Last week, following his State of the Union Address, President Obama met with 3 popular American YouTube creators for an interview. Bethany Mota, Hank Green and Glozell Green asked questions to the President that addressed the concerns of their subscribers (online security, racial inequality, gay marriage, the price of education) and aired the interview via YouTube.
Just four days later, whilst addressing online criticism he had received after awarding Prince Phillip a Knighthood of the Order Australia, our Prime Minister Tony Abbott described social media as ‘electronic graffiti’. The two leaders seem to be heading down very different paths.
Perhaps the most powerful man in world being interviewed by YouTube stars isn’t a reality you pictured yourself in, but at least he seems actively interested in communicating with a young audience. Tony Abbott seems to be working actively against such a practice.
Social media is of course not completely reputable – there are loads of irrelevant, misinformed and bias opinions on its platforms. But those sorts of opinions aren’t free from the press or indeed the government. It isn’t just social media that is critical of the government, it’s everyone at this point.
Progressive ideas seem to be the enemy of Tony Abbott, and he’s apparently set about working against every single one – the knighthood incident a step too far backward that his own party are isolating themselves from him.
As a young person I couldn’t feel more isolated from the current government. And for a lot of young people that typically don’t agree or don’t understand coalition policy, attitudes and ideals, I can’t imagine they feel like they’re being governed for, but governed to.
Concerns of young people tend to be with social policy rather than financial policy – a hallmark of the Abbott government. This could be why he dismisses the social media beast as graffiti, as it is dominated by young opinion. If you look at what Obama was being asked about by YouTube fans during his interview, most of what was raised was in the same area of concern to the youth of Australia. He’s trying to explain simply and plainly what his government is doing, in such a way that he isn’t being deliberately divisive.
Tony Abbott isn’t communicating with younger voters or attempting to address their concerns with government policy, in fact he’s not acknowledging them at all.
That’s not to say I want to see him appearing in YouTube videos or replying to tweets, but not showing utter disdain for an entire medium of conversation and information sharing might be a step in the right direction.
The truth is Abbott knows the majority of youth in this country don’t agree with his ideology or his governance, and he’s abandoned them for it.
We’ll have to wait and see if this disengages young people, or galvanises them.
Written by Christian Eva.
Primary photo via BET.