You can pick them pretty easily. Currently, it’s because many of them have a water droplet emoji (💧) in their usernames, referencing a scandal they’ve cleverly dubbed “Watergate” involving energy minister Angus Taylor. Before that, they were easy to spot because they had ‘#parakeelia’ in their bios, a reference to another scandal, this one from 2016. But even without these signifiers, you’ll know them when you see them — it’s in the way they write, as if they’re running out of time, as if they’re trying to communicate important information before a deadline only they know about.
They’re a subset of Australian political Twitter that some have dubbed ‘Raindrop Twitter’. Many of them are older, most of them are middle class, almost all of them are white. They grew up voting for the Labor Party, and grew up in an era where this automatically made them left-wing, back when it was the party of Whitlam and Hawke, rather than milquetoast centrists like Shorten. They’re avid readers of sites like Independent Australia, and there are few things they hate more than the Murdoch press. After a while, their screeds start to look conspiratorial, an image that is only cultivated by their excessive use of hashtags and acronyms, not to mention their focus on political scandals long-since forgotten by the average punter.
The most frustrating thing about them is they have a point. Corruption, the monopolisation of the media — these are worthwhile concerns. But the way they communicate these concerns ends up alienating more people than it attracts, particularly young people, which leaves them trapped in an echo chamber of their own making, shouting into a void and thinking they’re being heard because a disembodied voice repeats their concerns back to them.
Miscommunication is a frequent issue when members of raindrop twitter venture outside their bubble. They’re not digital natives, so things like slang, memes, and multiple layers of irony often trip them up. They end up yelling at people to the left and right of them, treating them as if they’re the same, because they can’t tell the difference between genuine conservatism and tweets from socialist millennials taking the piss.
Unless you’re specifically seeking them out, they’re largely quite easy to ignore, but they can often be found participating in pile-ons of younger progressive people. If you’ve ever worked for a Murdoch-owned title, you’re at risk of a pile-on. If you vote for the Greens, you’re at risk of a pile-on. If you use the word ‘young’ when describing a specific subset of former Murdoch employees who have left their jobs as a result of ideological differences, as activist Sally Rugg did, you’re at risk of a pile-on. If you suggest that some left-wing people can be quick to dismiss religious people, as writer Bri Lee did, you’re at risk of a pile-on. It’s worth noting that it’s often young women and other marginalised people who fall victim to these pile-ons — Raindrop Twitter does not reserve its ire for those in positions of power.
(I’m still trying to wrap my head around the tweet tagging @TrueCrimeWeekly. Does she want the journalist behind this account to investigate Rugg for crimes against boomers?)
While Rugg’s crime was using the word ‘young’ in a tweet, Lee’s was appearing on ABC’s The Drum and talking about, amongst other things, the way many on the left view those with religious beliefs.
“Amongst progressive lefties there’s an automatic disregard of anyone who has faith. There’s this idea of an intellectual left that’s based on reason and anyone who believes in any God has a friend in the sky and I don’t think that helps anyone.”
The problem she’s speaking to is one I’ve encountered, and in the past even been guilty of myself, and nothing about her statement struck me as controversial.
Raindrop Twitter, on the other hand, took great offence. One man, who, naturally, has a podcast, said: “Where do find these low-level fruitcakes? Try harder to find some decent talent.” Another, whose bio includes the words “bullshit is for fun, not oppressing people”, used similar language, asking: “Who is this fruit loop?” (Raindrop Twitter users have missed the memo about language that further stigmatises people with mental illnesses, apparently.)
The majority of replies were from people describing themselves as “progressive lefties”, insulting Lee based on the assumption that she was a “bible-basher” or Liberal supporter herself.
For anyone else who’s unfamiliar, Lee is the award-winning author of Eggshell Skull, a memoir about trauma and navigating the justice system as a victim of sexual assault. She’s currently on a mission to remove a loopholein Queensland’s laws, known as the “mistake of fact” defence, that, in the words of one ABC reporter, “[allows] defendants in sexual assault cases to escape accountability”.
Similarly, Sally Rugg is an activist best known for her contribution to the success of the same-sex marriage plebiscite in 2017, as well as other progressive causes, during her time at GetUp!. She is now the executive director of Change.org.
Neither of these women are conservatives by any reasonable definition of the word. Both Rugg and Lee have arguably done more for progressive causes than anyone whose primary contribution to public discourse and progressive causes consists of firing tweets off into an echo chamber of similarly-minded people.
So why did ‘Raindrop Twitter’ go after them? Without going so far as to actually interact with any of these people, I can only hazard a guess, and I’d probably be wrong — plus, applying logic to an inherently illogical situation is a fool’s errand.
The why isn’t my concern so much as the fact that this corner of Twitter feels inescapable, and suffocating, and indicative of a generational divide in how different age groups use social media and engage in discourse and political activism, as much as calling young women crazy can be considered discourse or activism.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any neat solutions I can end this with. I don’t think there’s much chance of reasoning with people who frankly sound more and more like Americans obsessed with QAnon with each passing day. I also don’t expect to trigger any self-reflection in people who see no problem dismissing young women as crazy. I suppose I just wanted to identify a problem that doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon, and make a few enemies in the process. Bring on the rain!