Sunday, 3 January 2010

Social media can't win an election for anyone - get out and knock on doors!


They’re at it again swallowing the “social media are changing political campaigning” line put out by the blogosphere’s elite. Today Toby Helm in the Observer is peddling this line:

"Election 2010 will show how much the world has changed – and how susceptible election outcomes now are to the unpredictability of events online."

Just let’s be clear, Mr. Helm presents no evidence to support this contention – I’m not a fully fledged psephological anorak but I’m pretty sure there isn’t any evidence of election outcomes being shaped by “events online”. In fact, those last two words are significant and are why Toby Helm and the blogocrats are wrong – events don’t happen on-line, they happen in the real world.

The second reason why Toby Helm and the others frothing out social media cant are wrong, rests with the very selectivity of new media and with the fact that, as I wrote a while back, the electorate are mostly idiots (in the original Greek sense) and I even described them:

"Round here they’re probably in their thirties or forties, employed at a middle management level in business and industry. They worry about how well their kids do at school, they concern themselves with making their family safe, they grumble a bit about paying taxes but have enough cash afterwards for it not to really matter. Such folk are ordinary, hard-working and inherently conservative. But they also see little or no link between the act of voting in a politician from one party or another and the significant things in their lives."

What these folk aren’t doing is reading political blogs, watching Gordon or Dave’s podcasts or YouTube videos or doing anything other than being irritated by politics gatecrashing their gentle Facebook or Twitter entertainment. These people probably won’t be watching the “Great Leaders Debate” – preferring instead whatever else the multitude of channels has dished up for them that day (or maybe a DVD or a computer game). These are good people who understand that life isn’t all about shouty demands for change, who find politicians a little bit sad (if they don’t actively despise them) and really would rather Government bothered more about good services than social engineering.

I like these people but would rather talk with them about football, music, last night's telly, where they’re going on their holidays, the new car…almost any bloody thing but politics. Toby, the next election won’t be won or lost on-line – at best social media will swing a few votes, at worst it will represent a further dumbing down of politics and a greater distance between the politically engaged and the normal man in the street.

Get out and knock on doors!


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