Rupert Murdoch’s Twitter profile has polarised his followers — but do his brash 140-characters-or-less posts signal the rise of “tweetorialising”?
From US politics to climate change, the 82-year-old News Corp executive is remarkably uninhibited on social media. He’s also fairly prolific; since signing up on December 31, 2011, he’s tweeted a total of 1035 times (197 times so far this year).
By far, Murdoch’s favourite topic of discussion is US politics, such as his most recent tweet, on the Obama administration’s immigration policy, yesterday.
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Of the 223 tweets he’s written since this time last year, around 9.5% are on politics in the States — anywhere from President Barack Obama’s (“O’s”) Middle East policy to the New York mayoral elections.
He was particularly scathing about Obama’s failure to take immediate, military action in Syria:
Other favourite topics over the past year include immigration (4.5%), climate change (3%) and #auspol (almost 2%). The rest of his tweets are a motley mix of musings of UK politics, the media and even his family.
Twitter has become an established online space for people — especially media-types — to air their views. But what does it mean when somebody as powerful as Rupert Murdoch takes to Twitter like this?
According to Stewart Dawes, social media expert and director of Atomic Digital Marketing, Murdoch is at the very least spicing up a social medium that’s at risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant.
“Love him or loathe him, Murdoch is one of the few people helping Twitter remain vaguely interesting,” he told Crikey. “He’s giving us bite-size daily opinions perfect for our fast-food constitutions.”
You might remember Murdoch’s Twitter tirade against Labor during the lead-up to this year’s federal election, when he lambasted Kevin Rudd’s campaign as “convincing nobody”.
That led Kevin Rudd’s daughter, Jessica, to bite back with this sardonic retort:
Murdoch would have been accustomed to making headlines for his provocative tweets by then. In August, he applauded a UK rabbi who denigrated multiculturalism, saying Muslims in particular “find it hardest” to integrate into Western societies.
He’s also raised the ire of Scientologists labelling the religion as a “weird cult” with “big, big money involved” in July last year. The public backlash didn’t faze Murdoch, who defended his position in a follow-up tweet later that same day.
“Twitter gives the irascible, table-thumping Murdoch … a means by which to ongoingly explain himself to the audience who chooses to regard him as relevant, even fascinating,” Dawes said.
And Murdoch can be particularly uncensored on Twitter due to his profile, says Darryl Woodford, postdoctoral fellow at QUT’s Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation.
“Whether that hurts or helps his profile is up for debate, and may depend on your political leaning,” he told Crikey. “The [risks] are probably slightly different for Murdoch than your average Twitter user. He’s not as likely to get fired.”
Woodford points out that Murdoch is quick to delete tweets that might be seen to harm his reputation.Yet there are multiple examples of where he’s made a mistake and retracted his comment in a follow-up tweet (like that time he said his mum had died at age 193).
Is it all part of his cleverly crafted Twitter persona as a daggy granddad playing around on social media?
“His messy double spaces after full stops or spaces before commas add to the chaotic tone. What’s he going to tweet next? No idea, though it will be cantankerously Right-of-centre, said Dawes. “The Murdoch-tweeting phenomenon has that one-off historical quality to it. Myspace was an out-of-the-box Murdoch train-wreck, Murdoch on Twitter is feeling like a train wreck in extreme slow motion.”
It’s the kind of slow-motion train-wreck that people seem unable to turn away from. Murdoch now has in excess of 477,000 followers. To put that in context, he’s lagging behind Katy Perry’s 46 million and One Direction’s 16 million, but it’s still got almost double Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s 258,000. He only follows 72 people, including singer will.i.am.
Fun and games aside, can we glean any lessons about Twitter or Rupert Murdoch himself from his Twitter profile (Aside from the fact that he likes Bill Cosby, Vice Media and Life of Pi)? He failed to reply to our tweet asking for his advice to social media hatchlings, but we’ve compiled some of his best tweets into a best-of list for you — from the cryptic to the compelling to the ever-so-slightly creepy.