Rethinking the Internet in politics

By Paschos Mandravelis

Costas Tasoulas, the secretary for New Democracy’s parliamentary group, was disarmingly honest when he admitted on Skai TV last week that he does not read online media and had learned that television host and journalist Stavros Theodorakis was planning to launch a new political party the day after from the newspapers.

By the time he made his admission, at around 11.30 a.m. on February 27, some 25,000 people had already shared Theodorakis’s online declaration. Sure, politics cannot be exercised with a “like” and a “share,” as those still stuck in the printing age will argue, but the online success of Theodorakis’s lengthy text should at least give them pause.

By 6 p.m. on February 27, 30,500 people had clicked on the text and disseminated it further. The penetration it achieved in one single day was probably greater than all the local TV news bulletins put together, without even counting newspapers.

Another factor that should make us all think about online media further is that the majority of users are young. Surely we need to at least accept that the purported lack of interest among young people in politics is an exaggeration. Maybe they’re just not interested in politics the way it is generally practiced and they fail to understand the almost cryptic language employed by the older generation of politicians. Perhaps political parties and the media need to re-examine the way in which they address society.

The huge success of Theodorakis’s online declaration is, of course, also due simply to his popularity as a journalist and a host of the “Protagonistes” (Protagonists) investigative series. But it also demonstrates society’s profound need for new voices, new proposals and new ideas for exiting the crisis.

We cannot know whether the new party, called the River, will be able to put together a clear, calculated and adequate program – bold proposals have already been put forward in the online declaration – but its announcement has given us an indication of what people, and especially young voters, are thinking. Greek society is in that transitional phase where it sees the previous concept of the world collapsing and is still waiting to see what the future may bring. It knows that the old model is dead – and has taken down some of the good with it – and is now in limbo, waiting to hear something that makes sense. The old government practice of allaying the demands of every vested interest and the even older practice of the opposition to make pre-election promises it can’t possibly keep, have simply ceased to be convincing. Instead, they act like salt on the wounds of society, stoking its rage and pushing it toward apolitical radicalization.