Russell Brand gets a pretty rough ride in the popular media. And you can see why. You have to feel for George Monbiot in this recent video on the TTIP legislation:
You can almost hear Monbiot thinking “He can’t pronounce my name, he keeps interrupting me… but he’s a huge megaphone, so I’ll put up with it.”
Whatever one thinks about Russell Brand, he has shone a light on the failure of conventional party politics in engaging people. This is underlined when you look at party membership figures for the two dominant UK parties over the past 50 years.
But this doesn’t infer that we’re no longer politically active. Instead of signing up to the party, warts and all, we now participate in the political process by lending our support issue-by-issue. And it seems to be working.
What is derided as ‘clicktivism’ – feigning political engagement by clicking your support of a cause – is actually having a significant impact on levels of participation. Groups like the UK-based 38 Degrees recently claimed success for the government announcement made yesterday to increase funding for the UK National Health Service. 38 degrees claims that 129,000 people signed an e-petition for the government to use the fines from fraudulent banks to increase NHS funds and that is apparently how the Chancellor, George Osborne has found the extra cash. But that’s not all. The group also claimed victory this week in their quest to get the NHS to practice transparency on their spending.
Internationally, online campaign group Avaaz.org claims 40 million members. 2 million of them signed a petition for action on climate change, and hundreds of thousands took to the streets on September 21st, in major cities around the world. Avaaz.org has argued that such pressure forced the recent G20 summit to make action on climate change a priority.
Of course no political leaders will admit to taking action because of online campaigns, but the victories of 38 Degrees and Avaaz suggest that clicking your support for individual causes is not only working, it’s likely to become the focus for individuals who want more than the once every four/five years tick in a box form of participation.
Clicktivism is working, in its own modest way. And it may well put a few professional lobbyists out of a job too.