Social Media and the Far Right

Why are Conventional Parties weaker Online?

Social media is a big part of everyday life. People all over the world use it as a way of connection. Far-right ideology has found a great part in that. We recognize extremist ideology all over social media. Unlock your phone and check your instagram. It won’t take you long to be confronted with far-right ideology. When looking at for example instagram, far-right parties usually have high numbers of followers and likes, significantly more than the conventional parties even though they might have more seats in the government. Social media is helpful to far-right parties while the conventional parties are lacking in social media presence.

Take a look at the Instagram account of the Dutch party VVD (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie), a conservative, liberal party with the largest numbers of votes and the FVD (Forum voor Democratie) a far-right party. Even though the FVD has less actual voters they have about 17 thousand followers more than the VVD on instagram. Does that surprise you? Let me explain how this happens.

Social Media as a new way of political communication

Social Media has opened a new, very direct way of political communication and has become an unavoidable political medium. Usually, when parties or politicians react or give an opinion on specific topics, it will then be further diffused by journalists. The culture of social media politics however, is very different to the traditional way and has reshaped the dynamics of making politics. Nowadays, parties do not have to wait to be heard. They can immediately create a post, in which they can position themselves without having to go through any formal process, such as journalistic revision in order to gain medial attention. Social media has established a base on which private individuals can interact with official parties or politicians directly, making these more approachable to possible voters.

Any press is good press

The far-right behaves clever online. Far-right parties try to trigger emotions online. They have realized how the “online world” benefits them. Using provocative language rewards users, with medial attention. The posts of far-right parties online, are often filled with racism, hatred and fake news, triggering a snowball effect. Topics which generate lots of discussion are rewarded by algorithms presenting the posts to an even wider audience. Companies such as Meta, have very lenient guidelines on postings. Another reason for the online power of the far-right lies within the online presentation of the social media accounts. The American research professor Trent Davies has made a comparison between the German far-right party AfD and the liberal party FDP. While the AfD posted 4.000 pictures within a week in October 2019 on facebook, the FDP only posted 100 pictures in a week. The pictures the AfD posted were created to generate “talk” and receive waves of response. Far-right parties know that not only good press gives them medial attention. They try to create controversy. By making use of an easy language, they appeal to a wider audience. Far-right parties try to position themselves as a people-oriented party which is not only for the elite but for “everyone”. The far-right parties want to engage other users and want them to react and “feel something”. They engage users by making use of tools such as asking questions or creating short polls in which users can participate, making users feel like their opinion is valued and heard.

What are conventional parties doing wrong?

German politician Heiko Maas (SPD) checks his phone on the 19.05.2017 © Kappeler

The conventional parties of Europe have had difficulties reacting to this online movement. While far-right parties are able to attract online, the conventional parties are lacking, how is this possible?

It seems to be the exact reasons for which the far-right is prospering, that have proven difficult for the conventional, central parties. As mentioned above, far-right parties try to trigger emotions online. A conventional party does not create as much “talk” since their statements are less controversial. They do not polarize as much. Using pictures, as mentioned by Trent Davies also further complicates things for conventional parties. The pictures posted by the different parties do not only differ in quantity but also content wise. Conventional parties do not attempt to trigger emotions but want to inform and use pictures as a tool of clarification. Social media users are very attracted to sensation. This feeling is not created by the conventional parties. They inform, but do not make users gasp.

Social media gives the opportunity of fast, non-revised or checked exchange of information. I believe that it is important to understand the way, the far-right uses social media. We are responsible for the reaction those accounts get online. I would like to ask everyone of you to check and question the information provided on social media. We have to be aware of the fact, how attracted we are to scandal. I bet you would have not checked my blog if it was simply called: a look at social media and politics. Social media is meant to attract, in order to generate likes, follows and shares – always keep that in mind.

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12 thoughts on “Why are Conventional Parties weaker Online?

  1. The title is really captivating! Even though we know that this is a draft, we believe that it could be wise to rethink the structure of your post. For example, the text could be divided in at least 3/4 paragraphs, this would make it easier to read. Moreover, we want to remind you that referencing in APA is not needed, as you just have to use hyperlinks. Additionally, some pictures could be useful to improve the visual aspect!

    1. Hey, thank you very much for your comment. I have now restructured it, it is not yet done but your tipps have been very helpful. Also, I have included the hyperlinks and changed the overall format and included a picture. I will include more pictures and will still have to finalize my post itself but your feedback has been very helpful so far. Thank you very much!!

      1. We’re glad to see that you have found our suggestions useful! We see much improvement and we can’t wait to see you finalise this post. If you should need any other advice feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to help!

  2. Hey! Well done so far! We enjoyed reading the blog and especially like the subheadings you use. We don’t know if it is technically possible, but it may be a nice touch to include an Instagram post of the VVD or FVD, so the readers have a firsthand example of what social media posts, that you describe under “Any press is good press”, look like.

    1. Hey, thank you very much for your comment. That actually is a very good idea and I will try to find a way to include this. Thanks a lot for your feedback :))

  3. Hi Macy,
    I really like the current structure of your entry! The use of headings is really useful to understand in which direction your analysis is going. I would suggest adding more pictures and/or visual content and dividing the longer sections into several paragraphs. I really liked the way you relate directly to your readers.

    1. Hey, thank you a lot. The idea with more pictures is very helpful. I will definitely keep searching for some further images. Thanks a lot.
      Cheers, Macy.

  4. Really enjoyed reading your blog post, as it covered a completely new angle of social media with respect to my post. The conclusion about conventional parties not being well suited to the use of social media is particularly insightful. Maybe it could be elaborated on even more? Keep up the great work!

    1. Hey, thanks a lot for the feedback. The last paragraph is definitely still not done and needs some work. Cheers!!

  5. You bring an interesting topic to which I had not given too much thought to light and discuss it well. Although your style is a little too informal at times, the content and research done for this post are very well conducted and laid out. I wonder if your paragraphs aren’t a tad too large and I feel they sometimes look a bit empty due to less hyperlinks than I might expect in a paragraph of such length.
    I felt there was a lot of interesting content on why the far right are doing well, but less so on what the conventional parties are doing wrong. A little more would make for an even more fascinating read.
    All in all, a good and intriguing post and I am sure the end product will be excellent!

    1. Hello, thank you very much for your feedback. The last paragraph about the reaction of the conventional parties is still not done. I was thinking about using it as a sort of conclusion. Also, thank you very much for the language remark, I will keep an eye out on that. Cheers :))

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