Sometimes, things annoy me.
And one of them is people acting like robots on Twitter. Whether it’s adding too many #hashtags, tweeting out the newest viral thing with no real comment because of an incessant need to be part of every conversation, or tweeting only repurposed photos with no attribution or interaction, there are way too many accounts that transform what can be an engaging public square into an algorithm-based bulletin board full of status-seeking narcissists.
It goes without saying that politicians are part of this. But not all politicians are bad at Twitter. Some make jokes. Some engage respectfully with people who disagree with them.
And some, like certain MLAs of B.C.’s governing Liberal party, constantly copy and paste the exact same talking points provided to them by their party. Or so it seems.
Now, of the cavalcade of reasons why Twitter is awful, politicians copying the same talking points without any semblance of individuality is pretttttty far down the list.
BUT. Politicians deserve to get called out for laziness. The public should be aware of how the political communication sausage gets made in the 21st century. And if you’re going to have a Twitter account to show your #authentic political self and advocate for policies you believe in, you should strive higher than “copy and paste a suggested tweet provided by an overeager Millennial staffer.”
But let’s break this down. After all, some Liberals are better at Twitter than others. And some tweets say more about a government’s priorities than others.
So here’s what going to happen. I’ve looked at every single tweet by a Liberal MLA over the last three weeks (February 22-March 14). I’ve analyzed how often the exact same tweet has come up in multiple accounts. I’ve observed when an MLA has slightly tweaked the wording. And now, I’m going to break down that data.
Are you excited??!?
Let’s get going.
Question 1: how often is the exact same tweet posted by multiple Liberal MLAs?
In total, Liberal MLAs posted identical tweets 69 times over the last three weeks. Some were basic public service announcements, some were funding announcements, some were damage control talking points…they really spanned the spectrum.
Which is understandable. After all, the government wants you to know a lot of things. For example, did you know “B.C.’s electricity supply was 97.9% clean last year“? And did you know that “the government is increasing oversights of BC’s assisted living facilities“? And did you know that the “government provides income tax credits for employers of apprentices“?
Of the 69 times Liberal MLAs posted identical tweets in the last three weeks, eight of them involved a post with the “DYK” acronym—but this is probably my favourite.
Making fun of a grammar mistake in a tweet is low-hanging fruit. But when that same mistake is pasted by multiple politicians without checking? That’s delicious low-hanging fruit.
But I digress.
Question 2: what tweets were copied by Liberal MLAs the most?
Here’s the interesting
(within the context of this bizarre analysis) thing about these copied tweets: this isn’t the work of a Liberal staffer on Hootsuite. Or if it is, they’re doing it in a very weird way.
Because while most of these 69 tweets got posted by three or four MLAs, it was random as to which politicians would have identical tweets. And occasionally, the number of MLAs posting the exact same tweet (or changing one or two words) would increase dramatically.
Like, say, when they were praising their boss.
In total, 15 Liberal MLAs sent out a tweet calling Christy Clark an “inspiration” or “inspiring” when she became the “longest-serving premier” in Canadian history, and then proceeded to link to a Huffington Post piece written by BC Liberal Director of Engagement Pamela Martin on that very subject. #synergy
What’s particularly amusing is that this isn’t about a policy or a government service—it’s a purely sentiment-based tweet. You would think MLAs could post unique tweets when it comes to their feelings about symbolic events!
Other tweets that received a higher than normal circulation included a positive LNG report, the announcement of higher fines for people starting fires, and an announcement on electric vehicle owners being able use HOV lanes regardless of the number of passengers.
Question 3: which Liberal MLAs (likely) copy tweets the most?
We’ve established that government MLAs post the same tweets on a regular basis. And we’ve know that some tweets are only copied by two or three MLAs, while some are copied (or tweaked) by many.
So now comes the
not-at-all important question: who does the most outsourcing of their tweets?
You can’t blame a politician for posting a suggested tweet once or twice a week. Caucus solidarity is important, and heck, people copy suggested tweets in many industries (including (gasp!) the media).
But by looking at how many copied posts they tweeted over the last three weeks, you can divide the 48 members of the BC Liberal caucus into four different tiers.
TIER 1: THE SERIAL COPIERS
Teresa Wat: 37 times
John Yap: 28 times
Linda Reimer: 28 times
Todd Stone: 19 times
Doug Bing: 19 times
John Martin: 18 times
These MLAs are the best of the bunch when it comes to the CTRL-C CTRL-V Maneuver, able to flawlessly execute it while glancing at their smartphone no matter how mundane the subject.
Plus, he posts lots of selfies.
So many selfies.
TIER 2: THE SPORADIC COPIERS
Michelle Stilwell: 14 times
Jackie Tegart: 13 times
Peter Fassbender: 12 times
Darryl Plecas: 9 times
Scott Hamilton: 9 times
Suzanne Anton: 9 times
Mike Morris: 9 times
Stephanie Cadieux: 8 times
Amrik Virk: 7 times
Jane Thornthwaite: 7 times
Mike Dalton: 7 times
Shirley Bond: 7 times
Andrew Wilkinson: 6 times
Greg Kyllo: 6 times
Steve Thomson: 5 times
Like the first tier, all of these MLAs are active twitter users, posting from press conferences, community events, and everywhere in between. And like the first tier, they are not immune from regularly posting the exact same tweet as other MLAs.
But this group does so with a little more restraint. Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo, for example, reworded tweets and put them in his own voice five times during this period.
But my favourite tweeter of this group is probably Suzanne Anton, who goes the extra mile by tagging the relevant minister in her identical tweets.
Now, she’s probably just trying to let the public know which MLA is the one in charge of the specific ministry. But it’s more amusing to imagine Anton is just passing along info to her fellow ministers that they might have missed.
TIER 3: THE VERY OCCASIONAL COPIERS
John Rustad: 2 times
Norm Letnick: 2 times
Marvin Hunt: 2 times
Naomi Yamamoto: 1 times
Jordan Sturdy: 1 times
Richard Lee: 1 times
Terry Lake: 1 time
All of these folks tweet regularly, and you know what? If you copy a suggested tweet less than once a week, I’m not holding it against you. Especially if, like Health Minister Terry Lake, your avatar is a dog and you post photos of your dad.
TIER 4: NO COPIED TWEETS
The differences between the Liberal politicians who avoid copied tweets is fascinating
to sad people like me.
You have Eric Foster and Donna Barnett, who
win at life don’t have twitter. You have Pat Pimm, Dan Ashton, Laurie Throness, Linda Reid, Linda Larson and Gordon Hogg, who have better things to do with their time not tweeted in over a year. You have Don McRae, whose twitter use has been infrequent since leaving cabinet due to a family issue.
You have Ralph Sultan and Simon Gibson, who tweet often about things in their constituencies. You have cabinet snub Sam Sullivan, who seems mostly content to plug his Public Salons. You have fellow snub Moira Stilwell, who has both the most active and least partisan twitter account of any MLA in B.C.
You have cabinet ministers in Oakes, Bernier and Polak who are ideal tweeters from a communication flak’s standpoint—on brand, inoffensive, relentlessly partisan, but not aggravatingly so.
You also have Bill Bennett.
You have the premier’s right and left-hand men in Deputy Premier Rich Coleman and Finance Minister Mike de Jong.
And finally, you have Christy Clark herself. And if there’s one thing all #bcpoli watchers know by now, it’s that Christy Clark’s twitter account is anything but derivative.
But I suppose that’s an entirely different conversation.