Conservatives in the U.S. are busy preaching as to how to harness new media to their benefit. By doing so, they hope to successfully reproduce Barack Obama’s online success and real-life political victory.
It is undeniably true that the RNC and the entire Republican Party got completely outclassed by the left in the last election cycle, with the possible exception of the paleo-conservative right of Ron Paul followers, who did fairly well online even if they weren’t completely successful in getting their message across. But in the mad desperate rush to new media, caution can be thrown to the wind with problematic consequences. There is a lack of control and understanding of the dangers and benefits of social media for all who embark on that road.
One such tale of warning comes to us from across the pond, here in the UK, at the expense of David Cameron’s poll-slipping Conservative Party.
Cameron and his crew did quite a bit to push youth to the front during his leadership. In fact, in one constituency, the Conservative Party has named a 19-year-old as their candidate in a seat that should swing to the party. In the last few days they are discovering that one has to be careful who one promotes, whatever their age. This is even more so the case with the advent of social media and the thinning line between one’s public and private identities.
The scandal occurred when leading Conservative Future member and former Conservative Future chairman for Staffordshire, Matt Lewis, went to a rather twisted costume party dressed as the missing toddler Madeline McCann. Some of his friends dressed as “true crime” victims, including the tragically killed Baby P. These young adults obviously demonstrated bad taste in the selection of their costumes for the party.
However, no one would have probably found out if it hadn’t been for Mr Lewis’ next stupid action. He proceeded to broadcast what he had done on Facebook and chatted with several friends, including other members of Conservative Future, on the “wall” of his Facebook page, which permanently records the nature of the conversation for all to see. This is different fro instant message systems, where the remarks are not recorded automatically nor “broadcast” to anyone who wishes to see it outside the conversation.
The unfortunate thing for the party leader, Mr. Cameron, is that there are numerous pictures available of Mr. Lewis grinning next to Cameron. He is even seen wearing a Conservative rosette on his shirt, lest their being any doubt he is a supporter.
A spokesman for the five-year-old’s parents said Matthew Lewis had been “offensive almost beyond belief” in making fun of their agony. Leading Conservative site Tory Bear has called the actions “sick” and said the following of Lewis: “Have these people lost their minds as well as developed abysmal poor taste? If he hadn’t already quit, Tory Bear would be calling for resignations over this. The Conservative Party has no room for this sort of appalling behavior and warped individuals.” It comes as no surprise that Lewis has been kicked out of the Conservative Future.
We all would like to think that no member of an organization we are a member of could possibly be this idiotic or foolish. However, with the advent of impulsivity-promoting new media accessories like Twitter, where your 130 words are sent to your followers instantly, there can be great pratfalls.
No one is immune from saying or even doing stupid things. However, anyone wishing to have a political career or be involved in politics has to be aware that new media and social networking can be a truly double-edged sword. It only takes a moment to make a fool of yourself, nationwide or even worldwide. It takes months or years, however, to eradicate a dire mistake. While there have been minor incidents involving blogs and social networks, this level of major scandal has not hit the right in the U.S. yet.
One wonders if those so keen on new media will pay attention to those in the know and take care when dealing with this sort of technology. There are those who are monitoring everything that happens on the right online, ready and waiting for this sort of scandal to erupt. And when it does, expect it to become big news. The”old media” absolutely loathes new media. They are very keen to expose “the dangers” of the online world as often as possible. If they can take down a few leading right-wing politicians in the deal as well, so much the better.