New media role in political engagement and electoral communication has more or less contributed to consolidate cultural imperialism and information hegemony. India is facing the Americanization of political communication largely fed up by social media platforms, which unleashed by American technology in the trajectory of digital supremacy and US political environment. This resulted in the production of a flat politics.
There is a wide spread fear over the cultural imperialism spreading on new media and digital technologies. Electoral polarization, digitalization of protest and politics, political hybridization and homogenization, a new kind of convergence is taking place all around the world as said by Friedman in the idea the world is flat. The political systems, political classes, political behaviors, and political communications are almost similar where ever one goes. The politics is flat now.
The factories of the contemporary cyber hate, cities such as Yemen, Cairo, Iran, Tunisia, etc., produced a new sociality in form of connective spaces, instead of bringing about ideas for changing the world. The cities also co-opted it in the routines of everyday life. There are now distressing make up of digital ghettos. However, they are city centric, created a flat public, where from politics to protest, and hate to love looks as if similar. At the centre of this new-fangled connectivity sphere, spins the new forms of imperialism, cultural power and homogenization of public spheres across the world.
Cities migrated to social media. In turn, social media has made it the next stage in the fall down of city. Dialectic between city and social media resurfaces in new form of class antagonism and in the grammar of new hostilities between cities and villages, between rich and poor, and between urban and rural. This idea characterises the scope of extending ghetto analogy to social media.
More importantly, instead of mirroring discussions that are political, social media sites have contributed much to hate campaign, fun, photo sharing, mere pastime activities. Social media has increasingly used by militants, communalists, casteists, terrorists, misogynists, fanatics, gangs, extremists and more or less facilitate all hate groups to spread violence, hate, crime and almost all deviant behavior.
The social variables of misogyny, sexuality, gender, class, caste, power, inequality and a long list of powerful social forces, which arbitrates our social imagination in the "offline" world, reflected and reproduced digitally in Internet. The Indian government?s attempt to crack down 309 social media sites on the Internet and massive protest and online outrage against the decision is an example for hate campaign online in India
Moreover, all messages judged by their merit seems to be at the middle of confusion, for instance, most of discussions taking place in Internet are purely immature and out of place. Kerala episode of film star 'Prithviraj', cricketer 'Sreeshanth and filmmaker 'Santhosh Pandit' are instances enough to prove this argument. A perusal of social media user content makes the picture exceptionally plain and simple.
YouTube videos of film stars, suppose taken as an example, analysis reveals that the prevailing male prejudices against women especially female actors are so humiliating enough and even dangerous which are seen in the comment thread posted on pages. Comments on video of female sporting stars have dominated by sexist prejudices and lust.
Orkut pages has used for not networking in many ways; instead, it has been profoundly used for extra marital relations, illegal and illicit relationship. Especially Orkut platforms like Open Chat Rooms, India Chat, Who is Online, and many other Chat applications are specific platforms but used for deviant purposes especially for illicit and illegal relationships.
It is obvious that the social media spaces are class based, sexualised gendered, caste based, racial, power endowed. It has all the features of society and it?s up and down. The social categories of gender, class, race, caste, power, sexuality, and prejudices have equally reflected in the online world. Religion, communal, casteist, sexist, prejudices and stereotypes are maturing in cyberspace.
The radical media so called because of the liberating ideals associated with new media platforms would normally mean to be a conspiracy theory. After all, the platforms are middle class centred. Indian metros, cities, and the affluent sections of India having broadband connectivity and smart phones have certainly migrated to platforms.
However, it does not mean that they represent the whole of India. In fact, social media mirrors the class character of India state and 'corpocracy' prevailing in Indian democracy. It is just a tool and a measure of assessing the true nature of Indian democracy. It is a needle to measure the so-called freedom of expression, privacy concerns etc.
Platforms have showed an inhospitable social space resurfacing. Queer communities are normally the target of attack in Internet as they were normally in offline spaces. Marginality acquired newer dimensions and alarming dangers. Women have taken to see as digital diva. It is almost difficult to appear as woman in connective spaces, for it has become a colony of men. Caste politics has found its own Pandora Box and casteism is as severe as it was before when there was no Internet. No serious political dialogue is taking place.
Intellectuals are lonely and have no audience. Politicians migrated to platforms not because they wanted to serve the nation, but because they wanted to hide their pitfalls and ill competence. Protest acquired new character and in fact, it has become shapeless, nameless and directionless.
The platforms have become the status symbol of middle calls. The middle class also made it the city centric. Now everybody is the new protester. However, no one seems responsible. No one listens. It is just sound and fury, devoid of content. Like the so-called new generation, the medium is new generation.
Certainly, the political power of social media is a well-charged myth. The myth is that the way digital media/radical media operational in our lives are so complicated enough to put us in a manufactured consent and informed false consciousness.
Unquestionably, people get to believe that it is their platforms. However, such taken for granted notions about radical media as people?s media only consolidated our problems of inequalities and ability to question the hidden inequalities. Let us radicalize the radical media and socialize its sociability.
About the Author: Biju P R, teaches Political Science at Government Brennen College, Thalassery, Kerala. Researches on social media and political interfaces in the Indian context. Currently writing two books on the same theme. (Clicking Alone: Mechanics of protest and change in digital India) and (ConnectivePolitics: Reflections on digital public in India).