Sinn Fein’s social media evolution has eroded its old mystique of ‘Leadership’

Exceptionally good piece by Fionnuala O’Connor in the Irish News yesterday. To summarise, she thinks despite it’s obvious successes with social media (Gerry Adams is the most influential politician in Ireland for example), that he and the party have been over communicating:

Sinn Fein is resilient, for good reason. Handling the fallout from atrocities over decades taught the fore-runners of today’s machine-minders. Rule number one is still to say whatever needs saying. Much as other parties but with the exceptional element that you expected to be disbelieved, indeed scorned.

Rule number two used to be then say no more. Today’s leaders abandoned that some time back, and as a result have talked themselves into various binds.

The Adams persona stood up well to early peace processing. Bearing, gravitas, withheld personality all contributed desirable seriousness, a touch of statesman to combat the scary IRA reputation, reassurance that whatever about bombs under roads and taped-up bodies in ditches, this person had leadership quality. These past few years leave that quality a touch shorn.

The frippery of social media in senior hands, the triviality of blogging, rubber ducks, teddy bears have arguably played into this shearing as much as the tragedy and ugliness of sexual abuse, the loss of credibility involved in denying IRA membership.

Indeed. All that ‘self hacking’ has led to some very embarassing (nay, inexplicable) moments.

Fionnuala also notes that what insiders and outsiders think about the Sinn Fein leader can diverge dramatically. Chris Dillow refers to something akin to this, which he calls the the false consensus effect, one of the down effects of which are:

It’ll cause us to under-estimate the benefits of cognitive diversity. If we believe that everyone thinks like us anyway, we’ll not invest in ensuring we get a plurality of perspectives and we’ll be overly inclined to trust hierarchical decision-making processes.

Quite. The evolution of Sinn Fein from a paramilitary based hierarchy into a modern democratic party will not be, as Dan O’Brien noted last week, an automatic process.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty