Commentary online in the election campaign: dialectic of horror

For a long time, German political parties demanded that the web become more important in election campaigns. Now it turns out that this sweeping demand was wrong.

Total redundancy – now also online. Well, thank you. Image: dpa

Thank you, Internet. You did a good job that CDU election posters can now also speak via "Merkel app". The chancellor gets to speak far too rarely these days. Thank you, Twitter, that comments from digital amateur political scientists are now also read out in TV talk shows about the election. Otherwise, too little is said in these formats. Thank you, Google, for allowing party celebrities to present themselves to you once again. They have no other place to do so.

Online has finally arrived in the German election campaign of 2013. And who’s to blame for the fact that it’s now impossible to escape Andrea Nahles, Claudia Roth, Rainer Bruderle and Horst Seehofer? We ourselves. For years, we heaped scorn and derision on politics and the media because the election campaign in Germany was always conducted so conventionally, so intangibly offline, while in the U.S. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were used as naturally as radio and television. We wanted that in this country, too.

ZDF’s social media chicks are now fulfilling our wishes with a ferocity that scares even felons. In the past, when the loosely interjected question "What do you say on the net?" came up on TV shows, you’d just turn off the boob tube and go online to check it out for yourself.

That’s no fun now, because the question "What do they say on TV?" is being discussed there right now. The online-savvy election campaign is creating a dialectic of horror with no escape and no synthesis. On all channels, the same noses are firing up the same topic with the same arguments. And no one is making any headway. The 2013 election is a multimedia traffic circle at the center of which a Merkel election poster spouts phrases at the push of a button.

Too complex for TV social media snippets

There are many things on the Internet that should make it into the election campaign and the election coverage, but don’t make it there. Political blogs that don’t have to worry about topicality and length restrictions, be they conservative, liberal or left-wing; style and aesthetic criticism in audio and video files; even many a reader commentary with 500 characters has more to say about politics than Peer Steinbruck in 90 minutes of the chancellor’s duel.

Above all, however, some on the Net could contribute a great deal to a topic that is as absent from the election campaign as only social democratic politics is from the SPD: surveillance and data espionage.

It may be because of the huge scope and complexity of the monitoring that the many good analyses and comments on the web are not considered suitable for social media TV. It may be because the state and politicians, who share responsibility for the data spying, are involved in the public broadcasters’ activities. More likely, however, is that TV and politics have well understood that surveillance simply doesn’t matter to most voters.

We would rather not

From this point of view, we are quite well served by the 2013 election campaign, including online verbiage and media traffic circles. We can learn from this and vehemently contradict any future calls for more "Internet" in the election campaign: No, we don’t.

For 2017, there is no need for a digital innovation from the CDU/CSU ("Von-der-Leyen app for recording eye movements"), no cooperation between Apple and the SPD on the fingerprint scanner so that voters can also vote via smartphone, no data glasses with a liberal face, no "real social network" from the left, and no Green "motion sensor" either.

More online in the election campaign used to be a good idea. Not much good has come out of it so far. The level is currently more downward than upward. Less can also be more. At least the children enjoy the colorful balloons.

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