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Political Communication in the Digital Age


Fall 2021 Vol. 20 No. 3


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Foreword. Engagement in politics is now becoming easier than ever before. Over the past two decades, social media has taken a central role in politics and institutions around the globe. As the spread of social media has led to easier political involvement, it has also fueled the rise of authoritarian and illiberal regimes in many countries. Therefore, it is important to study political communication and apply it to different situations carefully.

Taliban News: Fair and Balanced? “At the Taliban’s first press conference on 17 August 2021, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid startled the world by calling for “balanced and fair reporting,” claiming that the Taliban would support free and independent media as long as journalists worked according to Islamic rules and Sharia. In this essay, I argue that Western policymakers should take the Taliban spokesperson’s words very seriously, as his frame of reference is a set of powerful Islamic concepts that are likely to resonate with Muslim listeners throughout the world. It is important both to understand his words within the context of Islam, and to search for common ground in holding the Taliban accountable for what it has pledged.” writes Janet Steele.

The Digitization of Dictatorship: Early Lessons from a Growing Literature? “If social media pose a threat to authoritarian regimes through multi-directional communication, this threat arguably vanishes with artificial intelligence. AI not only restores the unidirectional flow of information from subjects to the authoritarian state but also makes legible amounts of information that in its overwhelming quantity have been historically useless.” write Jeremy Boo & Dan Slater

Can Bureaucracy Save Liberal Democracy? How Public Administration can React to Populism. “Although the ideal-typical liberal democratic relationship between politicians and bureaucrats – the loyal and neutral civil servant, subordinate to elected politicians – has never materialized in practice, because purely neutral advice is hard to come by, politicians and bureaucrats still found ways to peacefully co-habitate within the perimeters of the liberal democratic state.” writes Kutsal Yesilkagit.

More Ethical Political Communication in the 21st Century. “Ethics as a matter of political communication vexes the human experiment in politics since its inception. A proper and grounded sense of ethics in political communication is a necessary ongoing consideration in all expert analysis of political communication in order to avoid important excesses of politics ranging from injustice to genocide. The key antidote to achieving ethical rather than unethical conduct in political communication is a careful praxis of discursive complexity. As the 21st century intensifies its attachments to vehicles of communication rooted in artificial intelligence, we as expert practitioners must intensify our pedagogy and research toward the encouragement of human dissent.” writes Ben Voth.

Democracy: Long-Term Projects, Not a Singled Fixed Recipe “There were problems confronting the machineries of the European Union, where post-2008 there were a sequence of problems involving German and French banks, in particular their exposure in Greece, relations with Russia, in particular around conflicts in Ukraine and the issue of migration, where Chancellor Merkel’s 2015 invitation caused widespread problems.” writes Peter Preston.

What do Social Media Activists and Social Networks Mean for Politics. “The reaction to the internet and social media by authoritarian governments has been to impose tight controls on online information, accompanied by intrusive surveillance, to ensure political control of their citizens.” writes James Andrew Lewis

Role of Social Media in Amplifying Neo-Liberal Cancel Culture. “Social media operationalization is the frontline of the current political struggle underway in Western civilization for shaping the ideological cultural identity of its citizens (across national boundaries) through informational and cognitive domain dominance and bringing about the End of History through the complete hegemony of liberal democracy.” writes Greg Simons.

Social Media in an Era of Great Power Competition: The Resurrection or Downfall of Democracy.“Social media provides elected officials with a venue to communicate rapidly with not only their constituents, but a larger audience, as well. This is particularly enticing to those who have ambitions for a higher office and want to increase their name recognition and audience.” writes Elizabeth Hoffman.

Conspiracy Buffs, Skeptics and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. “We identified “Conspiracy Buffs” and “Skeptics” based on two conspiracy theory items included in the 2016 American National Election Survey. We then compared these two groups, and the much larger group we called the “Uncertains”, on a large number of closed and open-ended survey items. The Conspiracy Buffs had lower levels of education than the Skeptics, had less facility with language, and were more likely to state that they had not thought much about whether they were liberal or conservative.” writes Ted Goertzel.

A Rising "Cyber China". “Dominance of cyberspace begins with the underlying technologies and physical infrastructure, which the state controls. It has the capacity to cut off internet access entirely (as it did following ethnic conflict in Xinjiang in 2009 and protests in Inner Mongolia in 2011).” write Jonathan Sullivan, Sarah Jeu, and Weixiang Wang.

A Digital Social Contract that Safeguards Democracies and Promotes Women's Rights is Urgently Needed. “Globally, women in politics are disproportionately targeted by gendered disinformation campaigns that feature fake stories and threats to undermine women candidates, often accompanied by humiliating and sexually charged images. The goal of these attacks is to frame female politicians as inherently untrustworthy, unintelligent, unqualified, and uncontrolling of their emotions to hold office or participate in democratic politics.” writes Lucina Di Meco.

Not in the Cards: U.S.-China Arms Control in the Era of Multipolar Competition. “Maintaining a minimal nuclear deterrent no longer behooves the PRC, now that it has been recognized as a great power. Bigger and better nuclear weapons bolster China’s claim to being Washington’s peer competitor and allow Beijing to exert influence over weaker actors.” write Eliza Gheorghe and Dilan Ezgi Koç.

When the Stakes are High: Campaign Messages in Hungary “The ruling party argued that the opposition wanted to win local elections to wage war against Viktor Orbán, so that cooperation with the central government would become impossible and mean the end of prosperity and development in the country.” writes Zsófia Bocskay.

Domestication and Defeminization of Female Leadership. “Several studies have shown that women receive fewer media coverage than men, and when they do receive coverage, it tends to focus on their appearance, attire, or marital status. If reporters do cover the issues and positions of women candidates, they focus on more ‘feminine’ issues such as ‘education’, leaving the more ‘manly’ issues such as gun control and defense for their men competitors.” writes Abeer Kapoor.

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This issue is published in collaboration with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom-Turkey Office

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