Has the internet made political discourse more aggressive? Watch

Poll: Do you think the internet has made political discussion more aggressive?
Yes (632)
84.83%
No (113)
15.17%
This discussion is closed.
UEA Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 4 weeks ago
#1
I’m interested in political rhetoric – the arguments people make when they try to justify or prove their political claims, and also the style with which they communicate it. Everybody uses rhetoric, whenever they try to justify something to someone who doesn’t already agree. Today a lot of political rhetoric happens online. My question is “Has the internet made political discourse more aggressive?”

One answer would be a definitive ‘Yes’ – that online political communication is ‘toxic’, predominantly and unavoidably hateful, all about point-scoring rather than trying to win anyone over, and that that is the inevitable outcome when people can communicate anonymously, without having to know anything about the topic, using platforms designed to generate traffic rather than good debate. Do you agree?



My name is Alan Finlayson and I am Professor of Political and Social Theory at the University of East Anglia. I research the history, theory and practice of political rhetoric. At the moment I am looking at how social media and other online platforms are changing who gets to speak to millions about their politics, the rhetoric they use and how it is changing the ways people think about (and do) politics.
Last edited by Puddles the Monkey; 4 weeks ago
4
bloomer36
Badges: 12
Rep:
?
#2
Report 4 weeks ago
#2
I think it has made it more honest in a way. You can say whatever you want, however you want, when doing it from behind a screen.
1
Neilos
Badges: 12
Rep:
?
#3
Report 4 weeks ago
#3
I'd go with the definite yes, and agree with what the second paragraph says. It's turned politics nastier and - certainly on social media, it seems - there's no real debate any more... just (usually) two sides making increasingly outlandish claims, or more offensive attacks, and a growing population of worker drones feeding their side 'likes' (social media aque vitae) and hurling abuse at the other side. And the more they do it, the further apart the two sides get, and the more extreme the attacks become.

You know there's a problem when you come along with a laid-back, middle-ground viewpoint and get shouted at by both sides.
6
She-Ra
  • TSR Community Team
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#4
Report 4 weeks ago
#4
Yes, I believe it has. And no one seems to read with the intention to understand, just to find the point that they want to respond to with a counter argument.

But having said that, watching the behaviour of the House of Commons after the vote where MPs were jeering and not listening, all talking over one another - they hardly set a good example to the rest of the public. I find it shameful.

(Original post by Neilos)
I'd go with the definite yes, and agree with what the second paragraph says. It's turned politics nastier and - certainly on social media, it seems - there's no real debate any more... just (usually) two sides making increasingly outlandish claims, or more offensive attacks, and a growing population of worker drones feeding their side 'likes' (social media aque vitae) and hurling abuse at the other side. And the more they do it, the further apart the two sides get, and the more extreme the attacks become.

You know there's a problem when you come along with a laid-back, middle-ground viewpoint and get shouted at by both sides.
I feel this all the time. It makes me not want to share online. So those that shout the loudest with the biggest claims get heard.
4
UEA Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#5
Report Thread starter 4 weeks ago
#5
That's interesting - especially the remark about 'worker drones feeding their side "likes"'. Do you think that the ease with which that can now be done has changed what people want to get out of political discussion? Are they, instead of trying to persuade anybody, just playing to a gallery of these 'drones'?
(Original post by Neilos)
I'd go with the definite yes, and agree with what the second paragraph says. It's turned politics nastier and - certainly on social media, it seems - there's no real debate any more... just (usually) two sides making increasingly outlandish claims, or more offensive attacks, and a growing population of worker drones feeding their side 'likes' (social media aque vitae) and hurling abuse at the other side. And the more they do it, the further apart the two sides get, and the more extreme the attacks become.

You know there's a problem when you come along with a laid-back, middle-ground viewpoint and get shouted at by both sides.
0
londonmyst
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#6
Report 4 weeks ago
#6
No- the brazen aggression of thuggish delinquents has permeated far beyond both the internet and political discourse.
There is so much unwarranted aggression across society as a whole that for many it has become habitual or a fact of modern life.
Present almost everywhere: on the streets, in schools, universities, public transport, football stadiums, nightclubs, media headlines and even within Parliament itself.

The majority of unpleasant antisocial antics are being ignored by law enforcement until they either escalate into violent life threatening attacks or are targeted at a high profile individual.
Thus permitting a toxic culture to become endemic where aggression, violent threats and hate campaigns are allowed to become entrenched in social culture.

The internet (social media in particular) has just provided an additional outlet for ill intentioned aggressive/criminal people to abuse, harass and threaten strangers.
Anonymously hiding behind a computer screen and social media/email account- if they wish to make the effort to conceal their identity.
So few people are aware that sending a single violence/rape/criminal damage threat by social media message or email is a crime- no different from saying it face to face or through a posted letter.
Same applies to a single unsolicited d*** pic and three instances of sending abusive messages that do not contain any threats of violence to someone online.
1
AperfectBalance
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#7
Report 4 weeks ago
#7
Look at antifa and their thugs that are commonly just seen as normal protesters, the communists have always been violent they are just having a resurgance unlike the boogeymen they use "nazis" who are almost always vilified by nearly everyone
1
The RAR
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#8
Report 4 weeks ago
#8
The only reason I hate certain people online is because of their political views, if it was not for online politics then I could have got on just fine with more people
0
Penguin Spaceman
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#9
Report 4 weeks ago
#9
Most of the people I meet would argue or debate an issue in the same manner that they would face to face as well as online. I'm tending more towards the idea that the internet passes the opportunity to package opinions however anyone would like to, and the greater the measure of anonymity the more aggressive the people can be. As such, it would probably lend to more toxic conversations. I don't think a large majority behave aggressively on the internet, but from an anecdotal standpoint, I'd say that it can sour the experience and make conversation on the internet not as worthwhile.
0
04MR17
  • Community Assistant
Badges: 22
Rep:
?
#10
Report 4 weeks ago
#10
I've been watching Brexit: The uncivil war on All 4 at the moment. Dominic Cumming's tactic of going mostly digital with digital targeted advertising I think has changed politics (at least in this country) and what we see happening on twitter (particularly) now is the consequence.

Politicians see that people today (anyone below 45, and many above) spend enormous amount of times looking at screens. Whether it's spending an hour texting friends in the evening or spending your weekdays replying to emails at work, or spending a ridiculous amount of time over 4 years writing over 50k posts on a student forum (:innocent:); we are all stuck, almost dependent, on electronic devices now.

It's the political aim now to use this to persuade us to become political. Perhaps the theory is that a more aggressive online following will attract more online attention and thus votes. Technology is a new way to reach people who've never engaged in politics before. Trump is a good example of attracting new, anti-establishment, voters - and he has twitter wars with the cast of Broadway musicals!
2
DSutch
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#11
Report 4 weeks ago
#11
I think yes, as people can hide behind a screen, so-called keyboard warriors. There is also less opportunity to escape, especially for people with FOMO who do not really switch off from debate and social media.
0
muthalganesan18
Badges: 12
Rep:
?
#12
Report 4 weeks ago
#12
Reddit is horrendous in terms of partisan politics and bubbles. It's also mostly about populism and abusing the idea of karma (which would defend ideas akin to political neutrality against populism)
0
Neilos
Badges: 12
Rep:
?
#13
Report 4 weeks ago
#13
(Original post by UEA Guest Lecturer)
That's interesting - especially the remark about 'worker drones feeding their side "likes"'. Do you think that the ease with which that can now be done has changed what people want to get out of political discussion? Are they, instead of trying to persuade anybody, just playing to a gallery of these 'drones'?
Pretty much how I see the bulk of 'amateur' political discussers (and plenty of MPs). I do get the impression many people are more interested in attracting likes, and feeling like they're appreciated, than anything else. They're like political versions of Instagram models - throw out an easily understood post that's attractive to the target audience and reap the fawning responses. I don't particularly like the term 'virtue-signalling' but that's essentially what a lot of it is, from the right and the left, into their own echo chambers - done primarily to say 'hey, look at me, I'm part of your group, accept me and tell me how good I am'.

Like people have realised politics can be almost as effective as attractiveness in the quest to become 'social media popular'.

I think a lot of them do actually think they've got a chance of persuading people too, but few people who post things appear equipped to respond to dissenting views with real arguments. I get the feeling there's more satisfaction gained from responding to someone with an insult (and drones love insults) than with a reasoned argument.
1
UEA Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#14
Report Thread starter 4 weeks ago
#14
(Original post by The RAR)
The only reason I hate certain people online is because of their political views, if it was not for online politics then I could have got on just fine with more people
Would you hate them for those political views offline?
0
UEA Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#15
Report Thread starter 4 weeks ago
#15
(Original post by Penguin Spaceman)
Most of the people I meet would argue or debate an issue in the same manner that they would face to face as well as online. I'm tending more towards the idea that the internet passes the opportunity to package opinions however anyone would like to, and the greater the measure of anonymity the more aggressive the people can be. As such, it would probably lend to more toxic conversations. I don't think a large majority behave aggressively on the internet, but from an anecdotal standpoint, I'd say that it can sour the experience and make conversation on the internet not as worthwhile.
That's interesting. I am sure you are right about anonymity being an important feature. But isn't a lot of aggressive political date often not anonymous - the way some politicians and journalists and others talk on Twitter can be pretty rough. And newspapers are also blunt and divisive in their reporting - is it possible that what started out spurred on by anonymity has now spread beyond the internet?
0
UEA Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#16
Report Thread starter 4 weeks ago
#16
(Original post by 04MR17)
Politicians see that people today (anyone below 45, and many above) spend enormous amount of times looking at screens. Whether it's spending an hour texting friends in the evening or spending your weekdays replying to emails at work, or spending a ridiculous amount of time over 4 years writing over 50k posts on a student forum (:innocent:); we are all stuck, almost dependent, on electronic devices now.
I think this is a very good point - might it also be that in order to get attention on line, where people are looking at so much for so much of the time, you need to be strident, aggressive and controversial? Is politics becoming clickbait?
0
UEA Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#17
Report Thread starter 4 weeks ago
#17
(Original post by muthalganesan18)
Reddit is horrendous in terms of partisan politics and bubbles. It's also mostly about populism and abusing the idea of karma (which would defend ideas akin to political neutrality against populism)
Reddit is a very interesting case. Some scholars argue that the rules and the coding of the platform encourage the sort of thing you are describing - it creates a competition to be noticed and to get points, and that in turn encourages people to swarm around posts to vote them up or down. Do you think that might be part of what is going on here?
0
UEA Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#18
Report Thread starter 4 weeks ago
#18
So, there is a kind of 'gamification' of political discussion going on? Is that what you are thinking? That could be really important. There are parts of politics that are a game, but the game is Politics - winning people so they vote for your party or your bill. But if that gets overwritten by a different game - the the game of getting attention on social media so that you can monestise it or turn it into celebrity, then we've got a problem. It would mean that lots of people who look like they are doing politics aren't - they are doing showbiz.
0
Puddles the Monkey
  • TSR Community Team
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#19
Report 4 weeks ago
#19
I'm not sure... I can think of several historical examples pre-internet where the political rhetoric has been very aggressive.

It feels like the echo-chamber has brought division and tribalism closer to home in a different way, but I'm not sure if this a new phenomenon or a reflection of the current economic situation or ...... ? It feels more toxic, but I'm not sure if it actually is - although the scale has changed and maybe that's what's different.
1
04MR17
  • Community Assistant
Badges: 22
Rep:
?
#20
Report 4 weeks ago
#20
(Original post by UEA Guest Lecturer)
I think this is a very good point - might it also be that in order to get attention on line, where people are looking at so much for so much of the time, you need to be strident, aggressive and controversial? Is politics becoming clickbait?
I think politics is trying but not always succeeding. People are becoming sick of discourses about Brexit and I don't see many arguments online about broad social issues, or debating the economic structure of the UK. It feels very superficial to me personally, but that might just be my own cynicism.
Posted on the TSR App. Download from Apple or Google Play
0
X
new posts
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

University open days

  • University of East Anglia
    Could you inspire the next generation? Find out more about becoming a Secondary teacher with UEA… Postgraduate
    Tue, 12 Mar '19
  • University of East Anglia
    All Departments Open 13:00-17:00. Find out more about our diverse range of subject areas and career progression in the Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences, Medicine & Health Sciences, and the Sciences. Postgraduate
    Wed, 20 Mar '19

Is the plastic tax enough to protect the environment?

Yes (0)
0%
No (66)
100%

Watched Threads

View All