Role of new media in the development and rise of populism is complex but indisputable – Tanja Tatomirovic

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Distinct growth of populism which expands on the global scene in the last ten years can primarily be explained by economic and political considerations, but special attention should be paid to the media, specifically online media platforms. The internet and more networked global society provide almost unlimited freedom to use social networks and online media and thus redefining the limits of freedom of expression.

In an article entitled “The Age of Populism: From “Newspaper Publishers” to “Information Content Provider” published on The Medium, Communications expert Tanja Tatomirovic delves further in the subject.

“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 we all have to what extent such a platform leaves space for objective reporting, detailed analysis as well as for thoughtful, balanced and constructive criticism and communication.

Dealing with the media as my primary job, I consider the role online media and social networks can play in the advancement of populism and promote the type of communication that characterizes the populist way of thinking and expression in the political sense of emerging countries… 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 clicks and “shares”.

We can recall many online media samples in different countries and their reporting on the situation — “affair” in which members of the parliament`s opposition party used Twitter to express their inappropriate comments about the ruling party and vice versa. Many examples in other Southeastern European countries` could show the way in which the announcement of news and information in online media and social networks, as platforms 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 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, we should always reflect on the nature of the comments in order to realize a more comprehensive image of the exchange of information and views with strong populist attitudes.

The audience has been changed 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 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 the unambiguous and simplified view 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, the 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, especially in emerging countries.”

The writer,Tanja Tatomirovic, is the author of the book about WW2 fascist radio propaganda. Communicologist. A character from a novel. Stray pets advocate. Works for Microsoft.

The article appeared on The Medium

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