1/05/2017 by Dylan James Harper
When Richard Nixon “remarked It's a shame a man has to use gimmicks like this to get elected” before appearing on television, long time Fox News chief Roger Ailes quipped back “Television is not a gimmick, and if you think it is, you'll lose again.” This is eerily similar to contemporary politics, with the broader political left playing the role of Richard Nixon. The left is losing the culture wars on the social media battleground, with the election being perhaps the most staggering defeat.
While the left spent time mocking Trump’s social media habits, even writing think pieces as to mental health based on his Twitter feed, Trump and the right used social media to dominate headlines, and eventually to win votes. Meanwhile, marginalized individuals, especially trans individuals and people of color, face constant harassment for voicing the tamest political opinions, or sometimes just for existing, while the left publishes a whole host of useless content ranging from Clinton’s now infamous abuela article, to esoteric think pieces on the flaws of Trotskyism.
There are several tangible steps that the broader left could be taking, and the continued influence of Black Lives Matter and the protestors at Standing Rock have demonstrated that there is a winning formula.
1. Have dedicated social media campaigns that focus on widely understood issues. The social media success of the protests at Standing Rock is that the issue was well communicated, and remained consistently focused. Don’t poison drinking water is something anyone can get behind, and with consistent posting, relevant hashtags and catch phrases like “water is life,” the protesters have kept themselves in the public eye, even while many large news outlets ignored them, and convinced many to support their cause.
2. Run anti-harassment campaigns. I wrote recently about a young trans vlogger who is constantly harassed on YouTube, their experience is hardly unique. Whether it be women harassed for voicing criticism of video games, or people of color harassed for voicing any political opinion, the major social media sites turn a blind eye to harassment, and the right has perfected the art of silencing people through dedicated hate campaigns. The left needs to start focusing on their efforts on interrupting these campaigns. There are several leftist spaces online, from Reddit pages, to Facebook groups, there are coalescing people on the left that could serve as support for someone being targeted. I someone is being harassed, they should be able to go to these places and ask for help, and count on a slew of people coming and running interference, as well as offering private support. There’s no reason the people that spend a lot of time throughout the day online deciding whether or not China is really a communist country, and getting extremely pretentious about mediocre video games, can’t also go tell a harasser to go to hell.
3. Build a better online infrastructure. This is aimed more at the liberal left, especially the democrats, who have the resources, but the radical left has no excuse either. Although there are many leftists areas of the internet, they’re mostly disjointed, and virtually never work together. The right is extremely good at quickly closing ranks and focusing on targets in part because they stay better connected. The term “alt-right” often refers to Men’s Rights Activists, GamerGaters, White Nationalists, and Nazis, virtually interchangeably. Part of this is because these groups will all work together when necessary. The left has nothing even remotely as useful in comparison. Whether this means forming better social media groups that are tightly moderated, or even entirely new websites to try and bring the left together, it needs to be done. The left is incredibly slow to respond to new issues and events, and often loses the battle because of this.
It’s time for the left to start widening its focus, and committing more of its resources to social media. The right has firmly one this battle, and will continue to without drastic change. There are many people in leadership positions who have the influence and resource access to start taking action, and now’s the time, otherwise, the left will lose again, because social media is not a gimmick.
Dylan James Harper is the Chief Political Editor for CSuiteMusic
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