Culture

I Went To A Panel About How To Beat “The Left” At Twitter And All I Got Was Really Drunk

I drank every time someone said "politically correct", "climate change" or "bleeding heart".

Last week a Twitter follower sent me a link to an upcoming event hosted by the Menzies Research Centre. I wasn’t familiar with the Menzies Research Centre, but somehow (MENZIES) I knew (MENZIES) that they probably aren’t putting down anything (MENZIES) I want to pick up (MENZIES).

(Menzies, for those who are blissfully unaware, was Australia’s longest serving PM and the founder of the Liberal party.)

The event — called How To Win Twitter — offered a masterclass in getting followers and winning debates on the “leftist-dominated” social media platform. It was to feature a panel of “Twitter warriors”, a phrase I’d never heard before and hope to never hear again. So, who are these warriors, these valiant foot-soldiers?

First there’s conservative journalist Chris ‘I Sued The Chaser. Yup, I’m That Guy’ Kenny. And though I’d rather mainline rat blood than hear him talk about anything, I concede he’s a fitting choice.

Next is Caroline Marcus, another conservative journo and newsreader, but one I’d probably have a few wines with in an airport bar. Marcus’s inclusion also makes sense, plus it ticks a diversity box, which I’m sure the organisers are extremely concerned about.

The last panellist is Monster Dome, who’s only listed credential is “Twitter Warrior.” Not knowing who or what a Monster Dome is, I took to Twitter to find out. His profile is pretty typical of a right-leaning human — tweets, likes and retweets of things I disagree with, and the occasional animal video. But something confused me.

Monster Dome, Twitter Warrior, teacher of tweets, has about 2,500 followers. He’s been on Twitter since 2012, and he has 2,500 followers. I don’t know the exact criteria is for achieving warrior status, but by that standard half the idiots on Twitter meet the threshold.

Which one is Monster Dome, though?

Before you start trolling me down from my high horse, hear me out. I don’t claim to know how to “win Twitter.” I have a modest number of followers, and I’m more worrier than warrior. My profile is vulgar and nonsensical, and exists predominantly to entertain myself. It’s served me surprisingly well in getting work, promoting causes and meeting like-minded weirdos, so if that’s winning, I’ve won. But I’m not holding seminars about it.

I was confused. So, I bought a ticket.

Bleeding Hearts And Feral Lefties

The day of the event I learn it’s being broadcast on Facebook, meaning I could watch it pantsless in bed. But I want to see who goes to such an event; I want to breathe in the heady mix of expensive cologne and smug home-ownership. Plus, I’m registered under the name Josephine Potter and I really want to be Pacey’s girlfriend for a night.

I don my most corporate outfit and head to a fancy building in the city. Waiters are circling with free booze and canapés, and not pastizzis and falafel like at your usual lefty do. There are duck pancakes, king prawns, and other rich people snacks, and I curse my clichéd vegetarianism for robbing me of a free dinner. Luckily no animals die to make champagne, though.

I stand alone, downing bubbles and trying to look privileged. A lovely woman introduces herself, and I feel bad for lying to her about my name, job and fundamental principles. We talk about the weather and house prices and, when in doubt, I just say the opposite of what I think.

Soon it’s time for the talks. I’ve thought ahead and invented a drinking game/coping mechanism. I have to drink whenever someone says “politically correct”, “climate change”, “bleeding heart” and “Clementine Ford”. During the talks, I add “feral lefty” and “FACTS” because the speakers keep using them and I want to get drunk faster.

A man with a microphone makes a joke about not mentioning Barnaby Joyce and everyone laughs. He goes on to lament that Twitter is dominated by the “blissfully uninformed” left, asks “How do we stand up to the lefty bullies?” and introduces Caroline Marcus.

Caroline is a great speaker, yet still I agree with almost nothing she says, except for praising the mute button, and alleging the left don’t know revenue from profit. She talks about being bullied, which happens across the political spectrum on Twitter, especially to women, and I feel for her. Then she apologises for liking her vagina, and claims that the most anti-racism tweeters are in fact the most racist, and are “calling for segregation,” whatever that means. To end, she urges the audience of rich white people to log on and help other rich white people “have a voice.”

Next up is the monster, real name Martin Leonard. Like Caroline, Martin is preoccupied with the left, and seems quite upset about the “new PC orthodoxy”. He says he wears the label of troll as a badge of honour, because he’s committed to “disrupting narratives and pointing out inconsistencies.” At one point, he gets me onside by cautioning not to start a Twitter fight unless you know the topic inside out, but loses me by calling Tim Blair funny.

And finally, it’s time for the big guns, the big kahuna, the man determined to “inject FACTS” (DRINK) directly into lefty eyeballs. Chris Kenny is a brilliant orator, but talks ad nauseam about the over-sensitive, uninformed left. I enjoy learning that both his sons are feral lefties (DRINK) and make a mental note to stalk them on social media later.

About halfway through he starts listing people — Julia Gillard, Hillary Clinton, Van Badham — and I don’t know if he’s making a point or having a stroke. It turns out to be neither.

Important Lessons In Winning Twitter

By now I’ve realised that in this context, winning Twitter isn’t about how many followers you have, quality tweets you post, or positive interactions you enjoy.

Winning Twitter means getting a rise out of people. This of course drives people on both sides, and can be fun and interesting when done respectfully. “Sometimes I just wanna fight with someone that’s not my husband,” jokes Caroline. But if aggravating people is your only motivation, I’m not sure you’ve won anything.

It’s time for audience questions. The MC announces “the ferals” (DRINK) are “going feral” (DRINK) from the livestream, and everybody cheers. There’s more talk of how the left are immature snowflakes who need “the truth and reality forced upon them”, but I’ve pretty much tuned out. Somebody says something about Doc Martens and everybody lols.

When it’s finally over, I make a beeline for the elevators, where a man asks what I thought of the talk. I say it was interesting but that I don’t agree with most of what was said. To my delight he replies, “Nor do I.”

I wonder if this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but in a flash, he’s off into the night, and I’m left pondering how smug home-ownership smells like Peking duck and sandalwood.

Nadine von Cohen is a Sydney-based writer. She can usually be found on Twitter, swearing in capitals and refusing to punctuate.