(MENAFN- Jordan Times) Theatricality, it is said, is an essential element of power. Leaders and politicians have historically been expected to take their issues to the centre stage of political theatre and seek to focus public attention on their case or more often on their person when their political theatrics are ego driven.
Common wisdom has been that the manipulation of news, spinning of messages and smart public exposure of political leaders exponentially increase the political power of the best performers and gains them support among voters and followers.
But it has also been acknowledged that the general public reaches a state of political fatigue and message overload.
2017 will leave us fatigued and burdened by the oversupply of theatrics. The main culprits, in my opinion, will be recorded to be an emerging breed of egotistical political leaders seeking to dramatically change the world and turn it on its head, aided by social media tools that are accessible not only to the leaders and their spin doctors but also to the ignorant, ill-informed, misogynists, xenophobes and haters.
End of year messages I have seen and heard this past week — across the world — showcase an unusual negativity and uncertainty towards the future. People are expressing loss of hope, anger and division based on class, ethnicity, nationality, colour, religion and income. Exclusionism is becoming a more common need, as people appear to seek to belong to smaller closed groups of shared interest and commonality and in my opinion pursuing a smaller and safer haven away from other competing groups.
Review the events which played out in front of us this past year: the divisive election of US President Donald Trump in the first month of 2017, the extractionist British vote to Brexit from Europe (in 2016 but taking centre stage in 2017), the dramatic bow out of Washington as peace broker in the Middle East with its decision to take sides on Jerusalem, the sudden fall of Daesh footholds in Iraq and Syria followed by quick steps towards reorganising the global order in Syria while Daesh takes its terror to the global theatre and supports lone-wolf attacks against innocents, the rise to power of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman in Saudi Arabia and with it the conflict with Qatar, the short-term resignation of Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri, the still ongoing drama of the mass incarceration of tens of businesspeople and royals in Riyadh in a bid to control corruption and introduce reform, the sudden assassination of long-time Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh after his dramatic turnaround against the Houthis, and as we speak, many more political events playing themselves out on our television screens, our Whatsapp groups, YouTube videos, Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds.
And even more dramaturgical than the events themselves and the larger-than-life politicians and groups behind them are the streams of comments that follow from the ordinary people that are drawn in by the accessibility and speed of social media. The so-called feedback and conversation in commentary on these events, allows for the positing of individual political views and sharing of disparate tidbits of information, back and forth seemingly endlessly.
The end result is that we found ourselves swimming against a torrent caused by the jumble of information and misinformation, truth and rumour, facts and lies which as a result contributed to a situation, I believe, where we are now looking at increasingly discredited politicians and angry, confused and disenchanted citizens.
Political communications pundits largely credit social media platforms with expanding and simultaneously focusing the reach of political messaging at much lower cost. They argue that social media allows for direct communications with voters, like advertising without the exorbitant associated costs, allows campaigns to go viral in quick time, provides immediate channels for feedback and mapping of public opinion, and supports the formation of advocacy groups around key issues more quickly and widely in what they refer to as galvanising the 'power of many' to leverage numbers against the influence of powerful lobbyists and rich special interest groups.
But this has all been used by politicians to bamboozle the people, to attack opponents typically with misinformation, divide to conquer in an 'us and them' approach that discredits other narratives and options, misdirects the recount of real politics and often falsifies facts, and over this past year more than ever, pushes forward violent agendas.
2017 showed us the worst of a dramatised matrimony between political egotism and narcissism on the one hand and expansionist yet shallow social media on the other. In an upgraded version from last decade's reality television shows such as Meet the Kardashians, Mob Wives and Rich Kids of Beverly Hills, we appear to now be suffering under the reality social media shows of Trump in Charge, MBS at the Helm, Daesh as Lone Wolf, and Best and Worst Social Media Comments. My only hope in 2018 is that these shows do not last another whole decade.
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