Tuesday, 2 August 2016
Is social media making politics more toxic?
Political discourse has always has always had it's cruel side and looking at political cartoons over the ages shows how nasty this can be. However for the vast majority of people politics has been confined to the dimly lit corners of the pub after a few sherbets. Yes of course there were mobs rampaging over this and that, but for the most part ordinary folk did little except vote in recent times until the advent of the internet.
Much of the political debate that I read in my younger days was the sectarian texts published in various left-wing newspapers about how their rivals were anything from ultra-left through revisionism or were right-wing sellouts. And there was that word that stuck in my young mind "Pabloite, much used by the followers of Gerry Healy and the acolytes of Pierre Lambert though access to the latter was limited by my continuing inability (and indolence) towards learning another language, French in this case.
The point is that other than public schoolboy exchanges in the House of Commons or on TV programmes such as Question Time, access to political debate was somewhat limited. That's why the far left always needed it's papers to sell to the working classes. And of course to enforce their own groups particular line.
The days of Workers Press, Socialist Challenge and the News Line are long gone. Now it's all on line and instant.
The difference between publishing in print and on-line is indeed down to instant gratification for the "writer". Little time to think, just react no matter how hurtful and unconsidered the comment. Of course one still has to be weary of "libel" laws, which are much mis-used by the like of George Galloway and others, particularly the lawyers out to make a buck.
But most people don't resort to the law they just argue bitterly, get angry, upset and most of all entrenched. The nuances of the exchange of ideas are lost in the moment. Minds are blinked and frankly everyone, myself included is guilty of this at one time or another.
The debate over the future of the Labour Party is a clear example of how the use of social media has got out of hand. Insults, bullying, threatening, toxic just about sums it all up.
Social media has it's uses and it is actually possible to be on different sides without being rude or aggressive as I discovered after making contact with an old school friend on Facebook who happened to support Corbyn.
But other experiences in places like the PCS members forum and The Labour Party Forum, neither of which I am in any more was so different. There are those who think it's their right to shout you down when they don't agree.
Can politics become decent again....if it ever was?
Somehow looking at Twitter there seems little hope.