Old Media: Lessons In Missing The Point
By Sarah-Jane CollinsOctober 11, 2012
At no point in the life of web 2.0 has the divide between the people who write the news and the people who consume it been as starkly defined as this week. Julia Gillard delivers a ripping speech on sexism and misogyny, and before she’d even sat down the web was ablaze with commentary and praise for her words. No one out there was focusing on Peter Slipper. No one, that is, except the press gallery, whose members happily wrote reams of copy on Gillard’s hypocrisy — her refusal to vote for an Opposition motion to remove a speaker on the basis of his private text messages, some of which were certainly sexist, others crude.
Never mind the hypocrisy exposed in Gillard’s speech, the evidence over years of an Opposition leader whose interest in women’s rights extends as far as his political advantage. In a world where resignations, votes and numbers captivate, the obvious line was that Gillard was a base tactician, cynically holding up her sex as a smokescreen.
What nonsense. And how swiftly it was denounced as such. As the speech spread around the world, social media showed that what the public saw and what the media reported were two very different events.
It can be dangerous to get bogged down in the quagmire of Twitter. Hours, days could be wasted in essentially an echo chamber, because who you follow on Twitter determines what you see, and so there is bound to be some affirmation of your own world view. But it can be equally hazardous to ignore what the masses are saying online. This medium is instantaneous. It reveals instinct, not just analysis. And when we’re talking about issues like sexism and misogyny, those basic responses matter.
Like Tony Abbott, we have mothers or sisters or daughters or wives or aunts or cousins or grandmothers we love. Some of us are all, or some, of those people. And when we talk about sexism and misogyny, it’s personal. It’s part of who we are as a society. And we react.
Never before have the tools existed for our opinion makers to really get a bead on the nation’s pulse. Never before have so few bothered to do so.
Voters won’t decide to back Labor on the basis of BuzzFeed making a series of gifs depicting Gillard’s speech, or Jezebel calling her a “badass motherfucker”, but in the moment as it happened Julia Gillard impressed the hell out of a lot of people. And social media reflected that.
When something “goes viral”, it’s because it strikes a chord or hits a nerve. Julia Gillard hit a nerve this week. But the mainstream media — at least in Australia — didn’t feel it when it hit.