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Winding up Donald Trump supporters, is Yoda? How social media is affecting politics

Social media and politics have been a potent mix for a while but two events in the news lately illustrate just how lame they can make each other look. One has been called “trousergate”, in which:

  1. A politician, presumably on a decent income, wears a pair of expensive leather trousers;
  2. A second politician criticises her, and
  3. Twitter et al go crazy.

The message is a clear one. Downing Street, not necessarily the prime minister, is run by people who will allow themselves to get wound up, badly, by petty comments about the PM’s leg-wear. Which is fine as long as there isn’t anything important going on, anywhere.

It’s worse in America, and the story starts a long time ago, and in a universe far, far away…

Politics, social media and Star Wars

It started with Tweets from an activist claiming that the new Star Wars film (not a follow-on from last year’s but a prequel to the first three, but set probably after the second three from the last decade…get a fan to draw you a diagram) is has been re-edited to make the evil Empire out to be a white supremacist organisation.

This, the activist hints, is a reaction to the election of Donald Trump. He has therefore started the hashtag #dumpstarwars and it’s been retweeted thousands of times.

This time at least it’s not Trump himself declaring war on (in this instance) a popular science fiction movie. Whether the reports of the redrafting of the movie as an anti-Trump vehicle are accurate or not, though, it does tell us that Trump supporters can be pretty thin-skinned.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise. You don’t need sophisticated social media analytics to tell you that Trump himself has been sensitive to criticism from the entertainment industry since his win: attacks on the musical “Hamilton” after vice president elect Mike Pence had a lecture from the cast (Pence himself had the grace to listen and not criticise afterwards, which was actually more potent) and famously lashing out at “Saturday Night Live” when a satire show dared to satirise the incoming most powerful person in the world.

Social media allows us to find things out through analytics. It also allows us to find things out at a single glance; unfortunately what we’re finding out is that our politicians and leaders can be pretty petty when it suits them. We might have hoped they’d be have had broader shoulders, just in case there’s a real crisis for them to react to.