Saj’s response to Demos Survey and article in Guardian newspaper (online here) about the far right using social networks to garner support:
There’s a simple answer to far right using Facebook to tap into people’s fears and prejudices (Guardian – 8th November 2011): let’s fight back.
But social media isn’t the far right’s biggest weapon; voter apathy is their jewel. The BNP may have won two seats in the 2009 Euro Elections; despite gaining fewer votes than in 2004 when they won nothing. They were victorious because mainstream voters stayed at home. Turnout in the UK was 34% (43% across Europe).
I fear the BNP will harness Facebook and Twitter to take greater advantage of low turnout in the 2014 Euro elections.
Most alarming is the disenfranchisement of the young. Less than one on five under 24-year olds vote in the UK. The Facebook generation is deeply distrustful of the mainstream media and the politician keen to say what people want to hear and then found to be wanting.
The far right successes often follow economic fortunes. When unemployment rises, so does anti-immigrant sentiment. Their simplistic message lends itself easily to the 140 characters of Twitter. Tweets go unchallenged, unchecked and move fast around the world.
They use the social media to blame the problems of the world on the few. Muslims now get the blame. Remember 20 years ago it was all the fault of black immigrants. Fifty years ago it was the Jews.
It can only get worse. The far right is willing divide society and play on the public’s worst fears for the prize of power.
The answer to this extremism is for the mainstream to redefine our message for the age of social media and more importantly use it to rebuild trust.
The Arab Spring was ordinary people with a shared interest in democracy that built extensive social networks and organised political action; we can do it too!
140 characters is the challenge, so here goes.
Extremists can’t be ignored. We’re the ones who must be proud to speak up for equality & opportunity & support society’s aspirations. #fightback
Sorry that was 144 – I must do better.
Sajjad Karim MEP
North West England