Here’s my two cents worth on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s leaked impersonation of US President Donald Trump.
If you are prime minister and you are going to do a private impersonation of Trump you could pick a better occasion than the Parliamentary Mid-Winter Ball which is packed with drunken politicians, journos and political advisers. So it is a mighty stretch to call it a leak.
However, if you are a conservative, hollow-man prime minister, down in the polls, the “leak” of a recording of the said impersonation might be a welcome circuit breaker.
Further, if you’ve just studied the votes in the recent British election “upset” and are worried about the strong support Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn received from younger voters — 66% of voters aged 18–19; 62% of voters aged 20–24; 63% of voters aged 25–29; and 55% of voters 30–39 — what better way of getting the attention of younger voters than poking fun at the most hated and mocked US President in history? Especially as it was obvious that the prime minister’s crawling performance in his meeting with Trump in May (aboard a US aircraft carrier in New York) went down like a lead balloon.
Turnbull must have felt he hit the social media jackpot — how many people in the US have even ever heard of an Australian prime minister? — when the official Twitter account of the US TV series House Of Cards tweeted: “@TurnbullMalcolm There's always a leak.”
Yeah, especially if you make sure of it.
If the suspicions that this was an intended “leak” — calculated to improve the prime minister’s public image — are true, what does it say about politics in the age of the rise and rise of social media?
Sure, social media might appear to be a great leveller with US Presidents and ordinary punters equally free to tweet their 140 characters but it is also a slave to celebrity status and wide open to their manipulation.
Political manipulation through social media is reaching for new heights (or lows). Trump himself fearlessly declares all news and scientific opinion he wants to be disregarded by the public as “fake”. Climate deniers, truth deniers and justice deniers feel they are in their heyday.
The bolder the forays of these right-wing social media manipulators, the more uncertain the public is meant to feel about what is true and what is false, what is just and what is not.
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