Social media erodes politics: ‘Motions are a fart that are let out in every debate’

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Social media erodes politics: ‘Motions are a fart that are let out in every debate’

The role of politicians has come under increasing pressure due to social media. That is what former D66 politician Kees Verhoeven says in the BNR program Big Five. According to Verhoeven, some politicians do not perform their monitoring task properly, but are mainly concerned with submitting motions to ‘manifest’ themselves online. ‘Digitization has significantly increased the number of motions.’

In 1981 less than 600 motions were tabled in the House of Representatives per year. That number has now risen by more than 700 percent to 5,000 motions, Verhoeven gives as an example. “It has become eight times as much,” he says. According to the former MP, the cause is the use of social media. ‘In the 1980s you didn’t have constant news and the possibility to enter the digital stage on Twitter.’

‘Now a motion is a fart that every politician lets out in every debate’

Kees Verhoeven, former Member of Parliament for D66

Verhoeven is annoyed by this way of doing politics. ‘A Member of Parliament has a number of instruments with which he can carry out his monitoring task. The most important means is an initiative law. Then you really rewrite a law. Few MPs do that all the way from start to finish, because it takes four to five years. In my eleven years I was able to write two from top to bottom, which is hard work.’

According to Verhoeven, a motion is one of the easiest ways to exert influence. ‘That’s just an A4 sheet, you type a few sentences on it and you come up with a proposal. In the past, if a member of parliament submitted a motion and it was adopted, the government really had to do something with it. Now it’s a fart that every politician lets out in every debate.’ This means that a motion is no longer a means to bring about change, but ‘to manifest yourself’, explains Verhoeven. “Those motions have been eroded.”

The article continues below the video.

A vote of no confidence no longer counts

Not only a normal motion has lost its effectiveness, says Verhoeven. Motions of no confidence have also become ‘a joke’. ‘Just before I entered the House of Representatives, in 2009, Mark Rutte, as opposition leader, had submitted a motion of no confidence against Balkenende’s cabinet. That was big news at the time. Balkenende was completely blown away. According to some, this has also given Rutte momentum, which enabled him to become prime minister. Now a vote of no confidence has become a joke, because it happens so often and a large minority is in favor of it,’ says Verhoeven.

‘Algorithms and social media are drivers of human tendencies, especially in politicians, such as vanity, wanting to score and visibility,’ says Verhoeven. ‘In that sense, digitization has considerably increased the number of motions.’

Former D66 Member of Parliament Kees Verhoeven. (ANP / Peter Hilz)

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