Monthly Archives: July 2011

Obama presses the Tweet button to deal with deficit

Barack Obama is on a tweet spree. “Make a phone call, send an email, tweet,” he said in his bid to garner support to reach a compromise for taking US out of debt.

Unable to reach a consensus on the debt crisis ahead of the August 2 deadline, Obama urged people to Tweet and reach their local congressional member urging them to compromise on the debt ceiling.

The unprecedented move of the American president is a unique combination of sorts; the world most powerful man using one of most public tools to quickly pass the message.

The move also showcases how the most powerful leader acknowledges the real house of power – people.

With every message reaching out to 9,362,843 (at the time of writing) people there was no other way by which the president could reach these many people. Not only that 692,518 people also can directly reach him on his tweet handle.

As a result of the tweet spree by his Obama2012 campaign phone lines of the House were running at peak traffic volume.

The move allows Obama to reach out to the Republicans via people and make his point heard. Twitter gives the president a people’s advantage to convince or pressurise his political rivals and in turn reach Republican supports.

How effective the campaign will be remains to be seen, but the tool of social networking which led to Arab and African revolutions is being used by leaders to establish a connect with their people.

@BarackObama sets the precedent by seeking people’s support via twitter, but its usual for politicians and leaders in west to use this medium to make their stand.

Recently president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez used twitter to work from hospital; the UK Prime Minister though doesn’t have a personal twitter account No. 10 Downing Street has a tweet handle which is functional.

Few months back on news channel Al-Jazeera world leaders like Barack Obama and David Cameron in a series of world view interview were put questions collected using You tube, which they readily answered. Though not a social media tool, the drive allowed people to pose questions in person and seek response via web.

While the west is embracing social media to gauge the people’s moods, politicians in India shy away from any social media.

As the debate in the country heats up over the Lokpal Bill, could the PMO have not used social media tools to gauge what the people think? Why is it that the leaders shy away from meeting the people who matter? Why is it that it takes a huge uproar and public outcry for the PM even address the media?

When I was in India recently I asked a senior Congress leader who has a berth in the Union Cabinet and when asked about use of social media the response was: “Let it be with Shashi Tharoor Sahab, why keep unnecessary headache.”

If this is the attitude that top politicians have, they are light years behind reality.

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Five points that India can learn from Hackgate

Hackgate has been one of the biggest controversies in Britain. The alleged illegal and unethical practices of the mightiest media conglomerate led to the end of a 168 year old weekly.

It saw the media mogul Rupert Murdoch being summoned by the Commons, government officers resigned so did it saw top newspapers executives and so far 10 people have been arrested. Not to mention that the Prime Minister David Cameron has been forced to cut short his Africa tour in order to attend Prime Ministers questions.

Looking at the way the system, government and media machinery functions here for almost a year it makes me feel that the we should have had a ‘Raj’ hangover of different kind.

Not denying the fact that it took eight long years and two inquires which led to nothing substantial, this one is turning out to be mother of all investigations so far. As an Indian national watching the developments from ringside I figure out five points that wouldn’t harm if we have a ‘Raj’ hangover.

Transparency

The way events are unfolding it’s all playing to the gallery, with television cameras bringing the parliamentary proceedings and that of the committee into people’s living room. Contrary to our parliamentary committee proceedings about which we the people hear via sources, reports and committee findings. The line of Q&A’s is never known. Those involved chicken out on the mention of being transparent. (the most recent being Lokapal bill meetings and the hearings in Radia tapes).

Accountability:

There is a great notion of being accountable to the people. Leaders and officials when in dock own up to their doings and wrong doings. Former Prime minister Tony Blair was summoned second time early in January before the Iraq enquiry and the proceedings were televised, neither Labour party nor Blair loyalist made a hue and cry like their counterparts in our country. Today Cameron said, if proven that Andy Culson was involved in Hackgate he would issue an apology to the house and said in hindsight the appointment was error of judgement. While our leaders hardly own up to their error of judgements leave aside appearing before a committee and that too in public view. Look at the drama over Radia tapes and formation of Joint Parliamentary committee; it stopped the house from functioning.

Etiquette

It is amazing for an Indian to see a parliament that functions, goes about fulfilling its duties and moreover the MP’s abiding by the word of the speaker. Whatever be the debate questions are raised, answered and speaker is above everyone else in the house. Full house or less attendance the house functions without failing and it has the power to call high and mighty for being questioned. Murdochs could not defy when summoned.

Speed

As mentioned it took long for Hackgate to reach where it has, but this time around the speed of investigations and committee hearings have been done at a lightning speed. That apart in the MPs expenses scandal that was brought to light in May 2009, so far six MP’s have been pleaded guilty and sentenced. Can we ever imagine this to happen in India, our Kalmadi’s still get a VIP treatment even while waiting for the cab in the prison? Common wealth game scam, Adarsh Scam, Cash for votes, Radia Tapes the list goes on without a single outcome.

Democratic

Most importantly the government doesn’t hide behind the coalition dharma disguise. Members in the coalition can voice different opinions, but the government takes appropriate action. In the Hackgate David Cameron is being questioned by both his MP’s and by those of Liberal Democrats and responding in all fairness. We can’t even dream of PM, or UPA chairperson ever being questioned, if someone does they are shown the door.

Is anyone listening?

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Murdochs face the music

Murdochs face the MPs today. The Commons media committee will question the trio – Rupert and James Murdoch along with Rebekah Brooks.

In what is being viewed as one of the most anticipated session at the Parliament all eyes and ears will be turned on to what the three have in store for the committee.

A strong case has been built with media houses setting up the tone and probable question line as published by the guardian.

What remains to be seen is that how the veteran media mogul Murdoc sr. responds to the committee after first rejecting the call to respond to the committees call.

While James and Rebekah have earlier spoken on the hacking scandal and appeared to give their side of story on different occasions, it will be the first time Rupert Murdoch will put his stand after the newspaper issued apologies across in newspapers.

Murdoch sr. told Wall Street Journal(which he owns) that he’s ‘annoyed and tired‘ by the negative headlines from which News corporation will recover.

Will Rupert put what he calls minor mistakes in handling the crisis in place and ride News Corp back on road remains to be seen?

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Murdochs docked

News international is truly the international news of the moment.

With those exposing scandals being entangled in their own web, the fast developing story never ceases to surprise. All of a sudden the invincible Rupert Murdoch seems gullible like any other mortal.

After throwing the familiar I care a damn attitude the Murdochs Rupert and James have agreed to face the culture select committee. This has been described as remarkable theatre by Martin Moore, director Media Standard Trust.

If that be the case than the ensemble promises a great theatrics when they will be confronted by question s like what did they knew and when? That apart there will be plethora of questions thrown at the trio of Murdochs and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

The key to the questioning will be James Murdoch who will have to defend his previous statement where he stated that he came to know of the incident at a later date. That is a string admission and will be difficult to defend.

With all parties inUKjoining the crusade to ousted Murdochs or cut them to size it will be worth watching, how the media moughal responds to one of the biggest crisis of his career.

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