Distinct growth of populism which expands on the global scene in the last ten years, and can primarily be explained by economic and political considerations, but special attention should be paid to the media, specifically online media platforms. Internet and more networked global society provides almost unlimited freedom to use social networks and online media, and thus redefining the limits of freedom of expression.
Most of the developed societies define the frameworks of freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the communication in the media by a series of legal regulations, but when we speak about the Internet as a medium – the situation is much more complicated because of its inherent characteristics of anonymity, fluidity and openness.
Social networks and online media as a platform from which the wide variety of beliefs could be promoted with near absolute freedom, are especially suitable for political or public communication, which favors the width of the audience, mobility and constant availability of information that is interspersed with incredible speed. In relation to that, there is a question to what extent such a platform leaves space for objective reporting, detailed analysis as well as for thoughtful, balanced and constructive criticism and communication.
Supported with case studies, this paper will consider the role that online media and social networks can play in the advancement of populism and promoting the type of communication that characterizes populist way of thinking and expression in Serbia political scene. It seems that the only safe rule of online media engagement at constant acquisition and sharing of information is the one that should enable the greatest ‘flow’, i.e. the highest number of hits and “shares”.
The case study that has been used in the paper is the empirical analysis of the online media sample in Serbia and their reporting on the situation – “affair” in which an opposition party member of the parliament used the Twitter social network to express his inappropriate comment about the ruling party. A selected example should show the way in which the announcement of news and information on online media and social networks, as a platform of mass communication, can contribute to a wider acceptance of the populist approach in public discussions and exchange of criticism of opposing political parties.
Due to the nature of these digital platforms of communication which leaves space for set-up and giving comments on information and news in real time, the two-way impact that occurs between online media and their users must be considered. In this context, the work will reflect on the nature of the comments of analyzed online news in the analysis of case studies in order to display a more comprehensive image of the exchange of information and views with strong populist attitudes.
The role of new media in the development and rise of populism is complex but indisputable. In the last couple of decades, there were exceptional changes in the way the media and the public/political speech function whereas internet and new media influence on the ways in which we receive, seek and prosecute news and information in an increasingly important way. The audience is changing and the traditional media are facing different user needs. Such reality leads to a transition from “newspaper publishers” to “information content provider”, a quest for profit on the Internet, a growing interest in investing in the management according to the model of “integrated newsroom” through the production and delivery of news. This model of media organization aims to adapt adequately to the same requirements of the environment and thus achieve optimal results.
Here, the key factor is the perception that the interactivity with the audience/users is an inseparable part of the online media space and that such a relationship is changing the role of the media, but also the audience itself as well as those who communicate with the audience through the media.
Traditional media and their online versions, but also social networks, are the most powerful modern platform of populist ideas. Speed, wide availability and security provided by the anonymity of the Internet to a large extent – all these are instruments invaluable for publishing attitudes that are primarily characterized by unambiguous and simplified views on certain issues.
Such Internet dominance in a globally networked society seriously shakes confidence in political systems, and the nature of the “network” is transmitted to all spheres of society. Types of civic engagement, level of trust in political institutions/systems, as well as the relationship that is created between them – varies from one society to another, and here we come/go back to a space that allows the development of populism and populist discourse.
[Full article is available in Serbian language here]