Politics with a sneer

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Politics with a sneer

A coined word, “poli-tainer,” is now being widely used after its predecessor, “social-tainer,” became popular not long ago. It referred to a number of celebrities who used social networking services to publicize their chit chat, which drastically increased over the last couple of years. The evolution from social-tainers to poli-tainers signifies a change in topic. Their chit chat is now political. And that is alarming. In theory, celebrities should be able to make political statements whenever they care to. The problem is their statements are too biased and yet exert too strong an influence on ordinary citizens.

A good example of a poli-tainer is popular novelist Gong Ji-young, who has tweeted to hundreds of thousands of her followers a derogatory word mocking the Chairman of the Democratic Party, Sohn Hak-kyu, immediately after the long-stalled Korea-U.S. free trade agreement was finally ratified by the National Assembly last week.

In her tweet, she called Sohn a “migratory bird” sent by the ruling Grand National Party to connive with the GNP to pass the ratification bill. Gong apparently had a conspiracy theory in mind. It is true that Sohn changed his political affiliation from the GNP to the DP, which he now heads. But it was ludicrous for her to argue that Sohn acquiesced in the ratification process or had been sent to the DP for the GNP’s sake.

Freedom of expression is a non-negotiable right guaranteed by our Constitution. But if an individual is a tweeter with a huge number of followers, he or she must be responsible for what is tweeted, particularly when it’s about politically sensitive issues. Simple, short messages might make like-minded followers feel happy, but they are not capable of explaining complicated political issues effectively - or responsibly. Such uses of the social network services can pose a serious threat to forging a constructive consensus in the society.

The unrivaled popularity of our entertainers’ political statements results from the malfunctioning of established politics. Due to the sub-standard performance of party politicians, it’s easy for anyone to make piquant political remarks. But they don’t necessarily represent a large group of people.

The DP’s lethargic response to the insulting sneer from Gong shows the current status of our politics. Holding irresponsible netizens accountable for their libelous statements is the best way to restore order in cyberspace and the dignity of political parties.

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