Tag Archives: Facebook

Why Shoe-Throwing Hordes Should Back Off Blair

I was against the Iraq war from the very start.  Back in college a friend and I won a debate arguing against the war (see page 6 of the link).   As a European transplant in the United States, I protested the war as it began.  I remember waving a provocative anti-war sign in heavily Republican St Joseph, Mich. I counted a personal victory the time a driver gave me and my friends the finger as well as when one incensed local decided to make a countering “Saddam’s Convenient Idiots” sign and drive slowly past my band of protesters.  The decision to invade Iraq cemented my dislike for and lack of confidence in George Bush.  But the same could not be said about my feelings towards Tony Blair. To me, Blair had made a horrible mistake but was not the war criminal and failed leader that he was accused of being.

With the exception of the Iraq debacle, however monumental, Blair was an absolutely brilliant politician. I was in the UK and had just finished high school when he came into power in ’97.  I remember the jubilation and his undisputed popularity.  He was hot stuff. He oversaw a very prosperous near-decade in the UK; the sun-setting of the worst of IRA violence in Northern Ireland and had the powers of leadership and communication that saw Presidents Clinton (Monica Lewinsky) and Bush (any time he needed to sound coherent) scrambling to have him at their side, adding credibility to their voices as only he could.

Electorates, no matter where they are, are very fickle and Blair’s merits were lost sight of as the Iraq war dominated conversation for much of the last decade.  The latest evidence that the public cannot bring itself to focus on anything Blair-related but the war is the drama surrounding the release of his memoirs “A Journey:  My Political Life”.  His released his book in Ireland to a reception that included shoe and egg throwing.  The latest fad?  If you want to declare Blair a war criminal and are simply missing the political fire power to pull it off, you can join the Subversively move Tony Blair’s memoirs to the crime section in book shops group on Facebook.  The group has over 12000 members and if you are bored and narrow-minded enough, you too can join its blinkered, army of Facebook crusaders.

Here’s why it is ridiculous to be so hard on Blair though:  In stark contrast with Bush’s record that resulted in few achievements of any importance other than the war, Blair not only brought peace to Northern Ireland but is also focused on – and actively involved in shaping – the future in the Middle East.  Look at the way he talked about the 2008 election:  “Barack [Obama] was the supreme master of realism, cautioning an approach based on reaching out, arriving at compromises and striking deals to reduce tension.” (Christiane Amanpour – ABC)  Blair has been very supportive of Obama’s Middle East policies, especially praising him for, right from the very start or his presidency, seeking resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Blair’s work in the Middle East since stepping down as British Prime Minister is evidence of his ability to put the past behind him and make progress in the most tumultuous region on the planet.   Bush so far has stuck to Texas-ranch-bound work on his memoir.  Blair’s work as Middle East quartet representative (for USA, the UN, Russia and the EU) shows that he cares about progress even when the spotlight has shifted from him.  What worked in Northern Ireland was a consistent, purposeful approach to tackling the terror, the violence and the underlying politics.  Blair’s focus on the Middle East and the partner he has in the Obama administration present some of the best chances yet for successful mediation in the region.  The recently renewed talks between Israel and Palestine are a good sign, as is the fact that Israel is hinting that it is entertaining the idea of ceding control of parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority.  Blair’s interest in and involvement in this process may well ease the overly harsh view the public currently has of him.

Blair is remarkably honest in how he looks at his years in power (despite the fact that there was that time when a Google search on the word “liar” would turn up his name as the first result).  As he talked about his new autobiography he said: “The whole point about the book is that it’s a journey. The journey is that I started as a politician that wanted to please all of the people all of the time… By the end I was wondering if I was pleasing any of the people any of the time.”  And that is politics.  It trashes even the brightest of stars.  But Blair is back, he’s staying relevant and he knows the journey isn’t over.

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Bjorn Karlman

Pulling the plug on (communication with) grandma

love in any language
love in any language

This summer ultra right-wing spin masters crisscrossed the US, spouting sensationalist garbage about Obama’s healthcare plan and organizing America’s lunatic fringe for circus-style mayhem at Town Hall meetings. One of the more charming claims made was that somehow healthcare reform was going to allow the government to “pull the plug on grandma.” Sen. Chuck Grassley, who first made the comment regarding the government’s potential future role in end-of-life decisions, later retracted it. But like Joe the Plumber, the expression stuck around. The mention of grandparents struck an emotional cord with people. We want them around. But as much as we value older family members it seems that most of us do precious little in the way of communicating with them. What’s to blame? Busy schedules? Misaligned priorities? Or is the real evil… social media?

I typed in one simple question into my Facebook status today: “Are your parents on Facebook?” Comments ranged from “my parents are old school eastern Euros…they type with one finger…so your answer is no” to “Mum is a super user… AND my 80 yr old grandmother!” I got 23 comments total.

The general trend was surprising to me: Most of my friends had at least one parent that was on Facebook even if they were subscribed, as one person put it, “only as a lurker.” Keep in mind that most of the respondents were in their late 20s or 30s and had parents that are or are pushing, grandma age.

Facebook reported this year that the fastest growing demographic of users was over 35 (http://bit.ly/7CMGd). Even more significantly, the fastest growing subset of this larger group of people over 35 is women over 55 (http://bit.ly/173ReU). That’s right, grandma has invaded Facebook. Trends such as these may be part of the reason one of my friends’ responses was, “My dad is (on Facebook) and he keeps trying to friend my friends. I will not friend him. You have to draw the line somewhere!”

LifeTips blogger Jamison Cush said, “Conventional teen wisdom: once your parents embrace something, it is no longer cool. So, inspired by a recent Facebook friend request from my mother, I am boldly declaring on this blog that Facebook is so over.” This kind of logic may be indulged for comic effect, but there is truth to it. As much as I want to stay in touch with my retirement-age parents, I don’t want them sifting through my Vegas pictures. And I will think twice about social media that allows them to do so.

Is it just time to admit that cross-generational communication is a touchier area than we give it credit for? Trying to do what we’ve failed to do in face-to-face communication across an age gap isn’t going to get easier because grandma now knows how to post bingo pictures and, very disturbingly, friends your online buds that she finds attractive. You could try to remedy the issue through heart-to-hearts over hot chocolate.

Or maybe just beef up your privacy settings.

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Bjorn Karlman