Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Facebook Rebellion

There’s been a lot of back and forth over just how meaningful the ever-growing “Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament” group really is. Membership was at 73,367 when I started writing this post...I imagine it will have grown by the time I'm done.

On the one side, the Toronto Star has adopted its usual understated approach, blasting a front page “grassroots fury” headline in response to a then 20,000 member Facebook group. Which, in fairness, looks kind of impressive when compared to the 473 fans of the Toronto Star on Facebook.

This headline prompted ridicule from Dan Cook (“0.06% of Canadians are Mad”), while Conservative bloggers such as Stephen Taylor have generally scoffed at the group, noting that 127,000 joined the anti-coalition Facebook group last December. (Of course, if this prorogation even generates even half the backlash that the coalition did, the Tories are probably in quite a bit of trouble.)

Charles Adler and Matt Gurney have also ridiculed the group, complaining that people were acting immature (on Facebook of all places!) posting Harper "nazi" pictures on the group...and we all know that sort of juvenile photo-shop would never happen in a real grassroots movement.

More to the point, Gurney has drawn attention to a rival group, to show just how easy it is to get 70,000 130 people in a Facebook group.

So just how impressive is the anti-prorogue group?

Well, Ignatieff, Harper, and Layton all have between 27,000 and 30,000 supporters on Facebook. And they’ve been building those numbers over some time, so there’s reason to believe this group isn’t just composed of people who join every political group they’re invited to (“Help elect Joe Nantuckett for the PEI Liberals? Sure!”).

While it’s difficult to get a comprehensive list, I ran a few quick keyword searches and the following appear to be the largest Canadian political groups out there:

Canadians against a Liberal/NDP coalition: 127,191
Canadians petition to cut gas prices to 79.9 cents: 111,709
Fair Copyright for Canada: 86,349
Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament: 75,752
Canadians against the new copyright bill C-61: 71,885
Legalize it, Canada: 70,923 (“it”, being pot)
Ordinary Canadians DO SUPPORT the Arts, Mr. Harper. You are dead wrong: 63,246

So the anti-prorogue group has been able to match some of the largest “lefty” issue groups out there, in a very short time. No, that doesn't mean it's an issue that will move votes -I'd imagine most of the members weren't exactly Harper-holics beforehand, and I have a hard time seeing anyone changing their vote over this.

But as it creeps towards the membership total of the anti-coalition group, it certainly shouldn't be ignored.

UPDATE: 83,000 in the group and, more importantly, the tories are down 3 points in the latest Ekos poll.



  • I think the fact that 2000 people have joined since you posted half an hour ago says something.

    By Blogger Steve V, at 10:06 p.m.  

  • Oh, and the fact that Charles Adler and all the other conservative apologists are obsessed with mocking, that maybe says more.

    By Blogger Steve V, at 10:07 p.m.  

  • An ongoing narrative framing Harper as controlling, arrogant and dismissive of democracy is a good thing.

    It will, in time, likely be what brings him down. It's usually not one issue, it's the aggregate of many similar issues which break a government.

    By Blogger Mark Richard Francis, at 10:12 p.m.  

  • Canadians do nothing but complain about Parliament when it's sitting.

    Do you actually think they'll complain that it's not sitting?

    Voters will be glad to not have to hear the petty squabling that goes on there.

    By Anonymous Just Sayin, at 10:14 p.m.  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Steve V, at 10:17 p.m.  

  • Further to what Mark said, no opposition MP should be allowed to complete a sentence without the word "arrogant" contained. That is where this thing could bite Harper, Canadians despise detached arrogance.

    Oh, it's 3000 more now. Keep talking wingers!

    By Blogger Steve V, at 10:18 p.m.  

  • Every time I refresh the page, the number grows by a few more. It's kinda cool.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:40 p.m.  

  • I dunno Dan. I've spoken to a few people already who could not really care who is in government but are now not just annoyed but surprisingly pissed with Harper. It resonates with some ordinary people in a similar way that the Harper fiscal update did before the coalition thing took shape.

    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 10:42 p.m.  

  • Being a non-Facebookie (obviously being Anon), two technical questions about the anti-prorogue site:

    1. Are those members all Canadian voters?
    2. How are they hearing about the page - any way of finding out?

    On defeating Harper, nothing will work unless the three parties of the left come up with some sort of strategy to stop the vote splitting.

    Given that we've not seen or heard from all three leaders -- Gilles, Michael, and Jack -- nor any of their press people, I'm beginning to think that they might be planning some sort of an electoral strategy together.

    Just a hunch though, but it's very strange -- especially to not see Mulcair on TV.

    They all can't be on vacation together, can they?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:50 p.m.  

  • It's not just Harper haters. The group is now 50% larger than "Pour que ce stylo ait plus d'amis que Stephen Harper" (50,489) and more than three times the size of "Canadians United Against Stephen Harper" (21,970).

    Therefore, Harper is done.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:55 p.m.  

  • According to Facebook's advertising page, there are about 14 million Canadians on Facebook. Of those, about 12.5 million are 18 or over.

    Assuming everybody in the group is Canadian, 75,000 members is about 0.6% of Canadian Facebook users who are eligible to vote.

    Over to you, Dan Cook.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:56 p.m.  

  • I dunno Dan. I've spoken to a few people already who could not really care who is in government but are now not just annoyed but surprisingly pissed with Harper. It resonates with some ordinary people in a similar way that the Harper fiscal update did before the coalition thing took shape.

    I dunno Ted. As one of those people that doesn't really care who is in gov't, I am annoyed by the liberal whining about everything. This also resonates with with alot of ordinary people that I talk to.

    After 4 years of listening to liberals saying that "this" scandal make the CPC worse than the LPC and you should vote Liberal....we just tune you out.

    Nice try though.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:25 p.m.  

  • To those who say it means nothing, look at the ink spilled over this in the press, and look at the fact that Ignatieff has now ordered Official Opposition MPs back to work. I say this facebook initiative has already produced concrete results.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:36 p.m.  

  • Who cares what Adler or anyone else thinks. Who even cares if the people joining the group are legitimate.

    At least what it is doing is helping keep this issue in the news, which means people are hearing about the prorogation. I would guess the reason there are people who do not care is because most of them do not understand what Harper has done. Keeping this in the news should help some of those people to understand.

    That would probably be the reason so many conservative supporters are complaining about it.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 1:34 a.m.  

  • If nothing else, Liberals are well organized and have a great team spirit.

    So it is not surprising this anti- perogue thing is going so well.

    The frustration of being put off. The pain of not being able to implement Liberal Fund raising policy. Here's how that works.

    Liberal Cash flow system..
    You may have seen it before, but
    it's timely:

    A political young man named Paul bought a donkey from an old farmer for $100.00.

    The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day.

    When the farmer drove up
    the next day, he said, *Sorry son, but I have some bad news...the donkey is on my truck, but he's dead.*

    Paul replied, *Well then, just give me my money back.*

    The farmer said, *I Can't do that. I went and spent it already.*

    Paul said, *OK then, just unload the donkey anyway*. The farmer
    asked, *What are ya gonna do with him?*

    Paul said, *I'm going to raffle him off.* To which the farmer exclaimed, *You can't raffle off a dead donkey!*

    But Paul, with a big smile on his face, said, *Sure I can. Watch me. I just won't tell anybody that he's dead.*

    A month later the farmer met up with Paul and asked, *What happened with that dead donkey?*

    Paul said, *I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars each and made a profit of $698.00.*

    Totally amazed, the farmer asked, *Didn't anyone complain that you had stolen their money because you lied about the donkey being dead?*

    Paul replied, *The only
    guy who found out about the donkey being dead was the raffle winner when he came to claim his prize.

    So I gave him his $2 back plus $200 extra, which is double the going value of a donkey, so he thought I was a great guy.*

    Paul grew up and eventually became the Prime Minister of Canada, and
    no matter how many times he lied or how much money he stole from Canadian voters, as long as he gave them back some of the stolen money, most of them thought he was a great guy.

    Now it's Ignatief's turn and he is sooo frustrated. TG

    Light hearted Conservative balance.

    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 1:46 a.m.  

  • A few problems...

    First off, most people don't even know what 'prorogue' means, let alone are bothered by it. Go ahead and ask some people who don't follow politics. (which is the majority of Canadians)

    Next, the difference between this facebook group and the 'anti-coalition' group will be in the numbers that show up to protest. I'll be waiting to see how these protests pan out.

    Lastly, even if a small number of Canadians are annoyed, they have a short memory span. Does anyone honestly think anyone will remember this after the olympics?

    So go ahead and whip up the partisan fury, just don't expect it to change anything.

    By Anonymous Savant, at 1:47 a.m.  

  • One factor to consider when making comparisons is that Facebook group membership totals decay over time, and especially decay with inactivity. It would not surprise me to find out that the "anti-coalition" group once boasted of far higher numbers than what they have now.

    Facebook is useful here not as a broadly statistical measure of the citizenry's pulse, but as a way of assessing which messages are getting to whom. If the kind of people you see joining the group are people who normally don't express much interest in politics or don't have a partisan commitment, then we have reason to believe there is serious grassroots galvanization reaching the public. That was certainly the case with the anti-coalition group last year, and it remains to be seen whether that is also the case now.

    By Anonymous Nick, at 2:34 a.m.  

  • This 2% of the Canadian population took the time to click a join button. Such dedication!
    If we use the population of Canadians who even bothered to vote in the last election, that number skyrockets to 4%.
    Who can possibly say that Canadians are feeling cynical about politics.

    By Blogger ridenrain, at 4:03 a.m.  

  • If one DOESN'T join a facebook group to express one's frustration with the political system...what are the options?

    Those who read political blogs may say "get actively involved with a political party", but since that's often the source of the frustration, that's rather pointless, isn't it?

    Or, "write a letter to the editor" know, in those newspaper things that nobody reads anymore now that they have the internet...

    Or, "contact your elected representative". Good luck with that. At best you get a perfunctory "thank you for your concern, yadda yadda yadda.."...unless, of course, you're influential in your community and willing to throw some cash at the re-election fund.

    NO, there isn't a lot of commitment involved in joining a facebook group. Most people are too busy working two jobs to afford things they don't really need, raising their children, just trying to keep up, if not actually get ahead. So the amount of commitment needed to actually effect any kind of meaningful change is in really short supply.

    F/B groups don't "prove" anything, but they do INDICATE that people are concerned, and that should be enough to concern our elected representatives.

    If they're NOT concerned, they're part of the problem, not the solution.

    By Blogger Party of One, at 7:03 a.m.  

  • Nick - Taylor and co keep citing the 125-127k number for the coalition group, which leads me to believe it was never higher than that.

    If anything, it might have picked up some steam back in September.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:28 a.m.  

  • Proroguing Parliament is an anti-democratic move. Why would that piss off "lefties" more than "righties"? If anything, "lefties" are more tolerant of just letting the government do things without involving the people. I think it's fair to say that group is composed of people all across the political spectrum.

    Charles Adler and all the other conservative apologists are obsessed with mocking

    Anyone who thinks obsessive mockery is the bastion of conservative apologists needs to watch Royal Air Farce, 22 Minutes, the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Matt Damon, or pretty much any show at all (on any station except Fox).

    As for Harper hating, remember that it's "fashionable" to be pissed with Harper, Bush or pretty much any politician perceived to be right-of-centre. It doesn't necessarily translate to election results.

    All that being said, Harper is indeed an arrogant liar and you don't have to be a "leftie" to see that, and to be pissed off about it. You do have to be a "leftie", however, to see the alternative as an improvement.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:20 a.m.  

  • Facebook, where Sarah Palin debates...err...monologues everything.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:36 p.m.  

  • Facebook isn't necessarily the most representative sample, either. Imagine that the election results were based on facebook supporters. The election would look like this:

    CPC: 30.5%
    LPC: 29.9%
    NDP: 28.8%
    Green: 6.7%
    BQ: 4.1%

    I think prorogation was an unnecessary move that will cause a larger backlash than the Afghan detainee issue would have. However, it is hardly an unprecedented move (Chretien's 2002 prorogation was far more backlash-worthy) and unclear whether it will have legs politically.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 2:00 p.m.  

  • Almost 96,000 and counting FAST! Do not doubt the power of the internet/facebook/social networking...

    By Anonymous david newman, at 9:51 p.m.  

  • 95,863 in the CAPP group at 9:03 pm CST. That's 20,000 in 12 hours.

    This has legs. And now the NDP are getting into the fray. Libby Davies' Statement by New Democrat Deputy Leader and House Leader Libby Davies

    By Anonymous the regina mom, at 10:06 p.m.  

  • Amazing how foolish some of the thoughts are regarding this. This facebook group does nothing other than make people feel like they are doing something; being heard.
    Many of the people who join these groups have no idea of the actual significance, or the 'fix' for the problem and just parrot - like many of the commenters here - the latest 'news' reports. It serves a a great way of spreading uneducated nonsense at a fantastic rate, a la twitter.
    No one wants to feel like they're left behind on issues that they're told are important; so they, like their 'friends', click the 'join' button.
    It's the reason that we accept and deserve no say in the governance in our own lives.

    By Anonymous Bam, at 9:30 p.m.  

Post a Comment

<< Home