No, Tony Abbott, you can't dismiss social media as 'electronic graffiti'

By Collette Snowden, University of South Australia

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s announcement of a knighthood for Prince Philip on Australia Day sparked both a mainstream and social media storm. But Abbott’s response to this backlash, when he casually dismissed the public expression of incredulity at the knighthood, only served to create another social media story. Abbott said:

Social media is kind of like electronic graffiti and I think that in the media, you make a big mistake to pay too much attention to social media.

You wouldn’t report what’s sprayed up on the walls of buildings and look, as I said, social media has its place, but it’s anonymous. It’s often very abusive and, in a sense, it has about as much authority and credibility as graffiti that happens to be put forward by means of IT.

This was not the first time Abbott has described social media as such. And while he is is partly right, he is mostly wrong. Social media is indeed electronic graffiti, but the big mistake is not in paying too much attention to it, but in paying too little.

As a former journalist, Abbott should know that everyone who writes in public writes to be heard. The evidence is found not only in contemporary case studies, but in the role of graffiti in social and political life through the ages.

Like all forms of human expression, graffiti – including its electronic form – has a wide range of quality. Abbott’s narrow view of graffiti seems to confuse the banality of “X woz here” with graffiti as a tool of subversion and a medium for the expression of political criticism and social outrage.

While most now associate the term “graffiti” with tags or drawing “sprayed up on the walls”, it was originally used to refer to the casual writing and drawing found on the walls of Pompeii, Rome and Egypt. Graffiti is found throughout the world on buildings, in public and private locations, on natural landmarks or sacred temples, and in and on the objects of daily life.

Everywhere humans go they leave graffiti. Ancient tourists scrawled on the walls of the pyramids. Long before that they drew cave paintings such as those on Australia’s Burrup Peninsula to record life and events in ancient human societies.

The development of writing allowed people to produce inventive graffiti to make jokes, defame their enemies, boast about their sexual prowess, profess their love and express dissent. Graffiti may have been anonymous but it could be powerful. It has certainly been a medium that subverted and challenged the status quo and presented new ideas. What graffiti artists write about, in any age, can be significant as an expression of public focus, attention or concern.

Political graffiti is frequently a sign of inequality in a society. This is a form of media that allows the disempowered or unrepresented to have a public voice. Some of the most potent public political statements today begin as graffiti. One of the most successful contemporary artists, Banksy, is a graffitist. Social media transfers graffiti from the street and amplifies its power and impact by rapidly increasing the audience.

British graffitist Banksy frequently references politics in his public artworks.
EPA/Will Oliver

Graffiti employs the writing genre of the epigram, as popularised by the Roman poet Martial, Marcus Valerius Martialis, who was known for his obscene and insulting language and astute self-promotion. He understood, with the canny sense of an entrepreneur, that short-form writing was more appealing to a general audience. He targeted politicians, celebrities and anyone he didn’t like.

Martial would love Twitter. Here’s some examples of his work.

A drop of venom, a little bit of gall. Lacking these, my friend, your epigrams lack all.

The rich know anger helps the cost of living. Hating’s more economical than giving.

Your little dog licks your mouth and lips, Manneia. I am not surprised — it always enjoyed eating shit.

Martial was a celebrity in Ancient Rome, but his work became a kind of gold standard for Western literature when rediscovered in the Renaissance. He influenced a wide range of writers, including Ben Johnson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Lord Byron, as well as many European writers.

It’s not surprising that the language of social media uses the brutal brevity of the epigram. The short, concise and clever language produces the best, most powerful graffiti and, not coincidentally, the most entertaining text messages, tweets and social media posts.

To dismiss an outpouring of scorn and criticism on social media as lacking credibility is to ignore public opinion that is unfiltered and at its most honest – even if it’s disagreeable, and possibly wrong. Where and how people express their views is not as important as what they say.

Every prime minister should pay as close attention to what is being said by the electronic graffiti artists on social media as they do to focus groups and opinion polls.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


Coffee machine

I got sent a Dolce Gusto Circolo towards the end of last year to have a play with. I’ve previously reviewed the one that looks like a penguin here….

So, even though I don’t actually like the milk pods (I would use them in an emergency, but most of the time I just use fresh or microwaved milk if I don’t have a frother) I like the ease of use of the machine, and the flavours are nice, and, as you can see, it can all be done ONE-HANDED, in the video below of me making an ice coffee :)

It clearly needs more liqueur to make it into Australia’s favourite, the Esperesso martini…. Honestly, I could keep this on the bench if I had space just for random coffee shots and for making Friday drinks….

But here is my own martini recipe – the Caperberry Martini




We went to get a blue slip for the trailer… a 35 year old home made trailer, so it needed some updating to pass…

But, it was a little weird. The cross on the sign, the “Ieusous Zao” on the lettering.

The scripture on the office walls. and desk….

And the quote….


Corinthians? Jesus is God?

Thoughts? I was a tad…. uncomfortable….

{ 1 comment }

YOu have enemies? GoodThat means that youve stood up for something at sometime

It’s a well known fact that the internet can let you express any opinion you want.

Any opinion you want, that is, so long as you’re prepared to be challenged, laughed at, or just plain torn down.

I thought EVERYONE knew this, until a recent encounter.

This post by The Friendly Atheist was doing the rounds. How do you spot a fake psychic? They claim to be psychic. You know, not an out there opinion, but it was in reply to some “real” psychics advising their victims how to spot a “fake” psychic.

Chuckled at this, posted it, and then had a reply from someone saying that they believed in psychics so each to his own.

A couple of days later, this same girl posted that she was going to a psychic fair, and I quipped to my boyfriend “I don’t see myself making it” and LOL’d at the terribleness of the joke, and so had to share it immediately….

Theres a psychic fair in tamworth I dont see myself making it

So groanworthy. And when I got a “lol” at the end of a comment I thought all was well.

Until a barrage of messages complaining to the bf that I’m a closed minded bitch. Cue my trying to explain that people critisize ideas on the internet, and that while she was the trigger for my hilarious joke, it didn’t make me not like her. But you know, I’m the bad guy for suggesting she lighten up, and that she might want to look outside her own experience. But then, I’m the closed minded childish one, not the people who has her hands over her ears going LALALALA.

Then this James Randi doco popped up on Reddit – Exposed: Magicians, Psychics and Frauds, but she wouldn’t have a bar of it. It’s been pulled from most video sites now, but if you can hunt it, it’s totally worth the watch!!!

Oh well. I’ve been blocked now and have ruined everything, but you know, people will move on in time, and I’m sure my mischievous nature will put me on someone else’s naughty list soon. (yeah I know this post is no olive branch and will only cause more trouble!)

read the fine print

My take-away from this? Relatives and Facebook don’t mix. Not for me anyway!

Have you even regretted expressing your opinion online?


By Madawi al-Rasheed, London School of Economics and Political Science

Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger and the founder of an online liberal debating forum has become the most recent victim of the unjust Saudi justice system and the contradictions, one might say hypocrisy, of the Saudi monarchy.

In May 2014 Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes to be administered 50 at a time. The first 50 were administered on January 9. Just 24 hours later a Saudi delegation joined the march in the Place de la Republique in Paris in support of freedom of speech following the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Badawi’s was sentenced for allegedly insulting religion on his censored liberal forum, which Saudi commentators, both anonymous and identified used as a forum for discussion, short commentaries – and mostly rants – about the strict religious controls over their personal freedoms, the assault on their human rights and restrictions on freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia.

Badawi’s blog hosted campaigns to support introducing a legal age for marriage (especially for girls) and campaigns in favour of allowing women to drive, while there was also much discussion of sexual harassment cases and abuse in public spaces were often discussed. It was anything but one-sided: both advocates and opponents of Islam and Islamic law frequently voiced opposing opinions.

On more than one occasion, the blog has been used as a satirical platform to ridicule strange fatwas and religious opinions from famous Saudi scholars – for example the opinion that driving is detrimental to women’s ovaries.

A Saudi delegation joined world leaders marching against terrorism in Paris.
Philippe Wojazer/EPA

Religious police

One of the main concern of the site’s users has been the so-called “religious police” – the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. These government-appointed moral vigilantes parade the streets in luxurious white four-wheel drives in search of immorality, enforcing gender separation laws, making sure that all shops are closed during prayer times and that men and women dress modestly at all times (not to mention tracking down illicit brewing or consumption of alcohol and, of course, prostitution).

There seems to be no end to the number of ways one can fall foul of the religious police – the number and range of offences is constantly expanding, and now includes tweeting “subversive” and politically challenging statements, communicating with foreign media and making un-authorised visits to embassies in Riyadh among many other “offences”.

Personal freedoms

Although Badawi’s blog carries the name “liberal”, one must not jump to conclusions. This is not liberalism as it is historically understood in the West – you won’t find any calls for revolutionary political change in favour of representative government or elections. He has been mainly concerned with the denial of personal freedoms and the excess of religious interventions by government and Saudi Arabia’s over-privileged clergy.

For example Badawi once praised a member of the royal family – who was governor of Mecca at the time – as enlightened because of his calls for restricting the power of the religious police and in favour of allowing women to drive. Of course, it didn’t stop his arrest and imprisonment.

In Saudi Arabia, a secular society is too much to ask for.
Paiko9, CC BY-SA

In the eyes of the Saudi judiciary, Badawi’s main crime is to call for the separation of religion and state, a kind of secularism that he admires in other countries and believes to be the only solution to protect freedoms in Saudi Arabia.

But Badawi’s quest for secularism got him in trouble with the Wahhabi conservative constituency in Saudi Arabia, which controls the judiciary. As preachers and judges, they have a monopoly over interpreting Islam and passing arbitrary sentences. The sharia (Islamic law) has yet to be codified in Saudi Arabia and its application is subject to the opinion of judges who do not accept the pluralism of Islamic jurisprudence or a diversity of legal interpretations.

A worrying precedent

It must be said that the 1,000 lashes included along with Badawi’s ten-year jail sentence are so unusual and have no precedence in the Islamic tradition – previously the number of lashes has never exceeded 100. So it must a vindictive judge who settled on this excessive number.

Given that Saudi judges are appointed by the Ministry of Interior – which is also responsible for security and anti-terrorism efforts, they have become the arm of this ministry that wants to silence dissent, stifle human right activists and criminalise any activity that challenges the absolute monarchy.

The regime appeases those important judges by allowing them a free hand when dealing with cases of religious dissent. They surely do not want to see Badawi’s dream of secularism come true – this would mean they would lose their privileges and control over society.

Unfortunately, Badawi’s case may have set a precedent for the handing down of harsh sentences for prisoners of conscience. The Saudi regime remains immune from international pressure, as its allies – mainly Western governments – are afraid to rock the boat with their loyal friends in Riyadh.

Bosom buddies.
Alastair Grant/EPA

This is, of course, simply realpolitik on the part of the West; Saudi Arabia still controls huge quantities of oil and is a good business partner. There is never any concern about unpleasantness or corruption scandals erupting. In the past, investigations of corruption, for example the infamous al-Yamama arms deal between Saudi Arabia and BAE were halted by Tony Blair when the UK’s Serious Fraud Office was about to expose dodgy bribes paid to Saudi princes to secure the deal.

Human rights in Saudi Arabia is truly not on the foreign policy agenda of most Western governments.

Divine law?

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz is recovering in hospital.
Ali Haider/EPA

Raif’s ordeal can only be stopped by royal decree. But with the ageing king still in hospital recovering from pneumonia, the Saudi royal family busily trying to sort out, in secret, the vexed issue of the succession – and terrorism raging to the north and south of the country in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the blogger is unfortunately left without support or hope.

There are thousands of prisoners of conscience in a country like Saudi Arabia who may linger in prison for decades, suffering torture such as lashing and flogging. Their cases are kept alive by international human rights organisations but are greeted with a deafening silence by the rest of the world.

The Saudis can no longer hide behind their claim that they are simply abiding by divine law and applying sharia on earth. They must be told that their interpretations of the law fall short of the aspirations of many Muslims. Someone must point out to them that religious texts may be revered and considered sacred, but religious scholars who claim to act on behalf of god are not.

Badawi is innocent as he has not committed a crime even within a narrow interpretation of Islamic law. This punishment is an abomination and the international community must do all it can to bring pressure on its Saudi ally to stop it. But don’t hold your breath.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


Six twenty-five

January 18, 2015 · 0 comments


  1. Language :: learning
  2. Obvious :: reasons
  3. Skull :: cap
  4. Insidious :: virus
  5. Struggle:: to win
  6. Unspeakable :: truth
  7. Orchid :: flower
  8. Fish :: monger
  9. Annoyingly :: right
  10. Payroll :: tax

I've been dymoed


Oh Hai 2015

January 16, 2015 · 6 comments

So. I broke my blog before Xmas updating it, so thought screw this, I’ll fix it in the new year.

And here we are.

#HelloKitty #ebay bottle opener! #HelloKitty #ebay bottle opener!Peek a boo! Peek a boo!Purple sneakers $5 well spent :) Purple sneakers $5 well spent :)Trying out the Xmas mincer. #notvegan Trying out the Xmas mincer. #notveganSummer Summer5c129d7aa54a60a591268dcc64cbf2a7.jpgMunchkin!

How are you?


Blog meet

Wore my newish cuffs and collars from Kitten’s Playpen out this weekend.


Above is the sample image from this listing. I don’t have the flower on mine though. The cuffs have black satin ribbon trim rather than the velvet on the collar.

Kittens Playpen

They’re hard to put on yourself though!!!

The shop has quite a long turn around – around a month (plus postage…. which was a couple more weeks by standard mail) – and they really only started working on the collar/caffs for me on the last day of their processing time! So, no rush orders for Xmas…. but if you can plan ahead you get something really purrrty.

{ 1 comment }

This is my “garden”

December 10, 2014 · 3 comments


A pot of Thyme

chili chives coriander

Chives, chili plant and some (recovering???) coriander. It may not live.


weird sushi - olives, smoked salmon and cream cheese

This would be mine.

Smoked salmon, cream cheese, and topped with black olives.

Can you beat it?