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Recent Liberal Conspiracy Articles

LC Mission Series: part 3 – Creating a platform

by Sunny Hundal     March 1, 2010 at 1:30 pm

In my sporadic LC Mission Series, I’m trying to lay out some thoughts on what I think the Left’s approach should be to political parties as well as politics in general. As well as have a discussion around the point of political blogging and online activism of course. As always – you are all welcome to chip in with your thoughts.

In the first part I talked about the need for infrastructure. In the second, a need for taking a different approach to politics – more like that of an outside insurgency.

I want to press home the first point again and explain what I mean. Sometimes there’s no point just saying something – you just have to do it and see how it works out.

The point of blogging
I’m sick of opinion blogging. Everyone has an opinion and frankly it all gets very repetitive eventually. Plus, lefties love writing long articles when a short, punchy one-liner will do.
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LC Mission Series: part 2 – An insurgency at the gates

by Sunny Hundal     February 22, 2010 at 8:30 am

Late last year I was invited to speak by the Oxford University Libdems. This is an edited version of what I said, and seeps into much of my thinking.

* * * * * * * * * * *

In 2003 a political operative in the US by the name of Rob Stein made a series of presentations on how conservatives in the US had, over a period of thirty years, built a “message machine” and spent around $300 million a year to promote its agenda.

According to the New York Times the presentations were made to rich political entrepreneurs with a clear message: stop thinking in terms of politics in terms of elections, and focus more on building an infrastructure to support and build political ideas they liked.

Rob Stein wanted to point out how long term investment to ensure that in 10-20-30 years time, the Democrats would be the dominant political force instead of the Republicans.

I’m making this point here, today, in front of this audience, because you may be the future of the Liberal Democrats. And I think it’s time the liberal-left, of which you may be a part of, embraced the necessity and importance of insurgency politics.
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Political blogs and their influence

by Sunny Hundal     February 10, 2010 at 6:25 pm

I haven’t gotten around to starting my long-planned debate on the future of LibCon and unveil some new parts of the site as I promised. Hopefully later this week.

But I wanted to repeat one or two quick points I made the other night at the debate at Westminster Skeptics event on political blogging.

Put aside the false dichotomy that Nick Cohen set up by saying bloggers don’t do any proper investigations. I gave about 6 examples and had plenty more to offer. Nick Cohen talking on a subject he clearly knows little about shock. The real debate is actually about how differently the more popular blogs view their ‘model’.

Here is how I see it.
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How social media will affect politics: at Progressive London

by Sunny Hundal     January 28, 2010 at 10:30 am

I’ve been asked to speak at the Progressive London conference this Saturday, on the subject of how blogs and social media will affect the political climate and maybe even the upcoming election.

You may have read a fair bit on the growing prominence of leftwing blogs recently and, where the analysis has come from right-wing bloggers, most of it has been horse-shit. Lefties have been making a lot of noise recently on blogs and Twitter – I won’t deny that. But much has been speculation and back-scratching rather than straightforward strategic planning and thinking.

My talk at Progressive London will be the first attempt to lay out some thoughts on where LibCon could go and how. Next week from Monday I’m going to write some thoughts here on our editorial policy, how the left needs to do things differently and how we could prepare for a Tory government.

New Labour may be in power and the Tories may think lefties control the establishment, but make no mistake: we are on the outskirts. We are not the establishment. We face a tightly organised conservative machine, aided by a growing group of front organisations, that further the Tory agenda. It’s time we became more unashamedly partisan about our agenda.

I don’t know of any other blog that gets so many right-wingers coming on to say what they think should be published or what we shouldn’t write about. This blog isn’t for a “balanced debate” and neither is it for right-whingers. It is here to reflect the broad range of left-wing thinking and to promote others to build a new left-wing movement. More on this on Saturday and next week.

Will the left’s renewal come from the web?

by Guest     January 4, 2010 at 5:15 pm

contribution by Ed Wallis

The Fabian Review New Year special is out now, and it previews the major political schisms of a pivotal political year.

Whatever the outcome of this year’s election, the air is going to be thick with renewal. James Crabtree has some interesting advice in the magazine for lefties seeking the next big thing: don’t bother.

“Hoping for a British Obama to turn up is even less likely than wishing for some kind of super-charged Geoff Mulgan-on-steroids to dream up an entirely new vision of social democracy.”
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2009 in statistics and popular blog posts

by Sunny Hundal     January 2, 2010 at 4:49 pm

2009 year was a tremendous year for LibCon – well, our second year since launching in Nov 2007. Our visitor figures doubled and we hosted a tremendous range of debate on the blog, and attracted comment across other blogs.

The most notable trend is perhaps how social media is becoming an increasingly important space where people post links and have debates.
continue reading… »

So, We Can Engineer a Mass Movement to Hack the Christmas Pop Charts, but We Can’t Agree on a Global Climate Change Treaty?

by Robert Sharp     December 22, 2009 at 10:50 pm

The schadenfreude becomes stale quite quickly, doesn’t it? No sooner had the whoops of glee at Simon Cowell’s failure to reach the Christmas Number 1 spot for the fifth consecutive year, and the many ironies of the Rage Against the Machine campaign were clear for all to see. First amongst these is the fact that R.A.t.M.’s angry Killing in the Name and Joe McElderry’s saccharine version of The Climb were Sony Music records: Joe is on Simco Records (i.e. Simon Cowell) “under exclusive licence to Sony Music Entertainment UK Ltd” while Rage Against The Machine’s label is Epic, a subsidiary of Sony.

The campaign put a small dent into Simon Cowell’s sales figures. Last year, Alexandra Burke’s Hallelujah sold 576,000 copies in the week before Christmas, while this year Joe McElderry only managed 450,000. But this hardly suggests that Cowell’s business model is on the wane – Leon Jackson only sold 275,000 copies of his single, When You Believe in 2007. Cowell knows that a bit of controversy is good for his bottom line. He knows that the label ‘Christmas Number One’ is an entirely relative marketing concept anyway, and modern music history is littered with classic hits which never reached that false summit.

So although the Facebook campaigners for Rage Against the Machine were successful, I can’t help thinking that there is something confused about the campaign and its aims. They say:

… it’s given many others hope that the singles chart really is for everybody in this country of all ages, shapes, and sizes…and maybe re-ignited many people’s passion for the humble old single as well as THAT excitement again in actually tuning in to the chart countdown on a Sunday.

In taking this line, the campaigners seem to be endorsing the Singles Chart as an appropriate indicator of good and popular music, when it is manifestly nothing of the sort. Yes, they reclaimed the ‘excitement’ for a single week… but they did so with a seventeen year-old song which was chosen precisely for its contrast with its competitor. That is entirely different from what the campaigners have nostalgia for – new music from good bands, battling it out. Former chart battles were essentially a positive contest, with music fans buying their favourite record. The 2009 campaign had an entirely negative “anyone by Cowell” message, which is unsustainable.

False Metrics

Modern internet campaigns often seem to fall into the trap of chasing targets based on false metrics. The campaign for Gary McKinnon (the computer hacker in danger of extradition to the US) seems to be a victim:

lets make #mckinnonmonday ‘trend’ – TWEET4GARY NOW !!! please tweet ALL #american friends and ask them to help #FREEGARY #garyMckinnon
– @cliffsul

The aim of #mckinnonmonday is to make Gary McKinnon trend #garymckinnon Pls RT
– @dandelion101

Shouldn’t the aim be to generate anger and interest in the Gary McKinnon story? How helpful is all the constant RT’ing if it doesn’t translate to bodies at the protest, letters in the politician’s in-tray.

And it is not just impoverished grassroots campaigners falling into this trap, either. Here is a recent tweet from a Cabinet Minister:

Support #welovetheNHS, add a #twibbon to your avatar now! –

Admittedly, sending the tweet is hardly a burden on Mr Milband’s resources, but its odd and disturbing that politicians and political campaigns have started to relate to us in this way. The idea that the NHS is something to love is presumed, and the campaign becomes about forming a huge group of people around a slogan for a fleeting moment only. Did anyone capture the e-mail addresses of those who tweeted #welovetheNHS? If not then it seems like a wasted moment.

And as for Twibbons? This innovation seems to me to be a hugely reductive exercise, shrinking political debate to a space 100 pixels wide.

Now, lest you assume I am engaging in pure snark, I should point out that I am as guilty of this hashtag chasing as the next person – perhaps more so. I helped the Burma Campaign devise their project, which was, frankly, all about the hashtag. And only today I’ve written a press release lauding the fact that PEN‘s Libel Reform petition has just reached 10,000 signatures, a figure that will something only if it serves to light a fire under either Jack Straw or Dominic Grieve.

Its very easy to raise ‘awareness’ of any given issue, but that’s not the same thing as establishing a consensus that what you are proposing is right. And in turn, that is not the same thing as actually motivating people to action. It would be a great shame if “taking action” became synonymous with simply sharing links and joining endless Facebook groups, because when that “action” fails to translate into meaningful change, we will only find that another generation have been turned off politics, disillusioned. The Obama campaign has been criticised recently for its rather top-down approach to twitter, which didn’t really engage in conversation with supporters. But nevertheless, he actually inspired people out of their houses and into the campaign HQs. Did some of us think that Twitter could start a revolution in Iran? Not quite (as Jay Rosen points out). While the #IranElection tag on Twitter has been a useful tool for the protesters and for those reporting on the crisis it is clearly the people on the ground that will really put that regime under pressure (and we hope that the passing of Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri will provide inspiration to renew that pressure).

All of which is to say that George Monbiot’s sanctimonious article this morning had the ring of truth about it:

For the past few years good, liberal, compassionate people – the kind who read the Guardian – have shaken their heads and tutted and wondered why someone doesn’t do something. Yet the number taking action has been pathetic. Demonstrations which should have brought millions on to the streets have struggled to mobilise a few thousand. As a result the political cost of the failure at Copenhagen is zero. Where are you?

We’ve been tweeting #hashtags and adding #twibbons to our avatar, George. Get with the programme, yeah?

This is cross-posted on my own blog. I’ve also just added a counter-point to all this, ‘In praise of 100px Campaigns‘. It would be great to have comments on that side of the debate, too.

Policy Exchange: You win some, you lose some…

by Unity     November 30, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Sunny’s busy elsewhere at the moment, so I guess I’d better take on the news that the North London Central Mosque’s libel action against Tory think-tank, Policy Exchange, has been struck out by Justice Eady, leaving the trustees of the mosque facing a £75,000 legal bill just to cover PX’s legal bills.

The case related to allegations made in a 2007 report by Denis McEoin, ‘The Hijacking of British Islam’, which was withdrawn earlier this year, at the same time as it issued this apology to one of the organisations named in the report as allegedly selling extremist literature.

The Hijacking of British Islam:
Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre

In this report we state that Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre is one of the Centres where extremist literature was found. Policy Exchange accepts the Centre’s assurances that none of the literature cited in the Report has ever been sold or distributed at the Centre with the knowledge or consent of the Centre’s trustees or staff, who condemn the extremist and intolerant views set out in such literature. We are happy to set the record straight.

The key phrase in this piece of news seems to be ‘struck out’, which gives no clues whatsoever as to the reason that the mosque’s libel action failed. As yet, there’s nothing on BAILI relating to this case, so whether it failed on a technicality, or because the mosque was unable to put forward a viable case, or even because Justice Eady decided that the mosque has no reputation to defend is anyone’s guess.

I must admit to being a little disappointed that this case failed to all the way to a full hearing, not because I really give a toss about either side winning or losing but because it might have shed just a little bit more light on the circumstances that resulted in McEoin incorporating fabricated evidence in his report. continue reading… »

The PCC still want to regulate blogs (the Baroness responds)

by Sunny Hundal     November 19, 2009 at 9:05 am

In response to Unity’s letter and petition posted earlier this week on LibCon, the PCC’s new chair Baroness Peta Buscombe has already responded to me by email. I publish the full letter below and a response below that.

It’s worth emphasising that at this point we haven’t yet sent off the letter. You can still sign it on the earlier thread and make suggestions.

* * * * * *

18th November 2009
Dear Mr Hundal

Thank you for your letter about my apparent proposal to regulate the blogosphere. I know you are intending to send it to me on Friday, but – given that it is already being commented on – I thought I’d respond right away. It is useful to have the chance to clarify what I was saying to Ian Burrell.
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Blogging and PCC Regulation – A Collective Response

by Unity     November 17, 2009 at 11:59 pm

As you may have either seen on the Indy’s website, or picked up on from Mark’s commentary on her speech to the Society of Editors, Baroness Buscombe, the new Chair of the Press Complaints Commission, has been making noises about extending the PCC’s remit to cover blogs and blogging.

In the past, when this kind of thing has been mooted, the typical response has been one of  lots of blog-shouting of the ‘you’ll have to take my blog out of my cold dead hands’ variety. This time around I thought we might take a different approach and write directly to the PCC setting out one of the key practical reasons why PCC regulation would be a bad idea – which of, us, after all, wants to be seen to working to the ethical standards of the MSM when, with a few exceptions, these are so much lower than our own.

So, with that firmly in mind, I’ve drafted a collective response to the Baroness’s suggestion for you all to chew over, one that any active bloggers can sign-up to by leaving your name (real or online) and details of the your blog (title/link) in comments.

Comments on the text and any suggestions for amendments or additional matters to include are, of course, welcome – this is a blog not a newspaper after all.

At the end of this week, I’ll transfer any sign-ups to the letter and get it shipped off to the PCC, DCMS and Commons CMS committee.

UPDATE – Oh, and don’t pay too much attention to the time-stamp on this post – it was actually posted at 11:49am on 17th November but will be time-shifted, over next few days to, keep it visible in the left-hand side bar on the front page, so don’t worry that a lot of comments might appear to pre-date the post.

<— Letter Starts Here —>

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