Tuesday 4th April
Everything seems to have changed overnight, it is as if I have woken up in a strange world – one I barely recognize. But actually it has been changing for some time; I just didn’t see it coming. The last year has seen Brexit and Trump and now we are facing the strong possibility of Marine Le Pen in France…and who knows what else. It suddenly seems as if the World has gone crazy. And what has really changed, what has been the driving force for this unleashing of Nationalism, this feeling of superiority to other people, almost a mood of self-pity, that others are taking our jobs, our houses, our culture even.
And I can only put it down to the internet, to social media, to people getting less of their information from the Television News and more from Facebook posts or Twitter or Instagram or whatever. Social Media is more immediate, more direct but also far more selective. No two people see exactly the same things on Facebook, so we are all getting a different feed of information, and mixed in with the pictures of cats and the endless selfies are subtle political messages. I can remember during the Brexit referendum itself quite a lot of posts from acquaintances. Most of these were actually like-minded people, left-leaning Labour supporters, but a few were old work colleagues or school-friends or just friends of friends really. And quite a few of these were unashamedly declaring they would be voting Leave. I argued with some but of course even then I realized I wouldn’t persuade them.
But I hadn’t really realized the power of social media. We are all influenced by peer pressure and whereas in the past you might chat occasionally about Politics, now on Facebook or Twitter you can chat on-line without actually meeting them, and this I believe, is behind the change in the Political mood. We are now so connected that we feel deprived if our phone is dead or we cannot log in to our e-mails or social media pages. And I think the movements which brought about Brexit and Trump and threaten us with Marine are like a bandwagon that has rolled on picking up supporters like snow on a snowball. And social media has been one of the driving forces. How far the snowball will roll is unpredictable, and it doesn’t have to be limited just to those on the right, whose actual clever messages mix in left-wing ideas about Social Justice with Nationalism and anti-Muslim ideas. Much like the National Socialists ninety years ago in Germany. All Political parties and movements now have to learn how to deal with Social Media. One encouraging new development however is Emmanuel Macron, who here in France, has come from nowhere, with no Political party behind him, just an army of young volunteers – and he is running a close second in the polls. An unthinkable phenomenon a few years ago.
Who knows what this or the next few years will bring, but we have to maybe learn that things are now more fluid, more open to sweeping changes. Hopefully the young will grasp these changes and make things better for all of us.