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The Meme Streets Of Australian Politics

17/09/2015 1:13 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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I remember living with my parents in the '90s and hearing the prime minister at the time, Paul Keating, being asked why he was not calling an early election. "Because I want to do you slowly," he replied.

It was dreadfully exciting to hear such irreverent and school-yard talk being taken to Parliament House. I also remember Mr Keating talking about John Hewson 'going troppo' being a moment of sparkle in what would otherwise be boring commentary from our bulky TV sets.

A comment may have been exchanged between adults, but then the conversation really just stopped and we went on with our day. If you missed that moment of glory on the TV you just simply missed it, unless you happened to catch it again after an episode of Roger Ramjet or it was repeated on talk-back.

You didn't get to Instagram the quote with a funny picture, and there would certainly be no helicopter releasing water over a yard with the caption 'Bronwyn Bishop watering her garden'.

In 2015, on the other hand, we get to publish videos of Question Time disguised as a Seinfeld episode and thousands of Aussie's share what you created.

Political grumbles have long been part of the human condition, but now our grumbles are amplified with the clever commentary melded at times with useless commentary, and it never seems to stop streaming in.

When voters started to Tweet images of onions in reference to Tony Abbott losing his job, I admit I had to call up a talk-back commentator friend to explain it to me, before then seeing the influx of #putyouronionsout - oh, you sure can be clever, Australia.

I would argue we are the most clever country when it comes to satirical and humorous commentary, and at times belittling political commentary online. Turnbull winning the Australian Federal Leadership in a party ballot vote this week scored major points from the public with his emphasis on leading a Government that consults. Australians really love to be consulted, and we will provide prompt feedback.

Suddenly, we all have a voice, we can all add commentary to what is happening in our political arena regardless of if we skim read, understand how the Commonwealth even works or just like to write 'Same sh*t different shovel' on every Turnbull thread.

If you didn't like what Tony Abbott did as PM you could Facebook about it and suddenly people would be able to engage with you about whether you are spot on or totally wrong. Sometimes they won't even respond but just answer in memes, which can become terribly confusing. Never, in our history, have we so quickly all become political commentators, and so quick to announce our alignment publicly as we dual online about our position.

I just wonder how much critical thinking is required in these sorts of arguments on Facebook. How do you know when someone has 'won' the thread? Is it based on the amount of likes you receive or is it based on how great your Photoshop skills are? I just can't tell, and I don't think political advisors can either.

We are seeing social media and digital strategies executed by political parties like never before, and some are really brilliant while others are just confusing (Clive Palmer every day). The need for a political party to interject into the daily conversations on social media is required and heavily monitored, but it is getting harder to dissect the commentary.

While I can imagine the Tweets and images would have been hilarious back in the days of early Australian politics, I do wonder if the quiet made it easier for people to unpack their own position on a career politician.

It is now a race to see who can come up with the wittiest slogan, meme or satirical video rather than digesting what is unfolding before them, or, God forbid, listening to another person's point of view without attacking.

I think social media and the connection we now have to each other 24/7 is both a wonderful and exasperating gift to humanity and it's important we use these mediums to ignite conversation and show the full weight of where our support lies.

But it's also nice to be a bit quiet, read and figure out what you yourself actually believe. We are still a relatively young country and never in history have we had to navigate the vast onslaught of constant loud online chatter.

As a country we may be the funniest, but I hope we are also listening to each other.

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