Sunday 25 September 2016
“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” – Malcom X.
Facebook makes you dive into humanity, hear things you do not want to hear, and defend what you have to say. It is for those with opinions or for those without the courage to share them. And fence sitters of course. It attracts the reasoned the unreasoned the civil and the uncivil. The biased and the unbiased. It is for people with ideas and sadly those without any. It whispers or shouts dissent. But mostly it’s a society of our own creation.
It is a medium that has the unique forum for introducing strangers by preference of choice, appreciation of character, acceptance by consent, and mutuality. It is rare to witness impersonal contact in society, and to be given the ability to employ friendship that is informal and mutually acceptable is rare.
I am by nature inquisitive although spontaneous introduction is not a problem. I find that Facebook provides an invaluable introduction to people from all around the world that I probably would never have achieved in normal circumstances.
The impact of the mass media that has evolved since the birth of the internet cannot be ignored, informing, forming and misinforming political opinion of the masses.
In essence public opinion is created by mass communication media and, as a result of it, most people delegate their own vision of the political reality to what the mass media imposes on them.
We are not thinking, mass media thinks for us. We are not what we think; we are what they think we are. Two years ago the Australian government threatened its public servants with disciplinary measures including dismissals if they made comments or if they expressed political opinion on social media. The government was prepared to spend more than $42 million to control social media and investigate cases where political opinion was adverse. This was at the time a clear invasion of privacy and a restriction of freedom of speech. I remember saying then that the government could save that money by asking for my phone number straight away.
Social Media and Participation
“One of the most relevant characteristics of social media is the direct and instant participation of users in the political, social and economic reality. Users are exercising real power by interacting through online comments, blogs and the publication of articles on independent websites and blogs. The online participation of common citizens in the social and political issues, balance or to some extent neutralise the power of the old means of mass communication, because citizens are now not passive spectators of the reality but part of it. Citizens did not have the right to exercise their power by expressing their opinion on social issues in old media. On the contrary they were selectively ignored by mass media”. Opinion has triumphed, the populace can now express a view on anything and everything in real-time.
No wonder Abbott wanted to destroy it. People today extensively are losing faith in the old media because they can test reality by their own means online. People are becoming part of reality rather than mere viewers.
Social Media and Hope
There are many hopes and fears surrounding the “virtual” democracy in the emerging of the Internet Age.
“Much debate revolves around whether the distinctive structure and interactive format of the internet will provide a genuinely new form of political mobilization, enticing the dissent into public life, producing a more egalitarian democracy, or whether its primary function will be to reinforce those who are already most active through conventional channels like social organizations, community groups and parties”. One of the benefits, or hopes, of public participation in social media is that it might create a more authentic democracy as people can express their political views in a direct way and make it public.
One of the pitfalls however is that it has emboldened the feral right of our community and anyone who has experienced their wrath can attest to their vileness.
It has given voice to the extreme right, people like Bernardi who use social media to exploit and mould public opinion. Those who wouldn’t have warranted a by-line in old media now find their unsavoury views saturated on social media.
It is of course not unfavourable to the left. People like ‘’Getup’’ have an enormous following. One which Cory Bernardi is desperately trying to replicate.
Into the future Social Media will play a greater part in how political news is disseminated and it will be in their own self-interest for Facebook, Twitter and others to service them.
How it will affect our Democracy is not yet known. We can only hope that fairness and truth will prevail.
Mt thought for the day.
“It is far better to form your own independent opinions relative to your life experience and reason, than to allow yourself to be blindly led by others”.
PS: My next post in this series – ‘The shock jocks’.
Day to Day Politics: When did it all go wrong? Part two – Newspapers.