Mediatized Populisms| New Media, New Partisanship: Divided Virtual Politics In and Beyond Thailand
Since the military coup of September 19, 2006, Thailand has been characterized by deeply divided politics. This article examines the rise of partisan television channels closely associated with mass protest movements: ASTV, Asia Update, and Blue Sky. Leading figures of each protest movement became media celebrities in their own right: Thai politics became a form of reality TV, while popular entertainment became a mode of politics. As time went on, mediatized populism fueled use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to promote partisan political stances. Each movement invoked its own competing notion of “the people,” offering highly selective and self-serving definitions of what constituted the public sphere and who was entitled to inhabit and, indeed, occupy this space. Partisan electronic media and new media have empowered citizens and deepened popular political engagement. But they have also stoked profound social division and discord, sometimes spilling over into violence. New media have helped generate dangerous forms of populism that undermine social cohesion and that demonize political adversaries.