The Impact of Social Media Communication on Armed Forces’ Legitimacy

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Eva MOEHLECKE DE BASEGGIO, Military Academy at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Olivia SCHNEIDER, Military Academy at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Jennifer Victoria SCURRELL, Military Academy at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Tibor SZVIRCSEV TRESCH, Swiss Military Academy at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland
The Swiss Armed Forces (SAF) as part of a democratic political system depend on societal legitimacy of the organization and its mandates, it is their license to act. Legitimacy is generated by complying with binding principles like the federal and by societal acceptance. It is about political transparence and participation (von Bredow 2008). Democracy, legitimacy and the public are closely connected. In the public the SAF and their mandates become visible. In this sphere, they can be controlled and legitimated by the citizens, as part of a deliberative discussion. Political decisions are communicatively negotiated, arguments and information get compared, and verified by reasonableness. Thereby political comprehension can be increased (Habermas 1998). A public discourse enables the citizens to perceive themselves as part of a society. This creates loyalty and thereby political decisions can be supported by all citizens, not only by the majority (Imhof 1996). Considering this, the meaning of political communication including the SAF’s communication becomes obvious as it forms the most important basis for political legitimization processes.

For long public political communication was mediated by traditional mass media with journalists as gatekeepers. Nowadays, social media provide a new way to communicate and interact directly with the citizens. The official SAF social media communication potentially brings the organization closer to the people and starts a dialogue with them. At its best the SAF will become more transparent and social media communication may increase reputation, confidence, legitimacy and societal support.

To measure the effect of social media communication on legitimacy, the Military Academy at the ETH Zurich has conducted a survey amongst the representative Swiss internet population. Based on this data, the paper will show what impact the official social media communication of the SAF has on their legitimacy.