THE much heralded and much damned interweb has been a boon for and the bane of politicians.
As the evidence from the US proved, a well run online campaign can lead to electoral victory.
But when the political chips are stacked against a politician, or that politician is mired in a ‘scandal’ the world wide web becomes a voracious beast, sucking up rumour and innuendo; a place where leaks can be contrived or accidental.
The name of Iris Robinson’s alleged teenage lover was online well before Spotlight aired, and mainstream media stories are trailed before the prints roll.
All this heralds the dawn of a new age for politics in Northern Ireland: in previous years a spin doctor had only political correspondents and the corridor gossip of Stormont to contend with.
Now they have to deal with the great unwashed even when there’s no election afoot!
Which means that there are potentially hundreds of thousands of people who can freely express their views and opinions at all hours of the day; people who can pass on stories within seconds; and people who can spread allegations before lawyers have woken up.
While the risk of these allegations finding their way into court always exists, the damage to a politician can be extensive before the courts or mainstream media have considered the story.
So, we may have dawning upon us the age when a spin doctor’s job is to co-ordinate responses, monitor blogs and forums and generally make sure his party masters have a strategic presence and plan for the world wide web.
Look forward to advertisements reading “communications officer required; must be a political anorak and a web geek”.