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What is Politics?

With the overturning of the world with the recent events that incited mass movements, social media, and its role also bloomed into an encompassing platform with a wide range of capabilities. In recent years, the role of social media has only grown. With the technologically and socially advancing age, people have started being in more touch with social media and its many related applications and websites (Castells 2010). The usage of this content-sharing platform has increased exponentially mainly because of the attractive and addicting content, various opportunities for increasing and growing businesses, easier to access and use methods, and collection of a large amount of knowledge and information for future use (Castells 2010). Because of the constant interaction between the content sharer and the content receiver, social media has become popular among the youth of today (Castells 2010). Moreover, there is a continuous change of attitudes and trends with the constantly updating social media, which has led to the designing of more applications and websites made specifically for such exchange. It has also gained popularity and usage has increased because of its malleability to function on different mediums such as mobiles, laptops, computers, and smart TVs, to name a few (Castells 2010). Such apps have also become popular for their role in propagating social change and movement. Since social media is more accessible to reach a wide range of people, it has been constantly used in different movements. This essay will address the role of social media in the Black Lives Matter movement in regard to the politics of Britain.

Politics can be commonly understood as the activities that are related to making group decisions or in other types of situations and circumstances with power relations among individuals, which might include the circulation of power and resources (Chambers & Kopstein 2001). Political science also studies the pre-existing relations between politics and the government (Chambers & Kopstein 2001). While this term could be used to describe friendly relationships in political circumstances, “politics” is often used negatively. This concept has been studied and understood in many ways and through that, the following observations have been noted (Chambers & Kopstein 2001). Politics can be conducted on the local, state, and national levels, in anthropological groups, in businesses and companies, and on the international stage, which is aided through the political system (Chambers & Kopstein 2001). The political system is characterized by the process that affects the decisions made by the government (Chambers & Kopstein 2001). It is usually compared to the legal, cultural, economic, and social systems. This political system further interacts with the culture in society and influences society through policy (Chambers & Kopstein 2001). This is further influenced by different types of government, mainly detailed as the central and the state government which remains constant between different governments (Chambers & Kopstein 2001). The central government is the source of power while the vertical integration is the federal unit of the central government, which exercises its control on comparatively smaller but integrated areas. Additionally, the state could be defined as the control of the government on its territories so that it may exercise monopoly (Chambers & Kopstein 2001). The population and area allotted to the state also influence the power and authority of the state (Chambers & Kopstein 2001). Constitutions are defined as the documents, written specifically mentioning the roles and limiting the power of the government and its different branches (Chambers & Kopstein 2001). The political culture of the place defines the impact of the culture, which determines the ability of the government to exercise control (Chambers & Kopstein 2001). Lastly, the pollical dysfunction could be described as the unabashed use of the power gained from politics for personal use (Chambers & Kopstein 2001). The concepts of the political system, which include the forms of the government, including central and state government, state, constitutions, political culture, and political dysfunction signify the basis of the politics and its presence in the government.

The Political System in Britain

The United Kingdom, which is famed to have had the rule of kings and monarchs for a long time, has a different political structure today. The United Kingdom enjoys its presence as a unitary government, with devolution that is controlled by the procedures of a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy (Heffernan & Thompson 2011). The UK’s constitutional monarchy is headed by the monarch of the country while the head of government is the prime minister of the country (Heffernan & Thompson 2011). Through the parliamentary democracy, the British government enjoys the executive powers of the state along with the decentralized governments of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland (Heffernan & Thompson 2011). The legislative powers belong to the two chambers of the parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, along with the power to the governments of Ireland and Scotland (Holliday et al 1999). Coalitions and minority governments can also be seen occasionally in the parliament (Heffernan & Thompson 2011). However, everything is decided by the general elections which use the first-Past-the-Post electoral system (Holliday et al 1999). The constitution of the United Kingdom takes the form of an uncodified constitution, which includes the constitutional conventions, statutes, and other elements (Kavanagh et al. 2006). This system, called the Westminster system, has also been adopted by many other countries. The judicial system of the UK is separated into three institutions for England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Island (Kavanagh et al. 2006). The UK’s judicial system is divided into three branches of the state: two for the executive (the British government) and the legislative (the parliamentary chambers) (Kavanagh et al. 2006). Moreover, there are three types of courts: the Magistrates’ courts, the Senior courts, and the Supreme court (Kavanagh et al. 2006). Magistrates’ courts deal with civil and less serious cases while the Senior court, which also includes the Crown Court, the High Court, and the Court of Appeal. deals mainly with criminal cases and other appeals from other courts (Kavanagh et al 2006). The Supreme Court is the final court for appealing all the civil and the criminal cases (Holliday et al 1999). Currently, the government is headed by Boris Johnson and the majority of the seats are represented by the members of the Conservative Party, having won the election in December 2019. Shortly thereafter, the Brexit withdrawal agreement was also passed, which brought many negative impacts on the people of the UK. The many facets of the government were faced during the COVID-19 and the complimentary mass movements during the period.

Black Lives Matter, which gained traction during the COVID-19, is a devolved social and political movement, which aims to display the racism, inequality, and discrimination, faced by the Black people (Lowery 2017). It was mainly inflamed because of the protests against police brutality and racial violence against the Black population (Lowery 2017). This movement along with several other aim to modify the government for various policies that could lead to equal treatment of the Black liberate them from further racism, allow free expression of their identity, and the protection against such hate crimes (Lowery 2017). This movement does not entertain any hierarchy, but is a collective movement of people, aiming to eradicate the hate crimes against the Blacks (Carmichael et al 1992). The movement started in 2013 with the false accusation of shooting by George Zimmermann. It gained further importance after the deaths of two African American people in 2014, which resulted in many protests and unrest (Lowery 2017). In 2016, this movement gained more importance due to its association with the United States election (Eddo-Lodge 2018). Recently, it gained further traction, both nationally and internationally due to police brutality against George Floyd, followed by his murder. The main strategies used by the Black Lives Matter Movement were used through social media and its platforms, reaching a wide number of people rapidly, where the protests were used peacefully. Moreover, people expressed their support for the BLM through widespread protests and rallies, while using political slogans, and representation of the art, music, and culture in media. The popularity of such books, novels, and TV shows also increased in 2020 along with songs that propagated the concepts of Black equality. Art, murals, and graphics also saw an increase in usage when considering their involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement. This movement received participation from approximately 26 million people, making it one of the largest movements in the country. Moreover, this movement gained huge popularity in many other countries such as Australia, Denmark, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

The Black Lives Matter Movement

In the United Kingdom, the Black Lives Matter movement started in 2016 when thousands of people protested against the rampant racism in Manchester when a group called Back Lives Matter UK (UKBLM) started (Moores 2017). The protests included blocking the London City Airport in London, where people chained themselves to the runway of the airport. BLM protests are also popular in the cities like Birmingham and Nottingham (Moores 2017). 2016 was also characterized by false news and accusations against the movement by tabloids and newspapers (Moores 2017). They tried to challenge many leaders of the BLM, which finally led to total anonymity of the leaders. BLMUK also held protests in Stratford for the death of Edson Da Costa, followed by the Grenfell Tower fire and the Windrush scandal incidents (Moores 2017). BLMUK also collaborated with the Wretched of the Earth organization to represent the people of colour and the indigenous people in the climate justice movement in 2019 (Moores 2017). 2020 saw people protesting against the increased popularity of the BLM in the US, which also led to protests in the UK, specifically in Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, and Parliament Square outside the US embassy (Moores 2017). Many protests with people commemorating the Black people, chanting, slogans, and social media posts were also popular (Moores 2017; Matheson 1987). Protests were also carried out in other cities like Bristol, Leeds, and Cardiff. The Black Matter Movement in the UK also revealed several shortcomings of the government and their response to this movement. As the Black Lives Matter movement spread in the UK, the government started questioning the “critical race theory”, which attempts to understand the Black discrimination in the judicial system despite equal rights. Government officials also threatened the stop the funding if they took down statues under the pressure of the protests. The Department of Education also asked schools to reduce teaching materials that depicted the “victim narrative” of the Black people. Such behaviour to further outraged the campaigners against the UK government. This also reduced the people’s support for the Boris Johnson-led government and the Conservative Party. The reduced trust in the government has aggravated the population which was already angry over the poor and ineffectual strategies during the advent of the pandemic.  

While social media has many influences in all parts of our daily lives, it also plays an important role in social movements. The social movement’s role is undeniable in influencing the political laws, and political systems locally, nationally, and internationally. In the current times, social media has changed the collective identity and roles of the leaders and the members of the social movements (Newell 2019; Farrell et al 2019). The` social network is used to influence a wide range of people and affect the public sphere. Its devices such as television and radio were some of the first sources of media influence through social applications (Seyd et al 2018). However, this evolved to social media and the different platforms that affected the social representation of such movements (Seyd et al 2018). It allowed the free flow of participation, conversation, and disputes regarding the various social movements and the influence of this movement on the people and society (Seyd et al 2018). With the introduction of the internet and its usage in our daily lives, the interpersonal connection between people has increased exponentially with many effects on social movements (Seyd et al 2018; Keating & Melis 2017). Social media has primarily allowed the individuals to increase the rate of enrolment, mobilisation, communication, and spread of information along with the expansion of spaces of mobilisation which were not easily possible in the traditional social networking techniques (Keating & Melis 2017). The rapid spread of information is an added feature that elevated the role of social media in the movements (Keating & Melis 2017). Social media has also affected the way processes and strategies of the social movements impact the contribution and administration (Keating & Melis 2017; Farrell et al 2019). Since social media has allowed for easier and faster propagation of information, it is also easier to develop identities collectively to allow for the free expression of emotions (Castells 2011). Social media has also allowed people of different collective identities to come together to fulfilment of their goals (Keating & Melis 2017). All these concepts can also be seen in the relation to the requirement of the social media in aiding and fostering the Black Lives Matter movement.

Role of Social Media in the Black Lives Matter Movement

The Black Lives Matter movement placed heavy emphasis on the usage and prominence of social media for influencing and propagating the social movement. As understood earlier, social media has been used to propagate and effectively communicate information about the BLM movement through social media (Keating & Melis 2017). The free flow of ideas and thoughts for a similar goal has allowed the people to develop their identity as volunteers of the Black Lives Matter movement (Keating & Melis 2017). The easy mobilisation of ideas and thoughts has allowed each individual to share their thoughts, even while they were quarantined. The movement also picked up the use of hashtags (Lowery 2017). Even in 2014, #BlackLivesMatter was decided as the word of the year along with being the term that changed the world by different societies and magazines respectively (Lowery 2017). During 2013 and 2014, the hashtag was one of the trending hashtags and allowed the world to witness all the recent activities using it. The use of social media for fostering the Black Lives Movement allowed the young and up-and-coming generation to be in line with their culture and accept different races in their lifestyle (Lowery 2017). The social media activism witnessed all over the world led to gaining the attention of the audience, both nationally and internationally (Lowery 2017; Whiteley et al. 2019). People were now more than aware of the situation rather than blindly following the local news. Social media was also influential in aiding the movement through the actions of famous activists like Colin Kaepernick, who is a football player. Kaepernick is famed to have kneeled during US’ national anthem to display the message of the movement. Social media has been a significant tool that has been used popularly to change the public policy related to police brutality. The conceptualisation of the social movement on social media has also allowed the public and the government to gain knowledge about different campaigns, such as seen in the case of the Black Lives Matter movement. The influence of the social media has also made it possible for activists to see and enjoy mass change. Had the social media been not there, the movement would not have gained such monumental traction (Shah 2019). It happened all because of the quality of the social media to spread and disseminate the information very rapidly. It should also be noted that while the Black Lives Matter movement prospered partly through the involvement of social media, it has also helped other social movements like the #MeToo movement. Thus, social media has been an immensely powerful and helpful tool to accommodate and make changes to the policies and treatment that allowed racism.

To conclude, social media has been an impactful method through which the Black Lives Matter movement achieve astronomical heights. Social media has been a powerful tool that allows the individual to easily exchange and share information, addicting information, and grow and develop business models so that the people can engage in an exchange of ideas and information. Politics is the group of activities that mark a group’s paradigms such as making decisions, understanding power relations among individuals, and the movement of power and resources. Politics can be seen at all levels of the government through the political system. The political system can be defined as the processes that influence the government’s decisions in matters of society and the people.  The political system has many aspects, such as the central and the state government, state, constitutions, political culture, and political dysfunction. The UK is a unitary government, decentralised as a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. While the parliamentary government is represented by the head of the government, i.e., the prime minister, the constitutional monarchy is headed by the monarch. Recently, the government received backlash because of its reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement. The Black Lives Matter Movement is a social and political social movement that aims at displaying and decreasing the racism, inequality, and discrimination against the Black people along with reducing the hate crimes that have been happening very often in recent times. The movement started in 2013 because of false accusations against George Zimmermann in the USA. Simultaneously, this movement had been going on in the United Kingdom. This movement started in 2016 in the UK with the formulation of the Black Lives Matter UK (BLMUK). In recent years, the people had to undergo several challenges regarding their support of the Black Lives Matter movement. During the latest phase of the BLM movement, the government criticized the non-violent protests which further aggravated the public against their actions, aided by their inadequacy in COVID-19. As discussed earlier, social media is an influential tool that is regularly used by different social movements as seen in the Black Lives Matter movement. Social media was used to communicate and spread information about the happenings of the social movement. This also brought faster and more factual information to all the participants. This also influenced the coming generation about their culture, fostering more knowledge and belongingness for their culture.

References

Carmichael, S., Ture, K. and Hamilton, C.V 1992, Black power: The politics of liberation in America, Vintage.

Castells, M 2011, The rise of the network society, John Wiley & sons.

Chambers, S. and Kopstein J 2001, Bad civil society, Political theory, 29(6): 837-865.

https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0090591701029006008

Eddo-Lodge, R., 2020, Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Farrell, C., Green, A., Knights, S. and Skeaping, W 2019, This is not a drill: An extinction rebellion handbook, Penguin Books.

Heffernan, R, and Thompson, G, Politics and Power in the UK, Open University, 2011.

Holliday, I., Gamble, A. and Parry, G 1999, Fundamentals in British politics, Macmillan.

Kavanagh, D., Richards, D., Smith, M. and Geddes, A 2006, British politics, Oxford University Press.

Keating, A. and Melis, G 2017, Social media and youth political engagement: Preaching to the converted or providing a new voice for youth?, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 19(4): 877-894. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1369148117718461

Lowery, W 2017, They Can't Kill Us All: The Story of Black Lives Matter, Penguin UK.

Matheson, C 1987, Weber and the Classification of Forms of Legitimacy, British Journal of Sociology, pp.199-215. https://doi.org/10.2307/590532

Moores, C 2017, Civil liberties and human rights in Twentieth-century Britain, Cambridge University Press.

Newell, P 2019, Global green politics, Cambridge University Press.

Seyd, B., Curtice, J. and Rose, J 2018, How might reform of the political system appeal to discontented citizens?, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 20(2): 263-284. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1369148117736189

Shah, D 2019, Extinction Rebellion: radical or rational?, British Journal of General Practice, 69(684): 345-345.

https://bjgp.org/content/69/684/345.short

Whiteley, P., Poletti, M., Webb, P. and Bale, T 2019, Oh Jeremy Corbyn! Why did Labour Party membership soar after the 2015 general election?, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 21(1): 80-98.

https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1369148118815408

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