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Anti-social media

By Graham Young - posted Friday, 20 June 2014

If you want to know how the left in Australia thinks, then check out Twitter. It will also explain the slow degradation of Australian political reporting into gotcha exposes and personal slurs.

Twitter should be a great connector. Instead it is a great divider. It is also a great undoer of "progressive" politics.

Polling we did during the last election showed social media was a news source for the minority, but they were two to three times more likely to be Greens or Labor voters than Liberal ones.


The corollary is that Greens and Labor voters are far more numerous on Twitter, and that Twitter, as a collective, will be on the left of the political spectrum.

In 1999 Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein published a paper called "The Law of Group Polarization" showing that "deliberation tends to move groups, and the individuals who compose them, toward a more extreme point in the direction indicated by their own predeliberation judgments".

This law applies equally to all, even including Supreme Court Judges.

Whatever our prejudices, status or abilities, when we mix with others with a similar prejudice, we become even more prejudiced.

Twitter magnifies this propensity, because it rewards Twits who are popular.

This encourages conformity, shifting the deliberation faster and farther to the extreme.


And while the Twitter users are a minority, a majority of journalists are Twitterati.

So it matters that Twitter is dominated by the "mean girls" of Australian politics, playing the person, not the ball, and conquering through social exclusion rather than logic and rational persuasion, because that is how the news is coming to be reported.

A slight prime ministerial slip of the tongue means that Canada is transmuted to #Canadia, and trends on Twitter, and jumps the barrier into mainstream broadcasts and commentary, freezing out real news, or colouring the news that is reported.

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This article was first published in edited form by the Australian Financial Review.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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