Are we politically distracted?

Orla Dwyer

Theresa May busting out some moves at the Conservative Party Conference.

Laughter may be the best medicine, but in the world of politics it can often overshadow the real issues at hand.

Bizarre and hilarious moments are often what linger in the mind when thinking about political figures. Leo Varadkar’s tweet saying Wake Me Up was his song of the Camino after Avicii’s death. David Cameron’s Piggate. Michael D Higgins and his BMX photo. Basically everything Trump tweets, does and is. Hillary Clinton learning how to dab on Ellen. And more recently, Theresa May’s sick dance moves at the Conservative Party Conference.

May entered the stage to the tune of Dancing Queen by Abba and did some sort of dance. This was likely an allusion to her previous groovy moves in Africa, when she danced along with schoolchildren in Cape Town and Kenya. Although incidents like these make headlines across the globe, are they merely a distraction from what else is going on?

Twitter was awash with clips of the dance set to different songs such as the Thomas the Tank Engine theme tune. Among this, there were one or two mentions of what she had said in the speech once the dancing ended, but these were all too hard to come across.

There are scant mentions of what was said at the conference. Most news organisations led with the Prime Minister’s dance moves rather than her words.

There is no conspiracy here, but it can be easy to get caught up in the jokes and memes and forget that a serious problem is at hand. May is still insisting that Britain can get through Brexit without compromising on anything or breaking up the country. While a politician spouting idealistic notions isn’t exactly a new concept, it is worrying that their ideas are being overshadowed by their flailing limbs.

A study in the American Political Science Review on the Chinese government fabricating social media posts as distraction estimated that the government hires people to post about 448 million social media comments a year. These comments are aimed to distract the public from controversial issues and change the subject. Although Theresa May’s moves don’t feel as sinister, they do have a similar tone.

Obviously, the focus is not always on the funny moments of political figures. Trump’s main attention in the media as of late is his handling of the Brett Kavanaugh situation, for example. It is strident to remember these events the next time a political figure does a funny dance for the camera or sends a bizarre tweet at 3am.

Orla Dwyer 

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