Bloggers are voters too | The Jackal

14 Nov 2012

Bloggers are voters too

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Labour leader David Shearer is brushing off a crescendo of calls for him to step down by left-leaning bloggers and commentators, saying it is "nonsense" and should be ignored.

3 News reported:

Labour MPs say the blogosphere's worried about Mr Shearer, but they're not.

“Blogs? Who cares about blogs?” says Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove.

He was echoed by fellow MP Andrew Little.

“The blogs don't get a vote in the Labour Party, so we don’t pay much consideration to it,” he says.

Today, Tumeke reported:

It's like all 3 of them have taken Claire Curran's dream of a Labour Party with a modern forward looking electronic electorate and smashed it into a thousand pieces with hammers first used to knock down the doors of a local library for book burnings.

The strategic backlash of what they've started by attacking their own online supporter base is difficult to calculate. Watching Labour Party MP after Labour Party MP slag off The Standard is as surreal as Republicans turning on Fox News.

Although I think Bomber Bradbury is making a number of unfair attacks on Labour at the moment, it is disappointing that Labour MPs have reacted in this way. Sure, they wouldn't have liked some of what was written about David Shearer, especially the more extreme and negative commentary, but don't they understand that voters run blogs and they can influence people, people who also vote?

What politicians need to realize is that bloggers come from all walks of life, have diverse opinions and can help or hinder political causes in many ways. For instance blogs can help by trying out ideas to gauge public reaction to potential policy. Blogs can also give plausible deniability whereby negative material that voters wouldn't tolerate an elected official releasing is disseminated through a third party. David Farrar and Cameron Slater employ these tactics effectively, and Labour shouldn't potentially remove that string from their bow with ill-advised insults directed at the largest left wing blog site in New Zealand.

In many ways, Labours response is in line with Nationals in terms of being largely dismissive of the blogosphere. In doing so, they confirmed the insular nature of the government, which has often displayed an inability to connect with the people. That disconnect can be highly detrimental to political parties during a campaign... I think that disconnect is detrimental to Labour now.

Labours comments sent a signal that they're disinterested in listening to the people, it therefore sent the wrong signal. In my opinion, that's not what Labour should be about. Leave the head in the sand politics to John Key and his merry band of idiots! Labour needs to reach out to the people it represents and properly distinguish themselves from Nationals failings. This would ensure people couldn’t draw similarities between the two parties, an essential thing to do if Labour wants to increase their support.

In my opinion, the Labour party needs to embrace social media en masse. Look at the respect gained for Labour politicians who have actually made the effort to engage with the public on forums such as The Standard. Look at how effective the Obama campaign was through its use of social media. Look at how well the Greens utilize social media to reach people with similar beliefs. They clearly work with their activists, not against them, and that's political strength money usually can't buy.

Thankfully, most Labour MPs are not like this. But on the whole, what New Zealand politicians are failing to understand is that the blogosphere sometimes rivals more traditional forms of journalism for people's attention. It's now a huge influence that shouldn't simply be ignored or dismissed out of hand. It's also not going away anytime soon, so they had better get their heads around it pronto.