Trump and Modi's victories show public decides elections, not media

The old information order has changed. All hail the new.

 |  4-minute read |   09-11-2016
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It is not often that you see a generational shift happening right in front of your eyes. That has been confirmed with the spectacular success of US Presidential elect Donald Trump, who fought newspapers, magazines, intellectuals, liberals, leftists, the democratic establishment, his own republican leaders along with influencers like Hollywood superstars and Silicon Valley czars.

He took on all of them and won! How did that happen? The answer lies in the fact that a power shift has finally taken place. Raw power and information have finally landed in the hands of the citizens through Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, blogging and alternative media sites, which have already grown more powerful than the cautious old guard.

In the past, the dictatorship of monarchs was challenged by the religious leaders. Then we had the industrial revolution and the corporate houses started calling the shots. The printing press put information in the hands of the citizen briefly and soon we had the Fourth Estate thanks to newspapers, magazines and then TV channels.

But soon, this formed a powerful ecosystem and shut the common man out. The ecosystem's players dictated the debate. Social media became the next great leveller. Showing promise in the 2000s, the medium has delivered the goods in the 2010s.

You could well say that it wasn't Trump who first charted this path, but our very own Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The latter too fought the civil society, liberals, intellectuals, leftists, BJP leaders and, of course, the media to emerge triumphant.

The way Modi was criticised, his career should have been ended, but he emerged stronger. In 2012, CNN GPS host and former Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria even declared that Modi's national career was over.

But Modi was not an aberration and proved to be the trend. The more our academics and intellectuals tried to propagate a political theory (like the ones that have succeeded in the past), the more people fought them and tried to prove them wrong.

If Britain's establishment convinced you that Ed Miliband would win the UK elections, the people firmly rallied around David Cameron. Then when Cameron joined hands with the establishment and tried to present Brexit as a prime evil, the people rebelled yet again and soon the UK PM found himself in the wilderness.Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was hanging by a thread in 2015 and the entire global media attacked him - as a result, Netanyahu won. Trump is the latest in that trend.

You can no longer tell the people what to do. If you obfuscate and try to influence the public, it is sure to backfire. Celebrities in America shouted from their rooftops in the hundreds and set alarm bells ringing for a doomsday Trump presidency. Voters chose not to listen.The main difference is that the turnaround cycle has changed. There was a time when it would take decades for an establishment or idea to build up and it would take as much time to crumble. Not anymore. An idea can emerge early in the day, go viral in the afternoon and be embedded in the global psyche by night.

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In India, Shah Rukh Khan went from reigning Bollywood superstar to shaky box office prospect after the #Intolerance and #BoycottDilwale controversies. Even his compatriot Aamir Khan struggled with Incredible India and Snapdeal endorsments after an attack was waged against him chiefly in the cyberspace.

In the age of social media, just as anyone can go viral and become an outright influencer, an establishment figure or celebrity can fall and become a laughing stock in 24 hours. In fact, WikiLeaks showed the cosy relationship between the Hillary campaign and tech giants like Facebook and Google.

It didn't make any difference. Social media moguls are the first to realise that they can make as much money they want, but they cannot control their customers the way giants in the past could.

The entire American mainstream media rallied around Hillary and is reeling from shock as the Trump victory has put their very existence at stake.The establishment stranglehold has finally been broken and information has been placed directly in the hands of the people.

The absolute surfeit of information on the net has challenged old school academics - who are no longer that influential.

The intense fast-changing debate that takes place on social media has exposed many intellectuals and rendered them insignificant.

YouTube and live stream looks much more appealing than television. The old information order has changed. All hail the new.

The information tool as a political and not just a technical entity has finally arrived.

Writer

Sunil Rajguru Sunil Rajguru @sunilrajguru

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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