Dibi vs Wilders: 2.0 – 1.5

Politicians. Often seen as boring creatures, of whom we know little about their private lives. But then web 2.0 appeared… THE chance for us mobs to read the dirty tweets of the men who rule this country. Or not? What do politicians tweet? Do they even tweet? Will we get to know what their drives are and what they ate last night, or will they just try to win our votes?


 The tough one and the little charmer

For this assignment I decided to follow two totally different politicians, who often disagree with each other, to see to what extend they differ and what they have in common regarding their use of the Social Media Site Twitter. The first politician I follow is Geert Wilders, the face and man behind PVV. Not that I am a big fan of this guy, or support his political view, but because of his often very explicit in the things he says. It would be interesting to see if, and how he interacts with the people who comments on his tweets as I expect he will not only get positive comments on his tweets due to his explicit ways to put his opinion into words.

The second politician I follow is Tofik Dibi, a member of the Chamber of Deputies for Groen Links. Unlike Geert Wilders, this guy can be seen as a ‘political lefty’ and part of the opposition. Another difference between the two politicians which could be interesting to study in this assignment, is the difference in tweets between a politician that is already pretty famous and in the leading party, and a politician that is less famous and of which you would assume he needs all the media attention he can get to get more voters. Geert Wilders is more famous, and his party is bigger, than Tofik Dibi and his party.

At first glance Geert Wilders’ Twitter profile seems very official. His profile picture is a professional press photo and there is no sign of any personal pictures or personal information other than a link to the website of his party. Geert has 117,090 followers and there is no one he follows. This suggests that there won’t be a lot of interaction between Geert and the people who follow him. He posts almost every other day and his posts are mainly about things that happen in the Chamber of deputies or reactions to things that have been in the news, for example: “Weer homostel weggepest door allochtone jeugd, nu in DHaag. Onaanvaardbaar. Kamervragen en debat op zijn plaats. Ga het stel morgen bezoeken” . Every now and then he adds a personal touch by saying something about his personal life, yet very superficial: “Drukke dag vandaag. Kamer eindelijk terug van reces, start nieuwe politieke seizoen. Wordt spannend jaar! En ben ook nog jarig vandaag :-)” However he is very opinionated in his tweets. Mostly negative towards the politicians outside of the PVV. “Geen woorden maar daden. Rutte moet niet alleen roepen dat landen uit de euro moeten maar Griekenland er nu uitzetten!”. Almost all of his posts have a clear political load, some supported by relevant links, for example to NOS.nl for some background information. It is interesting to see that on quite a lot his posts followers reply, but even more interesting to notice that most replies are negative or cynical. It seems that a lot of people who follow Geert Wilders do not follow him because they are a fan.

Tofik Dibi’s profile on the other hand, seems way more informal. He put some effort in the background of his Twitter page (it is black and white with a painting of a little girl with her hair in the wind) and he has some personal pictures online. There are pictures of his new sneakers under his tailer made suit and a picture with an old lady (his (grand)mother?). If this is an attempt to get more votes its works for me, as I immidiatly feel connected with Tofik. ‘How cool is a politician that wears wicked sneakers under a suit? He is one of us!’

Tofik has 16,614 followers and follows 175 people. He Tweets about 10-20 times per day, which makes him more active on Twitter than Geert Wilders. When looking at the contents of his tweets, there seem to be a lot of tweets about politics, but less negative approach and more moderate than Geert Wilders posts. “Veel grapjes over clash Wilders & premier. Ik kan niet lachen. Voel vooral schaamte. Straalt af op hele parlement. Dit is geen kroeg #APB He also adds links, hashtags and sometimes photos to his tweets and his posts pretty often have a personal touch to it: “Vandaag nog klein beetje politiek en dan hopelijk weekend met alleen familie & vrienden en #thegoodlife En dan maandag weer politics”. Other than his profile he also comes across as very human by the simple posts that are just about his personal life: “Terrasje #leukIt seems to work for him as, even though he hasn’t as many followers, the reactions he gets on his posts are over all positive unlike Geert’s. He is also very active in responding to other people tweets or reactions, not only those of politicians, but also his ‘normal’ followers.

Web 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0

According to Jackson and Lilleker minor parties are likely to use commutication tools from blogs and social network sites to redress the political balance in their favor (p. 244). When looking at Tofik Dibi’s site, this is true as he comes across as very sympathetic guy, but also pushes the views of his party via his tweets. First he steels the followers heart, by showing him he is human and fun and willing to interact, and then he convinces them of his political views, willing to debate with the voters. He really uses Twitter according to the norms of Web 2.0, where there is interaction between builders and the readers who can become participants and builders themselves.

The Twitter profile of Geert Wilders is, according to Jackson and Lilleker, more “a one-way, top-down communication device syn- onymous with Web 1.0, but with the look of a Web 2.0 social networking profile.” (p. 244). Geert Wilders tweets, but does not respond to any of his followers that comment on his tweets or post on his wall. Therefore it could be said in Jackson and Lillekers words, that the contributions of his followers can be seen as graffiti and does not fit within the norms of social network communities. O’Reilly suggested that political communication using Web 2.0 would be rational, considered, and positive, but in Geert Wilders case graffiti is more likely to be present. Geert Wilders wants other social networking users to join him on Twitter but he does not fully engage with the norms of the social networking community (p. 247).

I do not believe, that Geert Wilders only has the Twitter account to ensure that opponents do not steal his name (p. 247), since he does encourage discussion, but he does, in my opinion, use his account as bastardization of Web 2.0 for promotional and marketing purposes. Not for interaction, but just to inform us. There is the sign of the architecture of participation, but much less use of the community’s democratic structure. As Jackson and Lilleker would state: Geert Wilders is an example of a politician who uses Web 1.5 (p. 247).

However my findings are not conforming Jackson and Lilleker’s findings that more technically and difficult features are more likely to be used by the mayor parties as they have more sources to help them out with the features that are harder to apply (p. 240). In my case it is actually the guy from the minor party, Tofik Dibi, who uses the more technically features, like a custom background, using hash tags and uploading more photos. For me it raised the question whether that wouldn’t have to do something with the age difference. Younger people are more commonly experienced with different social media options than older people and in this case Tofik Dibi (1980) is from a younger generation than Geert Wilders (1963). It would be interesting to further research to look at the age of the different politicians and their active participation on social media sites.

When looking at the content of the tweets of both politicians, it can be concluded that my findings are is consistent with the research by Coleman & Ward, 2005 (and Gibson, Nixon, & Ward, 2003; Gibson & Rommele, 2006; Stromer-Galley, 2000) presented in Jackson and Lilleker’s research (p. 247). They state that political parties and politicians use new information and communication technologies as a campaign tool. Both Tofik Dibi and Geert Wilders tweet mostly about their political ideas, trying to get the followers support.

2.0 ‘the more charming way of webbing’

Following these politicians did not change my previous opinion about either of them. As I kind of expected, Geert Wilders’ tweets contained a more extreme content than those of Tofik Dibi. To me, Geert Wilders does not only seem uncongenial in the media, but also on Twitter. Tofik Dibi however comes across as a sympathetic guy and as ‘one of us’, with pictures of his private life and responses to followers tweets and comments. I think that is a very good ‘charm offensive’ which might help him to gain voters in the future. It might be wise for Geert Wilders to respond to his voters in the future when they tweet him. Now a lot of the comments on his tweets are negative and not responding or disprove these could put him in a bad daylight. As he has been in the media in a not so positive way the last few weeks, I reckon he should take advantage of social media the 2.0 way and win his followers votes by promoting himself by interacting with them.

Jackson, N. A., & Lilleker, D. (2009). Building an architecture of participation? Political parties and Web 2.0 in Britain. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 6, 232-250.
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