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Tracy Watkins: Sue Moroney's Twitter fail a reminder of perils of social media

Tracy Watkins: Sue Moroney’s Twitter fail a reminder of perils of social media

Moroney's ill-judged tweet made the flag referendum into something it wasn't.

ANDREW LABETT

Moroney’s ill-judged tweet made the flag referendum into something it wasn’t.

OPINION: What was Sue Moroney thinking? The Labour MP’s ill judged tweet deriding a “flash bach owner” for flying the failed Kyle Lockwood designed flag reeks of intolerance and sought to make the flag referendum something it wasn’t – a class war, rich versus poor, the privileged versus the have-nots.  

That may have reflected the views of Moroney’s small circle of Twitter followers but the public backlash suggests she was sorely out of touch with the one million-odd New Zealanders who voted for a change of flag.

As a member of that privileged group of New Zealanders who earn $150,000 plus a year on her MP’s salary, Moroney should have thought twice before engaging her Twitter finger.

The tweet that fired up a backlash - and served to alienate the significant proportion of New Zealanders who voted for a ...

SUPPLIED/TWITTER

The tweet that fired up a backlash – and served to alienate the significant proportion of New Zealanders who voted for a flag change.

It’s not just a bad look for the Hamilton-based MP, who inevitably faced questions about her own Coromandel bach. It’s also bad politics for Labour, because it came across as condescending toward those who voted for change, many of them Labour’s own supporters. Moroney was deservedly slapped down by party leader Andrew Little.

READ MORE:
Labour MP Sue Moroney denies hypocrisy over ‘mean-spirited’ Lockwood flag attack 
Opinion: John Key’s top five flag regrets
Analysis: politicians hijacked our flag debate 
Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett won’t be intimidated by death threats 

It’s a graphic reminder to MPs that while social media might be a potent political weapon in the right hands, used badly it can be a quick route to self-destruction.

British MP Emily Thornberry discovered that when she was forced to resign for perceived snobbery over a tweet picturing a working-class house flying the St George flag.

Moroney’s tweet no doubt reflected back the views of those in her Twitter clique. And that’s the problem with Twitter especially. 

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It has became an online echo chamber, in which its users follow others who share their own views and political opinions. And that in turn leads to a mob mentality when the group turns on the views or opinions of those who don’t agree with them.

For the average user, suffering under the illusion that Twitter reflects public opinion may not be a problem. But for an MP or anyone in the public eye, there are two good reasons to be wary.

Tweets that play to the political sympathies or prejudices or your Twitter circle can quickly backfire if they go viral.

And Twitter offers a highly distorted view of the world because it remains the domain of a small if active circle of users who in the main are only talking to each other. 

The danger is mistaking the noise on Twitter for wider public opinion.

 – Stuff