Friday, 21 September 2018

To tweet or not to tweet: Political stink over misfired post

To tweet or not to tweet: Political stink over misfired post
18 Jun

“When asking a woman out on a date, don’t pretend you are interested in her as a person; tell her straight up that you expect to be raping her later.”

This “must be adhered to”?

A message posted by Darren West MLC before he deleted his Twitter account.

A message posted by Darren West MLC before he deleted his Twitter account.

Photo: Twitter

And, “If it is inconvenient for you to stop yourself from raping women, ask a trusted friend to accompany you at all times”.

Really? After the tragic death of a young woman in Melbourne last week, it was too much.

Nonetheless, some on social media leapt to Mr West’s defence.

They pointed out the list had been circulated by activists criticising anti-sexual assault campaigns targeted at changing the behaviour of women, rather than men.

This is a fair point and probably the one Mr West was trying to make.

But not even comic Sarah Silverman said the rape prevention tips “must be adhered to”. She obviously has the sense of satire required to put the list in context.

Premier Mark McGowan said the tweet was a mistake and Mr West “misread something online”.

Political opponents, including shadow treasurer Dean Nalder, seized on Mr West’s misstep.

And because Mr West had been the government’s point guard on its decision to close the Moora residential college, he opened up an opportunity for those campaigning to keep it open to hammer him on the social media platform. (As an aside, Twitter is one of the more popular platforms in rural and regional WA.)

Twitter users had even analysed Mr West’s tweets to see how many related to his electorate or the now-reversed decision to close WA’s School of the Air.

It was not the first time Mr West found himself copping it over his Twitter activity.

In April Mr McGowan called one of Mr West’s tweets “inappropriate and unnecessary” after he implied agricultural college students “will be fine” compared to Syrian civil war casualties and refugees.

On Saturday after the “rape prevention” tweet, Mr West said: “Today is the last straw”.

“I’m following the lead of Ed Husic, John Carey and others and deleting my Twitter account,” he said.

The problem is that social media – and especially Twitter – is becoming increasingly important in shaping the opinions of engaged voters. Just ask US President Donald Trump.

Strategists from both parties in WA know it is important and that anyone who is anyone is on the platform considering what their bosses have said and assessing their character.

That’s why Labor candidates are made to delete all their personal social media accounts. They’re only allowed “official” accounts. That is, those monitored by party officials and trusted campaign managers.

As Mr West knows, it’s a double-edged sword.

You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Email Nathan Hondros or follow him on Twitter.

Nathan Hondros

Nathan covers state politics for WAtoday. He is a former editor of the Mandurah Mail, where he also covered politics for Fairfax’s regional titles.

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