The New Mexican Digital Populism

The Web has been transformed to a new forum to express our feelings, ideas and beliefs. In the case of the political world, it has evidenced itself as a new channel to reach for votes, or communicate with the ‘people’. In the same way The Web has become a new channel for writing about what is passionate for us and perhaps demonstrate our political beliefs.

Mexico is a country where its own political history has been overwhelmed by corruption and uneven distribution of wealth. Over 75% of the population are in between middle and lower class. With a 7% of people living in opulence, there are plenty of cases in which these socioeconomic areas of society are deeply involved with the political events of the country. Mexican politics is the history of wealth overpowering democratic processes and transnational companies buy politicians. Being such a case, the political situation in Mexico has promoted classism and ignorance. From a popular perspective, politicians no longer stand for correctness or examples for society, they are current examples of ignorance and power in a struggling country trying to survive.

The PRI’s case of Peña Nieto

Since politicians are now using Social Media in the attemptto ‘communicate’ with us, the population, we are now trying to understand what do they stand for, based on the information provided on those channels. It is now a very important medium for politicians, that if used incorrectly can severely damage their reputation.

Enrique Peña Nieto is the presidential candidate from the Revolutionary Institution Party (PRI). PRI has been responsible for several crises in Mexican history such as the killing of Tlatelolco (1968), the national debt (1982) and the devaluation of the national currency in (1994) and stayed in power for over 70 years. This has produced an sense of disbelief in the population of any posing candidate coming from that party (or any other for that matter).

On December of 2011, Enrique Peña was presenting his book “México, la gran esperanza” in the Book Fair of Guadalajara. In the presentation conference, a journalist asked him for three books that marked his personal and political life. The candidate was unable to produce an answer thus started mumbling. He did not managed to quote a single title of a single book and its author. Well… apart from the Bible, which he mentioned, he partially read it. He carried on by naming some books which he then confused the authors. A few hours later, he wrote in his Twitter account: “La Presidencia Imperial is by E Krauze and La Silla del Aguila by C Fuentes, two books that I really enjoyed reading and I confused today. I really recommend them.”


Images emulating the Bookstore’s advertising campaign

This of course started a wave of critiques and replicas on the social media networks. In which the hash-tag  #LibreriaPeñaNieto (Peña Nieto’s Library) became a trending topic in which people started posting replies cleverly criticising and making fun of such event. One of the most popular ones was the emulation from a very popular bookstore from Mexico in which the population evidenced their anger and discontent against such politician. Many other online videos started popping out like the famous Mexican cartoon Huevo Cartoons and their release ‘Que Pena Nieto’ which translates cleverly to “what a shame grandson”. This video holds a trending bronze medal by Youtube with over two million views in less than three days.


Huevocartoon’s ‘Que Pena Nieto’ Trend

This massive response indicates an engagement of the population with social networking sites and evidences the their use as a very strong communication channel. Politicians (and public figures) are usually unaware of this until is too late. The media power of this social media has a huge power that is necessary to be taken into account in a PR campaign, or in public image communicates. It has promoted audience engagement in an unprecedented way.

Since Mexico is the king of soap operas, the controversy continued. The unawareness of how much damage a single Tweet can do became the perfect scenario for the next Mexican Trending Topic. On the 5th of December, a few days after the massive bombardment of mockery, the daughter of Peña Nieto, Paulina Peña Pretelini, re-tweeted a post from her boyfriend that stated “Hello to all the idiots who are part of the proletarian who only criticize who they envy.” It was an attempt to use the working class term as an insult. This of course created huge discontent within the Mexican population who responded with several tweets and messages using social networking sites and new clever combinations from the previous mockery campaign. The #LibreriaPeñaNieto started blending with the new trending topic #soyprole #ForeverProle and #Prole. It was under these hash tags that the Mexican community started showing their discontent towards the candidate and his family, along with some of the qualities of the bureaucratic families.


From Trendsmap. Taken on the 6th of December 2011 at 16:00

The negative impact that this tweet had, made more damage than all the previous mistakes that the candidate did before. Due to the lack of preparation from the candidate’s team there were some amendments to be done. Peña Nieto had to apologize through his own Twitter account and his daughter’s account was taken out from Twitter. Two days after, she came back apologising for the tweet she had made before.

Something as a Trending Topic in Twitter can be used as a platform to showcase people’s thoughts and the general feeling of a specific social or economical group. Politicians are realising this and started to use this new channel of communication as another medium to present themselves to the public. One of the big differences is that now we have a chance to reply and to express to a wider audience our true feelings without anybody moderating it. This can be a double edged sword, due to the fact that we can not know the whole background story of somebody’s comment or ‘evidence’ for it. Most of what we see is self and auto-regulated since it is happening in real time. This also provides another challenge for public figures. They will have to be on guard all day in order to keep up their public image when presented to the audience. We are all interacting in a Web 2.0 reality show. Anything that you say or do is now shared with other people and in different channels at different levels of communication. Information is becoming more and more available to the general public, from Government Open Data to the Tweets of the sixteen-year-old daughter of a presidential candidate. The important thing is to engage with this information correctly. Television channels and the mass media communication industry are now feeding with the everyday outputs from such sites. It is the new paparazzi way to gather information. Therefore, it is necessary for those mass media channels to educate themselves in to how to interpret topic trends, or how to analyse a group’s emotion that is being re-tweeted in order to cover a story ethically and accurately. The very same way newspapers, magazines and television shows are regulated and we need to be aware that social networking sites provide a self-regulated environment in which the power of the user has the final say since they are the ones putting themselves out on the Web.


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