by Chris Becker
I linked to an article at Politico in Morning Links this morning that claimed “Social Media is Ruining Politics“. Here are some key money quotes:
Our political discourse is shrinking to fit our smartphone screens. The latest evidence came on Monday night, when Barack Obama turned himself into the country’s Instagrammer-in-Chief. While en route to Alaska to promote his climate agenda, the president took a photograph of a mountain range from a window on Air Force One and posted the shot on the popular picture-sharing network. “Hey everyone, it’s Barack,” the caption read. “I’ll be spending the next few days touring this beautiful state and meeting with Alaskans about what’s going on in their lives. Looking forward to sharing it with you.”
So, not unlike Teddy Roosevelts trip with John Muir to Yosemite that was publicized using social media of the day – tabloids. More:
Ever since the so-called Facebook election of 2008, Obama has been a pacesetter in using social media to connect with the public. Even grumpy old Bernie Sanders has attracted nearly two million likers on Facebook, leading the New York Times to dub him “a king of social media.”
And then there’s Donald Trump. If Sanders is a king, Trump is a god. A natural-born troll, adept at issuing inflammatory bulletins at opportune moments, he’s the first candidate optimized for the Google News algorithm. . What Trump understands is that the best way to dominate the online discussion is not to inform but to provoke.
This attack – warranted against the bigoted narcissist in the form of Donald Trump – is really a defence of the stodgy print and network broadcast media against just another new form of social engagement. Although the author, Nicholas Carr, has a point about the short attention span that Twitter and other social media provokes, it can just as easily be argued that the “Five second spot” on nightly news, where politicians embue their policies with a few buzzwords, is a phenomenon that’s been around since the advent of TV.
Indeed this dumbing down on policy has been with us for a generation or more, long before “likes” on Facebook or hashtags on Twitter facilitated such short sweet quotes. From the televising of presidential debates, where the image and voice became more important than the message, and even back to the yellow sheet sensationalism of Hearst and now the clickbait rubbish by Murdoch Press, all targeted to elicit an emotional response, not a rational one.
The use of social media by savvy political canditates, like Senator Bernie Sanders, is an excellent way of reaching the now disenfranchised youth vote, who no longer believe or buy the mainstream media message espoused on broadcast TV or print media.
And while social media does “favors the bitty over the meaty, the cutting over the considered” other mediums have allowed for more discourse, namely Youtube channels and podcasts – and indeed a superblog like Macrobusiness – where alternative voices can be heard and not just for a quick soundbite according to a politicians talking point memo or a thinly veiled corporate media release.
We have to put up with the Donald Trumps to hear the progressive voices, that is the price of democracy.