Social Media and Citizen Participation

Penney, Joel 2017. Social Media and Citizen Participation in "Official" and "Unofficial" Electoral Promotion: A Structural Analysis of the 2016 Bernie Sanders Digital Campaign. Journal of Communication 67(3): 402-423.

In certain ways, this shift is attributable to the tactics of professional political marketers, who are adopting a digital two-step flow model of influence - a modern adaptation of Katz and Lazarsfeld's (1955) classic model of personal influence - to put enthusiastic supporters to work as peer-to-peer-conduits for organizational messages (Stromer-Galley, 2014). At the same time, however, the "citizen marketer" approach also encompasses more grassroots and personalized forms of media-based political expression - such as the spread of politically-charged videos, memes, and other "unofficial" user-generated content - that are deliberately intended to influence peers in informal and culturally oriented spaces. (Penney 2017: 2)

People become channels.

The authors [Chadwick and Stromer-Galley 2016] compare the Sanders campaign to a range of other "insurgent internet-fueled campaigns" (p. 286) in both the United States (e.g., the 2004 Howard Dean and 2008 Ron Paul campaigns) and Europe (e.g., Jeremy Corbyn's 2015 campaign for U.K. Labour Party leadership), and suggest a link between digitally enabled grassroots activism in elections and broader political dynamics of protest and populism on both the left and right. Thus, the surrounding context of Sanders the candidate - a Democratic Party outsider who made a call for "political revolution" a central campaign theme - helps account for why his campaign in particular inspired a swell of grassroots online support that has eluded other candidates. (Penney 2017: 3)

Phraseological findings for current topics.

In particular, staffers point to the controversy over the perceived social media misconduct of so-called "Bernie Bros" as constituting a major challenge for the Sanders campaign as a whole. (Penney 2017: 4)

Know Your Meme article on the subject points out that it was a sexist pejorative term invented by pro-Clinton journalists. It was coined by writing "The Berniebro is not every Bernie Sanders supporter. Sanders’s support skews young, but not particularly male. The Berniebro is male, though. Very male." - Which is, apparently, problematic.

Similarly, Gibson (2015) finds that "citizen-initiated campaigning" (p. 187) driven by institutional digital outreach often emphasizes a message distribution function, as campaigns encourage their supporters to share campaign content on their social media pages. (Penney 2017: 5)

Alias the phatic function.

The notion of defining a candidate as authentic and culturally savvy - and conversely framing an opponent as inauthentic and culturally illiterate - aligns with what Street (2003) describes as the campaign tactic of "cool politics," that is, appealing to voters at the level of popular culture and inspiring the kind of emotional attachments that are common in celebrity-fan relationships. Whereas Street examines how politicians have actively pursued "cool politics" from the top down (for instance, by associating themselves with rock stars), the memes that circulated widely on BSDMS represent a form of "cool politics" from the bottom up. (Penney 2017: 16)

To be fair, Bernie Sanders did engage in "cool politics" from the top down when he spoke with Killer Mike. The problem is, Donald Trump meshed with "cool politics" in the grassroots sense much better when the hacker named 4chan decided that de was (((their guy))). Trump even shared their memes!


Post a Comment