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Social Media Marketing

Mark Warburton (UK) - Social Media and Civil Unrest Part 4

In this final part to the series, I provide opinions on why such universal condemnation continued during and after the riots, a defense of new media, and the prejudices that underpin such a reaction.

One of the most obvious hypocrisies that plague the attack on new technology is that established media like TV and newspapers don't refrain from detailed coverage and aftermath analysis itself. Not only do the condemning portions of the media provide their own meticulous accounts and reports on the riots and their locations, they amplify knowledge already established via Twitter/Facebook/BlackBerry. As we discussed in the first post, the go-to forms of staying up-to-date with the rioting included the likes of BBC News 24 sourcing photos and videos via social media. A fitting analogy to the traditional media slapping social media's hand  is a parent telling a child not to look at something gruesome and giving them the gory, detailed reasons as to why they shouldn't.

As mentioned in the second part of this series, a narrative regarding the rioters is something the government was quick to convey via media - a perfect platform for creating the binary opposition between the untrustworthy ‘other' and the upstanding citizen; redirecting fears, anger and discontentment away from its more likely sources. The government theorizes and constructs what (supposedly) lies ‘outside' of society, strengthening the stability of the inside (status quo).

The narrative of a feckless, young, poor people was easy to convey during the riots, as an implicit disdain for the poor ‘underclass', ‘chavs' of society, has been bubbling under the surface of middle-class political correctness for years. We bought into the obvious stereotype when the media reported that book stores were not being looted, that the stereotypical shops (JJB Sports) were being looted - ‘tsk, too stupid to steal from Harrods' was muttered under breath. Selective sound bites of the most inarticulate people involved in the riots were repeatedly played on looping news services both on and offline. For much of the population, the ‘underclass' will be the last place to project hatred openly without politically correct, social reprisals. That the riots degenerated into looting - and not out-and-out destruction - affirms that even the have nots of society are slaves to materialistic desire and status. They too are saturated by popular entertainment, media and society, sold illusions of grandeur. This aspiration for status does not stop at the welfare class.

I conclude on perhaps a fairly obvious criticism regarding the importance of technology as significant as a catalyst to the riots. Do people need social media to riot? Or to continue one? Have people become so apathetic about the modern condition that guided or spasmodic reaction against the establishment requires instantaneous communication? I think not. The psychological explanations of social media providing validation are questionably relevant. Any form of communication can maintain rebellion; the psychological incentive for validating behavior can influence people at even at a local, one-on-one level.

Civil unrest is political in itself - it does not need French social theorists to give it intellectual weight, or a social networking tool to spread discontentment. Neither does conservative rhetoric regarding a failed culture actually have any use other than a kind of moral condemnation. In fact such accusations only cloud any discussion regarding the riots in the first place.

By Mark Warburton, Editorial Assistant, IDG Connect

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