Why is it that the general public is expected and trusted to be fair and impartial when called to jury service, interviewing for jobs or working in almost any occupation, but this is not the case when it comes to making the most important decision: voting for who will run the country? In almost any other job we trust people to be objective and we punish them if they aren’t, judges, doctors, managers, if they don’t follow where the evidence points but where their personal opinions guide them or if they break protocol they risk their reputation and their job. Politicians can have a reputation in ruins but still keep their job.
Ideology and the persuasive power of image have been known to be the biggest drawbacks to democracy for time immemorial, yet very little has ever been done to reduce their effects and arguably in the past few decades they have been exacerbated with a move towards the political extremes in both the US and UK. This is likely to get even worse with the rise of social media as image and celebrity become more pronounced and they tend to be echo chambers reinforce people’s ideologies and runaway processes take place as things go viral. Irrelevant characteristics relating to candidates image such as facial structure and vocal range and style are known to influence voters.
Would Donald Trump (née Drumpf) have been a contender for the presidency without social media? Would he persuade anyone if political candidates had to wear burkas and disguise their voice when appearing in public? One day soon we will get a politician who is the Boaty McBoatface of parliament, elected because he amuses people to do so (one could argue Boris Johnson proves this has already happened). Continue reading