Social media has drastically opened up the political landscape, allowing ordinary folks access like never before. In the past, the mainstream media had the monopoly on all information, deciding what gets aired and what remained on editors' floor.
Now, no more. Citizen journalists, bloggers, and basically anyone with working fingers, can cover the political theatre on Capitol Hill or blast their opinions on the electorial circus past and present.
One of the delightful benefits for the public but I'm sure dreaded albatross for politicians is this seemingly unlimited open access to information. Now politicians cannot get away with what they got to hide behind the walls in Washington and elsewhere before.
If President Richard Nixon's Watergate and John F. Kennedy's presidential philandering had happened in this era of smartphones and instant upload, with every other citizen fancying themselves a journalist along with the information super-highway that is the Internet, the sagas would have been vastly different.
Now every gaffe, cover-up, sexual indiscretion, illegal activity or questionable rhetoric is captured on phone-cameras and immediately splashed on YouTube. Every Tweet or Facebook status or post is dissected. A former congressman from New York, Anthony Wiener must not have gotten that memo, for his social media "sexcapades" brought his promising political career to a screeching, scandalous demise.
Wiener is not the only legislator forced out of office in shame. The long list has too many "casualties" to mention. One who weathered the all-seeing eyes of social media is Rep. Charles Rangel, whose sunbathing in the Caribbean was captured on camera and splattered all over the World Wide Web. His ensuing ethics violations conviction followed, but apart form a slap on the wrist, this New York 'career' politician is still standing.
The Republican race to pick a nominee was long and contentious, with some gaffes and soundbites never seen or heard before, and all were captured live and in living color. Much of the circus parade was caught by ordinary folks attending stump speeches and of course the results were endless loops of entertainment for the viewing audience on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the extended media.
I said the "extended media," for at times it feels like the mainstream media is taking cues from social media. In fact, breaking news can be found on the Internet before you see it on CNN and its competitors.
Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman and Rick Santorum were all caught on tape making some blunder or another. Cain and Perry were the gifts that kept on giving and every nuance made its way to a YouTube video, sometimes complete with auto-tuned music. The non-stop coverage helped topedo some candidates run before they even reached half-way around the political race track.
Comedians like Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert usually have a field day with our politicians and their ability to forget we live in the age of social media where all of their rhetoric is preserved for instant replay. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's ( or as Jon now calls him, "Rominee,") flip-flopping, Etch-a-Sketch moments make for hilarious fodder on their nightly programs.
Businessman and once a "teaser" presidential candidate himself, Donald Trump is once again on his Birther pandering while being Romney's new BFF. His dogged pursuit of President Obama's birth certificate and refusal to believe he's a U.S. citizen also makes for a juicy comedic sideshow. All captured by our 24-hour, seven -days a week news cycle. Viewers no longer have to rely only on Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and print media to get their daily dose.
With the flick of a finger, information overload is just a flicker of a computer monitor, smartphone or iPad away. This kind of control in the hands of the consumer can be heady. The downside is there is so much of it, sensory overload may be a new diagnosed "ailment."
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