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Politicians and The Information Age

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The new “weapon of choice”

The internet, or to be more exact, social media on the internet is now the weapon of choice for political control … saturation propaganda or the more subtle persuasions of individual messaging via subliminal texts are becoming the norm of political leafleting throughout Western countries …

Where once “speaker’s corners” told the interested public from soap-box or dais what the politician personally would try to deliver to his constituents, to an age of pamphleteering to jingles and television advertisements and now through Twitter, Instagram or Facebook accounts … and other well-used methods of connection – like Skype – social media has the capacity to deliver right up to a person’s eyes and ears that message sublime of political persuasion.

And if such and such a policy is yet not well enough explained to oneself, or there is doubt, there is the internet search that will deliver so much more information on any subject under the sun.

The adage of “I’ll just ask Mr. Google” has replaced that old boomer sarcasm of “Go look it up in the Funk ‘n’ Wagnalls” (from the US comedy Laugh In in the sixties).

I hear this very day that there have been several social media sites set up as fake union addresses so as to presumably undermine authentic union noticing and policy. Of course, false pamphleting is nothing new to politics … forged letterheads and fake policy is an old trick of electioneering … but now it has gone to a new level, helped along by a modern phenomenon of isolationism between citizen and citizen, with the most common communication tool used for interpersonal relations seemingly being the smart-phone … one’s “friends” need no longer be in the same suburb or state … they can be in another country yet as close as your digital allowance can afford …

Along with the technology to transplant a false or misconstrued statement right onto the lips of a manipulated high-tech video image of any political opponent, gives advantage to any who have access to such high-tech systems to manipulate political chicanery.

We, ourselves, whether we are aware of it or not, have grown with this new “weapon” to become more astute in our posting on blogs or Twitter … the restricted length of words that will be read or even absorbed by a passing reader persuades us to use brevity alongside alacrity to lure the reader to “stay awhile and browse” our message. Longer articles on serious political blogs demand an even more subtle allure to hold such whimsical readers on-page, on-subject … for just the slightest slip of language … of a loose word in the text will provide for that “aha!” moment and the reader will stop right there and proceed in haste to the comments section and rail incessantly against your “outrageous misrepresentation of …“ and you know you have lost the debate and the rest of the read to the modern self-righteous indignation of the culpable and guilty.

Heaven knows where such manipulations will end.

But with the slipping away of face-to-face communication, and the slippery wording of many posters manipulating conversations on blog or Twitter feed, the ability of many … particularly the younger, who are much, much too trustworthy of fake news and false intent of a twisted language, to turn the conversation to one’s advantage …
Again, we have this age of only two dimensional communication giving hope and promises to the … in many cases … gullible and naive … and going by examples seen on blogs and Twitter-stream … being too easily taken in a truth and wisdom.

This is where the use of social media will be perfected … in the art of persuasion … the ancient skills of the rhetorician may yet be resurrected by tech-savvy politicians to swing that small percentage of “no ideals/no ideas” swinging voters to their favour. After all, if millions of “views” can be gleaned by the most trite and childish presenters of the most silly and fatuous fashions or product gimmickry … then for the very astute political lobbyists … the likes of Crosby-Textor, they ought to be a pushover!

The time has arrived when any “self-respecting” terrorist group, in wanting to persuade, promote or claim ownership of their actions will make social media their first port of call. The hard-copy newspapers are well and truly finished; you can see the daily “remainder stack” there, unwanted even as a give-away at the check-out counter of the local store. Their influence and their reach is now minuscule. Their once revered journalists ridiculed and mocked in Tweet and blog … Instant news, instant views are now at the point of a click away, and with transport to and from so many casual work-sites taking so much time, the main object held for entertainment is the smart-phone …

So … C’mon internet! … tell me: What’s happening today?

Truly has Cicero lost his relevance.

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  1. king1394

    Social media manipulation can only go so far. It does not change minds but it may reinforce certain opinions and make them seem acceptable and even common. However, I find this constant insistence that Joe/Josephine Public are manipulated so they no longer know the truth is a major exaggeration. There may be some segments of the public who are naïve in the face of the much broader availability of information (apparently my generation is more significant in the spreading of ‘fake’ news than younger people but this is a perfect example of naivety in less skilled individuals with narrower minds.)

    Back in the ‘good old days’ people could insulate themselves from too much information from competing sources and we still see this. People who read the Telegraph vs the Sydney Morning Herald or The Australian often develop a certain mindset, or they choose one of those papers because they are comfortable with the views expressed. Phillip Knighley’s book ‘The First Casualty: the War Correspondent as Hero and Mythmaker…’ referring to the saying ‘the first casualty when War comes is the Truth’ documents many examples of falsehood in official communications and respected newspapers back to the end of the 1800s. Most people also know that photos and films can be adjusted – many individuals have played with Photoshop and done this themselves.

    I think it is interesting however that particular images get repeated again and again. You rarely see a flattering photo of Pauline Hansen for example. The photo of Mark Latham looming over John Howard in that handshake is an example that has been used on the AIMN pages quite recently to illustrate what a bully Latham is – forgetting that the shot was captured when the two men almost collided in a doorway and Latham thought he should shake Howard’s hand – an instant that has been interpreted as aggression thousands of times.

    The value of social media is that opinions are being expressed by all sections of the community, including those we don’t like much. This is good because we can no longer pretend that we are not a country of racists for example, and awareness cuts both ways. The racists also have to recognise their views are not accepted everywhere.

    I think the attack on social media is an attempt to shut down and reduce many voices. You mention the speaker on the soapbox in times past, and I can remember as a child wondering about them as my mother hurried past muttering. Now I can stop and listen, think about what is said, analyse it, accept or reject it, and pass it on. If I have misunderstood or spread fake news, someone will call me out on it soon enough.

  2. Joseph Carli

    The integral part that is missing these days…in my opinion…is the face-to-face conversation one would have in street or pub or workplace, where one could make judgement using 3 dimensional visuals and hearing…the body-language could be read and placed alongside the spoken word at the same moment…the eyes could be looked into and noticed if there was any weakness or doubt there…the quaver in the voice…etc….these things could not be rehearsed impromptu…but ina digital future….they certainly will be…or else photo-shopped if a fault is found.

  3. Shaun Newman

    Joe, that nail is getting tired of you hitting it on the head mate.

  4. Bronte ALLAN

    Great article Joseph! I am an avid newspaper reader from when I was a young lad. I also worked in the Newspaper industry for almost 20 years. I do not like the way bloody Mudrake (who is not even a citizen of this country!) & all his rags around the country are always promoting the right wing lies etc, & also the way they are always denigrating anything to do with the Labor Party & Unions. However I still read papers every day, & will continue to do so for as long as they are printed. I do not want to “only” have electronic versions of any newspapers, I much prefer to hold & read every page (if I want to) than to try & read the small print etc on a screen!

  5. Joseph Carli

    Interesting you should say that, Bronte….I have quite a few salvaged newspapers from the fifties that I rescued from under old lino in a reno or two….as a matter of fact I used a notification in the miscellaneous colums of one to write a story from it…: I peruse these old newspapers for the tiniest adverts and notices in the Courts , divorce/public notices, and as I just mentioned…the miscellaneous columns….But I am afraid we may be a dying breed…the mood as I see it these days is more for style and less for substance.

    Shaun….I have struck my own nail more than once in mistake in publishing contentious pieces it would seem!

  6. David Bruce

    It is impossible to read “body language” of the other party on social media! As you say Joseph, face to face conversation, even on Skype, is better. You can turn off the TV so you can set your own moods for the day without prompting from Mr Murdoch and his editors.

    I wonder how long it will be before we have realistic synthetic humans to provide the twitches and sincerity eye movements to support the spoken message on social media?

  7. Joseph Carli

    ” I wonder how long it will be before we have realistic synthetic humans to provide the twitches and sincerity eye movements to support the spoken message on social media?”

    On that subject..we’ll have to refer to Miriam English for her knowledge on AI. technology…

  8. paul walter

    Coincides with what I watched only this afternoon with the ABC Drum conducting yet another falsely worded attack on social media as “unreliable”. As the man said, if you are going to fib, make sure it is a whopper.

    The whole thing with social media has been orchestrated and the Guardian is another example of even relatively better media or press attacking social media rather than lifting their own games.

    What they really hate about social media is that it gives followers a chance to compare various sources and decide for themselves what the likely truth of a given issue is and do not like the resulting loss of credibility when they are caught out as regards inaccurate, misleading or tendentious coverage.

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