Ian Dale writes that the internet and all that is having very little effect on this general election. I’m sure we can all see what he means. The politicians strut about emitting their parallel universe proclamations, while the rest of us stolidly refuse to be impressed as we sit about wondering just which big party and big party leader we loathe and despise the least, so that we can humiliate most of them, instead of what we would really like to do.
But in another sense, a negative sense, I think that the internet is already having a very profound effect on this campaign. Put it like this. The good thing about blogs and facebook and twitter and all that is that we can speak our minds. We tell it not necessarily like it is exactly, but how we truly reckon it is at the time or writing. The big cheese politicians? Like I say: parallel universe of staged dishonesty.
Trying to combine doing regular politics with joining in the New Media hubbub means either being ignored as a useless bore, or getting into trouble, for saying something honest and eloquent but verboten. The two just don’t mix. Remember that scene in that great regular politics movie The Candidate, starring Robert Redford, where the Redford character tries telling the truth (as he happens to see it) at a campaign event. His handler just tells him to do up his trouser buttons, grow up, and campaign properly, i.e. go back to emitting the correct barrages of staged dishonesty. As far as the old pro regular politician is concerned, telling it like it is, like you are blogging or twittering or something, is just waving your willy about like a stupid little kid. Honesty didn’t work then for regular politicians, and it doesn’t work now.
But the difference is that the rest of us can now do honesty, and consume honesty. We now have honesty. For several years now we’ve been waving our willies about and having a ball. It’s just that the regular politicians can’t join in without making asses of themselves.
So, one: rise of the New Media. And, two: a general election in which almost nobody looks like they’re going to be happy. None of the politicians, with the possible exception of The Clegg, and none of the voters. Nobody is going to “seal the deal”. It used to be that someone did. Now, we seem to hate them all.
No effect? I think not. I know exactly what Iain Dale means. The New Media aren’t contributing anything positive to regular politics. The New Media aren’t helping regular politicians to canvass, get out the vote, assemble people to mass meetings and get them all excited about their preferred version of regular politics. The New Media aren’t helping to spread barrages of lies, and then cheering like lunatics. They (we) are merely standing at the back muttering to each other that it’s all lies. But just because the New Media are doing nothing positive for regular politics doesn’t mean they’re having no effect on regular politics.
Iain Dale is nearly there when he describes the internet this time around as “the dog that didn’t bark”. But the fact that the dog isn’t barking is highly significant, as Sherlock Holmes himself pointed out in the original story. The New Media dog, from where Iain Dale stands, is doing nothing, and that is what is so interesting.