Saturday, February 16, 2008

SMS - The Opinion Maker

I just received a joke on SMS and it is again about PML-Q, the erstwhile goons of Musharraf. Tell me, if you have received political jokes recently, how many relate to PML-Q? I can safely say 90% or more of the times its about the same party. The 'ridicule' factor is most prominent in these jokes.

Its this type of politics-based joke that interests me. (Yes I do receive other jokes as well that interest me even more :p) You read the joke, you laugh and you forward it to someone else. Was it just simple as that? What you did as simple an act of laughing and forwarding was that you formed an opinion about PML-Q as well! What is the image of PML-Q in your mind now? Idiots most probably! And that is most important. I am not saying that its only the SMS that formed your opinion like that but it certainly is a build up on the earlier information.

SMS and cellphones are ubiquitous these days. Its such an important element in the modern day of communication but we do not give it due importance rather take it for granted. Yes we are aware of the 'nuisance' factor of it but do we really appreciate the timeliness of information received? Remember Benazir Bhutto's assassination? You read it on blog first or got the SMS first? Do we know how can it be utilized to further your cause?

Talking about political jokes, Propaganda has now taken on new form. I do not know whether it was by chance or some deliberate attempt but this is certainly working. The majority of the users of cell phone are young aged-middle aged Pakistanis. They can sms - not just receive and send calls. They are the ones that are more aware of the changing scenarios of the country and perhaps would want to do something about it. They are the decision makers and they are the recipients of these messages.

The usual medium of information like Newspapers, Radio and TV still play an important role in forming an opinion. The information they provide is portrayed as balanced and accurate. You cant really blame them because they are working in boundaries of ethics and fair-play (at least they say so). But when it comes to SMS, the language is more straight forward than the draped-thing that you get from other media. A joke is short, precise and to the point! Conveys what the meaning is and helps do it in less cost! Forget about expensive advertisement campaigns against opponents which sound sleazy anyway! SMS will spread much faster, will cover great distances, will have impact and you will not have to bear the expenses too! What an effective propaganda tool!

Blogs come close to quick opinion-forming information dissipation. Bloggers are usually more aware of the events that are going on whether political or apolitical. SMSs even outshine them in the sense that you do not spend that much time on computers. If you do, you would go to your favorite places on the internet including blogs and newspaper sites. You will not visit every site to get information. On the other hand, with SMS, the destination of the information is the 'recipient'. You get a message and you 'read' it! You will even forward it to your friends. A network of opinion was generated.

Perhaps you can clearly see the results of the next elections if SMS popular sentiment is to be believed. PML-Q will find it very difficult because the most powerful element of 'information' is not on their side! Pakistani politics is peculiar in the sense that dynasties, feudals, 'biradri' play more important role than the voter conscience. Would it be any different this time?

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