Social Media and the Far Right

Into the Stone Age: Politics Before Social Media

FacebookTwitterInstagramTiktok. Even Google and Youtube before that. Many people can no longer imagine their lives without the internet. Not only is it used for the spreading of important information, but it also is a big part of our social lives. Around 57% of the human population is active on one or more platforms of social media.  

May I boldly assume this includes you, reader? 

Since the early 1980’s, the internet has become an important medium. Not only does it allow people to stay in touch in a whole new way, but also in providing governments and news sites a platform to spread information, as well as letting citizens join in on political conversations. With the rise of social media, people are getting in contact with people from all around the world, sharing their ideas globally.

The Cambridge dictionary describes social media as “websites and computer programs that allow people to communicate and share information on the internet using a computer or mobile phone”. And although social contact is one of the benefits of social media, it is also being used as a platform to spread political views. Political parties and governments use social media to spread their ideas, promote their interests and their values.

What did political parties use to spread their ideas before the rise of the internet/social media?

Before the rise of the internet, and with it social media, political (right-wing) parties used other methods in order to connect with their voters. 

Written media have long been used as medium to spread news, ideas, and ideologies. Newspapers used to be the main source of information, both locally and globally. Posters and flyers were used to invite people to meetings or presentations. But with the development in technology, new forms of media became interesting for politicians to use. 
Willem Drees speeching at a PVDA congress, 1948. Retrieved from

Written media have long been used as medium to spread news, ideas, and ideologies. Newspapers used to be the main source of information, both locally and globally. Posters and flyers were used to invite people to meetings or presentations. But with the development in technology, new forms of media became interesting for politicians to use. 

In Italy, Benito Mussolini chose to use radio and film. In 1925, he took control of the Instituto Nazionale Luce, the educational film union, to promote a nationalist and fascist ideology. His films about fascist heroes became a new measure to control the population and influence private thoughts and opinions. Mussolini’s speeches were recorded, and the audience was told how to behave or was specifically selected for the occasion. This is an example of a negative aspect of how media can be used to influence people. He also used film to portray himself as a true leader and a man of his people. He tried to make a brand out of his personality, much like Dutch politician Thierry Baudet does today. If you would like to read about Baudet, take a look at Sofia’s blog.

The cult of the Duce

New strategies

With televisions appearing more frequently in people’s homes in the 1960’s, politicians were intrigued to see if it would positively influence their campaign. American John F. Kennedy was one of the first politicians to actively use television in his campaign. When he became president, it was obvious that this strategy had a future. By using television, voters feel more included in politics since they feel like they know the candidates. Even today, television remains the main source of election information for a majority of voters.

The very first political debate broadcasted on television, 1960.

Campaigning via social media

With the increasing amount of internet users, social media became an interesting medium to spread ideas and gain followers. There are many reasons why political parties choose to use social media in their campaign.

First, by posting on social media, they have a global reach without having to invest millions of euros. By simply hitting a button, politicians can share their values with the entire online community. This global community includes younger followers. By using social media and accessible language, it is easier to engage with a younger audience. Furthermore, instead of just bringing information to the people, social media allows voters to participate in a dialogue with the politicians. By getting feedback, politicians know which problems citizens are facing and are able to take a stand. 

However, social media also forces transparency and authenticity. Everything politicians say, every political decision they make can be found online. When these actions are inconsistent, people will no longer support said politician or even show their dissatisfaction by organising a protest.

Not only politicians benefit from these media. Readers have unmediated access to wide range of information and can make a well-balanced choice when casting their votes. Also, because of the two-way communication channel mentioned before, people feel more included in decision making. It gives people the impression that they have a say in political and social debates.

The wide range of information found online can easily lead to information overload, making it hard for readers to make an informed choice. Another problem regarding social media is that every single person can share their opinions. Readers have to be careful when reading said opinions, for it might be hard to distinguish opinions from truths. Neutrality is the exception rather than the norm in social media, and some people are not aware of this fact.

So reader, be weary of misinformation

In order to give you a clear overview of what has been discussed in this blogpost, I included the figure below.

Figure 56.1. Phases of new media in election campaigns.

Characteristics Examples
Old Media, New Politics1992-1994Established nonpolitical and entertainment media formats accommodate election communication; web campaigning is primitiveCall-in Radio and TelevisionLate Night Television ShowsNews Magazine ProgramsMusic Television (MTV)Print and Television Tabloids‘Brochureware’ Websites
New Media, New Politics 1.01996-2006Internet technology facilitates the development of new forms of campaign communication with interactive capabilitiesWebsites with Interactive FeaturesEmailDiscussion BoardsBlogsMeetups
New Media, New Politics 2.02008-presentExpanded and sophisticated use of digital technology for campaign applications characterized by higher levels of interactive information sharing, networking, collaboration, community-building, and engagement; use of “big data” to personalize voter appealsFull-Service WebsitesSocial MediaVideo Sharing SitesTwitterMicroblogging SitesMobile Device ApplicationsiMedia Applications
Table retrieved from

Feature picture: photo of an American family watching the political debate between John F. Kennedy (pictured) and his opponent Richard Nixon in 1960. This debate was the first of many to be broadcasted on television. Retrieved from

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14 thoughts on “Into the Stone Age: Politics Before Social Media

  1. This is a very interesting idea and we are looking forward to the development of your post. We understand that it is still just a draft but we would like to share some suggestions. Just to point it out to you again, as said in the tutorial, there is no need for references/ a reference list just hyperlinks. For now we think it is well written and would suggest only to add a few pictures.

      1. We are glad to see your post develop so well. The use of photos it’s great, the only further suggestions we have would be to use a larger font size for the subheadings to have a clearer distinction between text and the headings. Apart from this we really enjoyed your post!

        1. Thank you for your response. I really find your tip about the larger font size for the subheadings quite useful, as I would not have noticed that it might seem a bit unclear. I will change the size of the wording right away.

          1. Thank you for taking our suggestion into account. We now think it looks amazing and the larger size makes it much more clearer! Great job!

  2. Hey! We like the way your article is structured so far, especially with the subheadings. Obviously, the full post is not finished yet, but we think you’re on a good way because it seems like you have the structure planned out already. Instead of a reference list at the end in APA-style you could maybe hyperlink the articles while you mention them. Good work so far!

  3. Hey!
    Although this is just a draft, we think you’re going in the right direction. The use of paragraphs and subheadings is correct and the structure is clear. We suggest you to add some images; moreover, there is no need for APA references.

  4. This is a very interesting blog post. However I would recommend adding some pictures to make the reading more engaging. I would get rid of the indented paragraph as it is looks more like an APA style paper. The headings are well chosen though, which gives the post a nice structure. Keep up the good work!

  5. While the post does bear a little too much similarity to an APA-style paper, the overall style of the paper is excellent in all other respects. I found the post to be engaging and easy to read, although it is of course in development. Hyperlinks and pictures are a must, and the thread of your post didn’t quite seem clear to me, but I am sure all of this will soon be updated and I look forward to what I am sure will be an excellent post!

    1. Hello and thank you for your feedback. I agree that my draft was fairly similar to an APA-style paper and I made some changes as to the layout and wording of my blog. I did add hyperlinks, pictures and a table for visual information. I am excited to see what you think of my new version of this blog.

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