Volume , Number 0
There are no articles.Commentary
There are no articles.Culture
There are no articles.Features
By pam chamberlain & chip berlet By pam chamberlain & chip berlet
George h. Beres
Eleanor J. Bader
Z Papers on Vision
There are no articles.
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Britain’s 2005 General Election
T he British general election of May 2005 generated much discussion, with sentiments of despair in some quarters and jubilation in others. In a flurry of hype, journalists have employed many over-inflated adjectives regarding a “historic victory” while simultaneously accusing politicians of causing increased voter apathy by running the “least inspiring [campaign] in living memory.”
As Timothy Garton Ash notes in the Guardian , “by the standards of most previous British elections, from 1945 to 1997, the differences between party policies are remarkably small. Some will put taxes up a bit, others promise to bring them down a bit, but no one proposes to change the way the economy is run,” perhaps going some way to account for the fact that for the first time since 1923 the number of people who voted for the government was outnumbered by those who refused to vote, suggesting a correlation between greater choice for voters being equal to more votes. A 2001 report published by the Hansard Society reveals that when it comes to general elections many say that they see “the parties as being ‘all as bad as each other’ —meaning that they had nothing positive to vote for which consequently led them to abstain.” This goes some way to refuting accusations that the drop in voter turn-out is caused by apathy. As the Guardian reports, “Whereas between 1984 and 2000 voter turnout fell from 83 percent to 72 percent, the proportion of people who said that they had boycotted products for ethical reasons rose from 4 percent to 31 percent. It also demonstrates that although 44 percent of people had attended a political meeting in 1979, this had dropped to 25 percent by 2000. Over the same period the proportion who had gone on a demonstration increased from 20 percent to 33 percent.”
This year around 61 percent of the electorate voted and 36 percent of them voted for Labour. The Liberal Democrats gained a point or two at the expense of the Conservatives, but, on the whole, voting patterns resembled the 2001 general election and a small change in voter preference may have quite easily put the Conservatives in power, also telling us very little about the country and public concerns.
As per usual the election campaigns for the major parties were run by public relations companies, which have become increasingly bigger businesses in the UK since the 1980s. Companies devote huge sums to creating images to delude consumers. It is an incredibly successful strategy, but one that is based on nothing more than deceit.
The PR industry is dominated by a few big players, most of which are U.S. or UK in origin and ownership. Since the 1980s governmental actions and policies have led to a vast increase in PR spending by governments and by corporations in their attempts to influence government policy. Fundamental to this is the relationship between deregulation of business and public relations. Media analyst David Miller describes it as a “revolving door of power, moving between local politics, think tanks and PR and ending up as a minister in charge of part of the deregulated industry [that they] helped to create.”
appear to be increasingly aware of this as politicians, big business,
and the media have all suffered a decrease in their ability to influence
the general public. Part of this decrease in influence is due to
a rise in mistrust and it should be of no great surprise that the
three largest proponents of “spin” are also the three
least trusted groups in society. According to a 2003 MORI poll,
journalists, politicians, and business leaders are at the lowest
end of the spectrum of public trust, with just 18 percent of the
population saying they trusted journalists and politicians to tell
the truth. The
reported these results, focusing
on business leaders with the headline: “Business leaders enjoy
revival in public trust,” basing their headline on the fact
that business leaders moved up from 25 percent in 2002 to 28 percent
in 2003. Statistically three percentage points is barely a significant
increase, leading Robert M. Worcester (chair of MORI) to conclude,
does this to make their readers feel good,
then little wonder that journalists rate bottom of the poll for
If we compare what people are actually voting for to what the candidates stand for, we find that they often have very little in common. The PR industry trains candidates to project personal qualities, produce slogans that might win votes, and shift the focus away from tangible issues. These “virtues” are conveyed in a number of ways. For example, we see Tony Blair in a 1997 landmark election broadcast: he is at home, he is dressed casually and drinks tea from an eclectic range of mugs; he expresses cynicism about politics and politicians and he reveals his love of football. None of these things are politically important, but they enforce our image of the prime minister as a trustworthy leader.
In the 2005 election the Conservatives’ technique is to use language that just manages to stay on the side of respectability. “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?” says the Conservatives’ slogan, raising the distinct possibility that both you and they are thinking things that should not be spelt out too clearly.
As part of their election coverage, the Guardian notes, “The list of the top 10 issues covered by the media over...four weeks is just as notable for those themes that have remained almost entirely peripheral. Transport, Europe, housing, and employment were among those that recorded less than 1 percent of all coverage.”
In 1997 four out of five or more saw the following as the most important issues in deciding who to vote for:
- Providing affordable homes to those who need them
- Tougher laws on the international arms trade
- Tougher policies to protect the environment
- Policies to reduce the gap between rich and poor in the UK and worldwide
- Firm measures to reduce energy consumption in order to tackle global warming
- Clear legislation that establishes the rights of individual citizens
In terms of the most recent election, it would be hard to believe that the populations’ attitudes have significantly changed on these issues between now and then. As Tom Curtin, managing director of Green Issues Communications, explains: “It s very hard to vote when people don’t know who or what they are voting for. Transparency and simplicity are at the heart of democracy and if a complex and inconsistent system deters people from voting—that is extremely dangerous.” In a system like this, formal elections may occur but they will have very little meaning. A 1997 British Election Study cross- section survey announced that 58 percent of the British population agreed that people at large “have no say in government actions” and 45 percent went on to agree that “the party in power does not matter, things go on the same.”
When it comes to concerns over the ongoing conflict in Iraq and national security, the vast majority of the population said they disapproved of the prime minister’s handling of the situation, but seemed to show less concern when casting their actual vote. Labour and Conservative voters, whether they knew it or not, were actually voting to increase the threat of terror, which could understandably have terrible consequences. In February 2003, five weeks before beginning the invasion, a secret Joint Intelligence Committee report stated that any terrorist threat was likely to increase by invading Iraq: ‘Al Qaeda and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest threat to Western interests and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq.... Any collapse of the Iraqi regime would increase the risk of chemical and biological warfare technology or agents finding their way into the hands of terrorists, including al-Qaida,” which gives us some indication of how seriously the Blair government actually takes the threat of terrorism and accredits them some success in their goal of misleading the population.
We can only speculate as to what would happen if the main parties had been willing to address people’s concerns on the issues they regard as vitally important, but what we do know is that if the trend continues and these issues are not restored to the political agenda, people are likely to continue to switch off mainstream politics and take the positive action of developing potentially democratic alternatives to elections.
James Quinney is a longtime activist and freelance writer/researcher based in the UK. He writes frequently for many different magazines and publications on social issues.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.