Flick Harrison on Fri, 22 Jan 2010 01:26:56 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Canadian Parliament vs Facebook

There's an interesting battle brewing in the Canadian media between a  
Facebook user group and the Conservative government.

P.M. Stephen Harper has prorogued Parliament, which means he has  
cancelled the Parliament in mid-session and instituted a 3-month  
break.  He says, variously, that this is to allow Canada to  
"concentrate" on the Olympics in Vancouver, to "re-calibrate" the  
government, and to focus on the economic stimulus versus the recession.

Both progressives and conservatives have suggested he actually  
prorogued to stop an inquiry into war crimes, namely the knowing hand- 
over of Afghan prisoners-of-war into the hands of Afghani government  
torture.  This topic was getting much front-page coverage and the  
inquiry was getting closer and closer to unwelcome information. The  
PM's attempt to discredit a career diplomat was met with an  
unprecedented letter from 23 former ambassadors criticizing Harper's  

Anyway, the prorogation (Harper's second in a row) caused a bit of an  
outcry, including the creation of a facebook group that has 200,000  
members a month later.  Conservative poll numbers are down 15 per cent  
(evening their popularity with the Liberals) over the same period.

(I have to reference, here, John McCain's call to suspend  
electioneering to deal with the recession, which was an utter failure  
as a tactic. Obama famously chided him for being unable to deal with  
more than one thing at a time.)

The Conservative Party line is that facebook groups are meaningless in  
terms of real voting.

However, this analysis suggests the opposite is true:

" Why did more than 200,000 people join ?Canadians Against Proroguing  
Parliament,? and why should anybody care?"

by the Rideau Institute


Anyone have any thoughts on this?  There are anti-prorogue rallies  
planned for Saturday, which may or may not settle the issue; voters  
who stay home from the rally might still vote against the Conservatives.

I'd suggest that while Facebook is a fairly passive way to take part  
in politics, it's slightly less passive than simple voting, because it  
involves a public online commitment, with all the dangers of a  
permanent record.  That also means the action can have a ripple effect  
among communities of friends (or, I should say, Facebook Friends  
[tm]). So if any party wishes to form a government, they had better  
pay attention to that kind of activity.

-Flick Harrison

* FLICK's WEBSITE & BLOG: http://www.flickharrison.com
* FACEBOOK http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=860700553
* MYSPACE: http://myspace.com/flickharrison

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