Social Media as Public Political Instrument

Social Media as Public Political Instrument

Ikbal Maulana (Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Indonesia)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1828-1.ch010

Abstract

Social media has played important roles in social movements in many parts of the world. It has been used to raise people's awareness about the injustice they suffer as well as to mobilize them to challenge a repressive government. Social media enables people to define public interests by themselves, taking over the role previously taken by elites. It is all due to its simplicity which allows anyone to be both a producer and consumer of information. Citizens are no longer the spectators of political games played by the elites, but they can participate and even mobilize public opinions challenging those in power. The possibility of anonymous interactions allows anyone to express any view without the fear of disapproval and sanction, which leads to the plurality of discourse, which in turn increases the possibility of democratization. However, the impact of social media is not deterministic, and it is not always beneficial to public. Even those in power can use it to preserve the existing hierarchy of power.
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The Political Construction Of Public

Politicians often speak on behalf of public as if it is a single concrete entity. But, is public really out there? If yes, then why it needs others to speak on its behalf? Can public not speak by itself? Even Habermas asserts that the main character of public is the existence of interactive speaking among its members, “A portion of the public sphere comes into being in every conversation in which private individuals assemble to form a public body” (Habermas, 1964, p. 49). Public, as well as society, consists of individuals who interact with each other. While society, by definition, can emerge in any condition, free or oppressed, under totalitarian or democratic regime, whereas “Citizens behave as a public body when they confer in an unrestricted fashion - that is, with the guarantee of freedom of assembly and association and the freedom to express and publish their opinions - about matters of general interest” (Habermas, 1964, p. 49).

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