The Internet and Politics

Politics was the name of the game in this week’s theory class, more specifically how politics intertwines with internet activities.

The discussion concerning social media and presidential campaigns were particularly interesting considering political campaigns have changed drastically because of the latest phenomenon. The net and social media is now a source of branding for political candidates which could either harm or enhance their campaign if they know how to use the tool correctly.

The first presidential candidate who effectively used the social media tool to enhance his campaign was President Barack Obama. In 2008, America witnessed Obama taking a different approach than most candidates had previously done; he made himself more accessible and transparent by doing things such as twitter chats and sending personal e-mails to his supporters. His campaign turned everyday people into engaged and empowered volunteers and advocates through social networks, e-mails, text messaging and online video.  He was able to reach people all across the board, and more importantly, he was able to motivate the youth to participate in the election.  The campaign’s proclivity to online participation was a major reason for his victory.

At the same time, internet and social media involvement could work against a candidate if he doesn’t use the tool properly or stay consistent. In this age of information, anything you say and do, even if it was a while back, can be resurrected and used against you. Therefore candidates have to be precise with the message they are sending. For example, we viewed two videos by McCain, one in which he was portrayed as a “true conservative” and one in which democratic politicians support him.  Obviously very contradictory, these videos were put on the web for many to see.  I’m not sure if this hurt his campaign in anyway, but I most certainly can’t see these videos helping.

Ordinary people’s participation in political campaigns has also changed. Social media opens up avenues for grassroots campaigning which definitely has the potential to affect the voter turnout. For example, we viewed a video made be a citizen. The video was a simple message to Obama as to why he supported McCain. The video was put on YouTube and ended about having 14 thousand views.  BBC named the video as the best campaign video.  Even though McCain didn’t win, the video demonstrates how people can become involved in campaigns. Thanks to the web, people can now become more involved than previous years.

With all that being said, the key thing to remember here is that internet changes the politics of a lot things.

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