Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pro Life Campaign - an end to carrots?

I approach this post with a certain amount of dread. Any time I look at the Twitter statistics of groups opposed to abortion in Ireland I invariably find myself beating a fresh path to the oft visited conclusion: they're mainly American. It grows harder and harder to provide entertainment to those willing to accompany me on this journey.

Finding the poverty of Irish numbers supporting Youth Defence in my initial post of this sort was quite amusing. But as I worked my way through the Life Institute, Ireland Stand Up, David Quinn and Ronan Mullen, seeing each one dominated by either Americans, men, or American men, using my unique method of pulling Twitter stats began to become more of a chore.

So, this will be my last check of Twitter geography of anti abortion groups in Ireland. My reasoning is simple - I'm out of material. The only two left are the Life Institute (stats given to the excellent Red Lemonader, looking forward to reading her take) and the Pro Life Campaign, which ran last night.

Why have I saved this till last? There are a number of factors, none particularly deserving. First: they never annoyed me. They still haven't, for the record: I don't count holding a different view to me as offensive and I haven't taken the time to read much of their material. This did not completely remove my curiosity of course, but other groups seemed almost eager to jostle to the front of my queue through loud misinformation and aggression.

Secondly, @ProLifeCampaign have quite a few followers. 5,410 at time of draft if not time of publishing. There are some manual steps to this process, mainly around verifying the country based on the user's supplied location, and large numbers are a bit of a pain. (On a tangent if you describe your location as 'Mordor' I curse you and your children to the third and fourth generation. Not very helpful.)

My final reason? Given they thankfully seem to eschew the tactics of Youth Defence / Life Institute and so on I honestly thought their followers would be Irish. This was a terrible reason for me to leave them so long - while my commentary is unlikely to leave my personal views disguised I do like to feel the stats I present are of interest to all sides. @ProudProChoice has benefited from this free service, as has @ChoiceIreland, and I've made several open offers to those opposed to abortion to run the appropriate scripts. (Do ask.) I've published stats on @ChooseLife2012 - they're mainly Irish and 45% female, earning them a best in class position for those opposed to abortion in Ireland.

So, with an all too familiar sense of deja vu, a stiff coffee and a mental draft of how I could possibly write a two page endorsement of Pro Life Campaign's commitment to Irish followers I opened the spreadsheet.

Turns out I needn't have worried.


Cora Sherlock said...

As a technophobe of some standing, I have the utmost admiration for the effort that goes into producing these pie-charts. Kudos to Geoff!

That said, I'm not convinced that they make a substantial contribution to the debate on abortion in this country. If I think about my own use of Twitter, I know that I follow a lot of people who I don't agree with - for many reasons. Maybe I think they have an interesting pro-choice perspective; maybe we like to debate it even if neither of us changes our position; maybe we both just want to see The Hobbit when it comes out.

Similarly, I don't follow a lot of people that I do agree with on this issue. Again, the reasons vary. It could be because I don't know they exist; or because I don't agree with some comments that appear negative to post-abortive women; or maybe I just don't have the time to follow every pro-life group or person anyplace, anytime. One thing I do know is that when I follow someone, I never really look to see where they are. I only base my follow-decision on what they're saying.

My point is that Twitter is a fairly flimsy tool for drawing any real conclusions. Unless the holder of an account marshalls it rigorously, it's pretty much just a way of communicating - with whoever's interested in listening and/or talking back.

And that's the best thing about it too because we badly need to engage properly in this debate. What would the introduction of abortion mean to the country? Let's talk about the X Case and what legislation for X would mean. Let's talk about humanity and how that is affected by the laws enacted. There are two human beings involved in every unplanned pregnancy, we just can't see one of them without the use of an ultrasound machine. We need to be aware of that fact and cater for the needs of both.

We're a mature society and we're more than ready to talk about these vital issues of humanity. So let's do it.

Cora Sherlock
(For Geoff, location: Rivendell, via Mines of Moria)

Anonymous said...

It's silly to claim that Geoff is saying a follow on Twitter is definitely due to support - what he has consistently done is highlight thought provoking trends. I wrote for Geoff about how the followers of Youth Defence and the Pro Life Campaign don't follow sexual violence organisations, which was also interesting when you consider neither organisation provides information about sexual violence services on their website. Similarly, Geoff has highlighted that Pro Life Campaign is not reaching ordinary Irish people - instead, the twitter is mainly being considered by American. This should be welcomed by the Pro Life Campaign (obviously current tactics of reaching Irish people aren't working) as well as providing context to the Pro Life Campaign's claim that they represent a majority of the Irish people. If that claim isn't coming from social media, where is it coming from?

Geoff said...

Hi Cora, Hi Nick, thanks for taking the time to comment. Afraid I'll be travelling or far from broadband for most of the weekend so won't be able to write a full response till next week. said...

Sterling work on the statistics.

Cora Sherlock does raise an interesting point though - what does the figures tell us? Is it that the pro-life lobby simply has a wider base than pro-choice? Or is it that pro-life groups in Ireland are, indeed, largely supported by foreign interests rather than local citizens?

An useful metric (if you can bear to go into the breach once more) might be to take another group/issue that is divisive as a control to compare results - perhaps @marriagequality ?

Geoff said...

Hi all,
I did a full response to Cora's comment here

Lewis Clark said...

this is actually great post thanks

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