The Missing Link?

social-media-and-politics

There are few characteristics of the college experience that fascinate me more than the unintentional intersect between classroom topics. I have experienced this relationship before, and it allows for the examination of a singular idea at multiple levels, which in turn leads to the development of unique and open-minded viewpoints. I am currently enrolled in a course titled “Internet Cultures and Politics,” where we analyze the connection between political governance and the web, and the vast effects that the institutions have on each other. (We will return to the significance of this idea shortly)

A few weeks ago, our “American Political Thought” course engaged in a truly invigorating discussion over whether the presence of liberalism (individual independence) or civic republicanism (communal cooperation) would be more advantageous in governing a society. After hours of debate, significant claims were presented to defend each side of the argument, and though no true consensus was agreed upon, one central theme sparked my interest. It seemed that many individuals agreed on the fact that increased political efficacy from the general public would be beneficial, but it was simply not practical to assume that individuals would want to increase their sense of civic republicanism. This point was definitely understandable; with a whopping 318 million American inhabitants, the attempt to politically assemble such an incredibly high number of individuals seems to be an impossible feat, and even if assemblage was possible, it would still be problematic to ensure that all voices were heard.

Our authors of the week, Daniel Kemmis, Benjamin Barber and the “Students for a Democratic Society” all seemed to articulate the infinite benefits of a true civic-republican based society, yet many of the implementation techniques uncovered slight argumentative flaws. When Barber proclaims that “The remedy is not better leaders but better citizens; and we can become better citizens only if we reinvigorate the tradition of strong democracy that focuses on citizenship and civic competence,” it is tough to dispute with his logic, but the actual enactment of this “civic competence” is where the issue seems to occur (Barber 169).

So the question remains, how exactly can Americans increase their sense of civic republicanism?

Though a variety of responses to this inquiry may exist, one particular method seems to stand out above others, particularly in the 21st century. It is at this point that I may clarify my previous discussion on “classroom topic intersection.” An idea that was surprisingly not introduced in our classroom debate was the exceptionally dominant presence of the web in 21st century politics.

The internet ties into the concept of civic republicanism in a plethora of ways.  Never before in history have we had the ability to gather millions of individuals simultaneously onto a single platform. According to David Karpf, author of The Moveon Effect, “…the new media environment has enabled a surge in ‘organizing without organizations.’ We no longer need organizations to start a petition, create media content, or find like-minded individuals” (Karpf 3). It is possible that many of the pitfalls of civic republicanism can be remedied by the collaborative component of the worldwide web. Millions of political opinions, strategies, alterations and ideas can be revealed with the click of a button, which is a capability that our society has simply never experienced prior to recent years.

The implementation of civic republicanism through online platforms is not a new concept; a number of websites such as moveon.org, dailykos.com, and change.org have redirected the web to serve as a collaborative political platform, capable of assembling millions of Americans for participation. By taking part in online political organizations, individuals have the ability to gather, discuss, and take action in order to initiate positive reform.

While the web may not be the all-encompassing solution to political uncertainty, if utilized correctly and efficiently, it can certainly allow for increased advocacy and citizen-impact. With a smartphone in the pocket of nearly 61% of all Americans, mass political revolution can begin with the click of a button.

In terms of the societal adoption of civic republicanism, perhaps the internet is indeed the missing link.

Works Cited:

Karpf, David. The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political             Advocacy. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. Print.

Barber, Benjamin R., and Richard M. Battistoni. Education for Democracy: Citizenship,                 Community, Service: A Sourcebook for Students and Teachers. Dubuque, IA:                       Kendall/Hunt Pub., 1993. Print

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10 Responses to The Missing Link?

  1. wdaghist says:

    I think you are absolutely right. The internet and the social media in particular have recently played a very important role in politics. For example, the Egyptian revolution in 2010 started after a Facebook page was created , which 300 people had joined in after only two minutes of its creation. Three months later, around 250.000 people had joined the page. Also, there was only 1.5 million internet users in 2004, and it got to 13.6 million in 2008. This increase of the internet users in Egypt has led so many people to start discussing their issues, especially, when many of them are educated and not employed In fact, many people from many Arabic countries are also doing the same thing. They are now able to freely express their opinions and ideas by a click of button. For me, I think this is a very healthy phenomenon that will allow people to participate and to contribute in shaping their political matters.

  2. gchanneyla says:

    What and insightful post and I agree that the internet in this day in age is a powerful tool that helps create civic engagements. There are great discussions and movements sparked on the web/social media like never before. People are able to come together whether they have common opinions or not they are able to see both sides of the coin. With the right links and information at hand the possibilities of creating positive changes are endless and that is why the internet is such a powerful but a useful tool. Social media tends to have this bandwagon effect whether that is a good or bad thing that is up to you as the user to decide, but the point I’m trying to make is that it can be informative in the sense that you hear how others are being effected and what change(s) they would like to see. So I definitely believe that online political participation is a great stride towards citizens becoming politically aware.

  3. azucenagonzalez598 says:

    For politics to flourish, the participation of citizens is imperative. Bernard Crick, in his book In Defense of Politics, the seventh chapter emphasizes that politics only works when everyone participates. As you inquired: how to increase civic republicanism? I believe that the internet can be a great tool to get constituents well informed about topics and organize with different people from different places. However, in order to get them to the point of using the internet as a viable means, internal motivation must be aroused.

    A reason for action must be invoked before it can take place. For that to happen, a sense of responsibility for ourselves, our communities, and others is what I think to be lacking. Living in a society where individualism is heavily stressed, as well as the idea of meritocracy, it can be very easy to adopt a mentality in which helping others would mean promoting their laziness. Of course, there are some who are indeed lazy, but they do not constitute the majority. Ridding this thought process would enable us to make progress towards improving everyone, especially those in poverty, etc. since as my cross country coach used to say, “We are only as strong as our weakest link.”

  4. vincetrrs says:

    I like how you were able to bring forth the idea of using the internet. You were very right in pointing out the fact that all that information is available to us. It’s a fact that I think isnt recognized enough. People cite the lack of information as an excuse all the time, but in reality as you’ve pointed out, the information is already available to people with the ability to scan the net. I think taking part in online political organizations is an attractive option.

  5. pizza says:

    Awesome post and I am so glad you raised this topic. I also believe that the internet is the missing link to have more activity in political participation. However, like azucenagonzalez598 as stated prior, the people must be engaged for it to actually work and I couldn’t agree with that comment more. Unfortunately, I have attempted to utilize the internet, such as social media, to get my friends and family involved in politics. A couple of weeks ago I posted a link about how Doug Ducey wants to make a 75 million dollar budget cut to Arizona universities and how we ought to sign the petition to fight back and show the elites that we are not okay with this. I got only 4 likes for that post via Facebook, whereas I made a status about how my job is currently having a sale on shoes and that had more than 10 likes with comments. I made another post about how the FCC is going to make a crucial decision on the 26th of February in regards to our internet and how cable companies are trying to charge websites a special fee in order to get prioritization. All it required was to contact your congress person and the link did that for you. That post only received 3 likes. However, I did encourage someone to share it on their personal Facebook page which they did. So I supposed it depends on who your audience is. See, you and I know the power and potential the internet has but not everybody sees it that way. Some people prioritize sales more than the impact of their college tuition or what they’ll have to pay for their children’s college tuition unfortunately. I’m pretty optimistic the majority of the time which is why I keep posting those links but it sure is frustrating when people don’t see the urgency in which I am trying to make.

    So I would like to ask those who are interested to attempt to make the change I did these past couple of weeks and share the links I shared, such as the petition to stop Ducey from making those cuts and contacting our congressperson about the FCC and how Title ll will save the internet. Share them on all of your social media outlets! Its for a great cause!

    Petition to Stop Doug Ducey’s 75 Million Budget Cut on Arizona Universities:
    https://www.change.org/p/arizona-state-house-do-not-cut-our-state-universities?recruiter=82663355&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_facebook_responsive&utm_term=mob-xs-share_petition-custom_msg&utm_content=ci_fb_share_title_text%3Acontrol&fb_ref=Default

    Save The Internet:
    https://www.tumblr.com/everybodyontheinternet

  6. This is an interesting post to say the least with many factors that need to be discussed. Technology is way in which people can utilize education. It is at our fingertips everyday and yet, people do not capitalize on the opportunity. That being said, the question I have to ask is why? Why do we as citizens not take advantage of all the information? The voting percentage this past election was one of the lowest in history meaning that people continue to be politically uninformed. We have the internet, but still no results. Maybe, there is not a database of information that the average American can trust, maybe the education of people is lacking so they do not understand what they are reading, or maybe people do not care. There is not one answer as to why people do not vote and I see the point that you have raised regarding the internet, but more must be done and this technology is not the lone solution to the problems. There are pros and cons to the internet. The fact that people do not become engaged when net neutrality is being challenged troubles me. Does the average citizen even know this battle is happening now? If we do not press people to not allow cable companies to manipulate the system, this proposal you made might not even have the chance to take off. This is a complex issue that people may not be able to comprehend. How can we get people to understand just this one issue? There are many solutions that can be applied to achieve the knowledge necessary to understand this one topic, but there are so many problems that people need to know about. Developing a system that incorporates the internet to better educate people is necessary. Education starts when we are young and until we can teach students as children on how to utilize the internet, it is useless. We are living during a time in which people do not understand the capabilities technology possesses. We need to first invest in people before attempting to solve problems we cannot begin nail down.

  7. I was very glad to find someone else who finds connections between multiple classes in college. You bring up the question of how can we make democracy better and look towards the solution of better participation, and I have another class that specifically is discussing the question of how to get more citizens to participate in democracy called Voting in America. The class discusses various reasons why people do and do not vote, such as the question of whether or not it is logical to vote. We have discussed costs and benefits to voting to determine whether or not it is logical to do so. The class points out that it is illogical to vote because one vote against millions is not going to make a difference, but the class still searches for other reasons to vote. For example, one reason discussed in my class was because it is a social norm to vote. In other words, citizens may want to vote because they will feel social pressure from peers, if they do not. I think this other class that I’m in has shown me some different insights as to why people choose to vote, as well as what could get more people to vote in America. For example, it is shown that more people come out to vote in states that allow Election Day registration. Just one of many possibilities that could lead to greater voter turnout and political participation.

  8. katelynvrust says:

    I’m really happy to have stumbled upon this blog post because I so support this opinion – and because I, too, constantly see unintentional intersections between discussion topics across the classes and clubs I’m in at ASU. In this case, I can draw a really strong to comparison to the current events unit of model United Nations meetings.

    For instance, the most obvious and highly publicized example of a social media movement we’ve seen and talked about in the past few years started in Hong Kong, and had a ripple effect across the global community. Fueled by evidence of the truth of Tiananmen Square obtained from the Internet, and fostered in Facebook groups, under Twitter hashtags, and in photo sharing on Instagram, Snapchat, and Weibo, the student movement for universal suffrage in Hong Kong owes its international attention, acclaim, longevity, in enormous parts, to social media. As a city with high smartphone usage rates, “Hong Kong’s seven million people are super connected,” according to Zarina Banu in her Al Jazeera article “Hong Kong: At the Heart of Occupy Central.” “Thousands rallied thousands more to the protest site by deluging social media with images of police assaulting unarmed students.” With posts like this Instagram photo, for instance: http://www.scmp.com/sites/default/files/styles/980w/public/2014/10/30/josie_tao.jpg?itok=qUrJGVwX. In “The Role of Social Media in Occupy Protests: On the Ground and Around the World,” an article for the South China Morning Post, Danny Lee states that “the volume of photos being shared on Instagram got the … platform banned in mainland China.” Unfortunately, Beijing couldn’t keep #OccupyCentral photos off the Internet entirely. If anything, their elimination of Instagram in Hong Kong illuminated the government’s weaknesses – extreme brutality, lack of transparency, and fear of global condemnation, for instance – more than it managed to quell the revolution.

    The Russian government faces similar challenges in its attempts to censor feminist punk band Pussy Riot – another topic of interest to the model UN team. In 2012, three of its members were charged in a Moscow court to two years in prison for “’hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred’ in retaliation for a brief and spirited public disobedience in song targeted at the regime of President Vladimir Putin,” writes Tom Watson in his Forbes article “Why #PussyRiot is the Future of Civil Disobedience (and Not Just in Putin’s Russia).” This does little else but “clearly display the government’s naked fear of a networked world” – of a world where Pussy Riot’s “whimsical protest” could go viral on the Internet in a matter of hours, especially “in advance of Russia’s elections,” argues Watson. And this fear was not entirely unjustified. Though Pussy Riot hasn’t officially uploaded their own video of this particular protest, their other clips on YouTube have an average of more than 463,000 views. And posts of this video by third parties are easy to find. The first upload I found has more than 230,000 views: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtYw-d1CSxQ. As a result, pro-Pussy Riot campaigners protested outside Russian embassies in Europe and the United States shared photos of their efforts on Instagram; Amnesty International United Kingdom confirmed its support for such demonstrations on Twitter; and fans of former world chess champion Gary Kasparov drew attention to his arbitrary assault by Russian riot police at a related event in Moscow via Twitter, as delineated in Sarah McKenzie’s article “Pussy Riot Supporters Vent Anger on Twitter” for CNN.

    And Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook aren’t the only places one might find the “reinvigoration” of civic republicanism and political advocacy you call for. Warning messages on the home screen of Egyptian Grindr, for instance – in contrast to the actions of Occupy Central protesters and Pussy Riot supporters – offer an example of more subtle civil disobedience and self-efficacy. Following efforts of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime to increase arrests of accused LGBTQ Egyptians that included policemen posing as gay men on Grindr, a dating app specifically for homosexual dudes, its executives sent “a message to all Egyptian users … warning that police officers may be ‘posing as LGBT on social media to trap you,’” as described in the Buzzfeed article “Grindr Warns Egyptian Users as Six Accused of Homosexuality are Convicted Over Facebook Post,” written by J. Feder. This message can be seen in these screencaps: http://s3-ec.buzzfed.com/static/2014-09/25/15/enhanced/webdr07/grid-cell-14753-1411674805-13.jpg and http://s3-ec.buzzfed.com/static/2014-09/25/15/enhanced/webdr07/grid-cell-14753-1411674804-8.jpg. A few days later, according to Robert Noack in his Washington Post article “Could Using Gay Dating App Grindr Get You Arrested in Egypt?” the company issued a statement announcing “it had changed the settings for users logging in from Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Liberia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe” to automatically hide their locations and minimize their risk of prosecution for their homosexuality.

    And though you’re absolutely right in saying that Internet-based actions like these are not the “all-encompassing solution to political uncertainty,” their contribution to the civic principle of political efficacy – in individuals and in groups – is altogether undeniable. I so appreciate you pointing it out in this blog post!

    Works Cited
    Banu, Zarina. “Hong Kong: At the Heart of Occupy Central.” Al Jazeera, September 30,
    2014. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/09/hong-kong-at-heart-occupy-cent-2014930143736994194.html.

    Feder, J. Lester. “Grindr Warns Egyptian Users as Six Accused of Homosexuality are Convicted Over Facebook Post.” Buzzfeed, September 25, 2014. http://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/grindr-warns-egyptian-users-as-six-accused-of-homosexuality#.pxNB4lev66.

    Lee, Danny. “The Role of Social Media in Occupy Protests, on the Ground and Around the World.” South China Morning Post, October 30, 2014. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1628305/role-social-media-occupy-protests-ground-and-around-world.

    McKenzie, Sheena. “Pussy Riot Supporters Vent Anger on Twitter.” CNN, August 18, 2012. http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/17/world/pussy-riot-social-media/.

    Noack, Robert. “Could Using Gay Dating App Grindr Get You Arrested in Egypt?” The Washington Post, September 12, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/09/12/could-using-gay-dating-app-grindr-get-you-arrested-in-egypt/.

    Watson, Tom. “Why #PussyRiot is the Future of Civil Disobedience (and Not Just in Putin’s Russia.” Forbes, August 17, 2012. http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomwatson/2012/08/17/why-pussyriot-is-the-future-of-civil-disobedience-and-not-just-in-putins-russia/.

  9. dakotalarson says:

    Since I am not taking this class, I had to do a bit of research about civic republicanism; I had never heard about it until reading your post. I find the name interesting in of itself because most people talk about liberalism and conservatism or Democrats and Republicans, but not civic republicanism.

    I like the concept of civic republicanism because it focuses on not only individuals’ interests, but the greater good, and that it strongly believes in participating in politics. I think that the degree to which this is done will naturally differ, but that participation in politics is important. The degree to which this is done may differ but that each person should have an opinion on most things, and as creatures who are designed to have different opinions, I think this would happen if citizens were informed about what was going on and encouraged to express these opinions. What I mean by this is that we are always encouraged to not talk about politics because it is a touchy issue that seems to always turn into a heated debate.

    Therefore, I do very much think that the Internet, especially social media, is a very good possible way to increase their way of civic republicanism. Even through this blog, we are engaging in civic republicanism. I think that having the opportunity to express our feelings and beliefs on many different issues is great, along with the fact that we can do it with our own peers who have differing opinions from our own. By being exposed to these differing opinions, it allows us to be more informed and knowledgeable versus so one-sided. Furthermore, it challenges our own beliefs and makes us more well-rounded.

    Even with the large influence and accessibility of the Internet, I still think it primarily reaches only reaches those who care enough to participate. Therefore, as far as the civic competence portion that you mentioned, I think this should definitely start in school. However, I am not sure if this is being gone about the right way. For example, we could talk about the debate about the civics test high school students will need to pass in order to graduate. For such a partisan effort, I would venture to say that both sides are in the right. While it may be a test that relies heavily on memorization, it is sad when immigrants know more than we do. On the other hand, I think the hands-on learning is also important.

    My question to you would be, do you think we can put aside our individual political beliefs so that we may work together to think about how we may encourage political participation and competence?

  10. fern1007 says:

    You always have the most thoughtful posts, Nick! Your ability to see parallels between topics, or to see how one topic can be seen through different lenses speaks to your intelligence.
    As the classes resident grumpy libertarian it might come as a shock to some that I feel your displeasure with the apathy that leads to a lack of involvement. Seriously. Apathy drives me nuts. I want people to be involved in their communities, and I want to find what will be the most effective agent for change.
    The Internet is definitely a possible way to bring folks together to work for change, but these three topics kept popping into my mind as a read you post:
    Kony 2012
    Slacktivism,
    Ice bucket challenge

    These three ideas keep me from believing that the web can motivate people towards action, and it doesn’t even have to be political action. Facebook is filled with profile pictures that are intended to show solidarity was a cause: Gay Marriage, Gun Rights, Pro-life, Pro-Choice, etc. Facebook was in a tizzy over Kony 2012. People poured ice water over their heads… and for what?
    All of these examples, to me, are examples of slacktivism. The ability to make yourself feel like a real social activist without having to do much of anything.
    Change.org and solidarity pictures will never replace actual activism.
    However, the Internet is THE place to educate people. You may end up on an NSA watch list, and that’s not hyperbole, but people interested in actual activism can learn about ideas on the net. The recent rise in libertarianism is partly due to the massive amounts of great info online, and the somewhat nerdy, introverted nature of many libertarians.
    The Net can also be a powerful tool for people’s seeking to reform their governments. Think back to 2009 and the Green Revolution in Iran. Those folks made damn good use of the Internet. However, we, America- President Obama didn’t offer any support. Honk Kong, people involved in the Arab Spring all made great use of the net.
    Again, this shows that the Internet can be helpful to people who want to be involved. It is not the panacea to American apathy.

    It just comes down to going out there and volunteering for a candidate whose values your support, even if that candidate doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected. It comes down to volunteering in your community, being part of an organization that helps effect change in peoples lives. 🙂

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