Network technologies, which have rapidly entered into all spheres of life in modern society, have greatly strengthened the power of the media and communications. This is manifested in the ability of the media to determine public opinion and manipulate it, to shape the political mood of citizens, as well as to direct the orientation and mood of society in general. As a result, the media, including an electronic one, are increasingly becoming the leading medium of political communication, mediating politics.
The virtual images of modern politicians, created by PR-managers (in comparison with the charismatic personalities of their predecessors) are called informational and political figures because, with the help of the media and relevant methods, they are constantly working hard to conceal some and emphasize other features of their character. The first vivid example of the use of these technologies was the creation of an appropriate image of the millennial role model, it-girl of thinking generation Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She is the New York congresswoman, about whom almost nobody knew about a few years ago. At the age of 29, she became the youngest woman elected to the US House of Representatives. She is a representative of democratic socialists, the wing that nominated Bernie Sanders for the 2016 presidential election - Cortes took part in his campaign, and now, she can be considered the main representative of this wing.
The breakthrough of Ocasio-Cortes into big politics happened in June of 2017 when she sensationally won the Democratic primaries in New York. The word “sensationally” does not quite accurately convey the scale of the surprise: Cortes won the election, in which bookmakers rated her chances as 18 to 1. This was simply the only case in the recent history of American politics. Despite all her achievements, she is still called the former barmaid and waitress in the News Media.
Ocasio-Cortes is that type of politician, who speaks the language of the younger generation. She is tempered by disputes on Twitter and she is ready to fight on those fields as well. Her active position in social media like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook formed her image not just as a politician, but also as a personality, because of which she gets so much support from people. She is very opened in her opinions, she claims her ideas clearly and understandable for all the population. The fact, that she is a simple woman, who understands the pain and needs of ordinary people is what makes her so powerful.
Changing the face of modern politicians is only one side of introducing information and communication technologies into our lives. Significant changes are also associated with the transformation of network technologies into an effective tool of political struggle. More recently, it was thought that the purpose of the Internet is communication and getting information. Even without being an active user of the Internet, every ordinary citizen is still a subject to its influence, since the content of traditional media today is largely shaped by the influence of digital one.
The Internet is turning into a means of propaganda, including political one, in a tool of political and legal impact. New forms of political participation can potentially seriously change the established traditional mechanisms of the political process. In particular, they play a key role in shaping the concept of "soft power" of the modern state, and the use of social networks as cognitive technologies and as an organizational weapon makes it possible to speak of the Internet as an instrument of big politics.
The cognitive property of social networks is manifested in the possibility of introducing certain ideas and images into mass consciousness (hashtag flashmobs became the simplest and most attractive form of cognitive technology for the layman) as to further control this consciousness calling for certain actions (for example, Arab Spring, organized by Twitter- revolutions), and for the purpose of mass dissemination of necessary information, not calling for concrete actions, but forming a certain opinion.
Another good example of this can be the movement #MeToo, which was started by celebrities in social media and supported by women from all around the world. This was a campaign, dedicated to the victims of violence, raping and sexual harassment. Women who survived shared their confessions with the #MeToo hashtag in different social media. The movement was launched on Twitter by actress Alyssa Milano accusing Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein in sexual harassment and raping. According to her, it was necessary to demonstrate the real scale of the problem.
This first twit started a wave of similar twitts with other women’s stories. During the movement hundreds of powerful men were accused of abuse of power and sexual violence, many of them resigned or ceased public activities; those who tried to intercede for them were harshly criticized. Politicians and entertainment industry leaders were the one, who were most often accused of unacceptable behavior.
#MeToo campaign was not just an informative movement. It caused lots of positive changes. Over the past year, several countries have amended legislation on harassment and other forms of sexual violence. In particular, in France, they imposed fines for harassment on the street, and in Sweden sex was equated with rape without the express consent of one of the parties (in Spain they also implied such a bill).
The most active campaign still continues in the United States. There are still new cases of harassment or sexual abuse in the US almost every day, and sometimes, it is not even one. This is gradually changing the corporate culture in the United States. Personnel recruiters told USA Today, that thanks to the #MeToo campaign, many more people thought about the problem of harassment at work, and it became easier for them to declare unacceptable behavior. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which investigates allegations of harassment in the workplace, has confirmed that their number has increased by 12% since the beginning of 2018 compared with the same period of 2017. (Ortiz)
A study by the American professional association of personnel specialists shows that after #MeToo, every third executive in the United States revised his or her behavior with employees. ("Addressing Workplace Harassment") As a result, discipline and productivity noticeably increased in large companies. At the same time, the struggle for the rights of women unexpectedly led to their discrimination: because of the fear of being accused of harassment, they now prefer to give some positions to men.
It will not be superfluous to note the global surveillance of Internet users, which was recently launched by governments and special services of some countries, in particular, the United States, which, combined with the above trends, led to the consolidation of the largest companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, Linkedln , Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo and AOL in an alliance with the aim of organizing opposition to the arbitrariness of information authorities. So, there is a problem of supporting the institutions of democracy, expressed in technologies. This situation is caused because of the mass distrust of politicians on the part of society, its political inertia, the absence of an active civic position. However, as it was already been noted, any modern phenomenon has many facets, both negative and positive. It is possible that network technologies today are becoming, if not a panacea, then at least a significant support for democratic institutions. Relevant features include implementation of e-government principles; submitting to the public discussion the norm-creative activity; the use of the potential of the blogs.
Another area of support for democracy is popular participation in the rulemaking process. Moreover, for the development of democracy, it is important not only to digitize bills, so that anyone can get acquainted with them and express their opinion, but to develop proactive technologies that allow citizens to participate in relevant polls, leave comments through interactive modeling, participate in virtual jury for statements of his assessment night judgment, etc. The whole set of these techniques is aimed again at the achieving of maximum transparency in the rulemaking process.
Another opportunity for society to articulate its citizenship is the technology of electronic political fundraising - the search for funds for a political campaign. The USA became the first country to use the practice of using information and communication technologies for political fundraising: in 2004, US presidential candidate Howard Dean gathered $ 41 million in support via the Internet, and 80% of this amount came in the form of donations, the amount of which was not exceeded $ 100. The followers of the “100 dollar revolution” achieved even greater success. In 2008 during the election campaign of Barack Obama, over $ 500 million was raised via the Internet. (Johnson). However, for the time being, the listed shares are single rather than massive. However, blogs and social networks have become a truly mass platform for supporting democracy.
Society still has the opportunity to openly express their own opinion through Twitter and other resources. Another thing, which is necessary to emphasize once again is that if the public were completely satisfied with their government, the Arab Spring would never happen, the same as the Women March Parade after the election of Donald Trump as a president of the United States.
First of all, it seems obvious that communication in social networks is beyond the control of the state, and therefore the Internet reduces the ability of the current government to restrict public information discourse and increases opportunities for mobilizing the public and organizing political actions. Social networks provide citizens with opportunities for self-expression, the freedom to express their opinions, as well as a way of self-directed networking as the method of organizing, interacting and generating ideas.
So, on the one hand, today network technologies allow us to talk about a new stage in the development of democracy. Using the technical capabilities of the Internet and social networks (for example, Internet voting or Twitter), it is possible to involve the entire active population in the political decision-making process, forming both a system of genuinely popular control over the activities of politicians and government officials and the opposition movement. The development of such technologies indicates that modern society has already matured in principle in order to independently express its civic position. On the other hand, one cannot exclude the fact that these movements can be directed by a specific customer or manipulator, raising the question of the true reasons for such pseudo-democracy.
Ortiz, Jorge. "Will #Metoo Turn Into #Nother?". USA Today, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/10/04/metoo-movement-unintended-career-consequences-women/1503516002/. Accessed 6 May 2019.
"Addressing Workplace Harassment". Shrm.Org, 2018, https://www.shrm.org/mlp/Pages/work-episode3-Addressing-Workplace-Harassment.aspx.
Johnson, Dennis. Campaigning in the Twenty-First Century: A Whole New Ballgame? N.Y.: Taylor & Francis, 2010