Philipp Meier, Community Developer
From the Arab Spring to Brexit, from Trump to “fake” news: direct democracy is a hot topic. Reflective of this, Swiss students came up with the evocative hashtag #DearDemocracy for an event for which SWI swissinfo.ch was media partner. This is now the name of our platform on modern direct democracy, the most important topic addressed by swissinfo.ch. This article explains what is behind #DearDemocracy.
“Democracy is dead. Long live democracy!” – just as with the transition between kings and emperors, the nature of democracy is changing all the time. If it is absent, it is often longed-for. At times it has also been won in bloody revolutions.
Once proclaimed, it is sometimes more illusion than reality. Without effective protection for minorities, it is no more than a dictatorship of the majority. And quite frequently it can be bought. It is at its most vital in its direct form, allowing citizens to participate as fully as possible. Despite this, if only half of the electorate actually bothers to vote, we might well ask whether it is only half alive, or half dead.
#DearDemocracy can be read as a polite salutation, a passionate appeal, or even as an outcry. The hashtag combines the rather dusty, theoretical concept of “democracy” with an emotional element. Phonetically, the “dear” salutation is a play on the first three letters of “dir-ect democracy”. It is an opportunity to address democracy directly, and actively to question it, thereby bringing it to life.
The first tweet with the #DearDemocracy hashtag raised awareness of Democracy Week at the University of Fribourg in western Switzerland, for which it was specifically created by the organising students.
And here a second tweet, giving an idea of what the debates covered.
The hashtag became established very quickly and has since been in regular use. It has appeared in around 5,000 tweets from just under 1,000 accounts since it was introduced in the summer of 2016. Here is a short excerpt from the long Twitter stream to give an impression of what sort of tweets have been marked #DearDemocracy:
The hashtag became established very quickly and has since been in regular use. It has appeared in around 5,000 tweets from just under 1,000 accounts since it was introduced in the summer of 2016.
#DearDemocracy has now been adopted as the name of a nine-strong specialist swissinfo.ch editorial team. swissinfo.ch is thus probably the only medium anywhere in the world that has a staff dedicated specifically to democracy.
As with any hashtag, #DearDemocracy provides an open platform for discussion – in this case about everything concerned with modern direct democracy, which extends far beyond the two conventional instruments of initiatives and referenda.
At the same time, it gives rise to an informal network of users interested in – and perhaps also critical of – democracy.
swissinfo.ch is closely monitoring #DearDemocracy activity on Twitter, concentrating in particular on the issues that are being shared and discussed, and on the users who have adopted the hashtag.
If you are on Twitter and are interested in direct democracy, feel free to use the #DearDemocracy hashtag. It will put you on the radar of swissinfo.ch’s specialist editorial team.