Futility of the Twitter politician

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Photo credit: Photo | File

What you need to know:

  • Social media has given most minions, hitherto the vast silent majority, a voice.
  • Children of lesser gods can hurl the filthiest epithets and abuses at the high and mighty.

They say politics ain’t beanbag, which means the rough and tumble of politics isn’t for the faint of heart. You need to have gone to the school of hard knocks to develop a thick skin. However, social media — Twitter in particular — has given many a make-believe, or phony, politico a licentious avatar to play politician. Since we live in the age of fake news, it seems perfectly in keeping with the times to incubate human and professional facsimiles.

Most Twitter politicians can’t make it in the real world. But they are happy to toil in the futility of their identities as Twitter politicians. Mark you, I am not condemning, or apologising for, them. No — they serve a useful purpose.

We know this much. Social media has given most minions, hitherto the vast silent majority, a voice. That’s great for democracy. Every person with a keyboard and Web connectivity can now get in a word edgewise. He, or she, can now dialogue with those previously beyond reach. One can now “talk” to people they could never — ever — have had the chance to communicate with.

Children of lesser gods

Children of lesser gods can hurl the filthiest epithets and abuses at the high and mighty. To use a recent term, social and class hierarchies have been “flattened”, at least in the fertile and deceptive imaginations of the “wretched of the earth”.

We like to think we are all “equal.” Although we know equality isn’t real because it’s only a legal fiction, we don’t want to live in a formally unequal world, like Apartheid South Africa.

So the Twitter politician fancies himself the equal of the actual life-size, earth-walking politician like NARC-Kenya leader Martha Karua. That’s why you will see Twitter political earthlings with less than 20 followers engaging Ms Karua in loud, knockdown, drag-out Twitter or Facebook fights. Most real-life politicians take it on the chin like the people’s punching bag. Others, like DP William Ruto, are trigger-happy with the “block” button. Mr Ruto and his thin-skinned ilk don’t think the social curve has been flattened.

Social media politicians aren’t created equal. Among this virtual crowd, there’s a steep curve. Some have hundreds of thousands, even millions, of followers. They are the so-called “influencers”.

Their tweets make it on the evening news, or the pages of major papers. They put others down or dispense unsolicited advice without let or hindrance. It’s not a gun-shy lot. I think they may even shape public opinion, or bend public policy. They use Twitter and Facebook as a bully pulpit — emphasis “bully”.

Those with paltry social media followers can only lick their chops in envy. You can see them picking fights to be recognised. Often, they will target the biggest fish, like ODM’s Raila Odinga, usually in vain.

Political manhood

Twitter politicians have their DNA. They usually measure the length of their political manhood by the size of their followers. But this is all illusory because the Twitter mandarin — like Donald Trump, for example — doesn’t really know why some people follow him.

Maybe many of the followers aren’t even people, but bots (short for robot). Why does anyone follow another? To vindicate your wisdom, vision, or be a voyeur? Is it because you are notorious like OJ Simpson? Perhaps they like your bigotry, or are entertained by your stupidity.

 All the same, it’s a numbers game. Lately, I’ve seen some social media celebrities — especially on Instagram — peddling Coca Cola (God forbid) and other drinks, including some inebriating intoxicants.

Bottom line is that Twitter politicians, unlike the real thing, aren’t fully formed. They’re akin to what renowned lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi called Senator Kipchumba Murkomen. In a moment of levity, Mr Abdullahi called Mr Murkomen a test-tube politician. I took this insult to mean that Mr Murkomen wasn’t fully formed, and was still in the political petri dish of his godfather.

Wittiest tweet machete

Remember that Mr Abdullahi — who’s my friend — has the wriest humour among Kenyan Twitter doyens. He can cut you down with the wittiest tweet machete. He’s mastered the art of the Twitter chop. The friendly fire between him and senior lawyer Donald Kipkorir — also my friend — takes no prisoners.

Other Twitter kings, like the indefatigable Dr David Ndii, use Twitter to teach, no matter how impatiently. He’s the rare influential public intellectual willing to mix it up. But there are windbags who think you can organise a revolution on Twitter.

They chest-thump and fulminate on Twitter calling on the masses to rise up. Yo bruh, as they say, Twitter isn’t ground zero for the Arab Spring. That was a people’s popular street movement which used Twitter, not the other way round. Such Twitter “generals” are pathetic paper tigers who should — must — be treated with the contempt they deserve.

They are worse than the market heckler, the village wag. It is they who fully demonstrate the futility of the Twitter politician.