remove the tweet and instructed to attend a meeting immediately at the NZDF base in Bamiyan where he was told he was a “security risk”.

A defence force officer had contacted one of Hussey’s friends in New Zealand, asked for his number and phoned him with instructions to remove the tweet.

“I was told that there would be widespread panic from the families of soldiers back in New Zealand if it got out,” Hussey said.

“I thought that was entirely reasonable, I don’t want the families of service people needlessly distressed, and I took the tweet down and apologised.”

So this happened a year ago. So why is it news now?

Yesterday, a NZDF spokesman denied Hussey’s communications had been monitored.

Jesus Christ, it was a tweet! They are public. Are we not getting a bit precious now when we do news stories about NZDF responding to a tweet, as if that is a bad thing?

The NZDF spokesman said over the Hussey incident: “Twitter is a public forum and any member of the public is able to see information posted there.

“This is how NZDF was made aware of Hussey’s tweet – not through any monitoring of him or his communications, as he suggests.

As to how they discovered the tweet, well has anyone heard of “search”. You can set up searches that update you with tweets mentioning particular words. I imagine Bamiyan was a search term they use.

Hussey said he had forgotten about the incident until recently with the GCSB in the news.

“Now I’m wondering if what they did to me was legal,” Hussey said.

OMG, it was a fucking tweet. Of course it was legal. This story is beyond a beat-up.

I’ve sometimes had Government Departments contact me after I blog something about them. This is an outrage – the Government is monitoring me. Is it legal for government departments to read my blog?

Trevett on Twitter

July 18th, 2013 at 12:47 pm by David Farrar

An amusing article by Claire Trevett on MPs and Twitter:

Justice Minister Judith Collins is the biggest surprise in this regard. While many MPs delegate tweetery to their staff, Collins runs her own with a steel fist. And with what unbridled glee does she deploy that fist. She alternates between Agony Aunt and Iron Lady, dispensing kindly advice to some, but getting others with a swift upper cut.

So an exchange with Clare Curran over Family Court reforms somehow ended up being a critique of Green co-leader Metiria Turei and her jacket, both of which Collins decreed were “vile, wrong and ugly”.

She revelled in Labour’s man ban, telling Trevor Mallard she could see why Labour wanted a man-ban “if you’re anything to go by”. She reserves her best patronising tones for Chris Hipkins: after finding out he was calling her “Cruella” she replied “Chris is a dear boy. Probably stayed up all night thinking of that one.”

Superb response.

MPs on Twitter play to a relatively small audience. It is mainly beltway or enthusiasts of politics, rather than undecided voters who might be swayed by the persuasiveness of an MP’s tweeting skills. It can be useful for making announcements though – one of the more astonishing moments in recent times was last week when Labour MPs turned to Twitter to reject reported rumours that a coup was under way. Grant Robertson, Annette King and Chris Hipkins led the charge, getting their message out but also turning it from a virtual non-story to a story about their vigorous denials on Twitter.

The predominant motivation for those MPs, therefore, is pure fun. When the Speaker calls order on the interjections, the MPs simply turn to Twitter where there is no Speaker to rain on their parade. Should some earnest person try to intervene, they can simply be taken out of the game by being blocked to shut them up. There are no whips on Twitter, no Speakers. An honourable mention also goes to a former MP who may be an actual MP again in the future, Labour’s Kelvin Davis, @NgatiBird. His recent contributions include this on the Pakeha Party: “they want what Maori have. Excellent. They are welcome to our 16 per cent unemployment rate, lower life expectancy, and gout.”

And Claire wants Shane Jones on Twitter:

The MP who most people want to join Twitter is Labour’s Shane Jones, the master of the backhanded compliment. His recent insults include this, about the Green Party’s Ikaroa-Rawhiti candidate Marama Davidson: “Marama is a younger, somewhat smarter, version of Metiria.” It is a perfectly formed tweet, but in this case was said during an interview with yours truly, who never found an opportunity to use it. …

The only people who do not want Shane Jones to join Twitter are the Labour Party communications staff, who quiver in fear at the very thought.

A shame.

All about the man ban

July 6th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Lots of commentary on Labour’s proposed man ban.

Colin Epsiner writes at Stuff:

Oh dear. I really didn’t think it was possible for Labour to top its own goal over the Sky City corporate box debacle. But it has. 

After a week where the Government ought to be on the back foot over the GCSB saga, Auckland’s nutty property market, and the death throes of one of its coalition partners, Labour has come out with a policy so politically barmy it makes you wonder whether it really has any interest in winning the next election. …

David Shearer has – after initially stating the policy had “some merit” – realised he’s dealing with a political bomb and come out against the policy, saying he favours targets rather than quotas. Senior Labour MPs Phil Goff, Shane Jones, and Andrew Little immediately recognised the damage the proposal would do and have denounced it too. 

But it may be too late. This idea needed to be taken out and quietly shot before it ever saw the light of day. From now until it’s debated at Labour’s annual conference in November, Labour’s opponents will have a field day. 

The Opposition needs to be talking to the electorate about jobs, housing, incomes, and hip-pocket issues. Not navel-gazing about its gender balance. The public, to be frank, doesn’t give a toss whether Labour has 41 per cent women MPs or 50 per cent. They just want good candidates and good policies. 

Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports:

No Labour MPs other than Manurewa’s Louisa Wall will publicly back a proposal to have women-only selection short lists for some electorates to boost female MP numbers.

After his initial reluctance to comment earlier this week, party leader David Shearer has now come out against the proposal.

Outspoken male MPs Shane Jones and Damien O’Connor panned the idea in no uncertain terms, warning it risked driving away socially conservative blue-collar voters.

Of Labour’s 34 MPs, only Ms Wall has been prepared to publicly support it since it was revealed on Thursday.

Eleven, including Mr Shearer, have said they don’t support it or are yet to be convinced.

But is David Shearer not a member of the NZ Council that has proposed this?

So either he got rolled at the NZ Council meeting, or he has flip-flopped and was for it before he rages against it.

Fran O’Sullivan supports it though:

Congratulations to Party Central for putting gender equality ahead of diversity when it comes to the ranking criteria for selecting the next crop of Labour MPs.

Quaintly, the notion that a 21st century political party might opt to use its selection process to try to make sure that as many women as men represent us in Parliament has been met with howls of derision and barely disguised outrage.

That’s just on the Labour side of politics. Let’s point out here that the most vocal MP opponents (Yes, I am talking aboutyou, Shane Jones and you, Clayton Cosgrove) are only there themselves by virtue of their list rankings.

John Armstrong writes:

When you are in a hole, you can rely on Labour to dig itself into an even deeper one beside you – as it did this week with its shoot-yourself-in-both-feet potential change to party rules to allow women-only candidate selections.

This was not solely political correctness gone stark-raving bonkers. Apart from alienating one group of voters who have drifted away from Labour in recent years – men – such a rule change would be just as insulting to women in insinuating they could not win selection on their own merits.

The proposal should have been kiboshed by the leader the moment he saw it. That he didn’t – or felt he couldn’t – points to deep schisms in the party.

The message voters will take from Labour’s warped priorities is that of a party which cannot get its act together in the snoozy backwaters of Opposition, let alone in the blazing sun of Government.

There is a reasons this never emerged under Helen Clark. She would have strangled this before it was born, even if she privately backed it.

Bryce Edwards has collected some of the best tweets on this issue. Here’s a few:

Bernard Orsman ‏@BernardOrsman

The ‘man ban’. Can things get any worse for Labour. PC madness. @nzlabour

James Macbeth Dann ‏@edmuzik

David Shearer is against the quotas. That should guarantee they get passed

Perfect Mike Hosking ‏@MikePerfectHosk

The Labour Party manban makes no sense at all. It’s like saying “drinkable organic wine.”

Patrick Gower ‏@patrickgowernz

Labour Party wants a quota system for MPs based on gender etc – not merit. Apparently this isn’t a joke.

Michael Laws ‏@LawsMichael

Labour’s next caucus rule – seats reserved for the disabled, the mentally ill, overstayers, gays, vegetarians, the over 70s, the under 20s.

Philip Matthews ‏@secondzeit

@harvestbird Over a couple of beers with my mates building a deck, we decided that the manplan has set progressive politics back decades.

Julian Light ‏@julianlight

Went for a coffee this morn but was refused service. Not enough women had bought a coffee. Seemed about as fair as Labour’s policy #manban

Aunty Haurangi ‏@_surlymermaid

Upside to the #manban : Less likely John Tamihere will get an electorate seat.

Keeping Stock ‏@Inventory2

Sean Plunket describes the #ManBan as “a completely co-ordinated attack by the Labour Party on itself”; and he’s spot on.

Ben Uffindell ‏@BenUffindell

@LewStoddart More women MPs just for the sake of more women MPs is not a noble goal. Sexism lies in the population at large.

Cactus Kate ‏@CactusKate2

50% of houses should b owned solely by women n we should hv zero interest loans 2 fund this #manban

Finally we have Chris Trotter:

AMIDST ALL THE CLAMOUR of its detractors, the true significance of Labour’s “Man Ban” has eluded most commentators.

Yes, the proposed rule change has undoubtedly damaged Labour’s election prospects.

Yes, there are many more important issues the party would have preferred the news media to focus upon.

Yes, it is further evidence of a party with no reliable political grown-ups in charge.

Yes, Labour’s opponents will dine out on it for months.

And, yes, it’s the only thing the 2013 Annual Conference will be remembered for.

But, the “Man Ban” is also proof of something else: that the distance separating Labour’s rank-and-file from Labour’s Caucus has grown as wide as the gulf that once separated the “old” Labour Party from the “new”.

The conference in November should be spectacular!


Hillary is running

June 14th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Any doubts over whether Hillary Clinton will run for President in 2016 are gone for me. She has joined Twitter, which is a first step for candidates. But her Twitter bio is what is attracting praise and attention:

Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD…

A but of humour at her own expense with the pantsuit reference and the TBD a clear hint to watch this space.

Her first tweet also went down well:

Thanks for the inspiration @ASmith83 & @Sllambe – I’ll take it from here… #tweetsfromhillary

They ran the very funny Tweets from Hillary – so again she is trying to show she has a sense of humour.

I can’t see her not winning the nomination, if she stands. The Republicans will need a good candidate with strong appeal to beat her.