PNP ‘pimps’ candidates for virtual friends

Written by Ross Sheil and Kerry-Ann Bercher

pimped.jpgThis campaign has already seen politicians attempting, sometimes struggling, to demonstrate familiarity with the Internet Generation.

One politician to be caught e-unawares is Maxine Henry-Wilson, Minister of Education and Youth and incumbent Member of Parliament for South East St. Andrew. Mrs. Henry-Wilson has been ‘pimped’ – a use of the word popularised by the MTV show ‘Pimp My Ride’, which in slang means to customise.

The PNP, unbeknown to Mrs. Henry-Wilson, launched webpages for their candidates on social networking websites and and the video-sharing site Her Hi5 page - which has been customised using the free online tool - has a seductive background of hearts, inviting visitors to “… become Maxine’s first friend!”

Such virtual friends might be valuable should they become actual PNP voters on Election Day, August 27, in a hotly contested contest with Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidate Joan Gordon-Webley.

“Old methods of campaigning don’t always work and in this day and age, for example YouTube and MySpace are ways we can use,” said an approving Education Minister.

According to PNP webmaster David White the pages were launched in response to a survey of young people, which recommended using social networking websites to cultivate potential voters. However seeing as most of the webpages are inactive, Mr. White and his staff might first have to educate candidates, before they can win over voters online.

There are others customisations besides Mrs. Henry-Wilson’s, with Peter Bunting, candidate for Central Manchester and Phillip Paulwell, candidate for East Kingston and Port Royal also ‘pimped’ on their respective Hi5 and MySpace pages. Mr. Bunting’s page has a background of roses while Mr. Paulwell, or whomever launched the Technology Minister’s page, choose to display the motto: “It takes more than a man to be in the military. And more than a woman to love that man.”

Previously caught unawares by social networking technology, the most popular politicians’ pages on Hi5 actually belong to PNP President Portia Simpson Miller and her predecessors as Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson and Edward Seaga – whose pages were posted by pranksters.

Judging by the number of ‘friends’ and duration of their Hi5 pages, the youth wings of the PNP and JLP are more familiar with social networking sites - but this is unsurprising since it has been the demand from young users that has driven the popularity of the technology.

PNP Youth Organisation (PNPYO) President Andrew Okola seems to be well ahead with 353 Hi5 friends, a photograph of himself with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and testimony from female users, that might encourage him to run for office next election. The page of Generation 2000 (G2K), the young professional arm of the JLP, has 141 friends.

The JLP has also established its own channel on YouTube.

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