Sometimes your first instinct is to sympathise with a particular cause until you meet the people who believe in it—and find them in your local park dressed in black polythene bags and engaged in a one-sided debate with a squirrel.
Like Eurosceptics [Euroskeptics?], anti-ID card campaigners have a whole array of sound, rational arguments at their disposal. So, when they have the money to make their case, they point out that if you stick a barcode on Tony Blair’s top lip he looks like Adolf Hitler.
“Yes, Mr Smith, we have to remove the cyst to relieve the pressure on your brain.”
[Patient nods gravely.]
“If we don’t then the Lizard People will be able to send their messages directly to your conscious mind.”
[Patient runs out of surgery screaming.]
Unfortunately that’s the sort of silly world we live in. If people go about pointing out the merits of their case in a sober and rational manner, lobbying MPs, paying for serious ads etc. they get absolutely nowhere.
It’s only if you dress up as superman or paint yourself purple and climb Big Ben in the nude or do something else controversial like this ad that the press and public start noticing your campaign and you start to get anywhere. Makes it harder for our marvellous leaders to keep on ignoring your viewpoint and claiming support they do not have.
To cite my other example, the UK Independence Party has wide backing in the UK for its core policies. Its members and leadership squander this advantage because they come across as nutters.
It’s also, in part, how the Democrats lost the 2004 Presidential election and how they may well lose the next one if they arn’t careful.
I think we can use your reasoning to criticise various pro-ID-card campaigners, too, Damian. But you knew that.
Perfectly justifiable pay-back for Labour’s anti-semitism lite at the last election, I’d say.
There’ve been Labour Party posters as stupid as this and the one to which you refer was certainly stupid, but it wasn’t anti-semitic.
Your UKIP example is spot on here. There has long been a majority (until this year apparently) in favour of hanging. But people don’t vote for hangers. People don’t vote for policies, for the most part. They vote for people. Newspapers target politicians on particular policy matters and damage them personally. But politicans often make the mistake of thinking that this translates as a public interest in specific policies.
Politicians aren’t that stupid either though. They know that the real debate isn’t polarised in the way that pressure groups try to make it.
So pressure groups should make more of an effort to influence politicians by a more reasonable articulation of their viewpoint – one that respectfully acknowleges the opposing views. This would be the rational thing for them to do – if their real reason for being was to oppose policies.
Unfortunately, people become financially dependent on the campaign. And the individuals involved start to mistake their personal profile for the political credibility of their position.Then it’s real motivation becomes fundraising and organisation-building.
Er… that’s what I reckon, anyway.
You would think we don’t need marketing gimmicks to get our point of view across but even WITH our ‘thought provoking images’ and advertising (put together by concerned citizens with ZIP money), The public know little about the issues surrounding ID cards. To engage politicians without owning a stake in a major multi national corporation is not easy, that’s the polite version. You can put millions of peed off people in front of Tony Blair and he still doesn’t give a crap. We do our best to inform while the government does it’s best to conceal. And we dont do it to protect our own interests but yours too. No…you know what…. we just do our best!