Connect with us

Politics

What would politics look like without Twitter?

Published

 on

 

Twitter seems to be in a slow-motion collapse. New owner Elon Musk has already laid off half the company’s staff and even more resignations hit Thursday in response to Musk’s ultimatum that workers must pledge to be “extremely hardcore” in their work ethic going forward.

It’s not entirely clear who is left at Twitter to, you know, run the social media site.

All of which raises a very interesting question: What would politics – and political journalism – look like if Twitter disappeared?

Genius Dog 336 x 280 - Animated

Short answer: Very, very different.

My own experience with Twitter is instructive. I first used the site at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. I worked at the Washington Post at the time and we were looking for ways to offer live commentary on the speeches being given at the DNC. Although the service was still in its infancy, plenty of people were on it – and live-tweeting the speeches gave me a way to interact immediately with other people who were also watching.

It was, to be honest, a bit of a revelation. And it was fun.

Twitter – and how I use it – has changed a whole lot in the intervening decade and a half. The fun aspect of the site has been significantly reduced as each tweet has the potential to inflame some corner of the Twitterverse, and send your day spiraling in a bad direction. But, the service that Twitter provides to someone like me is also invaluable. I follow thousands of reporters and sources on Twitter; my feed keeps me apprised of the latest news better than anything else that’s out there.

Think of last week’s election. Twitter helped me stay abreast of which races had been called (and why other races hadn’t been called). Twitter users provided vote counts from critical counties. Candidates conceded and celebrated on Twitter. It was, in a word, indispensable.

Need more proof of the centrality of Twitter to the political dialogue? Go back to the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Already famous for his reality TV successes, Trump used Twitter like no politician before him had. Rather than posting quotidian statements via tweet – like most politicians at the time – Trump used the service as his own private diary. He raged. He joked. He mocked. He drove news cycle after news cycle with tweets.

“Without the tweets, I wouldn’t be here . . . I have over 100 million followers between Facebook, Twitter (and) Instagram,” Trump told the Financial Times in 2017. “Over 100 million. I don’t have to go to the fake media.”

As The New York Times wrote in 2019:

“When Mr. Trump entered office, Twitter was a political tool that had helped get him elected and a digital howitzer that he relished firing. In the years since, he has fully integrated Twitter into the very fabric of his administration, reshaping the nature of the presidency and presidential power.”

The banning of Trump from Twitter – in the wake of the January 6, 2021, attack at the US Capitol – was (and is) seen as a major moment in the course of his political career, robbing him of the megaphone that he used to such great effect during his rise. So important was Twitter to Trump that he created a copycat website – TruthSocial – designed to mimic Twitter.

Now, it’s important to note here that Twitter use is far from ubiquitous. Less than one in four people (23%) say they use Twitter – far below the usage rates for YouTube (81%), Facebook (69%) and Instagram (40%). And, even among the group that does use Twitter, a small subset drives the vast majority of the conversation. This, from Pew, is instructive: “The top 25% of users by tweet volume produce 97% of all tweets, while the bottom 75% of users produce just 3%, according to an analysis conducted over a three-month period in 2021.”

But, in the political world, Twitter usage is far, far higher. You can count on a single hand how many prominent politicians and/or prominent journalists don’t have a Twitter account. It functions now as a sort of universal message board for politics – every one is on there and, therefore, all sorts of news is made there.

If all that goes away – and things certainly don’t look good at Twitter at the moment – it would be a major blow for how the political world does business. Might something rise to replace it? Of course – that’s the way of the world. But, it would leave a gaping void.

Source link

News

Ministers decline request to testify on Afghan aid blockade as desperation grows

Published

 on

Three Liberal ministers have declined invitations to testify in the Senate as the upper chamber probes why Canada still won’t allow humanitarian workers to help in Afghanistan.

Aid groups say Ottawa has told them that paying people in Afghanistan or buying goods there could lead them to be prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws.

Many of Canada’s allies have found carveouts so that aid workers don’t get charged with supporting the governing Taliban, which is designated as a terrorist group.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has no explanation for why Canada hasn’t fixed the issue.

Genius Dog 336 x 280 - Animated

The Senate’s human-rights committee will launch hearings into the issue on Monday and invited three ministers to attend, but all of them said they had prior commitments at the time of the planned meetings.

The United Nations says six million Afghans are now categorized as being at risk of famine, while another fourteen million are in critical need of food.

Continue Reading

Politics

When politics wasn’t a team sport

Published

 on

It has all been downhill in America since the first six presidents. Western civilisation was never the same after ancient wisdom gave way to the sentimental Gospel. Roosevelt should have stayed out of that damn fool war in Europe and the Pacific. People are breeding too much. The state must stop them.

I like Gore Vidal so much that I involuntarily smile when I see the spine of his essay collection, United States, in my bookcase. Even before his dotty late phase, though, he was a reactionary kind of liberal. If his 1968 debates with the conservative William Buckley Jr still grip us, it is because of the two men’s underlying oneness, not the superficial Democrat vs Republican framing.

Best of Enemies, James Graham’s otherwise fine play about the duel of the drawlers, might have made more of this. I fear much of the audience leaves with the sweet notion in their heads that Vidal would today have been a woke ally. The play wants to suggest that his showdown with Buckley was a trailer for the culture wars, the partisan spite, of now. I have come around to the opposite view.

The debates marked the end of something good, not the start of something bad. It was the last time being politically hard-to-place was normal.

Genius Dog 336 x 280 - Animated

Put it this way. If you tell me what you think about, say, the return of the Benin bronzes, I can infer with some confidence your views on public spending, the EU, rail strikes, immigration, working from home, climate change, Meghan Markle and much else. Nothing connects these subjects. It should be possible to be a small-government Remainer who thinks imperial loot is better off in western museums and who loses sleep to visions of a burning planet. But such a person would stand out now. To take a more concentrated example, lots of people should be anti-lockdown and pro-vaccine mandate. How many do you know?

I have aired Ganesh’s First Law of Politics before, but allow me a recapitulation. People do not work out their beliefs and then join the corresponding tribe. They join a tribe and infer their beliefs from it. The sense of belonging, the group membership, is what hooks people, not the thrill of being right or pursuing a thought on its own terms. Politics has become a team sport, goes the line on this. But even that is too kind. Sports fans are sardonic and irreverent about their own team. It isn’t so central to their identity as to require consistent adherence.

We have lost all sense of how weird it is to seek connection with others through politics. And how new. Watching Buckley and Vidal is a reminder of a less needy age. The former had his own credentials as an apostate of the right: his loose line on marijuana, his Catholicism, his Spanish-speaking intellectualism. Nor was the audience at the time much easier to place. Millions of whites were pro-New Deal and anti-Civil Rights in a way that stumps modern notions of “progressive” and “conservative”.

Noting the change since then is simple enough work. Accounting for it is trickier. One theory suggests itself. The rise of politico-cultural blocs more or less tracks the decline of church membership, trade unions and marriages that go the distance. An atomised population began to cast around for other kinds of belonging, didn’t it?

The mid-20th century voter was heterodox, yes, but heterodox in the way that someone with strong roots could afford to be. With such a firm social anchor, there was less need to seek emotional security in a political tribe. As I’ve used two metaphors for the same thing there, let us keep them coming. A rudder, a bedrock, a cornerstone, a north star: people used to find these things in their personal relationships. In their church, family, factory or town. As modernity scrambled those things, mostly for the good, the need to subsume oneself into a group was going to have to be met some other way.

That turned out to be politics. We live with the wicked results all the time now. The perverse consequences of ostensibly desirable change: Buckley would call this a conservative insight. And I, though a Vidalist, always thought he won those debates.

Email Janan at janan.ganesh@ft.com

Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

Can coal be a pivot toward ‘normal politics’ in Alberta?

Published

 on

“Normal Politics”: I encouraged my students to embrace and practice this type of politics. Bernard Crick, a British political theorist, imagined this concept decades ago. He believed healthy democratic politics demanded empathy for your political opponents and searching for policies able to reconcile or bridge competing positions. At its best, normal politics is about finding or creating and implementing consensus. It invites political opponents to recognize they have some shared values and to work together to realize them. 

Sadly, normal politics rarely characterizes politics in today’s democracies. Its antithesis is too common in political debate. In Alberta recently, the executive director of Take Back Alberta, an interest group that helped propel Danielle Smith into the premier’s office, accused the New Democratic Party of promoting a “toxic and disease-ridden ideology.” Such extremism slams the door on Crick’s hopeful view of politics.   

With the legislature back in session, I don’t expect to see a lot of normal politics on display. But, in her recent television address, Premier Danielle Smith told Albertans she “must be humble, listen and continue to learn from you.” Alberta’s coal debate issue gives her an exceptional opportunity to back that commitment up with meaningful action.   

Coal has been one of Alberta’s most contentious issues over the past several years. It’s an issue where a consensus exists, a consensus that could be strengthened. As hard as it may be for some residents of the Crowsnest Pass to accept, most Albertans don’t believe coal mining should have a future anywhere in the Rockies and foothills of Alberta’s Eastern Slopes. Impressive majorities of Albertans have said as much in public opinion polls, the Grassy Mountain coal mine hearings and the Coal Policy Committee consultations.  

Genius Dog 336 x 280 - Animated

Smith’s government should listen to and implement this consensus. In this legislative session, the premier should introduce legislation guaranteeing that coal mining proposals in our southern Rockies and foothills cannot be revived.  

But I think Crick would want the premier to go one step further. I think he would invite her to try to broaden the consensus, to try to bridge the gulf between coal mining opponents and supporters. Identify positions those camps share; build on them. Community prosperity in southwest Alberta is an obvious candidate here.  

So far Alberta’s debate about coal has offered thin gruel when it comes to what economic future could be built in southern Alberta without coal mining. The UCP and NDP alike must pay serious attention to nurturing in the southwest the range of economic activities central to Alberta’s developing post-industrial society.  

What does this perspective recommend? Begin to craft a regional development strategy. Several paths lead in this direction. One would be to establish a Southern Alberta Sustainable Economic Opportunities Forum. Invite leaders from Alberta academia, business, the federal government, First Nations, labour and municipalities to join it. Task them with thinking about how, without coal, healthy and prosperous livelihoods may be delivered to the people of southwest Alberta. Or, strike an all-party legislative committee, chaired jointly by the UCP and NDP, to do something similar. If this venture bears fruit, it could be replicated for other regions in Alberta.  

Coal offers Smith the opportunity to pivot toward normal politics and show her commitment to listening to Albertans is genuine. Coal has opened the door to privileging conciliation in politics. If the premier goes through that door, she may be able to deliver what all sides of Alberta’s coal debate seek: good, healthy livelihoods for the people of southern Alberta.  

Ian Urquhart is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alberta. 

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending