This is a big moment for me, saying who I am. I have personal, family and business reasons for being anonymous on Twitter.
The last piece like this one I wrote 10 years ago on Margo Kingston’s pioneering Webdiary.
Does it matter who The Geek is? From the moment I set up a site with Margo Kingston called “Australians for Honest Politics”, I knew that to be a credible contributor I would have to be honest and transparent about the man behind The Geek.
The Geek’s time is over, and the time for the smart, sophisticated and insightful guy behind him has arrived. This is part of my 2013 resolution. My inner Gough was telling me: It’s time!
How I use Twitter
Don’t you love it when people follow through with their New Year resolutions? You have to admire my courage for doing this. Okay maybe not just yet, but please hear me out. To get to this point, I had to fight my way through the party political trench warfare on Twitter. How many people do you know who have done this? How many have retained their sense of humour? I had to fight orcs, goblins, wargs, stone giants and trolls.
I am making light of the infamous hash tag on twitter called auspol, where it seems a lot of nasty (mostly from the right) people gather. It was a deliberate decision of mine to go where the left meets the right at the coalface of political argument, to witness it in all its ugliness, pettiness, and hatred. Can you blame me for adopting a pseudonym?
In the distant past, a time before Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, these groups would never meet directly. Now they are directly exposed to each other in public.
It can be fun to go where the tectonic plates of Australian politics clash and observe the resulting fireworks. It certainly can be more entertaining than the reheated, predictable, jaded, cynical and repetitive groupthink narrative dished up every day by our professional media communicators.
What I found in my travels through Twitter Mordor is that reason and logic will only get you so far. To discuss politics and to keep your sanity on Twitter you have to use humour, parody and satire, especially in an era of Post Truth Politics and Post Facts Media.
A thing is funny when it upsets the established order. Every joke is a tiny revolution. – George Orwell
Thus George Orwell explains what destroying the joint means. I like to challenge basic assumptions and premises put on Twitter which invariably reflect the media-fed or party-fed narrative of the day. You can quickly establish with a few questions who is a shallow tweeter and who has substance and beliefs.
My first ever Tweet:
My fourth Tweet – Finding my voice:
My sixth and seventh Tweet – Finding my calling:
There are many ways to engage politically. You can write a blog, you can write a letter, you can tweet a journo, and you can ring call-back radio. In the end it doesn’t matter as long as you engage with the issues that are important to you. I sometimes choose to engage with LNP staffers/members and Menzies House trolls on Twitter because I like to get my hands dirty. I prefer the salt of the earth kind of way rather than a high brow academic approach to politics, which in my view is ineffective in the Post Truth era.
Here is an illustration of the approach I prefer. Cut down a David Speers Sky News video interview from 13.30 minutes to 35 seconds to communicate at a visceral level with the viewer who gets the context of the Carbon Tax scare campaign.
Mr Abbott says: “If you want to put a price on carbon why not just do it with a simple tax.” June 3, 2011. You can argue the issues in a purist way and write an impressive blog post about it but as a comparison, this video attracted 55,000 views on YouTube and was featured in multiple news programs, Q & A, Lateline and commercial TV. When is the last time a well argued, well researched blog post achieved that?
If the Liberals did not exist, you would have to invent them. If Tony Abbott did not exist, the media would lose its stunt-a-day readymade vaudeville machine. Abbott fulfils a need the media has to provide content and visuals to fill their gaps with a readymade circus. The media has no need for quality. This in part explains the disconnect with their audience and the failing business model.
So there you have it. The key to twitter is to enjoy it and have fun. This is my guiding philosophy for life.
Early Life Europe
My journey began in a place far away, not Mordor, but a little town called Ettelbruck in the tiny Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
My parents are Spanish and migrated to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in the 1960’s. I am incredibly proud of what they achieved in bringing up a family of 8 kids (5 sisters and 2 brothers) in a foreign land with the most rudimentary language skills except for a little French. I was child number 5 and the second to be born in Luxembourg.
My birth made the newspaper as I was born in a taxi on the way to the hospital. This is when my love for newspapers began and ended up with me running a digital services company to Newspaper Publishers.
By 7 I had learned four languages. I was speaking Spanish, struggling with Luxembourgish and German and at ease in French. At the time we had German, French and Luxembourgish TV and newspapers. I watched and read them all as I was growing up and going through my “Sturm und Drang” phase trying to find a meaning to life.
These were exciting and momentous times in the Europe of the 1970’s and 1980’s. It was the era of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan’s Pershing Missiles, Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, Giscard D’Estaing, Francois Mitterand, Helmut Schmidt, Helmut Kohl, Erich Honecker and the DDR, Disco and Trabant. It was the era of Petra Kelly, and Die Grünen (German Green Party) who were one of the earlier elected Greens in a national Parliament.
In those days, the terrorists we had to deal with were the IRA, ETA, Baader-Meinhof Group and Brigate Rosse.
There was also a more serious version of Ashbygate, the 1982 coup d’état attempt in Spain. It was a conspiracy conceived to overthrow the government. I remember my family being glued to the television set, fearful that a Franco type Dictator would return and destroy a fledgling Spanish Democracy. King Juan Carlos saved the country with an address to the nation, calling for rebellious army units to return to their barracks. They did.
As an addendum to my piece in Margo’s Webdiary, when I met Bob Hawke, he said to me: “I’ve met your king”.
We had Gorby’s Glasnost and Perestroika, then we had one of those troublemaker union organisers, an electrician (later President and Nobel Prize) Lech Wałęsa in Poland, the head of Solidarność (Solidarity) who started the Eastern Block Revolutions of 1989. The communist regimes of Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and the Ceausescus in Romania all came tumbling down. We had Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of Yugoslavia.
You get the idea. I followed all of this not through studying history but through quality multilingual media and journalism in Europe. My favourite publication was the German Der Spiegel (Global Mail Story), one of the world’s most successful magazines which, against all odds, is still making money. Have I mentioned quality yet?
If journalism is the first draft of history, we are in big trouble right now. Apparently we feel threatened in this country by a few women and children on a boat. We are unable to find out who leaked to Laurie Oakes in the 2010 Election campaign. We are unable to find out who continually leaks police operations to the media. We are unable to question Mal Brough, Tony Abbott, or Christopher Pyne on their knowledge of the Ashby conspiracy. We are unable to get answers from the Taxpayer funded ABC. We get pop psychology about Celebrity Big Pollies, zero policy analysis, zero fact checking and zero value. Welcome to Post Truth Media.
Early life Australia
If you have made it this far, please the read that story I wrote for Webdiary back in 2003. (Mate, where is my country?)
As much as I loved re-reading that piece again, there was a distinct change in tone from positive, warm and passionate about Australia, my adopted country, to distress at what I thought the Howard Government was doing to it.
One aspect I want to add to my experiences of Australia was the feeling of liberation in being able to call your boss by his or her first name. Breaking down the barriers between people in authority and staff adds a personal dimension to the relationship. This in turn may help in team building, loyalty and mutual respect.
There are not many countries in the world, where it is easier to set up a business. I have been involved in a few startup companies and the ease with which you can get up and running in a new business is remarkable. It is a dream come true for serial entrepreneurs.
Back in 1994 to 2000, I was working as a Digital Producer for a Business Communications company dealing with high profile corporate clients with big budget projects. We worked on exhibitions, museums, first use of live web broadcasting of company AGMs all the way to internal Business TV for Big Banks. My main client was Fairfax Media, managing their Fairfax Newspapers on CD ROM project which were sold to schools, universities, businesses and libraries.
Together with the then Art Director and best friend, I had worked on some smaller freelance web projects, and after we brought in a sales guy to sell our skills and services, our old jobs were made redundant. We formed a publishing company called Smedia, and as technical director I helped it become an industry-recognised digital publishing house. My biggest coup was getting my previous client at the business communications company, big corporate Fairfax Media, to come across to Smedia.
During my time at Smedia, I successfully delivered major contracts for clients such as Woolworths, The West Australian Newspapers, Allied Press NZ, The Star Malaysia, Sing Tao Hong Kong, SMH, AGE, BRW, AFR, Property Press NZ and ACP.
Bringing in the now commonly used Digital Edition format was a major effort in terms of market education requirement. Interestingly, I was selling this still novel concept of online Digital Editions to Fairfax already in 2004. It took until 2006 for them to finally make a decision and adopt the online format. It just goes to show how slow the Fairfax Mother ship moves. Are we surprised they are in trouble?
During that time, I also co-founded the online business Findacarpark, a novel car parking portal for renting, buying and selling private car parking spaces.
I met interesting and genuinely inspiring people in business. I have also met a few sociopaths along the way. They seem to pop up more in business, because that’s where their anything goes and no scruples attitudes are highly sought after in the dog eat dog corporate world. I have worked and still work with Liberals as business associates, colleagues and clients. I get on really well with all of them. Politics is rarely discussed in any depth or seriousness.
Business is about solving problems, making money and building a life for yourself and your staff. Politics should not interfere when you do business and this is why I have always tried to keep the two separate. Why let politics interfere with making money from Liberals?
I have sold the two businesses mentioned above in 2010 and now run a few other online ventures in various back and foreground roless, again with a combination of Liberal and Labor partners.
The project that I am most excited about is AFHP. Being a news and politics junkie, it gives citizen journalists like me and others a platform with a highly credentialed former investigative journalist like Margo Kingston to pursue the stories that the mainstream media refuses to cover or follow up for whatever reason.
The gatekeepers have lost the key and are suffering a disconnect with their audience and the public, and there is a need and a huge gap that must be filled. Technology facilitates good quality journalism filling the gap. How about we start with: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.
Australians for Honest Politics was started and based around Mr Abbott’s “Australians for Honest Politics Trust”. Margo, in a moment of inspiration, reclaimed the words “Australians for Honest Politics” from a covert, behind the scenes operation to an open and transparent citizen journalism project that covers the issues the mainstream media likes to forget. The title perfectly captures what we set out to do and is also a constant reminder that the Hanson Slush Fund scandal really did happen. There are still serious questions that remain unanswered by the AEC and Mr Abbott.
Finally, can we also put to rest once and for all the childish and repetitive Liberal attacks on me of being a paid Labor staffer. I am not an academic, a public servant, a staffer or a member of any political party. I do not get paid to tweet. I do not take or give instructions from anyone or to anyone. I am my own person using the poor man’s megaphone – The Twitter. Everything that’s not fit to print.
You have made it this far? Seriously?
OK, The Geek who tweets as @geeksrulz is Tony Yegles, a proud dad of 4 daughters and a serial entrepreneur who has been destroying the joint in Australia since 1987 and in Europe before that.
Disclaimer for completeness: I run a digital media services company which provides consultancy and development across ecommerce systems, content management systems, search engine optimisation, internet marketing, email marketing, web development, web hosting and social media training courses. I also specialise in digital publishing solutions for publishers, including digital editions for newspapers, catalogues and magazines. My company is 100% owned by me, has never provided any services to any political party, and is not affiliated or linked in any way to any other third party entity.
This is the Geek, but you can call me Tony now.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children. We’re all in this together. Let’s fight the good fight.