Based on a tip-off from my father-in-law, an investigative reporter in Montreal, I started exploring how members of the Tea Party in the US were using social media to bypass mainstream news organisations to get their most right-wing messages out there.
Barack Obama was lauded for his forward-thinking use of social media to mobolise his vote, and now we see voters from the opposite side of the political spectrum rallying votes through it too, perhaps just as effectively.
Andy Bernstein, Executive Director of HeadCount, a non-partisan polling service, says that the Republicans (and particularly the Tea Party or those Republican candidates most closely associated with them) has proportionately the most social media fans, the most active fans and the most sophisticated tools.
PR Week US described the Tea Party as: “Born out of Twitter exchanges between many frustrated, like-minded conservatives in 2008, today the movement is self-organized at the national and local level with websites, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Supporters have used the social media channels to organize hundreds of rallies across the country to protest excessive government spending and endorse candidate alternatives”.
If that’s the case, then good for them I hear you shout. A perfect example of democracy in action. Isn’t that what social media should be about?
That is until you discover it’s not quite a case of “power to the people” after all… You see, it’s being bankrolled and propagated by the ‘Invisible Hands’ of two billionaire families. A team effort of the Murdochs’ and Kochs’ ingenuity and boundless wealth.
To read the full story about the careful organisation of this supposedly decentralised social media campaigning and to find out more about the Kochs, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/opinion/29rich.html
To my friends across the pond, good luck with this one.