Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Videos and populism: surely, that's not the problem (and don't call me Shirley!)

As some of you know, I am a member of the board (voilĂ , transparency and full disclosure all in one!) of Avanti Europe! a new online citizens movement that wants to recapture the European narrative from the hands and mouths of the Eurosceptics and create a constructive debate with engaged European citizens. The debate started last week with the launch of the first solidarity campaign with the citizens of Greece. Yes, Greece. I know that all you have been hearing in the last weeks is about Cyprus, but the situation in Greece is dire and it is ordinary citizens who cannot afford healthcare any longer who are suffering, not some Russian oligarchs.

To launch the campaign we wanted to produce a video to put on our website. Ok, on the week before Easter, maybe not the best idea in terms of timing, but it was on Greek National Day, and  it's never too soon or a bad time to be supportive. Now, the video needed to be short, catchy and give enough information to make you:

a) upset about what is happening in Greece
b) interested enough to share the video with your friends
c) want to become a member of Avanti and sign the petition.

Here it is:

On the whole, it has been a successful launch and although one might dispute whether the video succeeded in all three objectives, surely it's a good start (and don't call me Shirley!  - I have re-watched the film 'Airplane' - here is the link to the clip! - after many years and cannot help using that line when I say or write surely, sorry!! ). What I found quite interesting were some of the comments on the video: some could not understand how we could use a war/video game metaphor and some found it very populist. I could have understood people criticising the actual campaign - maybe disputing whether it is wise or possible to revise austerity measures - but criticising the video for me means having a distorted idea of what that kind of video is supposed to do. Quite often I find myself defending videos which are considered too reductionist, too populist and too simplistic. Of course, I am only referring to videos whose aim is to become viral. Those videos HAVE to be simple. Don't get me wrong: this does not for a minute that I condone populism. But the danger of populism for me is in the content, not the form(at). It would be a bit like criticising ballet dancers for not singing well enough: THEY ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO!!!!

By all means, let's have a debate, about solutions, Europe and solidarity. This is why Avanti was born in the first place. But the means to deliver the messages, surely, need to be accepted for what they are and can be. And stop calling me Shirley!

1 comment:

Bruce McKean said...


This may be "coals to Newcastle" (and I suspect every culture worthy of the name has an equivalent phrase) but just in case you missed it: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130418154004-239623471-three-reasons-why-more-european-parliament-is-good-for-europe

And also because you are "up to your eyebrows" (another example of the English vernacular) in how and why communications works in social media, a Canadian example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrXFdXloS2c

This has relevance to Belgium because the Belgian government wanted to take General Dallaire to court because 10 Belgian soldiers were killed when the UN (remember: what is the UN except a collection of governments? The UN did not fail, it's members did.) refused to act.

Anyway, Dallaire (who was ostracized by the military bureaucracy and attempted suicide) is one of my heroes.

And an apology: this comment is only tenuously linked to the topic of your post...but (no surprise) I feel strongly about the issues and the ways we try to communicate.

- bruce