Friday, January 22, 2010

The Right is Trying to Dismiss Us But We Will Not go Quietly

What I really like about CAPP is that we represent such a cross-section of Canadians. All ages and political stripes. One member posted this video as an inspiration for tomorrow, so I'm sharing it. Les Miserables is one of my favourites.

I also had to join the National Post community board so I could post a comment, at the end of the following article. Everyone was trying to suggest that CAPP is just for lazy people. That we are not grassroots until we feel grass under our boots ... or some such nonsense. Boy did I set them straight. Hee, hee. I'm such a rebel.

The following piece is from Shilo Davis, our National Rally Coordinator.

Shilo Davis: Facebook and democracy
January 22, 2010
NP Editor

Every columnist, blogger and pundit in Canada has explained, definitively, why the online outcry against prorogation is either a watershed in Canadian politics … or pure slacktivism. As one of the first members of the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (CAPP) Facebook group, and the co-ordinator of nationwide rallies planned for tomorrow, I think I can shed some light on how online activism is shaping our politics, and why Facebook matters.

Let’s start with the numbers. At last count, the CAPP Facebook group had over 200,000 members, with more joining every hour. That makes it not only the biggest Facebook group in Canada, but also the quickest large-scale grassroots political mobilization in Canadian history.

CAPP has more Facebook followers than all of the major political leaders combined — not bad for a three-week-old group founded over a matter of parliamentary procedure. After all, a petition with 200,000 signatures would be nothing to sniff at; so why are so many in the media so dismissive of a Facebook group that serves the same purpose?

On this question, the National Post’s flippant Jan. 6 editorial, “The Toronto Star and the Interweb,” exemplifies the establishment view of Facebook as a puerile distraction emporium. Aiming to demonstrate CAPP’s relative insignificance, the Post editorialists noted that TV show 90210’s Facebook group boasts over 500,000 fans. I would like to take this teen-drama moment to mention a few numbered points. (1) When you measure politics against popular entertainment, politics loses. No surprises there. (2) As a Canadian group, CAPP must be measured by Canadian, not international, standards. We guess Canadian democracy would sound pretty insignificant when you mention that roughly twice as many people watched the most recent season premiere of American Idol than voted in the last federal election.

But somehow, the growing buzz around the CAPP Facebook group helped turn the prorogation issue from a political non-event on Dec. 30 to a major government headache that cost Mr. Harper approximately 10 points at the polls two weeks later. By giving the media something to either laud or lambaste, CAPP has kept the national conversation going, to the point where nearly 64% of Canadians now believe that the prorogation was “anti-democratic.”

For making an impact, Facebook is far more powerful than a pen-and-paper petition. It was this online gathering that gave rise to the “real world” organization of CAPP, which is planning rallies in more than 50 cities and towns across Canada tomorrow. Without the initial Facebook throng, there is no way that such a disparate collection of citizens could have organized themselves so quickly across such great distances (the planned rallies cover every province and territory except Nunavut). With CAPP remaining strictly non-partisan, our volunteers comprise people from across the political spectrum — including some who are brand new to political action. Indeed, many of the people leading these rallies simply showed up to a planning meeting advertised on Facebook and took it from there.

If we can agree that Facebook has proved itself as an important tool in the fight against suspending Parliament, the question remains: Why is it important to protest prorogation at all? Why not, as some editorialists have suggested, simply voice our disapproval at the ballot box? Essential as elections are to democracy, a federal vote is a terrifically blunt weapon. People vote for one party or another for any number of reasons.

The issue of prorogation is not about Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats or the Bloc. It’s not about one set of policies over another. It’s about demanding that our government respect the spirit of democracy in which we elect it. A 200,000-strong Facebook group and nationwide anti-prorogation rallies show the government that, regardless of what else divides us, Canadians will not stand for the suspension of Parliament for partisan advantage.

We don’t pretend that 200,000 people will take to the streets on Saturday. That’s not the point. Three weeks ago, Mr. Harper calculated that proroguing Parliament would be less politically costly than allowing MPs to hold the government accountable for its actions — specifically, to continue investigating the Afghan detainee issue.

We’re out to prove him wrong, and dramatically increase the political cost of disrespecting democracy. We’ve made our voices heard online and across Canada.

Tomorrow, we call on all concerned Canadians to join us wherever you live, and tell our Parliamentarians to get back to work.

National Post

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