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In an article published on journalism.co.uk John Mair writes of protests via Twitter and Facebook, "It gives the illusion of democracy and belonging to a movement whereas in reality is it membership of a mob, albeit a virtual one? Is this healthy for democracy and media accountability or not?"
But isn't this is a perfect example of modern democracy in action?
Historians have suggested that early incarnations of the newspaper were partly responsible for nation-building, arguing that when people from a disparate collection of places read the same news in the same language and subsequently form similar opinions, cultures, borders and political views are solidified. The role of the media has always been to shape opinion and formulate the mandate for governance - when the media identifies an issue as important, for instance child obesity, knife crime or MPs expenses, governments can be forced to act. But who watches the media to make sure that they don't overstep their authority?
Surely, it is their readership.
Jan Moir's piece about Stephen Gately widely overstepped the mark for many readers. Those readers reacted angrily because she came across as intolerant of homosexuality and hateful towards a large minority group. Those readers used the most readily available platform for complaint they had available to them - social media.
Ten years ago people might have read this article and if they disagreed with it would have had to phone or write to complain. This would have been done privately, on an individual basis and would have taken days to register.
Today, with the likes of Twitter and Facebook available and the popularity of blogging, people across the UK were able to announce their dissatisfaction with what had been printed in the Daily Mail almost instantaneously and encourage friends and acquaintances to also read the piece and state their opinions. This resulted in a mass movement across a wide range of social media platforms, bolstered by the backing of a couple of well-known faces (Stephen Fry and Derren Brown) to help get people paying attention, thus forcing a change.
This, surely, is exactly how things are supposed to work: people across the UK simultaneously reading something, disapproving and stating that disapproval publicly, thereby making the media take note that there has been a cultural and philosophical shift in
attitudes towards homosexuality. In this instance society has done its job of watching the watchers and exercising their influence to enforce popular values.
Social media has, in fact, created a new, more immediate route by which this two-way flow of power from the media to the populace
and from the populace back up to both the media and government may travel, and it is a fact of modern society that both the media
and the state would do well to understand.