New Nation Coalition via the Mood on Twitter

Marcia Forbes PhD

Brave Betty Blaine
The brave and indomitable Betty Ann Blaine has ‘put her money where her mouth is’ and formed a new political party, New Nation Coalition (NNC). Having missed the launch of the NDM (National Democratic Party), I decided this new political party would not suffer a similar fate. Although having no real passion for partisan politics, Jamaica and the course we are charting is of deep interest to me. Additionally, steeped in digital/virtual ethnography via Twitter toward a 2nd book, it was a great event to ‘tweet-up’ since so many of my Jamaican and other followers live overseas.

Twitter Measuring Mood in USA
Before getting into the heated exchanges among my tweeps (an endearing term for one’s followers on Twitter) in response to the launch of NNC, I’ll share some recent findings about Twitter. A CNN Opinion article captioned “Is Twitter a national mood ring?” highlights in-progress research by Harvard Medical School and Northeastern University to “infer the mood of Twitter users in the United States from their public tweets”. They have already observed “happier words” in tweets from Hawaii, California and Florida. Others highlight Twitter’s usefulness in providing feedback on issues and predicting outcomes such as box-office hits.

The NNC Launch Event
Coming back to Betty Blaine’s launch of NNC my 1st tweet as I drove into Hilton/Wyndham Hotel was, “Car park decidedly empty. This does not bode well for launch of Jamaica's New Nation Coalition by Betty Blaine.” In all I posted 33 tweets throughout the event. These included, “There are 10 founding members of the New Nation Coalition (NNC), including Cyrus Rousseau and Peter Watson (Heather Little-Whyte's husband)”, “Blaine of NNC makes no apology for being "a follower of Jesus Christ and expects full support from the Churches in Jamaica”, and “CVM's rep. questions re funding. Betty (says) that NNC will use Obama's approach-grassroots support. Donation form on website for transparency”.

Twitter’s Mood toward NNC
Signs of the mood on Twitter came during the launch by way of the 1st response to my tweets. The person tweeted, “there we go thief one liad and now a ediat *shakes head*" Many followers had queries such as the level of media representation at the event, the mission of the new party and exactly who were the people behind it. Answers were provided as best I could from what I garnered at the launch. Later that day (Twitter really comes alive after 7pm) the comments were more caustic and cynical.

One person questioned whether Betty planned to use curry goat and AK 47s in the 2012 elections, another recommended full interrogation of her background, yet another commented on what he saw as the unworkable mix of Christianity with politics. It went on and on. One wondered why she chose “yellow and green” as the logo colours, seemingly forgetting that gold and green, the actual logo colours, are those in our flag. At 11:30pm I gave up trying to calm my tweeps and to keep them objective in their assessment of this new political party and its leader. I bade them goodnight and went to bed.

Well, if the tweets are any measure of the mood of the country regarding the New Nation Coalition (NNC), that team has a great deal of work to do. The Observer’s Editorial on August 6th, Independence Day, mentioned some of the on-the-ground work that the indefatigable Betty Blaine will have to do put in. Having read her columns and listened to her on radio for the past years, I believe she has the passion, commitment and brain to make a go at it. Unfortunately, Jamaica’s are battle-weary with politicians and seem to see them all as “scumbags and thieves”. Betty Blaine, having stepped into the political ring, is now the newest punching bag.

I encourage the NNC team to take these negative views via Twitter and elsewhere very seriously. Twitter users are said to be the most influential online consumers, with over 70% of them publishing blogs at least monthly. Daily Twitter users are reported as six times more likely to publish articles (ExactTarget). You may say these are foreign figures. However, based on my own local research and from meeting several of them in the real world, many of those who tweet are not your usual non-reading, ignorant and inarticulate Jamaican. Many seem to be educated up to tertiary level.

Jamaicans Tweeting their Way to Progress
Via Twitter, Jamaicans are sharing their opinions on just about everything that impacts them and this country and are using this written–media technology to advance themselves, their businesses/careers and their blogs. Twitter is a real community with its finger on the pulse of the people. Betty and her NNC team can benefit greatly from engaging with it as one way of making the motives, mission and manner of this new party more clear to those whose support she seeks, especially since she’s depending on the Diaspora and many of them tweet.

The wily Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the new Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago and President Barack Obama are already on Twitter. Following their example, Betty should embrace new media technologies and the cost-effective marketing advantages they offer to further the cause of NNC. I warn her though to thicken her skin and broaden her back because based on everything I’ve heard; she’s in for non-stop punching and lashing, even from some who may pretend that they support her. Keep strong Betty. I wish you well.