Enemies: foreign and domestic?

It’s alright, we can calm down now – Obama won, World War Three isn’t going to happen! For some reason, though, people across the pond just aren’t as chuffed as we are at their returning president. “…Obama wants us vulnerable to terrorism!” said the wonderfully redneck-sounding @cowboy_dixie, whilst  @SmokerKing100 voiced surprise that Mr Obama hadn’t been removed from office because of this section of the American military oath, “…against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

In fact, a huge number of states (or rather, members of the public in a huge number of states) have submitted petitions – in some form or another – stating that they wish to secede from the United States. Facebook hosted one such petition for disgruntled Texans, unfortunately it was a “closed” group – only those specifically invited could join, presumably they would also be complete amateurs at the nuances of petitions and social media.  Meanwhile, over on The White House’s “We The People” petition page (not to be confused with Rangers FC’s “We Are The People” petition page) another petition requesting the secession of Texas has garnered 115,000 signatures. Texas, unsurprisingly, voted massively for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the election. Other petitioners include Republican heartland states Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana. I asked a rather right-wing friend, who is also a resident of Republican Utah, over Facebook if they had signed one of these petitions. They replied, telling me, “No I haven’t. I’ve thought about it, but as far as I’m concerned I’ll be fine either way. But if Texas does secede, I’ll be moving.”

It’s a strange way to go about things, separating from the rest of your country because you can’t respect a democratic majority. Imagine if Scotland voted Labour and the rest of the UK voted Tory. Oh, wait…

Going back across the pond to Westminster, Nadine Dorries is in the jungle. I would say “Good. Stay there.” If it weren’t for the fact that she has several thousand long-suffering constituents whom she purports to represent. Dorries, a backbench rebel who was also a government whip, presumably to quell her rebellious side, told the conservativehome blog “When I was offered this opportunity… I seized upon it. Who wouldn’t?

“An audience of 16 million people for the first and last show and 12 million per show is a very large audience. In the world of messaging, it’s huge. It would have been mad to have refused.”

If you will, I’ll ask you to cast your mind back to when George Galloway (yes, remember him?) went into the Big Brother house, saying that he’d bring politics to the people. Well, all most people seem to remember was his rather spirited impression of a cat licking milk from a saucer. I would be most surprised if Nadine Dorries managed to get her own particular message out successfully either.

I have a theory that she’s there to build herself a career outside politics. If I’m correct, then she’s not doing too well. Fans of ITV’s “I’m a Celebrity…” didn’t really seem to be fans of Nadine, at least according to the official #imaceleb tag. “Really don’t like nadine (sic)” said one, “Argh Nadine you annoy me”, continued another in a similar vein.  In the interests of balance, @DeeSharman tweeted “I don’t dislike Nadine as much as I thought I would!”

I’m sure the spin doctors of Millbank will settle for that.

Spin doctors are exactly what coffee chain Starbucks is under attack from pressure group UKUncut, after it emerged that Starbucks pays a fraction of the amount of tax that it should.  A number of events have been planned over Facebook, “Shrewsbury Uncut” was just one of 10 Facebook events set for 8th December. Ignoring the obvious irony of plotting against one international conglomerate using the medium of another, it is a very smart move. Previously, pressure groups had offices and employed staff.

Using social media to organise gatherings and mobilise large numbers of people has a track record in being very effective. Many people will tell you that the two biggest factors in the Arab Spring uprising were Facebook and Twitter. You just need to look at the numbers involved in the upcoming UKUncut events to see that this could well be true: of the 10 events, 284 people said they were attending, and a further 3460 were invited to attend but had not yet responded. In November 2011, a study by Facebook said that the median number of friends on their network was just 100. Whilst it’s low, it still means that UKUncut potentially reached almost 30,000 people for just one series of events.

Whilst using social media is at the core of UKUncut’s existence, it’s the bane of Starbucks’. I had a look at Starbuck UK’s wall on Facebook, and nine out of the first 20 posts I read were about their tax records. Two of the three “Top photos” for the #starbucks tag on twitter are also about tax.

Starbucks did respond to the original allegations via their company blog, where they assured customers “Starbucks pays and will continue to pay our share of taxes in the UK to the letter of the law.” Every single comment attacked the letter.

We are regularly warned that what we put online will never disappear and can be used against us. In this case, it looks as though Starbucks’ social media team posted enough digital ‘rope’ to hang themselves. Mind you, when you’re tweeting for a branch of a major anti-capitalist  organisation, having “sent from Apple iPhone 5” is not what you want to see on the end of your tweets either.

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