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November 7, 2013 / Poooooooooonie

#9. Internet and Politics

(I can’t remember if politics or journalism came first, but the lecture notes say politics so I’m gonna go with this!)

ht_obama_reddits_cc_120829_wblogIt is often said that a main factor in Obama’s win in the 2008 presidential elections was the use of social media/social networking sites as a platform to promote his campaign. I think just that notion alone hints at how the Internet has fundamentally changed the way politics is carried out or handled.

With the internet, it is easier to reach your target audience. In Obama’s case, his campaign team used this to their advantage by approaching voters and garnering donations through the Internet. His team managed to rally grassroots workers and set fundraising records with donations from a large number of donors. Most of the users who are active online are young adults who, unfortunately, are seemingly rather apathetic toward such political affairs. By reaching out to them with a medium they’re most familiar with, their interests could be stirred and they could be easily persuaded to become supporters, even more so when other candidates hadn’t fully embraced campaigning online as Obama’s team had.

Another benefit of the Internet is that it is easier to distribute information as well as easier for voters/supporters to look for information they want. In the past, they would have had to write letters or call in using the telephone, both of which take time/require waiting. Furthermore letters are difficult to organise and it is unlikely for every single call to get through (especially if the line(s) is already being used), hence the candidate’s team might miss out on them and not get back to them at all. With the Internet, however, communication can be carried out easily through emails, which are also much easier to organise since they are all kept on virtual space. Furthermore, information about candidates can be easily found on their official websites (any potential biases within information presented not withstanding). Social media/networking sites also help enhance the interactive aspect between the candidate’s team and the public. Ultimately, these help make the exchange of information a lot easier and more convenient as compared to before.

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However, the presence of the Internet means that political figures now have to be constantly on the alert about how they behave or what they say. Rather than just maintaining appearances in public in the past, they now have to be mindful about their every move because eyewitnesses could easily take photos, videos, or audio recordings and upload it online. This would be especially detrimental if the actions or speech recorded was at odds with the general consensus or was wildly different from the candidate’s publicly proposed plan of action, and could cause people who were previously supporters to turn on them and switch teams to vote for their opponent(s) instead. While they could still be recorded on television in the past (such as political debates which would be televised on a national scale), the public back then did not have access to an area where they could rewatch/review the footage. Whereas with the Internet, footage can not only be replayed over and over but can even be spread on a global scale. What is said or done can never be undone.


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see what i mean about being watched

Regardless of whether the Internet has brought positive or negative effect to them, politicians should remember that the Internet is more or less here to stay, and they should at the very least be aware of its power and try to use it to their advantage, as Obama did.



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