Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Message control

Attempts in Mexico to shape political debate during a presidential campaign are running into the reality of new media.

 A Race Recast by YouTube and Twitter
It sounds like the typical hardball, American-style campaign. The presidential candidate from the incumbent’s party calls the front-runner a “liar” in television and Internet advertisements. Supporters of the front-runner retaliate with a Web site and Twitter posts that say his top opponent “lies.” And the third-place candidate wraps the gaffes of both of them into a YouTube video cheekily titled “Excuses Not to Debate.”
State-of-the-art, no-holds-barred political warfare, perhaps, except that after President Felipe Calderón narrowly won a divisive race here six years ago that featured ads calling his opponent a danger to the country, Mexico’s political establishment had vowed that it would tolerate no more of that.
But a law passed in 2007 that was intended to keep campaigning orderly and clean — it bans the Mexican equivalent of political action committees, limits spending, regulates language in advertisements and tightens the official campaign period to just 89 days — has been undercut by the unpredictable and uncontrollable Web.
On Web sites and in the online social media, a parallel battlefield has emerged as candidates vie for the support of voters, more than a quarter of whom, polls say, have not made a choice as the July 1 election nears…
Just under a third of Mexico’s population regularly uses the Internet (compared with 80 percent in the United States). But the campaigns have seen how social media sites can help shape public opinion — newspapers here closely track and publish the number of each candidate’s Twitter and Facebook followers — and they skirt the heavily regulated airwaves.
Often using automated programs or armies of volunteers, the campaigns battle to land trending topics on Twitter and celebrate them as important discussion points…

See also: Mexico candidate, actress wife star in reality TV campaign videos

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