Filed under: Activism, LGBT, Politics | Tags: 3, Activism, LGBT, Politics, stonewall
Yesterday I went to an event at the Electric Cinema to celebrate 40 years since founding of the Gay Liberation Front – “the first major gay organization not run by bishops”. It was a bunch of films followed by a very heated discussion amongst the veterans – a real blast from militant gay history, and a few lessons:
These people really aimed high. Not content to hang out in the gay ghettos of Soho, they wanted to change the law, change the workplace, change education, change society. They knew what they wanted, and they were completely uncompromising.
“Good humour, wit and imagination; these are the best tools we have,” said trans poet Roz Kaveney. There were some very funny stories – like the bogus nuns who would turn up to Christian rallies and cause chaos by doing the can-can. One grande dame in a huge fedora was asked what she thought was the secret of social change: “comedy, darling”, she proclaimed.
I guess it’s the definition of militancy – there was a real fighting spirit in these people. Now in their sixties and seventies, the veterans at yesterday’s event were feisty, to say the least. The younger members of the audience seemed distinctly moderate by comparison.
Ambition, imagination and the love of a good fight – this is how the old guard from the GLF pushed and prodded at the establishment. I met with some folks from Stonewall last week – a very different vibe: engaging the system, working with schools, playing the politics. They’re smart, professional, part of the mainstream. Different times.
Pride London and QQT organized yesterday’s event, and they made a short promo. It has some great shots of the acid-fueled idealism of the early days. A reminder that all real change starts as counter-culture.
The votes are being counted, and I just heard Lord Mandelson say, “without wishing to sound glib, I think the public may have won the election”. Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The media and the politicians are enjoying the idea that this was “the people’s election”, but the Electoral Commission estimate that only 56% of 18-25 year olds are even registered to vote. Not everyone’s feeling it.
Still, it’s been more lively than anyone expected. Here are some images to celebrate.
Filed under: Politics, Public Opinion, Uncategorized | Tags: Politics, Public Opinion
I fell asleep during Thursday’s debate, it seemed all fairly predictable. I took the transcript and ran it through Wordle (I’m surely not the only saddo who thought of doing this, but I couldn’t find anyone else). Here’s how the three leaders look. Interesting that Clegg and Cameron are quite similar, but Brown looks very different. Their biggest word is “think”, compared to Brown’s “got” – their personal opinions against his imploring certainties.
Here they are – Clegg, Cameron and Brown:
Man of the match Clegg likes “another”, “other”, “alternative” – and clearly viewers liked these words too, judging by the response. He says “actually” a lot, and “system”- telling us how it really is.
Brown talks about “risk” and “cuts” a lot. If all campaigning is basically about either hope or fear, Brown was playing the fear: “protect” and “secure” are also prominent.
Cameron talks about “waste” instead of “cuts”. This reminds me of a project we did on climate change, working with Linguistic Landscapes: “stop wasting energy” turned out to be far more motivating than “save energy”: waste is one of the most negative words in the language, something to be avoided.
Some words were conspicuous by their absence: nobody talks about “welfare” anymore, nobody has anything to say on “climate”, and “Big Society” didn’t make it in.
In the US, pollsters like Frank Luntz have made their fortunes by fine-tuning the words politicians use – for example, shifting the debate from “estate tax” to “death tax”, or from “drilling for oil” to “exploring for energy”. Many people are instinctively suspicious of this kind of thing – maybe because Republicans like Luntz have been the masters of this art. I think that language matters, helps us to link policy debates to our underlying values.
The Orwell Prize takes place this week, recognizing the best political writers. Orwell is now synonymous with political doublethink, but he was passionate about the role of words in politics, writing that they should be “an instrument for expressing and not concealing or preventing thought”. This comes from his famous essay Politics and the English Language – and from what I saw of the sleep-inducing leaders debate, his comment on political speech still applies:
The concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less of words chosen for their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.
Filed under: Advertising, Drugs, FRANK, Politics, Uncategorized | Tags: Advertising, COI, effectiveness, FRANK, Mother, Politics
By the way, there’s an election on – and both parties will spend heavily on their campaigns: in 2005, they each spent just short of £18 million, and this time the Tories are already on their second national outdoor advertising campaign.
Nice to see they believe in the power of communications. So why are both parties pledging to cut government advertising budgets? The Tories will cut 40%, whilst Labour say they’ll cut 25% in two years time. Here are some of the lines being trotted out:
“Government is the UK’s biggest advertiser”
Shock horror: government ad spend was £207.9 million in 2009 overtaking P&G as the UK’s biggest advertiser. And why not? P&G spent £155 million in 2009, persuading us to buy Pampers instead of Huggies. Government communications deals with public health, climate change, drink-driving, etc. Wouldn’t we expect government to spend at least as much as P&G?
“We need to get tough on government waste”
Cutting communications budgets fits into the whole “finding efficiencies” narrative. This is massively short-sighted: spending on communications should be able to save the government money:
- The NHS spends £1.7 billion each year treating smoking-related conditions. Doesn’t it make sense to discourage people from smoking? The government spends on average $8 million a year on anti-smoking ads (with a 2008 burst of £28 million). Prevention before cure – does this sound like waste, or common sense?
- The NHS spends around £1.5 billion each year treating conditioned linked to obesity. The government is spending £75 million over three years on anti-obesity advertising. Sounds sensible to me./li>
“We need to reduce the deficit”
The Tories’s 40% cut would save around £80 million. This barely covers a few hours of the national deficit (currently running at £500 million a day). To put it in perspective, the money government would save covers the cost of widening a mile and a half of the M6 (costing £56 million a mile).
“We need spending cuts to boost the economy”
This is obviously the Tory philosophy – but there’s evidence that government advertising has a benefit to the economy.
- The Home Office spent £28.4 million over four years on its Vehicle Crime campaign, and econometric modeling shows this saved just over £590 million in the cost of crime (source: IPA effectiveness paper).
- Our own work for FRANK uses highly targeted communications to heavy drug users, getting them into treatment before they become problem drug users – saving up to £100,000 for each individual (the healthcare cost of a long term heroine user) as well as preventing broader social and economic harm.
Of course, it’s a few easy headlines: cracking down on waste, spin, nanny-state, etc. The Daily Mail love it, with a steady stream of stories like Celebrities paid £325,000 to appear in government advertising. The reality is, communications work – they’re an important policy tool, and the politicians know it.
Image from Adbusters
Filed under: Carbon, Climate Change, Environment, Politics, Public Opinion | Tags: Carbon, Climate Change, energy saving trust, Environment, environmental, Politics, Public Opinion
Will climate change be an issue in next years election? Unlikely. The green movement failed to make it an issue last time and this time looks like being even worse. Why?
Firstly, HSBC’s Carbon Confidence monitor shows a fall in concern about climate change in the UK – down from 26% last year to 15% this year. This figure is also much less than developing countries like Brazil, Mexico and India – prompting an excellent rant on Alistair Campbell’s blog:
Is that because [people in developing countries] are more used to weather driven destruction? Or because they have not fallen victim to the ‘not bovvered’ syndrome which says instant gratification belongs to the individual and any long-term problem belongs to somebody else?
Secondly, research we’ve seen by our clients at the Energy Saving Trust suggests people are increasingly confused about carbon – not surprising giving the confusing language: carbon offsets, carbon emissions, carbon calculators, carbon trading, carbon footprints, etc.
Thirdly, there’s no clear story for people to get behind. We’re lost in the din: all kinds of consumer brands are talking the talk; government messaging comes from the Carbon Trust, the Energy Saving Trust, and Act On CO2; and in the run-up to Copenhagen, dozens of campaigns are competing for public engagement.
Fourthly, climate change cynics are on the increase. George Monbiot points to an explosion of books denying climate change: on Amazon.co.uk, anti-climate change books currently rank 1,2,4,5,7 and 8 in the global warming category. The British book-buying public clearly wants to be told that climate change is some kind of conspiracy.
Finally, Armageddon really doesn’t sell well. As climate change becomes a reality, we can expect some public antagonism towards scientists and environmentalists. Worse than this, we might even expect people to consumer more: an extraordinary piece of research called “Of Wealth & Death” finds that people often respond to reminders of death by increasing consumption. They begin with a cheery quote form Tolkien:
But the fear of death grew ever darker upon them, and . . . those that lived turned the more eagerly to pleasure and revelry, desiring ever more goods and more riches. (from The Silmarillion)
I’m going to suggest a new acronym. Already we have SISO (shit in, shit out). Now we have DIDO (disaster in, disaster out): the more we talk about Armageddon, the close it gets. The green movement is good at disaster scenarios. Where are the gleaming possible new futures? If we want a positive response, don’t we need some positive inputs?
Week two of the Open Up campaign, and it’s building momentum. We got off to a good start with this tweet from Stephen Fry, which prompted this discussion on BBC 5Live’s Simon Mayo show, with blogger Iain Dale, political reformer Antony Barnett, and our own John Lloyd.
The Tales From The Duck House films have really helped drive coverage: they’ve been featured on Sky News and were pick of the day on their website. The comedy+politics angle has also got us coverage in high profile blogs like Boing Boing and Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish.
In terms of press, so far we’ve been covered by The Times, The Guardian, and a fair bit of local press including the Evening Standard, Liverpool Daily Post, and the Portsmouth News. This morning we have a great article from Martin Bell in the Telegraph – and plenty of good comments on the website.
So, we’re getting out there. In response to the campaign, we’ve already had Frank Field MP saying he’d stand in an open primary, and the Tories in Gosport (the stomping ground of duck-man Peter Viggers) are holding one to select their next candidate. Let’s see what next week brings.
Filed under: Activism, Amnesty International, Environment, Greenpeace, Human Rights, Plane Stupid, Politics | Tags: "critical mass", "yes men", Activism, activist, adbusters, alf, Amnesty International, Environment, Greenpeace, Human Rights, Plane Stupid
We’ve put together a sort of “gallery of activists” for discussion with our clients at Amnesty – to see who inspires us and why. The presentation is embedded below. Here are a few themes that emerge:
To be really disruptive, you need to be really creative
In a world of stunts, it takes something special to get noticed. The ingenuity of The Yes Men hoax on BBC World is a great example, wiping $2 billion dollars from Dow Chemical’s stock – pretty disruptive. Love or loathe him, some of Michael Moore‘s set-ups are bold and inventive, such as interview with Charlton Heston in Bowling For Columbine.
To have influence, plug in to mainstream culture
Plane Stupid are a great example of an organisation with the ability to get noticed through direct action, and then to engage with the mainstream press with articulate, media-friendly spokespeople. Ad Busters may feel a bit dated now, but they played an important part in fermenting the “No Logo” backlash, plugging into mainstream brand culture and subverting it beautifully.
To create change, be bold
Finally, there is sheer boldness. For example, who can argue with the bravery and brilliance of attempting to place Robert Mugabe under citizen’s arrest? Peter Tatchell is really the archetype activist, along with people like Robert Hunter from Greenpeace and Keith Mann from the ALF.
These are a some of the activist types we’ve pulled out for discussion with Amnesty next week. Any other examples?
Politics is now a dirty word – how sad is that? Westminster now seems like a grubby club of personal ambition, when it should be the heart of our public life: diverse, optimistic and open.
That’s why it’s been great working on the Open Up project, which goes live today. Open Up is an ambitious campaign to get every MP in the land to stand for re-selection, before the next General Election.
Today candidates are chosen by the parties, often from secretive lists. This fosters a culture of patronage and privilege. Open Primaries would bring a new lease of life to our democracy, encouraging more people to run, and more voter participation.
The goal is to compel the main parties to adopt Open Primaries. As part of this, we’re hoping that plenty of people will add their name on the website OpenUpNow.org.
All of this is a great excuse for some good old fashioned political satire, so we made a series of films called Tales From The Duck House – featuring the ducks discussing politics, expenses, and the splendors of their new accommodation – with voiceovers from Harry Enfield among others. Here’s my favorite one: