EDITORIAL - The perils of the Internet to politicians
(The Freeman) - February 4, 2016 - 9:00am

The photo of Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama taking a selfie during the final Mass of the just-concluded International Eucharistic Congress may have been taken by a concerned citizen sincerely offended by the act. But it could very well have been taken by someone not as sincerely motivated. In this day and age when almost every person has a cellphone with a camera, capturing moments of significance or shame has therefore become as easy as breathing.

And this should serve as a caveat to one and all, regardless of whether one has anything to hide or simply does not want a picture or video of himself posted on the Internet. In fact, the caveat could not have needed more emphasis than now when the election fever has started to grip almost everybody. Photos or videos posted on the Internet can make or break politicians.

It might be wise for politicians to be conscious and guarded in their words and actions as they go about courting votes. One can never tell if someone in the crowd might post something on the Internet. Now, a post can be flattering and that is good, especially given the extensive reach of cyberspace. But what if it is bad and damaging? And it goes viral?

This is the new reality that is placing all politicians in a pickle without exception. To be conscious and guarded in demeanor and disposition is simply out of character for politicians who, almost to a man, must either be born outgoing and garrulous or needs to become one. That is the essence of politics. That is the manner in which votes are won.

But with the introduction of new media and gadgets, and the accessibility with which they end up in people's hands, a new terrain lies before politicians that, by practice and habit, they have not been used to traverse. The simple act of taking a selfie is one fine example of how some hidden traps have sprung to nearly gobble up Rama.

The selfie was presumable taken in all innocence. Rama would not be so stupid to take one had he known it could be used against him. So now he knows better. As with Rama, all politicians have now been served notice about the many pitfalls that await when words and actions, though said and done in all innocence, are turned to self-destructive projectiles.

In fact, it would not come as a surprise if some astute and enterprising politicians, recognizing the value of the Internet, would start hiring people whose only job is to stalk rivals and infiltrate their crowds in the hope of catching a word or a gesture that can send the campaigns of those rivals into a tailspin once posted on the Internet. That is if they have not done so already.



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