New media is forcing politicians to engage (and the way we will do politics to change)

So the Oireachtas report on the Growth of Social Media and tackling Cyberbullying has gone for a sensible approach to the issue of the internet and cyberbullying. Karlin Lillington in the Irish Times contrasts a measured report with a sometimes hysterical reaction in parliament:

One of the more ludicrous sideshows in the online bullying debate surrounding the Oireachtas hearings and submissions and the consequent report, however, was the regularity with which politicians made the story all about them.

They too, were the victims of online bullying, these people stated. People out there were not nice to them – and could be downright rude and nasty – on various social media forums, blogs, Twitter and via direct emails.

Sound familiar? Lillington continues…

Go back beyond the age of television and you’d have been making stump speeches to an audience regularly loaded with anonymous hecklers and angry citizens. A shout from a crowd is as anonymous as an unsigned email or tweet.

And individuals should surely have chosen some less front-facing profession than politics if they are thin-skinned or overly concerned with constituency politeness. I mean, deriding politicians (and for that matter, journalists) is an age-old affair.

And finally…

…mails and tweets are as real and meaningful and valid a communication medium as the (once newfangled) fax and letter. The people writing care about issues and most often, are the citizens you represent.

Now, you have to hear from them and engage with them more directly and frequently than before. That’s called democracy. A more real one than the land of letters and faxes.

If politicians are now being forced by new media to engage like they once had to before radio and tv, then one of the first skills they will have to relearn is spontaneity… This in turn poses a challenge for party managers regarding the degree of freedom for individuals they are prepared to allow/enable

John Kellden suggests that such loosening will (eventually) entail a more intelligent and flexible leadership style and striving for a much higher degree of “shared understanding and shared purpose” both inside and outside the organisational machine.

, , ,

  • between the bridges

    Phil the Percolator has it down to a fine art…

    SINN Fein assembly member Phil Flanagan has been forced to apologise after sharing a sexually vulgar tweet about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on his Twitter page.,

    But this isn’t the first internet row that Mr Flanagan has been involved in. Just weeks ago, the Twittersphere was awash with comments following a posting he made on his Facebook page.
    “There may be 3G coverage in Fivemiletown, but Clabby’s still a black hole,” wrote the MLA.

  • Mick Fealty

    What’s missing there is situational leadership

  • John Ó Néill

    What is most frequently exposed is level of digital illiteracy of most politicians. Whether it was the contributions to the Oireachtas Committee or more generally, the certainty with which some public representatives have made pronouncements about social media and the internet seems inversely proportional to their technical knowledge or grasp of the realities.

    Notably, though, this probably has little impact as their intended audiences have probably similarly states of knowledge and awareness. Where it will have problematic outcomes is in the formation and application of policy – not very different to Cameron’s plans around access to internet pornography. However well meant it is, its clearly not a strategy informed by an awareness of how either the internet, IPs and geoblocking works and the level of digital competency of the average teenager. But, as with the #oirsocm debacles, it no doubt plays well with the voters.

  • Don’t wish to say much on the subject of cyberbullying but suffice to state. That in recent weeks, one particular constitutional republican wannabee has led a team of people to target me viciously through social meida sites Mick.

    To the extent of using the sudden death of my baby daughter back in 1991 to attack me online! Dispicable and unforgiveable but true. All in the name to raise their own political profile by slandering others.

  • cynic2

    Ardoyne Republican

    Thats dreadful. We are slowly house-training them but 15 years ago you would probably have been shot by now for lesse majestie and being a class traitor

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “To the extent of using the sudden death of my baby daughter back in 1991 to attack me online”

    Low, so very very low.
    My sympathies AR, that is one of the worst things I’ve ever heard.

  • AR,

    I agree that that is reprehensible. Their are depths that most people will not sink to but some people are willing to sink to. Totally disgusting. Best wishes in holding up to it.

  • Appreciate your kind words above a chairde. I enclose a link to my latest blog post outlining the facts behind the smear campaign against me….