When I started this blog, the purpose was to keep up my writing and write posts about television. In my About Me section, I do mention that I would cover other topics but this is mainly a blog about television as that is an area I am really interested in. I am now writing a post on a topic I never thought I would: POLITICS. Though I suppose I can link this post to the blog’s main purpose as I want to examine the exposure given to certain political groups on television and especially social media.
Now I’m no political expert and I don’t understand every department of government or devolved government. These are just my opinions on what has happened in the last year and what is starting to scare me. UKIP gained a lot during the European elections and I am getting fed up of people blindly sharing racist propaganda by Britain First on Facebook.
I was brought up with the importance of politics and democracy instilled in me. My parents always vote and constantly reminded me about the importance of voting (to keep certain parties from power and as a woman, to use the right that suffragettes died for). I have voted since I was 18, mostly in Welsh Assembly elections/referendums and recently in the European Parliament election. Next year will be my first time to vote in a general election. I have grown up in South Wales and lived in counties that are usually Labour strongholds. I have studied a Media Communication degree and wish to work in the creative industries, areas that benefit from socialist governments and regularly debunk right-wing ideas like those of certain newspapers.
For me, the rise of extreme right-wing ideas and parties has been dramatic since the end of last year. I think Russell Brand’s interview with Jeremy Paxman has contributed towards this slightly. The comedian Russell Brand appeared on Newsnight and stated his dislike for the main three current parties – Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats. Brand believes that to combat these parties, the British public should not vote. This angers me because of course you should vote! Nothing will change without your vote and if you don’t vote, then you shouldn’t be able to complain about politicians as you have made no input into implementing political change. Secondly, Brand’s no-voting strategy was hailed as a form of revolution. This worried me as, in the last few years, some countries have stood up to their presidents/political leaders and demanded change. In a lot of cases after the current leaders have been removed, the victory has been tarnished by violence, uncertainty and civil war.
People applauded Brand’s sentiments because he is a famous figure who had been given a platform to say his views. However, in the current digital age, a video can go viral and then disappear. This seemed to happen to Brand’s video. It was shared on social media for about a fortnight and then people moved on.
It has only been in the run up to the European elections that other dangerous political ideas have raised their heads and become visible. While many people disagree with UKIP’s policies and Britain First’s values, the media (over)exposure they have received in the last month or so and the use of social media has had serious implications for the top three parties. Ofcom decided in March this year that UKIP should have equal broadcasting time on television as it could be considered a main party. This means that broadcasters, especially the BBC as an impartial public service broadcaster, were obliged to interview the party’s leader Nigel Farage and transmit their party political broadcast. This exposure could have raised their profile.
That said, most of Farage’s television appearances were mocked online and any gaffes he made at public appearances were well documented. Their social media strategy on Twitter also spectacularly backfired. The party had created a hashtag called #whyimvotingUKIP for people to share their reasons and encourage others to vote for the party. The hashtag became something of a joke as users made fun of UKIP’s “policies” and hijacked the hashtag for their own amusement. As the number of sarcastic and parodic tweets majorly outnumbered the actual UKIP ones, social media declared victory against the party. BUT, in both England’s council elections and the European elections, UKIP made massive gains. Whilst most political commentators have dismissed it as a simple protest vote and that people are disillusioned with the current government, I think that the exposure UKIP recieved through the mockery on Twitter and elsewhere online has made the party’s name recognisable and could have influenced people to vote for them. Overexposure keeps the subject in the public’s mind.
What’s worse, it seems that following UKIP’s supposed political earthquake, the current Conservative government are trying to align themselves with some of UKIP’s ideals by supporting Britishness. This can be seen by Michael Gove’s announcements to drop American and other global literature in favour of British only literature for English exams and that “British values” should be taught in schools. This shows that the Conservatives are trying to emphasise their right-wing status through sharing extreme nationalist ideas. Nationality is a double-edged sword. Yes, you can be proud of your nationality and being British. This is encouraged at national events such as sporting events and anything to do with the Royal family where a feeling of being connected through nationality is present. However, you need to be accepting of other people of your nationality as well regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion. We live in a multicultural Britain and just because you are not in the context of a national event, does not mean that you can vilify others that share your nationality based on a slight difference.
This leads me on to Britain First. This group appeared on the European election ballot paper with the slogan of “remember lee rigby”. The family of Lee Rigby have removed any association with the group and are outraged over the use of the slogan. Britain First are similar to the BNP in that they are an extreme nationalist party who want Britain to be free of immigrants, only allow “proper” British people and they want to make people proud of their nation again. Not sure if it’s worth pointing out to these parties that practically everyone in Britain since about the 8th century have been immigrants. Also a lot of the British nationalist parties i.e. Britain First, BNP and UKIP use Britain as a synonym for England so not entirely British then…
Britain First didn’t gain any seats in the elections but still have a strong social media presence. The Facebook page shares images of anything that could be related to Britain/that could incite anger in users such as the halal meat “scandal” (supported by the tabloids), war, islamaphobia, supposed attacks on citizens and even animal cruelty. They encourage users to donate money to their cause to resolve the issues in the images they share. The way the Facebook page operates is akin to propaganda: opposing comments are censored by removal, images are manipulated to suit their cause and false images are used. Britain First are the most popular British political group on Facebook with more likes than the other parties. This means that they can expose their content to a large share of potential voters and their views will stick in people’s minds due to seeing it everyday.
Right-wing political groups have access to many users via social media and even subverting the original content gives them exposure and extra publicity. The internet is hard to regulate and citizens like their right to speak freely online. It just worries me that extreme nationalist ideologies could become dominant in the political landscape in the next decade or so and could lead to conflict. I think some people need to realise that nationality is a complex concept.