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Anti-Activist Activism

I could not resist a bit of mischief making… The BBC has set up something called iCan, which Wired magazine described thusly:

A couple of years ago the British Broadcasting Corporation was blindsided by a grassroots campaign against rising taxes on gas. Although discontent had been growing for some time, the BBC didn’t report the story until the British army was called out to protect gas stations from protesters.
Hoping to avoid this kind of blindness to ordinary Britons’ political concerns, the broadcasting behemoth is launching a radical online experiment to reconnect itself with grassroots sentiment.


On the other hand, the effort is intended to counteract what officials at the broadcasting network feel is widespread political apathy in the United Kingdom, marked by low voter turnout at elections and declining audiences for its political programming. As a state-financed institution operating under a royal charter to inform, educate and entertain, the BBC feels it is within its purview to help disenfranchised citizens engage in public life.

And therefore I have taken it upon myself to set up an iCan campaign aimed at… encouraging people to not vote (i.e. active voter apathy, yeah I know it is an oxymoron) and to regard politics as just proxy violence. I have called this Anti-Activist Activism. Come join me as I take some herbicide to the BBC’s grassroots.

It is just too damn tempting

Update: I have made the first journal update at Anti-Activist Activism called Turning iCan into iShouldn’t.

14 comments to Anti-Activist Activism

  • Adrian Ramsey


    You happy with their boilerplate terms and conditions, especially their “right” to take any contributions and do what they please with them?

  • Oh they may well do that, Adrian…but then that gives me a rather good story to write as well. It is a no-lose situation

  • Andrew

    You can vote multiple times. I wonder if they log the IP addresses? Could build up a load of ‘support’ very quickly if you wanted to.

  • Encouraging people not to vote? Is this such a noble aim, or are you taking the mickey in some subtle way I can’t pick up?

    “Political activism is almost always about using the collective means of coercion (the state) to force people to do things against their will.” …a recent high-profile example of political activism being the anti-war movement, which was about mobilising collective opinion against the state to attempt to stop it from using its means of coercion against another state. It doesn’t add up.

    It seems to me that the vast majority of political activism involves stopping the state from doing things that are percieved as unfair. The poll tax… fuel protests… equal rights… most of it doesn’t involve saying ‘there should be a law against it’ (although some of course does), but ‘this law should be changed or removed’.

    Political activism doesn’t involve turning away from social interaction. There’s plenty of time in the day for both. Political activism involves taking an active interest in the way your country is run.

    In short, I’m intrigued buy your Ican site, because it sounds like utter nonsense to me.

  • Well Ryan, the main point behind AAA is to piss on the BBC’s aim of encouraging political engagement within the system of which it is a prominent part.

    However the truth is I am serious. The poll tax… fuel protests… equal rights… well that all rather depends what you mean by that. The poll tax protestors were rarely against taxes per se, just against ones which they had to pay. Most preferred a system of rates which as non-property owners they could happily vote for in the knowledge they were voting for other people to fund their goodies and not themselves. The petrol tax protests was a bit less egregious in that respect but when it comes to ‘equal rights’, it very much depends what you mean by that. I am all for equal rights, but I am far too cynical not to suspect you might mean something altogether different to me.

    Sure, I have no problem with politics which is aimed at dismantling aspects of the kleptocratic state ediface but clearly that sort of thing is a minority sport… voting for any of the realistic political parties is just accepting the politicisation (i.e. negation) of civil society without actually changing a damn thing. The choices on offer are no choice at all. Vote for none of the above.

  • Guy Herbert

    Or better: spoil the ballot. While we still have paper ballots (before the Electoral Commission modernise them away to “encourage political participation”), you can comment on your non-vote. Pity to have use of a pencil at the public expense and not do anything with it.

    Better to make your intent potentially ambiguous, then the candidates’ agents may have to read it.

  • Kevin L. Connors

    While Perry’s and my opinions track each other closely on almost all fronts, here is where they fly off in diametric opposition.

    While I do not deny the value of changing people’s hearts and minds through the processes of civil society, eventually those changes must be codified through the political process, in order that they might have their full effect.

    A prime example is the issue of medical marijuana here in the US. Surveys repeatedly indicate that, by overwhelming margins, the people what the government to stop interfering with this legitimate medical treatment. Yet, a staunch minority persists in creating havoc. But, so long as they have ‘the law’ on their side, little can be done.


  • I have little interest in tweaking the rules on this or that issue, I only really care about changing the system… I wish you luck but that is generally not my gig.

  • Joe

    Perry, have I completely misread this or are you seriously reasoning that not voting will produce a change via *active apathy*

    Surely you realise that all apathy is already active as the apathetic choose to be so. The affect this has on the ballot is only in determining who receives the most votes… it does not affect the legitimacy of the ballot or the legitimacy of the authority by which the winner wins.

    The best outcome you can hope to achieve is that if a ballot is declared invalid because of too few votes… then an EU style election after election will keep occuring until the “authority” have decided that enough voters vote for the *desired* authoritarian outcome that all other possibilities are null and void.

    The most likely outcome of active apathy is that you get actively ignored!

    Or am I missing some twist in your argument?

  • Well the AAA thing on iCan is really just an attempt to annoy the BBC and have some fun, but in truth my view is that a vote between Tory/Labour/LibDem or (in most cases) Republican/Democrat is no choice at all. To think that an anti-statist small government classical liberal (such as say, myself) is going to reduce the size of government by voting for statist parties, all of whom increase the remit of the state regardless of promises is pretty much a joke (George Bush is vastly beating Clinton in that manner for example), so why legitimise the system by putting your X in the box for the lesser evil? The best we can get that way is perhaps slowing the rate of growth of the regulatory state… and that is not enough. The apathy I want is in participating in the approved statist system of democratically sanctified proxy theft… I would be delighted to start voting if there were actual realistic choices, but that will not happen because of the very structure of modern politics in most developed countries. Until that is the case, all voting for the least-worst thief does is reward politicans who are still thieves whilst giving the quixotic voters an illusion of power. Simply choosing who robs you does not make you ’empowered’. Why legitimise that process?

  • Kevin L. Connors

    At least, in a parlimentary system, such as yours, you can support a minor party candidate and have some chance he/she will actually get elected.

  • Not really Kevin… in a ‘first past the post’ system (unlike a proportional representation system), you can have a party with 20% of the national vote and not a single seat unless they have a majority in some specific constituency.

  • Russ Goble

    While I appreciate the high-minded debate going on here, let’s focus on the fun part. Where do I get my iShouldn’t t-shirt?

    And surely some amateur filmaker out there could have some real fun with an Apple-like commercial for this iShouldn’t campaign.

    “I had just finished my 3rd helping of Labour, when the waiter came by and asked me if I had room left for some Tory. I looked at my wife and thought, ‘no thank you, iShouldn’t'”

  • Guy Herbert

    Joe: “The best outcome you can hope to achieve is that if a ballot is declared invalid because of too few votes…”

    Not possible in the British system, as far as I am aware. It could make them look very silly, though, claiming to represent the public on a tiny minority of actual support.

    I don’t think that’s really what frightens New Labour and its quango about low turnouts, though. It is that people who aren’t voting for any party just might be persuaded to vote for some unpredictable new party that will disrupt sensible, established ways of doing things.

    There are 10% who will never vote for anything and are probably not even capable of figuring out how. As the turnout falls towards 50%, that still leaves uncommitted, uncontrolled, potential voters exceeding the vote of any established party. There’s lots of opportunity to change things through the ballot, given the means.