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26 May, 2024
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Politics in the age of virality

Can memorable quotes govern a nation?

Marina Economides

Marina Economides

Stephanos Kasselakis' recent visit to Cyprus and his carefully crafted statements following his meeting with the President of the Republic have highlighted a significant shift in politics. It seems that politics today can be reduced to a formula, easily memorized and executed.

Kasselakis's misstep, the "state anyway" blunder, could have been avoided if he had stuck to his tried-and-true approach—a short political journey marked by meticulously produced social media videos backed by a dedicated team.

In this approach, one person acts as the copywriter, crafting a narrative that resonates with voters and producing catchy slogans. Another person takes on the role of director, overseeing the production, while the political figure merely becomes an actor, faithfully reciting the script provided to them.

Technology has advanced to the point where social media can transform an individual with a pleasing image into a digital political sensation. These individuals gain fame through viral videos and succinct quotes, often written by others. They can easily ascend to the highest echelons of power without a solid ideological or political background.

Some argue that those with both political experience and a clear ideological direction have historically benefited their countries. While charm and charisma may win votes, politics should not be reduced to a crash course or a one-act play to attain power.

One day, these newcomers may learn the proper etiquette for national anthems and wreath-laying ceremonies, and they may memorize complex terms like "bi-zonal, bi-communal federation." But can they convince us that they will implement what they initially announced, especially when they struggled to understand their roles in the first place? Moreover, can we trust that their policies will lead to substantial change rather than just day-to-day management?

Ultimately, the success of digital political sensations is determined when they assume positions of responsibility, and Stefanos Kasselakis will be judged by his performance. However, the Cypriot criticism of his political approach, which is seen as "post-politics," raises valid questions about the authenticity of this style.

A glance at the social media presence of Speaker of the Parliament Anita Demetriou may cause those who ridiculed Kasselakis to reconsider their stance. It prompts us to wonder when genuine policy is being crafted, when political positions are taken, and when a vision for the party and the nation is being formulated. Are the videos flooding her account primarily about events, inaugurations, dances, and memorizing slogans related to the Cyprus problem and the economy?

President Nikos Christodoulides has mastered the art of presenting a carefully constructed image. He recognized early on that society craves a positive image and shies away from confrontational rhetoric. He projected a human, approachable profile, emphasizing popular words like unity and dialogue with society.

He promised a new era, a break from the establishment, and an end to political entanglements. However, the reality of his governance, marked by hesitancy in making critical decisions and self-deprecation when faced with issues like pensions, overtime, and labor rights, contradicts these promises.

The era of image-driven politics has firmly taken hold, and this wouldn't necessarily be a negative development if the image served as a complement to political substance. As long as political discourse remains absent, the image alone can elevate individuals to power. However, stunts, clever lines, memorization, and staged videos cannot effectively govern a country.

Sooner or later, it becomes evident that as easily as the image elevates these new representatives, it can just as swiftly render them expendable.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  politics  |  government  |  Greece  |  leadership

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