Revolution or Wheel Spinning? Politics on Social Media

On May 27th 2011 Mike Fincke and Greg Chamitoff, crewmembers on the Space Shuttle Endeavour undertook the last ever spacewalk; in Germany 270 people were hospitalised after and E. coli breakout, and at their 37th summit, the entire G8 made a unilateral call for Muammar Gaddafi to step fown as Libya’s leader.

Oh, and Anthony Weiner accidentally tweeted a picture of his penis.

I knew that last one off the top of my head, but the others I had to google, of that fact I am not proud. Ever since Anthony Weiner tweeted his junk I’ve been pondering (re: worrying) where social media platforms, especially twitter, fit in the shape of the greater political landscape.

Certainly Twitter has the potential to be a direct component in political action and change. Egypts ‘twitter revolution’ in 2011 is one of the clearest examples of people using social media to mobilise a swift political action. The Egyptian people exploited the platforms tagging algorathin, using the hashtag #Jan25th in conjunction with word of mouth and fliers to coordinate a massive protest. The tag gained international attention, the pressure mounted to a point that the Egyptian government shut down Twitter access, but by then it was too late. 80,000 people showed up to the protest, and 18 days later Egypts regime fell.

Through use of social media the Egyptian people had mounted a swift and extreme revolution motivated by necessity.

It’s the word ‘extreme’ that worries me.

On a platform where everyone can speak it’s harder to be heard over the noise. However, voices of extremists, people with views so radical that they beg reaction, will always be heard. This isn’t in itself a problem, the internet has always been a sounding board for the extreme. The issue is that politicans, our leaders and policymakers, are also on Twitter, and they have to listen to what these extreme people say.

A one man can appear like many if they’re loud enough.

And now, because of Twitter, everyone has a megaphone.

Twitter opinions are becoming increasingly important, there’s a reason why they’re incorporated into programs like Q & A, but just because everyone can speak doesn’t mean their opinion needs to be heard. Politicans are becoming increasingly imbolised by public opinion, Malcom Turnbull was a Prime Minister who was immobilised by the social media machine, he was responding to Twitter rather than the other way around. Trump meanwhile spends what seems like all his time trying to control Twitter narratives, 20 years from now that’s probably all we’ll remember about him.

In a podcast I was listening to it was mentioned that ‘High Noon’, a movie about a man facing vocal adversity for a whole town of nay-sayers, was the most popular movie among President’s, because it remind them to stay focused on the job rather than what people are saying.

I wonder how easy it is for them to focus when the whole world is screaming.

Sorry, I meant tweeting.


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