Attracting more than 370,000 followers, the Facebook page of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been successful in mixing politics and the new world of social networking services.
On his page, Abe posts a picture of him and his wife, Akie, with the message, “I’m going to Myanmar,” as well as pictures of him at meetings with his overseas counterparts and at a domestic campaign stop surrounded by people who are trying to shake his hand.
But all has not been smooth sailing, with the prime minister also facing criticism for antagonistic remarks he has made. The Asahi Shimbun solicited views of Abe's use of the popular social networking service from two experts on media and politics.
TORU YOSHIDA, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PARTY POLITICS, HOKKAIDO UNIVERSITY
Abe has succeeded in giving the impression of a politician working hard for the public through his Facebook page. He also has avoided posting inappropriate remarks, which would generate heavy criticism.
His messages represent characteristics of his administration that often uses ambiguous expressions, making it difficult to generate criticism and dissenting opinions, such as “take back Japan” and “tradition.” Meanwhile, he criticizes the opposition by putting on them partisan labels that are hated by many Internet users, for example, “disgraceful adults” for left-wingers in his actual post.
Politicians are generally divided into those with confidence and those who can read the situation, and Abe falls under the latter. He is not good at television appearances, which are difficult to project his personal character through. So, on Facebook, he appears to compensate for his lack of confidence by gaining recognition from other people through posting satisfying events from his daily life and obtaining “Likes.” After all, it is Facebook alone that gives the prime minister an uncensored and self-fulfilling way to express himself.
CHIKI OGIUE, MEDIA CRITIC
Abe was sent to the political world from a community where he had built up a supporter network and became a prince of the conservatives. He has also succeeded in creating his own community on Facebook. As far as his approach goes, he is the most skilled Japanese politician in the use of social media.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto stirs up people and emphasizes his strength using Twitter, which is open to everyone, whereas Abe is taking an approach to fight as a political figure in authority. Using Facebook is an appropriate way for creating a community of like-minded people, so Abe chose the proper social media for what he hoped to accomplish. Moreover, his secretary, who sometimes appears on his page, plays a role like the head of his support team, posting for him and praising the prime minister.
I hope liberals who respect individual freedom will also create a community through the Internet, which would be difficult under the current situation in Japan, where gritty liberals are not growing in numbers in the real world.
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