I am on the Kojo Nnamdi show at 12.30 EST on April 14 discussing with Nathan Hodge of Wired magazine the political uses and potential of Twitter in the light of the anti-government protests in Moldova and the street protests in London at the G20. The blurb for the show is: “Opposition activists in the Eastern European nation of Moldova staged anti-government protests last week, using cell-phones, Facebook and Twitter to organize demonstrators and broadcast messages to the outside world. Some commentators hailed the protests as an example of the power of new technology. Others say the power of social networking is being overstated. Tech Tuesday explores how new tools are being used to mobilize protests and policy debates around the world.” Link is here http://wamu.org/programs/kn/09/04/14.php#25995
Gutter politics in London – shock! Gordon Brown had no choice but to sack his Downing Street press adviser Damian McBride after the leaking of a series of e-mails he sent to fellow Labour adviser Derek Draper detailing a potential smears campaign against top British Tories. If he hadn’t done so, the clamour would have only got louder.
But Draper isn’t helping Downing Street by arguing in media interviews that McBride shouldn’t have had to go, and his claim that this was just a matter of e-mails between some mates is absurd. They might have decided not to use the material they were concocting but the e-mails leaked to blogger Guido Fawkes show that McBride and Draper were getting down to tactical details on how to make the online smears campaign really work.
In the e-mail exchanges about what stories they could spread, initially by using Labour blogs they run, the two discuss how the stories should be deployed in sequence to maximise their impact, and Draper says he will think about the “timing and technology” in order to boost the credibility of the smears.
At no point in their exchanges do they voice doubt about the morality of what they are doing or embarrassment about making up vile allegations or adding lies to half-truths.
Conservative blogger Iain Dale – who himself has been a target of McBride and Draper – compares what the two were doing to Nixon. At first, I thought this was stretch. But thinking about the pattern of tactics employed in recent months against opponents by some at the heart of government, there seems some substance to Dale’s comparison. Like Nixon, there is total, unabashed ruthlessness when dealing with critics and a willingness to use, for example, the police on opponents – recall, for example, the calling in of the anti-terrorist squad into Parliament to root out who was leaking to the Tories embarrassing details about immigration cock-ups.
But the Web is the Wild West and e-mails and blogs can be turned around on you.
The clash between Vice President Biden and Karl Rove over whether Joe scolded President Bush a couple of times during meetings in the Oval Office is tiresome — that is for most people. The election campaign is over but there they are slugging it out as though there is no economic crisis or overseas challenges facing the US. Well, it might be business as usual for the Washington gang but for most Americans it isn’t. They have other worries and ones a little more pressing.
I am not sure why Biden thinks this kind of slugfest is helpful to the administration. Maybe he is playing to the Move On crowd and others on the left disappointed with Obama’s appointments and his decision to ratchet up in Afghanistan and delay a pull-out from Iraq.
Of course, Rove’s comment about how you “should not exaggerate and lie like this when you are the Vice President of the United States” is rich with irony. At least Biden is not exaggerating about weapons of mass destruction or links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Those exaggerations had much greater consequences…
Reporting on the arrests this week of a suspected 12-strong Al Qaeda cell in the north-west of England, my old newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, says: “All but one of the men arrested were Pakistani nationals who came to Britain on student visas. This suggested a possible new tactic by al-Qaeda, which had previously used British-based extremists who travelled to Pakistan for training.” Maybe a new move in the UK, but cast your minds back to 9/11 — several of the hijackers were on student visas in Germany and the US. Not so new, then.
The editor of the Washington Business Journal was a tad ill-timed in an opinion piece he wrote on April 3 disparaging Twitter as a waste of time. “You might sign up, but it won’t be long before you give up, too busy with matters of real importance to waste your time following some dweeb in Dundalk updating the world on his jock itch,” he wrote in the article headlined Twitter Sucks. In fact as a tool of social protest Twitter was being anything but trivial in its consequences over in Old and New Europe. Some of the more militant of the G20 protesters organised themselves on Twitter to close down a chunk of London’s financial district. And in Moldova, young opponents of the ruling Communists mounted some serious protests using Twitter as well following parliamentary elections.