Monday, 2 December 2013

SNIPPETS #6 Social Media or social Contagion?

#6                                                                                                                                   3 Decembis 2013 
SNIPPETS is published in the Public Interest. No actions should be inferred or implied. The opinions expressed remain those of the author alone. 
by Jegar Sahad-Uthur
BBC World Service 'World Have Your Say' 4am Tuisday 3rd Decembis 2013 (60 minute open forum):
"Today's question: is the world getting angrier? Is there an impatience with democracy?"

Thai expert: "Thai Prime minister Taksin was elected ten years ago as a populist. He was very popular in the rural areas but hated in the Capital, Bangkok. He built a solid base of support in the rural areas but was then toppled in a 2006 military coup. The military installed a new government representing the interests of the Capital, not the entire country. When protests against this government took place, by Taksin's so-called Red Shirts, the military crushed them. Many died. In 2011 his sister won election as Prime Minister, mainly through promising to fulfil all his previous policies. This set her at logger-heads with the military and the Capital's ruling elite. She recently tried to introduce an 'amnesty' bill to allow  Taksin to return home from exile. The Army organised is triggered pro-military demonstrations who now occupy Police HQ and some government ministries. They are calling for the elected government to 'resign'".

Egyptian expert: "for its entire life the Republic has only been ruled by the military, till popular protests broke out during the 2010 Arab Spring. The military killed hundreds but then quit power under pressure from the US. In democratic elections that followed Muslim Brotherhood candidate Morsi got 70% of the vote. In Parliamentary elections soon after MB received even more votes, this time 80%. Within a year pro-military protests began, calling for the toppling of Morsi's government. After months of conflict Morsi was arrested and his Parliament dissolved. There followed much bloodshed. But now pro-Morsi rallies are attacked, his people gaoled and his people killed. Yet pro-military groups hail this as 'democratic'. Why? As one told the BBC: 'We get so many people along to our rallies'. To which an expert replied: 'But so did Morsi!'

Ukrainian expert: "Demonstrators are calling for the overthrown of the elected pro-Russian government for its refusal last week to sign a treaty joining Ukraine to the European Union trade bloc. Ukraine's President had agreed to, but at the last moment backed down under 'pressure' from Russia. Russia's President Putin says the anti-government protests are not 'popular' but done by 'outside manipulators' ".

Omar, from Occupy Oakland [USA]: "The Occupy Movement died after one year, no really after the first one-to-two months. There remains a core 'cadre' of political activists I can activate at very short notice but the large numbers are no longer there. What began small view social media grew large very rapidly. People saw there was this energy and wanted to be part of it. But when nothing happened after a month they faded away. It all fizzled out and left nothing behind. People began to count the cost of police oppression: the fines, the arrests, the losing jobs and homes. It was too much for most people'.
Compere: 'Some say Occupy was too middle class. People who didn't particularly like big banks but who still nipped out for coffee at Starbucks'.

Compere: "its been alleged that social media is doctored so people are not seeing real protests. Any comments?' USA: 'yes, there were photo-shops of Hurricane Sandy's effects on NYC that were from other places'. Egypt: 'yes, some political patters here manufacture fake massacres allegedly from Syria'.   Thai: 'yes, the military are re-using footage of their 2010 massacre of pro-Taksin Redshirts. They have repackaged these as 'attacks by the current pro-Taksin government on pro-military demonstrators'.

Question: "Does social media bring more people out onto the streets? Is it a tool or an instigator?"
Olga from Oxford: "I've been conducting a survey of the Ukrainian protestors for the past week. We found many who followed the protests on Facebook thought of themselves as fellow 'activists' simply because they clicked 'like' on a photo or story or ticked 'yes' to an online petition. It didn't motivate them to actually go out and DO anything".

Turkish expert: "yet the social media element to anti-government protests in Turkey in early 2013 spooked the ruling AK party they just announced they've hired 6,000 online professionals to 'manage their image' for upcoming elections".

Compere: "we're living in a post-Cold War era, a post-Old Regime era(?). There's a lot of uncertainty. Those demanding the toppling of elected governments usually call this 'democracy' but many are in fact anti-democratic. Social media disguises this and can easily become social contagion".

Thai expert: "yes, we've found social media in Thailand very clearly divided into pro- and anti-government camps. The majority have to navigate this minefield of rival opinions to find the truth".

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