Kevin Rudd Mug #2014-0067
Ceramic mug featuring red and black printed hashtags and the phrase ‘got to zip!’
The period from 2007 to 2013 saw two changes of government, four prime ministers in five tenures, the longest federal minority government in Australia’s history, four Leaders of the Opposition and a record number of parties represented in the Commonwealth Parliament. This same period saw a significant rise in the use of social media. Twitter, for instance, grew from formation to more than 600 million users, and Facebook grew to more than a billion users worldwide.
The growth in social networking and social media altered the political landscape. As ‘microblogging’ grew in popularity, it became the norm for aspiring and serving political figures to have Twitter and/or Facebook accounts to communicate with constituents and maintain a visible presence outside the regular broadcast media. In early 2014, more than 100 of the members of the House of Representatives maintained a Twitter account, Facebook profile or both, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Greens leader Christine Milne.
In Australia, the most popular politician on Twitter was Kevin Rudd, even in the period between his prime ministerships. After his resignation from politics in late 2013, Rudd still had more than 1.3 million Twitter followers, more than anyone else in Australia. It is perhaps not surprising then that during his 2013 election campaign, Kevin Rudd employed the same media adviser used by President Obama in 2012. Twitter’s popularity brought the concept of the ‘hashtag’ into public consciousness. A hashtag is used on Twitter to categorise or classify a post by topic and means that all posts related to a particular topic can be grouped and viewed. This can lead to particular topics growing in popularity or ‘going viral’. Some users use hashtags ironically or for humour, and indeed creation of hashtags for particular topics has become something of a social media art form. The hashtag #Kevenge has not been credited to any specific user, but became one of the common ways of referring to Kevin Rudd’s successful return to power in June 2013, along with the similar #Ruddmentum. #Respill referred to the leadership contest and was used by a number of journalists.
The expression ‘Got to zip’ was popularised by Rudd as a catchphrase from the later part of his career, dating from circa 2010. He used the phrase repeatedly to end press conferences, especially his first resignation speech, and it entered the Australian political and social lexicon as a sardonic, somewhat mocking expression. Rudd had a reputation for using unusual language or colloquialisms, which may have been one reason for his popularity and social media profile. However, it gave ammunition to Rudd’s detractors, who were able to portray him as ‘out of touch’ due to his manner of speech. In another famous incident, Rudd used the phrase ‘fair shake of the sauce bottle’ which he appeared to have invented to sound ‘ocker’.
The Kevin Rudd mug was not mass produced. It was produced by Zazzle. The business’ model allows anyone to submit a design and have it printed and sold on their website. This results in a democratic way of creating material to spread messages, political or otherwise, without the need for expensive equipment. This new method of production has become popular for making material to express democratic views and is a product of the 21st century’s connectivity through the internet.