Like oil and water politicians and social media don't mix. Not because of their natural properties but because politicians tend not to understand it. Most members of Tynwald do not have public Twitter feeds which the more adventurous may graduate on to after Facebook. Some do, of course, but they tend to use them for official announcements typically with a link to some sort of government press release.
Once they have the hang of that they tend to use Twitter to show themselves in a good like - you know the sort of thing - 'here's me helping out at the foodbank' or 'did you know I plant my own vegetables'.
Some, but only a few, use Twitter to actually engage with the masses. To their credit some make a better fist of it than others.
Now and again we get a social media car crash like we had today with Lawrie Hooper MHK who tried somewhat forcefully to tell parents and students that they had a really generous deal from his government department and rather than whinge and go on Manx Radio to express their views they should get a second job and take on more debt to pay for their university education.
As you can imagine this went down like an unpaid student loan. Rather than temper his approach in the face of the onslaught of objections, Lawrie doubled down and blocked two of the tweeters and said the debate was over.
Well ladies and gentlemen that's not how social media works. It's not like Tynwald and there are no standing orders. All Lawrie managed to do was to alienate two generations of the electorate (students and their parents) and spark the birth of a new Twitter movement.
No wonder so many steer clear.
I was listening to Stu Peter on Manx Radio recently and I heard him repeat a view that he has previously propounded during the debates leading up to the 2016 general election.
He doesn’t get much pushback on this particular view and I suspect it is a fairly widely held belief. Stu Peters argued that allowing more direct forms of democracy would not be viable because, given any particular question, irresponsible choices would be made. He made this argument through the hypothetical example of a vote for the level of income tax. He asserted that people would vote to abolish income tax (let’s ignore for a moment that corporation tax was in effect abolished on the Isle of Man by Tynwald without approval of the people).
While he didn’t say so, I deduced from his commentary that he wouldn’t vote for no income tax (sorry about the double negative) because of the impact it would have on public services such as health and education etc. In other words, his evaluation of the question went as far as examining the potential implications of the proposed policy. After all that’s what smart people do.
It follows that anyone voting for no income tax is either unable to evaluate the potential effects of any given decision or is irresponsible.
This is an example of “illusory superiority” a condition of cognitive bias whereby a person overestimates their own qualities and abilities, in relation to the same qualities and abilities of other persons. Now I mean no disservice to Stu. I consider him to be of independent thought and have an enquiring mind. That’s no mean feet on a government owned radio station that is regularly threatened by same with funding cuts.
Illusory superiority is a heavily researched area. One study in the US found that for driving skills, 93% of people sampled put themselves in the top 50% and for safety, 88% put themselves in the top 50%. That’s one I can relate to.
Of course, MHKs are not immune for illusory superiority. Perhaps they are even more susceptible to it as having been voted in their abilities have somehow be endorsed by the people. The reality is of course that very few people vote but it may still serve to strengthen their belief. This is an example of confirmation bias.
Coming back to Stu’s question I wonder how the electorate would have handled the Island’s biggest financial challenge, the £3.5 billion public sector pensions black hole? Something tells me it would have been sorted some time back. Successive governments’ failure to do so must be put down to a lack of understanding or a lack of responsibility.