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07.09.2020 Article

Politics of insult on social media and the future of Ghana politics

By Dennis Danso & Nana Apeadu Acheampong
Politics of insult on social media and the future of Ghana politics
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Politics among political parties can be simply understood as "competition of ideas, policies and programs for the electorates to decide and make informed decisions based on which political party they believe has feasible policies and most important policies that serve their best interest." Since 1992 (can even be traced beyond 1992), our political democratic landscape has always been about policies of the respective political parties and the shortcomings of their opponents. However, as the years go by, politics in Ghana has been characterized by "subtle jabs" and intemperate language. A group of people recruited by these political parties called party communicators are used as the machinery to propagate this act. For instance, when these party communicators are invited to radio and tv stations, instead of objectively debating issues respectably, all they do is to engage in "intellectual dishonesty" and cast innuendos. Very often, they do not either defend policies and programs of their parties objectively or engage in intellectual discourse. They rather use insults, unhealthy sentences and use their own coined jargons and phrases to denigrate their opponents. Sadly, political relevance nowadays is gained by those who can slander and cast aspersions best as opposed to those who intellectually and objectively debate on ideas, policies and programs. This act of maligning has been perfected and used by political parties to either justify the incompetence of a political administration or justify policies and programs inimical to the nation.

The president and the flagbearer of the NPP, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, cautioned his campaign team to desist from politics of insult and speak on records (infrastructure, policies and programs) initiated by his government and what they intend to do if the mandate is placed in their court again. He made this known when he hosted his campaign team on a virtual platform (meeting).

Also, the former president and the flagbearer of the opposition NDC, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, on August 12, 2020, when he formally presented his running mate to the leadership of the Christian Council of Ghana, stated in his speech that "the unprovoked attacks and insults have already started, but I can assure you and all Ghanaians that Prof. Naana Jane and myself will never engage in insults and name-calling of opponents. Children are watching, listening and copying and it is important we serve as good role models "

The two flagbearers of the main political parties who are every now and then engaged in mudslinging have agreed to undertake a record-based campaign for this year's election. The decision of the bigwigs of the political parties should be ligated on all their supporters to abstain from politics inundated with any form of derogatory remarks or character assassination. But it seems the unambiguous message from the flagbearers did not penetrate down through the hierarchy of the two parties especially their "foot soldiers" on Facebook and Twitter who are every now and then engaged in naive politics deluged with foul language.

Usually, politicians by this time will be on the campaign trail. However, this year's election amid COVID-19 pandemic has constrained political parties to shift attention to social networks, radio and television stations in order to obey the laid down COVID-19 protocols. This has necessitated the recruitment of some young people who are always on these platforms to campaign and "defend" their party. These apparatchiks are allegedly sponsored by their political parties in the form of data packages and airtime. Surprisingly, the behaviour of these so-called young politicians on social media (especially Facebook and Twitter) is a clear indication that they did not hear and/or overlook the decision made by the two major flagbearers in the imminent election. Unlike the radio and television stations where hosts of programs may interject any abusive and intemperate language from callers and panellist and may be asked to retract and apologize, the story is different on Facebook and Twitter, no one is held answerable to their comments or posts. Some go the extra mile of insulting the first gentleman of the land(the president) under his posts instead of intellectually disagreeing with him. Ministers of state, MPs, media houses, bloggers and users of social media are also not let off the hook, they are equally lambasted for having opinions unparallel with theirs. Fanatics of the two main political parties also trade insults and attack one other at the least opportunity. Hyping these insults in the name of free speech thereby, creating deeper emotional sentiments and sensation which may soon explode if not managed. They ignorantly peddle falsehoods just to score cheap "political points". The true identities of these "social media politicians" is a pertinent question worth asking. These people feel safe uttering anything to anyone because their personal profile (name, picture, location etc.) on social media is completely different from their actual profile.

To some extent, the youth cannot be solely blamed. Most of these people are unemployed and so wouldn't mind undertaking political activities for a token. These youth are micromanaged by politicians to suit their parochial interest under the guise of training them into mainstream politics.

As indicated earlier, these politicians use these young people under the guise of grooming them into mainstream politics in the future. Would our democracy be safe if we have the future leaders engage in such questionable behaviour? To the extent of finding it "ok" to use unprintable words against the current leaders? If we do not collectively eradicate this canker then Ghana has a long way to go as far as our democracy is concerned.

Authored by

Dennis Danso

Nana Apeadu Acheampong

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