One of the things I love most about social media is the instantaneous way it allows people jump onto political gaffes. No sooner does a politician do something embarrassing when hashtags pop, Twitter accounts are launched and tumblr blogs start chronicling the funniest of these reactions. Very quickly social media seizes the headlines away from whatever that politician was trying to say. Instead of being able to control the message, these hapless politicos simply try to manage the chaos, at best.
In 2012, there were several, but Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" comment during a 2012 GOP candidate debate was one of the most damaging. That spawned a tumblr page, a hashtag (#BindersFullOfWomen) and several photo memes, some of the best of which have been assembled here. And it did irreparable damage to his appeal to women voters.
This one featuring Bill Clinton takes advantage of his bad reputation with women and his ability to strike a completely charming pose:
And my favorite binder meme always sets off happy and sad nostalgic memories of Jerry Orbach's overprotective, but caring father character versus Patrick Swayze's dirty dancing suitor for Orbach' daughter:
Then there was Senator Chuck Grassley's Twitter admission that he had struck and killed a deer, leaving it on the side of the road.
Fred and I hit a deer on hiway 136 south of Dyersville. After I pulled fender rubbing on tire we continued to farm. Assume deer dead- ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) October 26, 2012
The response to that tweet spawned massive hilarity across Twitter, including the immediate launch of Grassley's Deer's own Twitter account, whose first tweet was, "Dear Senator Grassley, Why did you kill me?" For Grassley, though, there was no damage done. He already had a reputation for quirky tweets and his gaffe was not an insult to anyone (even animal rights defenders have to recognize that accidents like this do happen).
The latest politician to fall prey to merciless skewering on social media for a self-inflicted gaffe is Sarah Palin. This week, while on a tirade against the Obama Administration, Palin said, she will bring truth' to "1400 Pennsylvania Avenue."
As every fifth grader in America knows, the White House is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. At 1400 Pennsylvania you will find a nice little park across the street from the lovely five-star Willard Hotel. And on Twitter, you will find thousands of tweets poking fun at Palin, especially using the hashtag #At1400Pennsylvania.
It is possible that many politicians could just shrug off this kind of misstatement as a simple slip of the tongue. But Palin's tirade was all about bringing truth to politics and that, along with her legendary attack on "gotcha" politics, guaranteed she would get skewered for it.
The lesson is that how people react to your mistakes has a lot to do with how you treat other people. If you have the reputation for insulting people, especially with less than factual and truthful comments, you will get no break. Politics in the social age is becoming more and more dependent on being authentic and accountable. The less you are of those, the more ridicule you will suffer when you make a mistake.