Australian politicians are contributing to the culture of outrage and online bullying that has destroyed businesses and has likely caused personal harm to innocent people, according to a public relations and crisis communications specialist.
Managing director of Mercer PR, Lyall Mercer, pointed to last week’s public confrontation between Senators Penny Wong and Mathias Cormann which resulted in Senator Wong linking her Asian heritage to a claim that she was “channelling Pauline Hanson” about tax cuts.
“She chose race-based outrage when she could have instead argued from a political and policy perspective.
“Comments of MPs, like those from other high-profile people, carry weight and prompt further abuse on social media.”
He said politicians from all political sides and all levels of government should be using their influence to reduce the vitriol and outrage within public dialogue.
“The continued abuse that is spread by social media, and often even by mainstream media, has far reaching ramifications for everyday Australians and in particular small business operators.
“I regularly see the impact this has on business people who are targeted on social media and are the subject of media articles through nothing more than faux outrage that builds momentum.
He cited restaurants that have closed because of names that some deem offensive, people who have been targeted due to their religious beliefs and employers who lose business because of actions of their staff.
“This culture of outrage and offense, which is only driven by a minority, is causing great distress, and is directly linked to public comments by people of influence,” Mr Mercer explained.
“It has to stop. While it might increase my business and that of law firms because companies are running scared and are preparing for reputational crises, it doesn’t help society.
“Unfortunately, many politicians don’t understand the ramifications, or maybe they just don’t care because they have never taken the risk of investing their own money into a business, as they are so used to living off the public purse.
“They need to act responsibly and put the greater good ahead of political point-scoring.”