John Howard’s latest APEC YouTube address, compelling demonstrators to rethink their protest plans, is an attempt by a “politician from the black-and-white television age” to rework his out-of-touch image and confront activists on their own online turf, according to this BBC report.

Elsewhere, The Daily Telegraph suggests it shows “the man who epitomises the Bakelite radio era of the 1950s” is trying to counter the perception that he is well, old.

But the ageing Prime Minister seems to have overlooked a fundamental Web 2.0 attraction – interactivity. After more than 8000 views of his APEC introduction, not a single comment has made it through moderation. If you want to contribute to a dialogue about the Prime Minister’s video, you’ll have to click through to a third party post of the PM’s video that encourages feedback. But beware, some of the language is rather un-parliamentary.

Highlights include:

  • “Mr Howard, it seems you have finally discovered the Internet! Why didn’t you host this years APEC as a video conference on the Net saying about half a billion dollars internationally? That nice piece of change could have gone a long way towards fixing some of the world’s problems. Why you’re at it, why not convince your buddy George W. to fight the Iraq War on the Net too and put the US one billion a week that the war is costing towards a real solution? Have a nice day!”

  • “Obnoxious b-stard. Yeah the security is necessary because there are violent protesters lurking… You’re hosting a meeting of the prime perpetrators of mass violence in the world. And you use the pretext of a terrorist threat to destroy democratic institutions and civil liberties at home while aiding and abetting the sociocide in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not to mention your own colonial projects in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu…”
  • “Well isn’t this special, John Howard wants to be heard as long as he doesn’t have to hear any one else’s opinion. Thank you for posting this and letting all voices be heard.”
  • “What a cockroach this guy is…YOURE NOT FOOLING ANYONE with your globalist agenda… rot in hell, John Howard!!!!!!!!!”
  • “I’m sick to death of this sickening old pr-ck, have his advisers convinced him that younger generations actually want him to stay in parliament? He is a hypocritical old f-ck you should’ve done the RIGHT THING FOR AUSTRALIA and stepped down YEARS ago. These days he does only what’s right for the United States and the multinationals that emanate from it. You can’t use the excuse that we’re only in Iraq because Bush is a “close friend” John, it just incriminates you even further. Die.”
  • “You’re gonna lose the election (suck sh-t and I’m already planning the election night party)”
  • “Hey fellow youtubers, I’m a hip young person like you. I can really relate to what John Howard is saying after he engaged us on our own turf through the internet. I think we should all listen to this wise bald man.”
  • “Thanks for reposting this APEC message. So much for freedom of speech on John Howards Message. Over 5,000 people had viewed the message so far and when I visited, not one comment had been posted after moderation. Hopefully it will not be too long before he is gone.”

This is not a case of selective quoting. There is one lone comment that could be construed as being pro-Howard, but even that post is critical of his taxation and IR policies (and ignores the APEC issue entirely).

Welcome to the Internet, Mr Howard.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey