Thursday, January 7, 2010

The new political activism

The Facebook group, Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament, had almost 83,600 members when I checked this morning at about 11:00 a.m. That’s a lot of people regardless of how one looks at it. But does it really mean anything other than that a lot of Canadians surf online? Is this a real grassroots movement, or just another Liberal prank to garner a few lines in the media of the nation?

Time will tell, of course, but I’m inclined to believe that serious political activists act seriously, and joining a Facebook protest group is not a serious act. I join many online groups without being passionate about them. It’s so easy to do, so why not?

According to a Harris-Decima poll of 1,000 Canadians, which was conducted between Dec. 17 and Dec. 20, 2009, 46 per cent of Canadians polled were indifferent to the prime minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament, 34 per cent were unhappy with the proroguing decision and 15 per cent were happy with it.

Based on this poll, I’m not inclined to take the Facebook group too seriously. It doesn’t seem to have the “smell” of a groundswell of public opinion about it—nor the “energy” of such a movement.

Remember a year ago when the three opposition parties threatened to bring down the government and replace it with a Bloc-backed Liberal-NDP coalition? And remember the sharp, angry reaction that prospect faced? Folks across the nation were quickly outraged and made their feelings clear enough that the then new Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, was quick to back away from the precipice of constitutional crisis. “Coalition if necessary, but not necessarily coalition,” was how Michael Ignatieff phrased his furious backpedalling.

I’ve no doubt many Canadians are genuinely angry with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for ducking out and avoiding the daily verbal abuse over Afghan treatment of former Canadian detainees. Many were as angry when the Jean Chrétien Liberal government cut short the Somalia Inquiry in the months leading up to the 1997 election. But, at that time, Liberal cabinet minister Art Eggleton suggested that the events had happened four years earlier, and it was time to “move on.” And, of course, we did.

It’s become really easy to be an activist these days: log on to Facebook and click on a button. Presto! Instant activism.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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  1. Facebook groups just move from friend to friend to friend, most people don't even know what group they are joining.

  2. We'll have to wait until Jan. 23 to see whether this is a 'grass roots' movement or an 'astroturf' movement. The 23rd is set for protests in major cities across the country...wait and see!

  3. I wonder how many of these are like my niece, who joined to find out what proroguing meant.

  4. Monkeys can click a link too....It's not like those 82 000 will have the motivation to actually do something besides click a link. Thats the sad reality of the Canadian population. Although it is a bare minimum effort and I give them at least that much.

  5. According to the poll released today, I think the Prime Minister should be a little bit concerned. Canadian's aren't happy with this and neither are Tory voters. I don't understand why he would risk this proroguation. He was in majority territory and now he's closer to opposition territory. By Jan 23rd, Ignatieff might by the Prime Minister in waiting.

    Harper should have kept parliament open for business, even if that meant releasing the afghan torture documents.

  6. The Harris-Decima poll findings were concluded prior to the current prorogation. Wouldn't put too much stock in its findings as it is largely a retrospective analysis of the previous prorogation.

    I wonder if Harper based his decision on this poll as he's quite a studious poll-thinker.

    The more current Angus-Reid and Ekos polls suggest a completely different picture

    *an Angus Reid online poll also released Thursday suggests that move has been rejected even by Conservative supporters. Thirty-five per cent of respondents who voted Conservative in the last election said they disagree with the decision to suspend Parliament.*

    Ekos poll findings:

    show a 2.8% drop in support since December. Since the CPC has done nothing other than to prorogue since December it is highly suggestive of the effectiveness of the move. Furthermore 35% of CPC voters are not in favour of the move.

  7. Almost a million people have joined the group "When I'm super bored, I go on Facebook and join tons of pointless groups".

    Though my favourite is the lady who promises to name her baby Megatron, 101,000 members. She had better name the little bastard Megatron!

  8. Correction, the I'm bored and join facebook groups has only 161,000 members. But "join or my dad kills our dog" has 1.4 million members.