Labor dirty tricks targets Greens over 'Mean Girls' tweet

Mean Girls character Regina George (l) and ALP parliamentarian Jackie Trad. Graphic: Green Left

The Labor Party's dirty tricks department has sprung into action to try to thwart the Greens' campaign to win the seat of South Brisbane in the October 31 state election.

Labor has seized on a satirical tweet by a South Brisbane Greens member to falsely suggest the Greens are mounting a sexist campaign against former deputy premier Jackie Trad, who holds the seat. It is trying to manufacture a scandal to divert attention from the real debates over Labor's record in office. 

It is proof positive that Labor cannot win the seat by defending its record — which includes Black deaths in custody, support for the Adani coal mine, freezing public sector wages and failure to address the public housing shortage.

The tweet included a quote by Trad saying the Greens are "obsessed with themselves and putting at risk our state's economic recovery during a global economic downturn". Along with the Trad quote, the tweeter commented in the style of a Mean Girls' character: "this party is the nastiest skank bitch I've ever met. Do not trust them. They are a fugly slut!"

It is a paraphrase of a scene from the movie. (The tweet can be seen here.)

Retiring state Labor MP Kate Jones, echoing the avalanche of faux outrage, said the language was "a direct attack on Jackie Trad".

This is false.

People's opinions will vary over the advisability of posting the original tweet. But, in context, it is clear that it is not a sexist comment about Trad (or Labor) but rather satire about Trad's original quote.

It was a suggestion, made in the form of a pop culture reference, that Trad's quote was an immature and self-serving mis-characterisation of the Greens' challenge in her seat.

Somewhere in all of this disingenuous controversy, Trad's original quote has been obscured; when one examines it, it becomes clear that the pop culture response is apt.

The 9Fax-owned Brisbane Times, while not as rabid as Labor, reported on the controversy in a way that obscured what is involved, thereby helping Labor.

Greens candidate for South Brisbane Amy MacMahon said on Facebook that there is a "long and nasty history of policing what women say and targeting them for stepping outside the bounds of what the rich and powerful deem acceptable". 

She condemned the "concerted bullying" of the Greens volunteer by senior ministers, including Deputy Premier Steven Miles and senior minister Mark Bailey. 

"We assumed that they would be busy campaigning in the lead up to the most pivotal election in a decade," MacMahon said. She added that branches of the Labor Party had "posted bare faced lies, fabricating quotes and attributing them to" the volunteer.

She described a coordinated campaign of "abuse and misinformation" directed at the volunteer by the “Common Sense Brigade”  — a troll farm set up by Friendlyjordies, a Labor ally.

"The much talked about branch secretary role that Labor has focussed on is a powerless minute taking, volunteer role – but that’s precisely why Labor has targeted her," said MacMahon.

MacMahon said the Greens condemn anti-woman graffiti on yard signs. This was a reference to Trad's implication that sexist graffiti on her signs was encouraged by the Greens, even though MacMahon's yard signs have been similarly defaced.

"Jackie Trad knows full well that this tweet isn’t about her, but she and a series of senior Ministers have chosen to deliberately misinterpret and misquote the tweet so they can spend days smearing a young woman and attempting to bully her out of involvement in politics," MacMahon said.

She said the practice of "trawling" campaign volunteers’ personal social media to "maliciously misrepresent jokes with the intention to traumatise the victim and intimidate other volunteers is sadly increasingly the norm from both major parties".

She said a similar strategy was used during the 2018 Victorian election against one of the staff of Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe. "The target of Victorian Labor’s smear campaign ended up on suicide watch," said MacMahon.

"People are fed up with politics because despite nearly 20% of Queensland kids living in poverty, senior Ministers and MPs have chosen to focus on a single tweet from a volunteer who’s not even a party spokesperson.

"Despite 40,000 people on the waitlist for social housing, despite families sending their kids to underfunded schools, senior ministers have chosen to waste their time bullying a young woman. Despite being in the midst of an economic and employment crisis, senior ministers and MPs are taking part in a coordinated online trolling campaign."

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