My Actions Since the US Elections

I'm extremely concerned about the election of Trump and what it means for democracy and liberty across the world especially coming on top of the Brexit vote in the UK (I'm British and live in Britain). I felt the need to step up and do something, more than just voting at election time. These are my choices, there is no one true way to fight for the future and resist the apparent regrowth of facism (and its less loaded names of Populism and "Alt-Right") across many parts of the world.

Despair and hopelessness is not the answer, those of liberal, left and even centre views must stand up and take actions where they can, however small. Complacency and hopelessness are both forms of acquiescence and will only enable those looking to create hate and division.

I wrote previously about the causes of the Brexit vote and how I felt that I should have done more, now I'm actually taking steps, small though they are. I plan to up my efforts further as the next election approaches.

How much action you can take will clearly depend on capacity, financial, time and emotional and it is important to focus on and look after the people nearest too. I'm not asking anyone to follow my actions but it would be great if you did. Also to focus on the local and within reach and trust that others will take action within their countries.

Concrete Actions

  1. Joined the Labour Party. I agree with the current leadership more than with any in my adult lifetime and we need more than ever to build institutions that can offer real alternatives for change and developement of those parts of the population most left behind, and in particular to reduce inequality.
  2. Supported the #StopFundingHate campaign with Tweets to and in response to John Lewis and others. I've also emailed BMW (I have a car on order) asking whether they advertise in the Daily Mail, Express or The Sun expressing my concern about the pattern of hateful, dehumanising othering of migrants refugees and foreigners generally.
  3. Joined Liberty. I should have done this years ago. I've admired the group for some time and particularly found myself agreeing with almost everything I heard Shami Chakrabarti say on the radio while she was running it. The tipping point was their "See you in court" tweet about the outrageous Investigatory Powers Act (was IPBill until passed, now IPAct) that legalises surveilance powers (and hacking powers) that would make the Starsi envious. I've also set up a regular payroll giving donation to their charitable arm the Civil Liberties Trust.
  4. Also triggered by the IP Act I've switched back to Andrews and Arnold internet for their robust attitude to filtering and surveilance. I moved away for a time when I moved house due to get subsidised installation from BT, moving to Plusnet for FTTC service a year later, I was out of waged employment trying to get some of my own projects off the ground and the costs Andrews and Arnolds at the time were too high for the daytime data I needed. They now have a Terabyte plan at maybe 50% more than I was paying but it has the benefit of IPv6 as well as the freedom (and costs) of not being a BT group company.
  5. I emailed my MP (Michael Gove) to request an appointment at his constituency surgery as I want to express concern about the data sharing with the US under the Five Eyes inteligence agreement (UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) and ask him to push for data sharing to be minimised and targeted as once it is sent there is no way to have it deleted if conditions with the US worsen. He has said I should write to him expressing particular concerns that he can pass on to the Home Secretary. I haven't yet done that though I intend to browse the codes of practice and construct a response though I don't think it will get very far.
  6. Bought the Better content blocker for both iOS and OS X.

Existing Political Actions

There are other things that I do that are not new, I don't support any Murdoch entities so I would not have Sky or buy The Times or Wall Street Journal. I also extremely minimise my use of Facebook. I do exist on Facebook but I only log in every couple of months and have explicitly (excluding the information revealed by who my network is) posted less information to Facebook than in this one blog post.

I did become a Guardian supporter last year but I withdrew in disgust at their position on the IP Bill. I'm still considering whether to disregard that to support their journalism and campaigning generally. Owen Jones in particular has been doing some good reports.

To Those in Positions of Power

Especially if you are in are in a position of power and influence consider what actions you can take now to create the frameworks for human rights protection. Dispose of unnecessary personal information. Also think about how you could best throw a spanner in the works if necessary, whether by resigning, operating incompetently, delaying responses, causing additional work. Also decide now what warning signs to look for that there is a real problem. It won't be a sudden obvious change from valid constitutional government to dictatorship it will come fairly slowly with progressive steps and shifting goalposts and norms. What once would have seemed outrageous and impossible will seem like a small shift and you must remember what the situation was, can be and must be again.

Tactical Political Lies

There is a dangerous form of political lying where the aim is not to have the lie believed but for it, corrections of it and discussion about it. This post is about the art and power of the lie, it isn't meant to reopen Brexit discussions but be a warning for future cases.

We need to recognise that in a world where everyone is seen as liars that there is no longer shame in lies. We need to fear the world where the middle ground between groups is seen as truly moderate or the location of truth especially when one or more sides are extreme.

Why the Brexit Bus slogans were a success

  1. They weren't a complete lie, there was a gain of truth in a bucket of deceit as it did represent the amount that would go to the EU if the UK didn't receive a rebate.
  2. "Balance" meant the media felt it had to find something the Remain campaign had said that wasn't 100% accurate to report along side it, even though it wasn't the central message on the side of the campaign bus in 6ft high letters.
  3. If you aren't used to government spending and how it compares to actual NHS spending it sounds like a lot of money. And even the corrected to post-rebate figures it still sounds like a lot of money. Creating these discussions about whether it is £170 million or £350 million per week was a victory for the Brexit campaign.
  4. Hundreds of millions is the most that people can really picture and in some ways sounds more impressive than £18.2 billion. Making it a weekly or daily figure made it more effective than just giving the annual total (£18.2 billion is £350million times 52).
  5. The secondary point that the money "could" be spent on the NHS creates at least three additional points of debate to take up airtime. Firstly that the Brexit side can't have any power over that, secondly what else it might be spent on (this brings the assumption at least for the argument that the money could exist) and finally whether it is what any particular politician would spend the money on.
The Brexit campaign changed the slogan from £350million per week to £50million per day to bring it back into the news again. That it was a lie had been pointed out and discussed, they chose to stick with it even when repainting the bus. They chose to reinforce and keep the lie rather than step away, they didn't care that the lie was called out, it was meant to be!

The bus in £50m per day form.

Trump

I feel the Trump statements about Mexican criminals are a very similar case although it may have been less calculated. The response to a claim that most were criminal the media then reported the inaccuracy by providing data on the numbers that do commit crime which while provably not "most" (a very long way from it) may be a big enough number that persuadable voters still get the impression that many are. The existence of a discussion of the number of illegal immigrant criminals is a victory for the anti-immigrant candidate, the more air time it takes the less other stories get, healthcare.

Proper Response

While I recognise the effect and the nature of these lies I don't know what the response should be, either from the media or the opposition. The left I feel is mostly too honest to practice this trick and different wings within the left would attack each other if they used it. I think the best that they can do is to put pressure on the media not to spend more time than absolutely necessary covering the issue.

The media is the part with the power, they need to get better and resisting the manufactured story, quickly point out that the information is incorrect and move on rather than getting rounds of pundits to discuss exactly how it is wrong. If one side to an argument is lying more than another then they must say so.

Interviewers and presenters have to feel confident to call out lies the very sentence after they they have been uttered, and not feel the need to give a right of reply. Only that way will politicians avoid the lies during discussions. As it is it seems that if they put at least two lies in a sentence one, if not both will go unchallenged.

Watch and Be Aware

Vigilance to lies and deliberate deceit is all we can really do but unfortunately they are effective.