OPINION: Has The Left Conquered Social Media?
UnHerd, a left-wing comment site, has published a lengthy piece in which the author talks at length about how, she claims the left has ‘conquered’ social media. It is worthy of consideration on this side of the political divide not least because there is one common factor. Momentum and their ilk feel as isolated and as hostile to the mainstream media as we do. Indeed, engagement through social media has been a key plank of the Corbyn strategy precisely for this reason:
Since Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, his team has placed huge importance on social media – which they see as the antidote to the right-wing domination of the newspapers, and the way they set the agenda for the “impartial” broadcasters.
One thing I have seen virtual unanimity on during this leadership contest is an acceptance by all candidates that we simply cannot rely on the mainstream media and must work on developing our own and it is for precisely the reasons mentioned above. Proposals on how we achieve this have, of course, varied from candidate to candidate, but all would be well-advised to see social media and technology not just as a tool for putting our message across but also as a vital campaigning utility:
Labour has also benefited from a large activist base full of digital natives: the campaign group Momentum holds regular gatherings of software programmers for what are called “hackathons”. By way of example, these fast and creative sessions built a carpooling app called “My Nearest Marginal” in just a week when the snap election was announced.
Personally, I think only John Rees-Evans proposals for UKIP Direct touch upon this vital use for social media as campaigning tool as well as a cog in the wheel of message projection and narrative creation. The ground forces Labour are currently able to deploy are formidable. Speaking to one of our by-election candidates recently they reported seeing a Labour/Momentum team consisting of 20, for a council by-election. Let that sink in. We can currently only dream of those numbers. I have to, at this point, make a pretty vital point. Learning from organisational methods employed IN NO WAY means copying anything POLITICALLY. I do feel that some within UKIP feel that one does imply the other. It doesn’t. We can still be the Peoples Army politically and be organised like a crack-SAS unit in terms of our structure and organisational practice and culture.
Obviously, the article gives all its examples from the left, so when it comes to America, it looks to Bernie Sanders. However, we have an even better example in Donald Trump and he actually won the Presidency. Mr Trump has notably developed relationships with American ‘alternative media’ most famously, or infamously depending on your point of view, with Alex Jones InfoWars channel. News consumption more often than not happens online now. Mr Corbyn has done something similar over here and as the article points out this “amplifies” the Labour message well.
Speaking personally, I am happy to report that most of the candidates for the leadership have engaged with us here at Kipper Central positively and openly. Most but not all. No names will be named. Going forward this is something that the new leadership will have to do. Online media that is centrally controlled, seen merely as a mouthpiece, is notably less successful than that which is independent precisely because news consumers are fleeing the centrally controlled corporatist swamp to escape media that is centrally controlled and are looking for a breath of fresh air. So,yes the Party should create its own media platforms but that simply will not be enough. It must learn to respect independent media and learn that we are not just here to stay but flourishing and it needs us every bit as much as we need it.
So, has the left conquered social media? Maybe for now…….but we can change that.