Category Archives: Politics

Let’s Get Cynical About: KONY 2012

Chances are, you’ve probably already seen this on your Facebook and/or Twitter feeds (even if you haven’t watched it yet): The latest campaign from an organisation called Invisible ChildrenKONY 2012. The video is nearly half an hour long, and while it does labour its point a little, it nevertheless delivers an important message.

For those who want a tl;dw summary: Joseph Kony is a heinous war criminal whose crimes in Uganda and beyond have largely flown under the international radar for the past 20-odd years. The idea of the campaign is to increase public awareness of the man, in the hope that this will maintain pressure on the international community (and specifically, it seems, the USA) to secure his capture and arrest.

It’s also possible that you’ve seen the following counterpoint article at http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/ – if you haven’t, do give it a look. It brings to light some of the more questionable aspects of the campaign and the Invisible Children charity in general. I’ll do my best not to simply re-hash that article, but here are my thoughts on the matter:

– Firstly, I’m in no way trying to diminish the significance of this cause – Kony is clearly a terrible person who deserves to be brought to justice. My problems are with the campaign itself, not what it’s trying to achieve. From a purely personal point of view, I suppose I can look at the campaign as a success – I didn’t have a clue who Kony was until today. Then again, I also didn’t have a clue who Invisible Children were, so make of that what you will.

– Looking at the financial figures of Invisible Children does seem to throw the more tangible aspects of the campaign into question – do we really want to be spending money on posters and bracelets when that cash might be better spent working directly in the affected areas?

– The video essentially admits that bringing US troops into Uganda (even in an advisory role) has already caused Kony to change his tactics, thus making him more difficult to capture. One step forward and two steps back? In my mind, this doesn’t particularly bode well for Invisible Children’s support of direct military intervention either.

– Further to that, what happens when your holy grail becomes a poisoned chalice (a la Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussain etc)? Switching on the tunnel vision and going after one high profile target won’t solve the wider problems that affect these countries.

– Finally, I have a couple issues with the video itself. The usage of the director’s young son strikes me as a little manipulative – that might seem overly cynical, but hey, what was the name of this blog again? Secondly, the final part about our ‘ability to change the world’ (or whatever) feels like it treats the KONY 2012 as a grand ‘proof of concept’ for social media as a revolutionary force – but it’s a point that’s already been very much proved in the likes of Libya and Egypt.

-…oh and seriously, Mumford & Sons? Piss off. (There, that’s my ‘indier than thou’ moment.)

I don’t want to piss on the chips of anyone who was planning on donating or otherwise getting involved in the KONY 2012 campaign – if you think it’s the right thing to do, then go for it. But if you’re concerned about the situation and would rather as much of your money as possible goes to the affected areas, it might be worth looking elsewhere. Either way, it certainly doesn’t cost anything to spread the word about Kony via social networks – I guess that’s the least we can all do.

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You Had Your Chance: UK Votes ‘No’ To AV.

So, yesterday the votes were counted and the UK (or at least, the 42% of the UK that bothered to vote) resoundingly rejected changing our our voting system from First Past The Post (FPTP) to Alternative Vote (AV) – when the dust settled, the ‘No’ campaign had won over two thirds of the vote. Not only does this add insult to injury for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats (who had already suffered heavy losses in the local elections), it also scuppers any chance of electoral reform for the foreseeable future. I’d even go so far as to say it’s entirely possible that we won’t see another referendum on the subject for decades. Why? Because the current system suits the two biggest parties down to the ground.

Those who opposed AV may tout their victory in this campaign as a victory for common sense, or even a victory for democracy. It is neither. It’s a victory for the Conservative and Labour old guard, a victory for two-party politics, a victory for the cycle of blame and change that has dominated UK government for decades. Then again, the Liberal Democrats have shot themselves in the foot and then been hung out to try by the Conservatives, so I don’t suppose AV would have made a lot of difference to the poor bastards. At least I can go back to voting Lib Dem without having to pretend it might make a difference – the UK has successfully condemned itself to another generation of either/or politics and disproportionate representation. Hope you’re proud of yourselves!

You've made this man very happy. No, that's not a good thing.

Oh and by the way, if you voted ‘No’, then in my eyes you’ve entirely relinquished your right to complain about FPTP or any of the problems inherent to it during the next general election. Just thought you should know.

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Let’s Get Cynical About: The May 5th Voting Referendum

I won’t lie, I’m not great when it comes to politics. So when it comes to a potentially thorny issue such as changing our voting system from First Past The Post (FPTP) to Alternative Vote (AV), I’m looking for some straightforward indication as to which side of the fence I should be sat on. With that in mind, here’s a simple, three-stage guide.

1. Celebrity Support

Don’t really care about what politicians have to say? It’s ok, let celebrities do it for you! Support for the ‘No’ side of the campaign seems to be largely comprised of sportsmen, with the likes of cricketer Darren Gough and olympic rower James Cracknell getting on board. On the other hand, the ‘Yes’ campaign is backed by a variety of actors, comedians and musicians, including Colin Firth, John Cleese and Billy Bragg, to name but a few. I don’t really care much for sport in general, and while I don’t really care about actors either, comedians and musicians I can get behind. But arguably the biggest coup for the ‘Yes’ campaign is that Stephen Fry is on their side – and as anyone who’s ever seen QI can attest, he makes a habit of being right about things the vast majority of the time. Sold.

WINNER: AV

2. Political Support

Right, on to the more serious business of where the various political parties stand. The biggest opponents of AV are, unsurprisingly, the Conservatives, who are joined on the ‘No’ side of the fence by the BNP, The Communist Party, and some of the Northern Irish parties (The Ulster Unionist Party, The Democratic Unionists, and the Green Party In Northern Ireland). The Liberal Democrats are leading the ‘Yes’ campaign, and the Green Party (in England, Scotland and Wales), The Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, UKIP, and the remaining Northern Irish Parties (The Social Democratic And Labour Party, The Alliance Party, and Sinn Fein) are also supporting AV. Labour remain divided on the issue – current leader Ed Miliband is in favour of AV, but many Labour MPs are against the system.

As someone who normally supports the Lib Dems, my course of action is clear. To any non-conservatives who are still on the fence, think about this – if both David Cameron AND Nick Griffin don’t want it, surely it’s got to be worth voting for, right?

WINNER: AV

3. ‘Yes’ Campaign vs. ‘No’ Campaign

I’ve looked at the websites for both campaigns, and I can’t say that either of them left me feeling particularly convinced. Both are guilty of petty arguments based on outright lies, half-truths, or vague statements such as ‘AV is more/less Democratic’. That said, the ‘No’ Campaign does seem to be the worse of the two – I read an excellent piece recently that systematically dismantled every argument they had going, but I’m buggered if I can find it now (I will attempt to trawl my history for it later and add a link if I can). [EDIT: Little bit late as it’s after the fact now, but it’s here.] Considering that it took an external source to really hit the nail on the head for me, I guess I’ll have to call this one a draw.

DRAW

Well AV, two out of three ain’t bad, right? In all seriousness, as I was voting in one of the most hotly-contested seats in the last election, I welcome the change. It might not have made any difference to my own vote, but I think it’s better for people to be able to have more say about who they want to elect, instead of feeling pressured to back a candidate that’s not their first choice. The ‘No’ campaign reeks of an old guard desperately hoping that they can cling on to power by maintaining the current system – personally, I think it might be time to vote for change. After all, isn’t that what you wanted, Dave?

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Let’s Get Cynical About Something Vaguely Serious For Once: The BNP

Yeah, I know this is supposed to be a music blog, but I thought I’d try my hand at a semi-serious comment piece for once. Consider it an experiment – and if no-one cares or likes it I guess I’ll just go back to being cynical about awards shows and slagging off Lady Gaga.

I must admit that, after the BNP gained a seat in Yorkshire in this year’s European Elections, I felt some guilt for not voting. Not because my one puny vote would have made all the difference, but because I hadn’t even bothered to go out and make my own personal stand against them. For the first time the danger of political apathy was illuminated in stark detail – perhaps, I realised, even if you don’t care about who wins, you should at least care about who shouldn’t be winning. And The BNP should definitely NOT be winning. (Yes, you could argue that I should have learned that in History lessons, but never mind…)

However, without the BNP’s perceived increase in credibility, we wouldn’t have had the entertaining spectacle of their leader, one Mr. Nick Griffin, appearing on this week’s Question Time. Even before the event it had divided opinion – Welsh Secretary Peter Hain was particularly up in arms about it, mewling weakly to an incredulous Jeremy Paxman that the BBC could face legal action for allowing them on the program despite the legality of their constitution having been called into question. (An aside, but it’s not quite accurate to say that no-one ever voted for Will Young – did you not quite grasp how the whole Pop Idol thing worked, Paxman?) And while the BBC itself waved the flag of impartiality around, and Mr. Griffin scoffed at his political peers’ stupidity for kicking up a fuss about it, I’m sure what most people were hoping is that he would make an absolute tit of himself.

So, did he? It’s not a question with a straightforward answer. In the aftermath, petty victories were claimed by Griffin’s fellow panalists (and others besides), while Griffin himself bawled about how he was essentially subject to a lynch mob – in particular, he felt aggrieved at the fact that the questioning was overly focused on him and his party. To which my reply would be “what did you expect, dipshit?” Granted, he almost has a point that he wasn’t really allowed to discuss the ‘issues of the day’ (citing the postal strike as an example) – except for the fact that, like it or not, he was the issue of the day.

However, he still managed to make himself look like a bigot even when the BNP wasn’t being directly discussed – ok, discussing Jan Moir‘s cretinous article about Stephen Gately was almost setting Griffin up to make a homophobic comment, but it’s testament to his sheer bloody-minded belief in his own intolerance that he walked right into it with only the most cursory attempt to come across as non-homophobic. And that’s to say nothing of some of his other choice quotes, from his concept of a ‘non-violent’ Ku Klux Klan, to his sickening attempt to align himself with Christianity – which former Archbishop Lord Carey has described as “chilling”. Also of note was his attempt to squirm out of a question on Holocaust denial by essentially asserting that France or Germany might arrest him for it – you’d have thought that both countries had police officers waiting outside the studio, waiting to drag him away as soon as the program had finished.

Mr Griffin also moaned that the program shouldn’t have taken place in London, displaying his usual profound racial sensitivity by claiming that levels of immigration now mean that it is “no longer a British city”. Clearly, he’s not got a leg to stand on here – he knew well in advance that the program was to take place in London, and could surely have requested to appear on a different edition of the show. But he was obviously so desperate for the publicity that he’d happily take whatever the BBC were offering – indeed, I half wonder if it was a calculated move, a prime opportunity to play the ‘victim’ and ‘underdog’ cards that the BNP seem so fond of.

Even after the event, Peter Hain hasn’t given up whining about it, claiming that recent Telegraph/YouGov poll results show that “The BBC has handed the BNP the gift of the century on a plate” –  a massively hyperbolic statement when you consider that we haven’t even got through ten percent of said century yet. That aside, the headline result does indeed seem quite shocking at first – nearly 1 in 4 say they’d vote for the BNP! OMG! But when you get down to the exact details, it’s not quite as drastic as it sounds – only 4% of people said they would ‘definitely’ vote for the the BNP, and a full two-thirds said they wouldn’t vote for them under any circumstances. However, while the poll indicates that a BNP majority is still a pipe-dream for the party, it also suggests that the mainstream parties need to start addressing voter concerns when it comes to immigration, as over half the respondents conceded that the BNP ‘had a point’ on these issues.

Personally, I think Nick Griffin proved himself to be a blithering idiot on Question Time, unable to properly defend himself when his foul views were exposed and called into question. There is, however, the argument that he got such a kicking that people might just start feeling sorry for him – indeed, The BNP claims that it gained 3000 members during the transmission of this week’s Question Time program. We only have their word for it, of course – but I would hope that the message that Nick Griffin gave to the majority of viewers sounded more like this:

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