#WebinarThing Transcript

AI Generated transcript of the #WebinarThing which took place on Wednesday August 5 2020:

Anyone would think that when I planned something like this, I was going to have an agenda of some description. I don’t. I just really wanted to say hello to everyone and say, Look, I know that currently, things are interesting for many of us and have been for a long time.I know that the Brexit thing has dragged on for an incredibly long period of time now, and we are finally approaching the sort of the end resolution to that and that’s likely to mean some bad things. We’ve seen stuff in the paper this week about what’s likely to be happening with the lorry park in Kent. But because there have been some substantial changes in the world due to COVID-19, it’s not necessarily going to be the big hit that perhaps once was.

There are some things which have changed: trade impact across the world is not restricted to us anymore. So we’re not going to be alone. We’ve seen a massive economic impacts and there’s more to come, there’s going to be rounds of redundancies and companies folding up and they’re just being propped up by the government currently. We are going to hit that Brexit time period and I think the important thing that people can practically do now, and this this is a really genuinely important thing –  and it’s something that me and God are all have been banging on about for ages and ages and ages – start with your own personal resilience. Because, if you get that right, you will actually be able to do productive things to help other people.

Personal resilience isn’t massively complicated. If you’ve read the Getting Ready Together document, then you’ll know the basics. Personal resilience is not a hugely challenging thing. It’s not complicated. It’s not massively difficult. It’s not something that is beyond what we can all do. And it’s a case of being able to be prepared for things that may go wrong. It’s a case of having sensible amount of food in your cupboard stockpiling, and panic buying – as we’ve seen it with people caught short on COVID-19 – is absolute lunacy. It’s just completely unreal. And it doesn’t need to be that way.

I was brought up by parents who were on during the end of World War Two. I was raised largely by my nan during the 80s because my parents were both working and there are certain things that I was just taught. We used to live out in the sticks you got snowed in you have stuff in your cupboard to get you through a week of being snowed in when you can’t go to the shop. This is not complicated stuff. Shelf-stable food is now more widely available than it ever has been before. And over a period of months, people are able to put away enough to get them through the hardship. People that followed the advice, when COVID came around, they weren’t out buying toilet rolls in that massive pile of nonsense there was out there. And in fact, we got a load of messages from people I didn’t even know had followed any advice, effectively, saying thank you, which was kind of strange. But it meant that we’ve managed to do something right.

So, recommendation number one, if you haven’t already done it, download Getting Ready Together, get your house, personally, in order so that if the shit hits the fan, then you’ve at least got the bare minimum covered. What that means is, if you take care of that, that fundamental basic of making sure that you and your immediate vicinity is okay. Then you can do productive things to help other people because you’ll have the spare capacity and resource to do it and you won’t be caught up in the panic of events. So that’s resilience 101.

Within that I’ve been talking about community building – what you can physically do to build community. Now, I know over the last few years there’s been a focus on sort of building these almost hyper partisan communities – effectively politically motivated communities to organize protests and organize various events and come down to London and do the big stuff – but if you look at the resource which has been thrown in to all of those things, many of which were doomed and destined to fail and obviously so, there could have been a reallocation of resource to other places which would have been much more productive. And this is a conversation I’ve had with people over the last couple of years. And it got to the point where if I’m honest, I just got really frustrated with it because instead of spending a million quid on advertising for xy&z ads or projects, or going out and crowdfunding a huge spaff up the wall exercise – the prosecuting Boris Johnson or something like that – that money if it had been put aside and it actually been put to a better use. To engaging parts of the community that need protected to engage with the community which is not focused on Brexit – that are not focused on how many times you go down to London waving an EU flag and saying you want things to go back to how it was. It’s not going to happen. However, if we’d been actually physically helping within those communities, we’d get to a point now where it’s easier to influence change.

We can start with a fresh understanding of it. And the fresh understanding that what has happened this last four years is completely lost is gone is done. There are a lot of opportunities to do things differently. There’s no point dwelling on that. What counts is that you start afresh and you move forwards and you work out what is going to work.

As someone external to politics, I’ve been looking at that for the last few years and just screaming and facepalming and wondering what the hell it’s all about. I never understood it. I didn’t understand the whole cult of personality thing that happened. I’m far from alone in that and the results of that general election that we had in December were because it was really, really easy to highlight that and say to people, look, this is really, really weird. Can you vote for that? The majority of people, they won’t vote for weird, they’re not that fussed on it. What they’re interested in is the stuff which the Conservatives did very well. And it wasn’t Facebook advertising. It wasn’t Twitter. It wasn’t all the news headlines. What they what they got right. The Conservatives went and spent several million pounds on advertising through third party ad services. And what they were doing was they were advertising to the male demographic in a private place where it was never going to be interfered with and never going to admit that it had seen or agreed with a conservative advert. The other thing they did, which was really, really clever is they harnessed basic social mechanics, because if you can persuade a hairdresser, of which there are a limited number, and you know that hairdressers will cut 20 to 30 heads of hair a day, you can convince a hell of a lot of people because they take their talking points to work. And they’ll go through a routine all day, every day.

And this is one of the big things people have been caught and trapped, almost instant belief that because social media was the whole answer, in fact, isn’t. It’s a piece of it. But what the important thing to do is actually, when you’re building your communities, go and work out who your contact points are who can exponentially expand what you want to say beyond your own boundaries. So go make friends with hairdressers go and make friends with pub landlords and get to the point where you don’t need Google banner ads to go out and reach guys on Pornhub because you’ve got a landlord doing the talking points for you down the pub, go and have influential conversations with influencers, but don’t restrict your view on that to influence as being this thing, which only exists on Instagram. Because it’s not true. It’s not true in any way, shape, or form. And what you’ll find, if you start with your own personal resilience and your capability to go and help people, and you then get introduced to friends of friends of friends, those influencers will become clear to you. N that we can reverse a thing which is irreversible. That’s and it’s important to be frank with you. It’s a waste of your time. It’s a waste of your effort and resources. It’s not a bad thing to say that it’s not a bad thing to admit. But it’s time to move on. And it’s time to actually start looking at the future.

The future is going to be a mess. Again, this is another important thing that people need to sort of acknowledge and be used to by now. We will face problems with climate, we will face problems with shifting boundaries in society. We are going to see increasing problems of hate speech and the overspill of stuff that happens online. But we’re going to see less and less and less of the foreign influence stuff, because it doesn’t need to happen anymore. Because when you break a society and you drive enough wedges into it, there is no point wasting your time or effort on external influence operations, because the society will eat itself. And there’s nobody in Britain at the minute putting the brakes on. If you look, say for example, some of the stuff which has happened in the pro-European community around Boris Johnson since he was elected, some of this become really, really toxic. We’ve reached the point where people have, or a segment of people, allegedly on the right side of this big debate, have convinced themselves that Boris Johnson’s baby is fake. And Boris Johnson never had COVID-19. These things are counterproductive, horrible, and the antithesis of everything that this whole collective was supposed to be about. It was supposed to be about a positive future, supposed to be about positive economy. We’ve ended up trapped in this loop of just hate hate, hate, Attack, attack, attack and the whole time. It’s becoming an ever smaller sort of echo chamber and self restricting and self restricting and self restricting and eventually it will just disappear and it will be marginalized and sidelined. But the problem that you get with that is taint. Because if there is a vile and overtly violent, easily findable and easily identifiable part of your movement, or something that you are connected to, which is visibly deranged, and horrible and abnormal and then you’re talking about the same issues, it’s very, very easy for you to be tarred with the same brush. And that should give everyone a pause for thought. Because for a long time, people were talking about people who voted leave in exactly the same way. There was a fringe, a vile fringe of people and exaggerated, horrible, awful group of people who were terrible and said terrible things about immigrants and everything else, but they weren’t in majority.

Is there any chance to save the UK? Is question one, which is big. I think it’s more of a question of is it worth saving? To be honest. Because is the collection of nations as it was still relevant? Is it still functional? Does it still serve the interests of everyone involved in it? I think if we were to be honest, the answer is probably no. I think, again, COVID has drawn some pretty distinct lines under things which work and highlighted things which don’t. Scotland has performed remarkably well, and continues to England has performed horribly, but this this has sort of left us with this messy reporting in particular around the BBC, where you’ll sort of see their reporting lockdown restrictions that aren’t being used in England. And that would be the headline, but then the detail piece which comes behind it is the announcements of all the lockdown restrictions being eased in Wales and Scotland. So people are taking away mixed messages. It’s a small wonder that people have been piling up on the beaches and not wearing masks and going and getting absolutely trollied in pubs and all the other things that they’ve been doing the whole while, with the English government saying no, no, it’s all under control is all fine. And you can sort of see the silent scream on all of our faces. It’s not just is it? It’s not been fine the whole way through. It’s been schizophrenic at best. Save the UK? Why? I think when you get to the point where something is so toxic and dysfunctional that it’s clearly not the right thing for the parties involved to be involved in, like a bad marriage, it’s time for a divorce. To renegotiate what that relationship is going to look like after is, it’s too late to save it, but it’s not too late to change it. And change is actually a good thing. We’ve held on to these raggedy false memories of when Britannia rules the waves when we were out robbing things from other countries and enslaving other populations for many, many years now, and we just have to grow up. Our place in the world is not that. We aren’t going to sit at the throne, like we once did. We’re a small island nation who imports more than we produce. We’re quite good at war, but even that’s on the wane, especially seeing as war has changed around us and we haven’t even recognized it. We just will not be top table and think we just need to have a word with ourselves before engage with the rest of the world anymore.

Somebody has asked about practical things to counter the rise of the prevalence of the far right in particular, where they’re sort of radicalizing males under 25. That’s tricky. You’ve got the official channels of doing it. So you’ve got prevent, as a strand of, of government strategy. It’s not, it’s not great. It’s never been great. I’ve delivered it as a neighborhood sergeant, I’ve done sort of the operation channel interventions. And at the same time, I worked in the school for a little bit after I left the place and I’ve seen how prevent training is delivered to teachers. It’s not a functional system is not a functional mechanism. I think one of the important things that we could all potentially look at, is using our collective intelligence and spare time to dig out the information that we actually know on how people are radicalized. Where they’re radicalized in the UK. What demographics are most vulnerable to far-right narratives and geographically where they live, and go out and find the charities that are already doing the work that prevent doesn’t do. It’s not something that we need to replicate. But if we have an informed view on it, and intelligence assessment of what the scale of the problem is, and actually who needs our help, then we can go and do productive stuff just by supporting things that are already happening. We don’t need to go out and get a bus. We don’t need to go and design a load of placards. There will be a charity somewhere in Bedford that is dealing with men aged between 18 and 25. Who are being radicalized by far-right narratives. Go find them. Go help.Then you will find the same across the country. If you have a local school, which is running after school clubs on a voluntary basis, or sports clubs or boxing clubs or any kind of diversionary activity, which is keeping kids away from violent crime away from being victims of crime away from drugs, support it. Make it your business to know what’s going on in your local area. You don’t need to go down there you don’t need to interfere. But you can spread the word about things, it costs you nothing. That’s what your social media is for. Share. That’s actually just massively positive, but simple things which are local to you and again, comes back to community and is meaningful. It is much more meaningful to go out and do something like that than it is to spend 100 quid on return train tickets and go and wave the flag in London for two hours to be ignored by government. 100 quid could be put to use. And I keep saying it, but it’s true. It’s diversion of resources from practical things that you can do. In that two hours, you could have gone and volunteered at a kid’s Boxing Club. That’s just the train ride.

Think about that stuff. That’s how you connect with the community, the people that you feel distant from who also feel distant from you.

Because you have disposable income, because you’re mobile, because you can make decisions about where you go. You can go out. Not everyone has that luxury. It is a precious precious thing. And I think people forget that sometimes. Which is a shame, because part of the whole joke of the Metropolitan liberal elite argument. It’s just about highlighting the fact that there are people who are poorer than you and their one chance to flip it on its head was their vote.The people who have become famous in activism groups are privileged enough to have already been able to influence the world around them. That’s the reality. If you want to go and influence people, they’re the people you need to go reach out to. You need to reach beyond social standing or beyond your own social group, you have to do that. You can’t just draw a line around yourselves and go, we are precious because we believe this. Because how are you going to influence? You just sound pompous. A lot like some of the people you don’t want to sound like. There are dismissive behavior patterns and even within that there are degrees of privilege which have impacted people’s ability to achieve things. You can step away from it, don’t be part of it. You’re all better than this. I know you’re all better than this.

Next question someone’s asked is how do we communicate effectively when facts don’t work, and I’m paraphrasing. I’ll deal with this straight in business because I don’t need to speculate on it. If you if you go and approach online campaigning as if you’re writing an academic essay is not going to work – too many words. You’ve got the attention of people on Twitter for 10 seconds if they read your tweet and for less than a second if it’s flashing past. So if you’re designing a memes to sit in a timeline, you’ve got a maximum of 10 words. That has to be broken down in certain structures as well. So you have an imperative instruction, you’ve got three words  on subject, then you have your imperative instruction, which has to be the rest of the words. What you want people to see has to be something which will register with them partially and come back to them as a natural thought later on. That’s how that stuff works. That’s why scrolling works. That’s why the design of memes is important. Go away and look at the stuff that the AfD do in Germany, go away and look at the stuff that the PiS do in Poland. Go away. Look at the stuff by Vox in Spain. That stuff resonates with people because it comes back as natural thoughts. And the reason it does is because it’s all designed in the same way, subject, imperative, you’re not asking people to have a thought you’re not giving people a large amount of information to digest you are telling them what to think about a subject. That is how flash past works. And you can do that with facts. You can tell them what to think about a fact. If you’re gonna make a video, which is about facts you’ve got no more than 30 seconds, preferably 10 to impart a huge amount of information on someone. So you have to take that information, you have to break it down into different sets of data, which can represent different things. So part of it needs to be visual part of it needs to be sound, the very, very smallest piece of it needs to be words. It will work and it does work. And you can actually start to change conversations like that. You need to sit down at the start of your week, you need to have your long term campaign objective designed out, you need to have your week’s campaign objective designed out you need to have your daily objective designed and mapped out, you need to have all of your content designed ready to rock and roll and sheduled the night before.

Twitter is largely anonymous is geographically disconnected. So there is less trust capital. It moves faster and is very, very good for sharing information. But it’s not very, very good at generating real world outcomes. Facebook is on the other hand, and the reason it works and the reason people should stop saying they’re going to delete it is: it’s the most influential person because the entire premise of it is trust capital. The oldest sales technique in the book. Your networks on Facebook are built from real people that you know. So, to a degree trust is pre existent. And that’s why it is highly functional. The other things which work slightly differently on Facebook, because it’s less anonymized, you can be more personal. You can tell a personal story, you can draw things out a little bit longer, but not too much. You can tell compelling stories in slightly different ways.

How to organize and be effective and eventually influence an election? We know how to organize. Get your own house in order first, you make sure that you’re resilient so that you can help other people and when you can help other people, you make sure that you’re building your community. When you’re building your community, you make sure that you’re making the right correct connections with people who can influence others. You make yourself viral. You go out and do good things collectively and what you’ll find at a local level is the different things matter. Like the big nebulous concepts of Brexit and trade arrangements, 90% of people don’t give a crap about any of that stuff. What they care about is, can we get to the end of the month on the pay that I’ve got? Will I be able to pay my bills? Will I be able to go out yes or no? And for many, many people, that’s life. That’s the entirety of life. Actually start having conversations, find out what the things are that each of you are good at. That each of you care about and are knowledgeable about. That each of you are willing to do. Because this is this is the other thing people forget all the time.Everyone makes assumptions about what other people are willing to do, about what they will do, or what they’ll do when no one’s looking. Just actually get to know each other be people. You aren’t little faces in a computer. It’s very, very easy to become reality detached through this life online that we’re all leading. Some of the pile-on stuff that goes on on Twitter is because people are dehumanized. Actually go back to being to being real.There are people on there that are absolutely horrific human beings but at least they’re being themselves. Just be real people. Go and do real things. Embrace yourself and go and do what it is that makes you feel like you’re doing something. That’s how you end up influencing the election. That’s how you end up building this soft power that I talked about at the very beginning.

There’s nothing in the world that you can fix by going and being a real person. And it’s time for a lot of the pretense and privilege in the sort of false bravado which is built up just to just to go. It’s time for everyone to decide what kind of country they would like. And I think most people would want it to be tolerant. I think most people would want it to be cooperative. I think most people would want to see it, be friendlier. And that actually starts with each and every one of us.It would be it would be really, really easy. If you were if you were cynical, and if you were cruel hearted, to look at the landscape as it is, and to start consolidating and growing power. That would be really, really simple. People are crying out for leadership on both sides of the debate. People are crying out for some semblance of, of normality and shared values. But the person that steps up to do that is going to be the one person that you should run away from. That’s the fundamental facts of life. We’ve got a long standing agreement in this house that the day I say that I want power is the day that I’m not allowed. And that’s mainly because no one should have ultimate power over other people.

There’s all this like safety in groups and good sides and bad sides and stuff like that. We live in a great big grey area. The reason that the last few years have been so, so incredibly difficult for everyone is because it’s just been driving wedges. everywhere where there’s a crack in society and the cracks between us and someone has been hitting that wedge with a hammer until it got further and further apart, and the further and further apart we’ve become the harder and harder it becomes to have a rational conversation. And actually, you can see that that’s impacted the way that our political parties behave and perform as well. And if you look, if you look at the way that’s now reflected in people’s patterns of behavior. Like the government response to COVID-19 is far from perfect but the way that the general public responded to them in the big polling, and the little polling, is telling you that they would rather blame each other than they would blame the government for the failed COVID response. And it’s also telling you that they would rather that they would still rather vote for this government than anybody else. And that’s because those wedges have been driven so hard and so deep, that there is no consensus anymore. It’s just this festival of blame and distance from responsibility. We actually go must out and do the stuff which is reconnecting with people that we think might be evil monsters, and then working out that we have 20 points in common, and once you have those tiny points in common, everything starts to normalize. And those extremes start to damp down again. And eventually, by doing that, we’ll be able to have rational conversations about politics again. Until we’ve taken some of the wedge out and patched up those cracks, we can’t have the big conversations because it’s just going to lead us to the same place. And the same place is that the current government is the lesser of all evils of the current moment. And that’s how people perceive it. They know what they’re getting, they know that they’re going to get fucked. And sometimes it’s better to understand that the person standing right in front of you is going to be the one that’s going to stab you – and you know exactly where the knife will go and you know exactly what injury is going to cause – than it is to take a punt on a person that you don’t know quite what weapon they’re going to attack you with, or how they’re going to hurt you or how much it’s going to hurt or if it’s going to be worse or better. There is no frame of reference for alternative politics and we still don’t have a functioning opposition. Because everyone else was fucking around to the last election tried to solve Brexit by first voting for the Lib Dems, which was just ludicrous. And then at the last minute, cutting a nose off to spite the face and pumping everything into voting for labour. It was just an absolute chaotic waste of everything, for no reason. And it’s all because the politics and politicians are substandard. And that’s not a that’s not a thing that we can fix. It’s not a thing we should be trying to fix until we go out and stabilize society a little bit and act to build our communities, and unpick some of the damage and build relationships, which mean that we can talk to, we can talk to people with vastly different degrees of our own and not come to blows or not come to ridiculous online exchange and it not come to anything like that. Then the next time we have have an election, those conversations are going to be easier, we will actually be able to start to find genuine consensus, which doesn’t involve us all running around being led by the nose ring of people who are telling us that we have to vote tactically in order to achieve one thing. It’s absolute bullshit. Vote with your conscience vote with your heart. Do not be part of some ridiculous crowd. All of that stuff leads you up the garden path it – led you up the garden path the last election you were being given some bonkers advice about where to put your vote at a basic constituency level. A lot of that tactical voting stuff completely unpicked, easily winnable seats. And it’s all because people wouldn’t listen, because there were these privilege arguments going on in the background as well, which meant that certain people’s voices were more valuable than others even despite the fact they were effing well wrong. And that’s something which people need to address individually as well.

My Nan used to say “get your ears pinned back.” And that’s actually something that people do need to do a little bit. The last few years should have acted as a slap in the face. Not everything that you think will work, will work just because it looks like a reflection of you. That’s the hundred percent truth. Something everyone needs to take on the chin. Go away, have a think, go play nicely, make friends with each other, actually go and connect and just go and be people. That’s the most that you need to do now as your homework. Go be yourselves. You’re actually all right.

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