Ukrainian politics as Reality-FB

22 04 2019

A few days I ago I posted about how Ukraine’s election of comedian Ze as its president will put them at the forefront of the trend for “politics as reality-TV,” and how that may not be entirely a bad thing. (For one thing, it’s democracy at work; for another, Ze’s hologrammatic persona will become real and Ukrainians will then be able to respond to reality instead of to an empty signifier of ‘change’; for a third, it would make, and has now made, Ukraine the second country in the world with both a Jewish president and a Jewish prime minister, which incidentally would disprove all those Russian propaganda memes about Ukraine’s “fascism” and “anti-Semitism” for anyone who still needs to have them disproven.)

I missed one crucial element then: the extent to which Ukrainian politics had already been Facebookized, i.e., to which social media have spun Ukrainians into polar extremes, both of which seem to have fallen off one or another edge of consensus reality. Ukrainians have long been polarized, which has accounted for their revolutions and political oscillations, but the pro-western cultural nationalists and the left-liberal progressives (among the intellectuals I connect with) have usually had significant overlap between them. Now they seem to have departed into separate realities. (And that’s not to speak of larger cultural divides.)

(I could offer a couple of dozen posts and comments from friends to display these divergences in pretty stark terms. Reading them is difficult, because I know and respect some of these people. They are at least my “friends.”)

That social media would be so powerful among the population at large no longer surprises me (see Brazil, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Brexit, Trump). That it’s so powerful among intellectuals still does. This development deserves a new term: not politics not as reality-TV but politics as “reality-FB.”

More for us media scholars to keep up with, I guess. Happy Earth Day, Україна.



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