The Power's With Us

What a week it has been in politics. Tony Abbott has been labelled sexist and misogynist by Prime Minister Gillard. This has sent shockwaves around the world. For those less articulate readers among us misogyny is, to put it shortly, disregard and disrespect for women. Particularly, at this point in time, the misogyny is directed firmly at our Prime Minister Julia Gillard. She has handled herself with admirable restraint, until yesterday that is.

Perhaps this all built to a boiling point when Shock Jock, Alan Jones, had a brain fade. In a speech to the Young Liberals, Jones inexplicitly uttered those immortal words, “… The PMs father died of shame.” Jones alluded that Gillard was a liar and that her father knowing she was a liar would have been ashamed of her, so much that it killed him. Of course this is the height of insensitivity, particularly because the PMs father passed away only last month. What is worse is that the Young Liberals apparently cheered him on and thus in doing so provided us with real fears of the pedigree of so called future leaders of this country.

Our faith in humanity was restored somewhat by the reaction to Jones speech from the general public and the sponsors of Jones radio program. His sponsors deserted him in droves. Mercedes pulled its advertising and demanded that he give back his $250 000 Mercedes. Social Media went into overdrive, so much that the ultimate bully, Jones, claimed he was the victim of Cyber Bullying. This is Jones calling the Kettle Black he has become the victim of his own brand of hate. At last count there were 17 300 members of the Sack Alan Jones page. This is Social Media at its best.

Then there was the astonishing attack from Julia Gillard on Tony Abbott in parliamentary question time. Abbott can only be described, and I say this kindly, as thick. Knowing full well the reaction to Jones comments he actually rephrased them. Said Abbott, “And every day the prime minister stands in this parliament to defend this Speaker will be another day of shame for this parliament, another day of shame for a government which should already have died of shame.”

The Liberals were quick to jump to Abbots defense. Said Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella, “There is no way whatsoever Tony was referencing Alan Jones; he’s used that phrase for many months,” Oh! Come on, pull the other one. Even if Abbott wasn’t referencing Jones his lack of judgment, something he is constantly accusing the Prime Minister of, is appalling.

The comments were the last straw. Prime Minister Gillard exploded, The Leader of the Opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well I hope the Leader of the Opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation. Because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror.”

This is nothing compared to what followed, …this is the Leader of the Opposition who has said, and this was when he was a minister under the last government – not when he was a student, not when he was in high school – when he was a minister under the last government. He has said, and I quote, in a discussion about women being under-represented in institutions of power in Australia, the interviewer was a man called Stavros. The Leader of the Opposition says “If it’s true, Stavros, that men have more power generally speaking than women, is that a bad thing?”

 In her speech Gillard was immediately on the offensive. She began her speech with this, “I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not. And the Government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever.” For a full transcript of the speech click on the link, I urge you to read it is riveting.

Once again Social Media went into overdrive. In fact the video of the speech went viral. It has been seen all over the world and newspapers and bloggers have been having a field day. Of course the newspapers like the UK publication The Telegraph were more refined calling Gillards speech a,  “Brilliant political pivot” Bloggers were a little more crude one saying that she had basically, “ripped him a new asshole.”

Facebook went  into overdrive with memes appearing everywhere with choice quotes from her speech. Again it was Social Media at its best showing that most of us are decent people that don’t want to put up with this sexist crap and vitriol that is being spewed from the male side of politics.

But it is not just Gillard that had to put up with this rubbish. Kate Ellis, an articulate and committed politician, was treated appallingly on Q&A on the ABC on Monday night, by both Labor and Conservatives alike. On the show with Ellis were Liberal Minister Chris Pyne, journalist Piers Akerman and ex Labor politician Lindsay Tanner. They took every opportunity to speak over and interrupt Ms Ellis when she was trying to get her point across. Comedian and author, Ben Pobjie, was moved to comment on his blog, It was a horrible display by three men who, according to all reports, claim to be grown adults of fully-functioning intellectual faculties. But in the presence of a federal minister whose views on a range of issues are actually quite important to the country, but who happened to be a woman, they could not find it within themselves to grow the hell up and act like decent human beings.

In the past people like Jones, Abbott, Pyne, Akerman and Tanner could get away with murder but now with Social Media the real world is fighting back. Everyone who makes utterances in public places is held to account and the refreshing thing is that the majority are showing that sexism, misogynists and racists are firmly in the minority and will not be tolerated. It has been wonderful to see.

Closer to home in the deafness area Social Media is also being used to good effect to show the feelings of deaf people towards CaptiView, the closed captioning device used by cinemas. The powers that be have attempted to paint a picture of objectors to CaptiView as being a militant minority and a disruptive influence. Postings on Social Media have shown this to be anything but the case.

The wonderful Phillip Debs attended Event Cinemas in Burwood. While he was there his experience of using CaptiView was filmed by his friend on her Samsung Galaxy 3 phone. In his video he was obviously Deaf, he signs and even wrote his needs to the customer service people. A comedy of errors ensued. He was offered headphones (presumably Audio Description). He was then offered one device instead of the two he required. Then after waiting for over twenty minutes and missing the start of his movie the device then would not work. He eventually was led to a different movie theatre whereupon the device would not work until a quarter of the way through the movie. It was chaotic. Phillip indicated that of fifteen times he had attended the cinema and requested CaptiView only twice had it gone without a hitch. Phillip posted this video on Facebook and the comments came thick and fast. At last count there were 212 comments and only two of the contributors had anything positive to say about CaptiView.

This was one of only several things that happened on Facebook last week that targeted CaptiView. A posting was placed on the Deafness forum site that aroused much passion. So much that their CEO took the time to respond and defend Deafness Forum. But to the CEOs credit he was responsive and respectful to these views and has promised to raise them with his Board. Another example of the power of Social Media.

The power is shifting. No longer can we be ignored. No longer can people dismiss our views. Said Manal Richa at her website Strategic Planning and Training, “Another powerful aspect of Social Media is the fact that it is measurable.  Do you remember how difficult it was few years ago to track a print campaign and its results?  No more guessing with social media. You launch your campaign; monitor what kind of interaction and responses it generated! If proven successful, move forward and leverage your success.” Whether it is measuring public feeling towards sexism in society or whether it is highlighting the angst of deaf people to CaptiView, used cleverly Social Media can tell the real story.

While Social Media has its dangers it is more often than not a powerful tool to highlight public feeling. It gives the power to US. We need to use it wisely and be the power that creates the change.

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