We had a workshop about political communication where we chose to do some interviews on political communication and social media. The interview with Zana was done over e-mail and the one with Anna was taken over the phone. Both interviews were done in Swedish and translated into English by me. I’m happy to correct any misstakes I might have made in the translation if you point them out.
Interview with Zana Hussan
The Facebook group “Sverigedemokraterna i Riksdagen – Nej tack!” was created by Zana Hussan on August 31st 2009. The group is in response to “Sverigedemokraterna” (SD), who is an extreme right party trying to get into the Swedish parliament. The aim of the group is to show that SD is not wanted in the parliament according to the group members. The group has no political ties and is open for everyone that wants to renounce the party. The group managed to reach 300.000 members in its’ first five months which is a significant amount compared to the population of Sweden of 9M inhabitants. The “anti-group” that started in response to this group managed to reach 16.000 members.
”…large groups will remain latent and ineffective if not mobilized by selective incentives” (“Democracy and Lobbying in the European Union” by Karolina Karr, p. 46)
“I had been thinking a long time about there being no organization or movement on internet collecting Sweden against racism, xenophobia and especially against “Sverigedemokraterna”. Xenophobia isn’t a left or right question but a question for all of Sweden. I wanted to do my part in this which is why I created this Facebook group with an ambitious goal of collecting the broad Sweden with everything from the stockbroker to the assistant nurse”
Zana writes that he wants the group to be a rally point for discussions and actions where everyone is welcome to debate. Members are able and encouraged to share articles, arguments, experiences and strategies. Zana stresses the importance of not being quiet to the members of the group.
“People who are members in the group can achieve something by showing that they refuse to be quiet and thereby actively taking a stance for diversity and against racism. I constantly encourage people to become members of a political party or an organization to have a better influence in society”
Interview with Anna Troberg
Piratpartiet is a Swedish political party that started in 2006 to limit intellectual property and enhance the rights for a private life. Piratpartiet has from their upstart been in the forefront of internet and has had a big presence in social media. Politometern just listed the most influential political blogs in Sweden where Piratpartiet was listed in 10 places in the top 25, this despite that the party has only existed since 2006.
Anna Troberg told us that Piratpartiet uses social media for a lot of their political communication. One of the reasons for them working mainly with social media is that newly started parties in Sweden have very limited resources, the other reason is because of it being an effective way of communicating. She also emphasized that even if they had more resources they would keep using social media to the same extent as today. Blogs, Facebook and Twitter often create a discussion climate where people have an ability to express themselves in a deliberative democracy. Anna believes that through social media the political communication of smaller parties has been simplified but that the traditional parties have a hard time adjusting.
Piratpartiet has an official Facebook group with 20.000 members and an official Twitter account. Their twitter account is most of the time updated through their Skype channel which is accessible to 70-80 of their members. Piratpartiet also set up a “live web page” to monitor and inform people about what is being said about the party.
Social media will become more and more important, not only in political communication but also in other areas of society. There is a lot of talk about social media and the effect it will have on this coming election in September and many are inspired by Barack Obama’s campaigning for presidency in 2008. Social media has a big effect as a creator of public opinion which can easily be seen by a group on Facebook managing to rally 300.000 members or by Piratpartiet managing to get 7% of Swedish votes in the EU-election. The “two step flow of communications” also maintains an important part in the spreading of information through opinion leaders who passes it on to a greater mass.
The importance of having a big network and several channels to reach people is of bigger importance today. Internet makes the line between a political actor and a citizen very uncertain. A user of social media can easily express their opinions and get others to follow their lead. Groups are created between like-minded people that enhance and strengthen their power. Citizens gain more power and politicians must realize the importance and possibilities that this new digital era gives to democracy.
update: Australian? Very curious about all the Australians finding this blog post last few days. Most of you come through the search term “has the internet enhanced the quality of political communication and debate”. Are you taking a political communication class? or is it elections? Would appreciate if you replied why you all found this blog post now! ?