“Twitter users lean to the political left and talkback radio callers to the right, but both form part of the mainstream of opinion, according to a study.”
Andrew Elder has already done a great job of explaining why this article isn’t very informative. I agree that Hartcher’s report is a waste of space, apart from perhaps this first sentence. Hartcher could have reported Sentia’s findings and then made himself useful by analysing why it is that left leaning people are attracted to Twitter, whereas right wingers prefer talkback radio. But since Hartcher hasn’t bothered, and isn’t in a position to comment on Twitter since he doesn’t use it, I’m going to throw my hat in the ring.
As soon as I joined Twitter, I felt I was amongst friends. Twitter is a place where a curious, interested, opinion and fact-seeking part of our community share information with each other. On Twitter, there is an endless supply of links to interesting articles, debates about different ideas, specialists contributing expert advice and thousands of people enjoying the experience of sharing their opinions with each other. I love that Twitter is never the same for more than a moment – sometimes it is overwhelming how much information is being thrown at you in your Twitter feed but if you like to stay informed, to find things out and to hear different views – then Twitter is a great place to be.
It doesn’t surprise me that there are more left wing people on Twitter than right wing. In my experience, lefties are usually more open-minded about change and more attracted to facts than right wingers. I also think that lefties like to decide with other people whether new ideas are beneficial or damaging for our society. For example, when a new political policy is announced, if you’re not sure about the details of it, and the effect it will have on your community, all you need to do is ask a question on Twitter and people will happily point you in the right direction to where you can find the answers you’re looking for, or will give you the information themselves. Twitter is the fastest fact-finding machine in the world. When something is reported in the mainstream media that isn’t accurate, you can be sure that you’ll soon find the truth and the correct facts through a community on Twitter.
A common misconception is that Twitter users build an echo chamber of opinions to back up their own views. I don’t think this is actually possible. For example, even if you only follow those who you appear to agree with, eventually you’ll disagree about something and you quickly learn just how many points of views there are on a single subject. If you unfollowed everyone you disagreed with, you’d soon find you were only following one person – yourself.
This brings me to why I think right wingers are less attracted to Twitter and more attracted to talkback radio. Listening to talkback radio is like being on Twitter and only following one person. That one person often says the same thing over and over again, consistently reiterating up an opinion that is fixed hard like cement. Even when the odd listener phones in to break up the monotonous ranting of the host, the caller is vetted by the producer and usually agrees wholeheartedly. If they disagree, they are very quickly hung up on. In this environment, it’s no wonder that so many Alan Jones listeners are quite happy to believe his mistruths about facts such as climate change. It is no wonder he can whip these listeners into a frenzy about the Carbon Price and attracts them to anti-carbon-tax rallies.
Right wing talkback listeners love the predictability of talkback radio hosts. Alan Jones would fight tooth and nail to stop anything changing in our community. Progressive policy is his enemy. He likes things just the way they are (or maybe the way they were under the Howard – or even Menzies – government). His listeners share this hatred of change and progress. It doesn’t even matter if the change is beneficial to them – they still mistrust and fear it. When all the information they seek out is given to them by one person, and this one person echoes their own opinions, it’s no wonder right wingers are happy to stick with this media channel and to steer clear of places like Twitter where their ideas might be challenged.
In order for talkback radio hosts to keep their listeners happily ignorant, facts must be either hidden or misrepresented. Fact is a very inconvenient thing for Australian right wingers in our current political climate, and Twitter provides far too many facts for them to be comfortable with. Right wingers must believe Gillard’s government is the highest taxing, highest debt ridden Government we’ve ever had (completely false). They must also believe that climate change is a conspiracy and the carbon tax is another ‘great big tax’ that the Labor party imposed on them unnecessarily (completely false). And they must believe that Tony Abbott will be their savior, which, for the average talkback radio listener could not be further from the truth.
If you’ve got an open mind, you’re not opposed to change and you feel most satisfied when armed with as much information as you can find – Twitter is the place for you. If your mind is closed, change is your enemy and facts don’t help your argument, keep that talkback radio blaring all day. It’s not surprising that the Liberal Party recently moved to limit their candidates’ usage of Twitter, but they would never stop their candidates appearing on talkback radio – how else are they meant to reach their supporters?