• December 3rd, 2020

Opinion - Social media: A political haven for e-campaigning

The abilities of political parties and political actors to sell and market their political programs online to the masses through digital media platforms are now becoming a norm in the political field. This is due to the fact that political supporters, sympathisers, members and followers are now reluctant to attend offline political gatherings, where various political leaders can explain and discuss their strategies and manipulative activities to attract more voters and followers. 

Lately, political parties have been receiving a declining number of voters during elections – be it local authority, presidential or national assembly elections. In actual fact, liberation movements around the world have seen a declining number of voters from the young and youthful population. Liberation movements still valued face-to-face campaigns, rallies and mobilisation over digital politics. This can be attributed to factors such as leaders’ trust and faith in online platforms; digital literacy; fear of the unknown; digital attack from the youth due to a failure of ruling parties’ implementation, and engagement of citizens in democratic processes. 

To entice the political field, digital politics is the way to go and we have to say thanks to the new media. The emerging digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as Short Messages (SMSes) are now playing a levelling goal in the field, as more political parties can reach to the masses anytime and within a short period. This can be done, by ensuring that the party has: a website; several social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn; created WhatsApp groups for different regions/branches or districts and a dedicated e-mail address. These can only be done if a party has a dedicated, trained, passionate and creative digital media political officer in their establishment responsible for facilitating digital political literacy programs and digital engagement sessions to sensitise their leaders, members and other stakeholders on the importance of digital engagement and e-diplomacy in the contemporary era. 

Social media created a platform that serves as political heaven for political activities. Though, this requires both leaders and electorates/voters to have access to a network or any digital gadget, the proliferation of mobile phones acquisition and usage made this possible. Majority of the citizens can now follow live-streamed discussions, rallies, campaigns, mobilisation gatherings on their mobile phones as long as they have internet and social media data. Additionally, the fact that network coverage is slowly improving and being expanded to different parts of the country, citizens can now listen and engage their political leaders digitally by asking them critical questions. On these virtual platforms, two-way communication traffic is created, whereby citizens can create the content, share it, ask questions, air their concerns and frustrations about a certain political party or leader or societal issue that can be dangerous to harmony and democratic process. At the same time, leaders can easily engage their citizens by providing feedback on the issues raised. In the process, there is less delayed feedback for citizens.

However, from the look of things, I have been accessing various social media pages for different political parties and associations in Namibia – and to my disappointment, there is less engagement than I expected. Some parties do not even have active social media pages or the pages they have been dormant, without engagement, mobilisation or sensitisation taking place. For others, even speeches, the constitution, manifestos and other publications are nowhere to be found. This is shocking, as we are not making use of these platforms as mobilisation tools and virtual political publics. These platforms should be used as recruitment tools, campaigning and mobilisation tools; feedback loops for parties and their members, as well as engagement homes and marketing tools for their political programs. What I have also seen is that electorates and leaders are involved in dirty campaigns of vilifications; political-grudges; regressive politics; bull-dozing or shaming one another. 

Digital politics may involve issues such as: a) political memes/cartoons: parties can create political memes aimed at disseminating messages and convincing citizens about their political programs and share them on various social media and other platforms such as e-mails, SMSes, Facebook, WhatsApp or LinkedIn. b) advocacy and mobilisation: these platforms can serve as tools to educate and politically manipulating their followers’ minds. c) posters: these can be circulated to thousands of users inside and outside the country through sharing capabilities of these platforms. d) Videos and audios: these are powerful tools, as party leaders can video/audio record a discussion or meeting with information that ought to be in the public domain and allow users to share it with their network. e) live-streamed events/chat groups or online forums.

Though digital platforms brought all these positive things in the field, there are unacceptable political activities/behaviours on social media that can deter the use of these platforms such as: a) Disinformation: purposely/deliberately spreading untruthful political news so that your opponent will be seen as irresponsible and not mature enough. Many of the messages or information shared on these platforms are purposely manipulated with the main aim of confusing or frustrate citizens so that they will not follow a certain political party or leader. I know for sure that, this is one of the oldest strategies used in the political arena, whereby political elders go on air and discredit another leader in a different party. b) Misinformation: this happens when some political leaders, members or generally a follower share or spread unverifiable news, but it was not their intention to do so. This can be as a result of being not well-informed with current affairs, tendency to be seen that you are the source of information; lack of attention to details; the poor cultural upbringing or copy-cat behaviour.  c) political evangelism: this is a situation whereby party leaders will be mobilising, campaigning – and overall, sell political programs that look favouring citizens, but in reality, they are promoting their hidden agendas. All they want is just followers that can be used as tools to achieve their ill-gotten political drives. d) political hallucination and e) political reactionary vs bullying. 

Staff Reporter
2020-07-10 09:09:19 | 4 months ago

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