Saturday, 28 March 2009

Not the first clue...

Tens of thousands are marching through London today, protesting at the G20 on poverty, climate change, and jobs. All that they lack now is a clear idea of how to go about achieving these worthy aims.

One mass-produced sign handed out to people said “Jobs not bombs.” Forgive me if I am misunderstanding this, but in what way is that not utterly ludicrous? For a start, the two are not opposite ends of the same scale. No bombs does not, and has never, equated to more jobs. In fact, ironically, the two often go hand in hand. A while ago I wrote a piece saying that the BAE, with whom the University of York have now cut funding ties, are economically beneficial for those who associate with them, and provide thousands of jobs for families in all areas of employment. This fact remains.

In what way, therefore, will cutting bombs increase jobs, (and vice versa)? The sign is ridiculous and incoherent. It will probably fit right in with the thronged masses who are marching, as I type, through London with the united demand to change the world by doing…erm…


  1. FYI:

  2. Thank you for this. However, it does not change my point about the sign: 'Bombs for jobs' is still a rediculous and non-sensical slogan.

    Furthermore, even at the report's lowest prediction, the arms industry still employs 200,000 people.

  3. Not at all - cutting direct and indirect subsidies to arms companies would result in a net creation of thousands of jobs. This is to say nothing, of course, of the number of jobs which could be created with the tens of billions of pounds spent on renewing Trident, for example.

    Leaving aside the question of whether this would be a good move in terms of national security (and I think it would be), "Jobs not Bombs" seems to me to be a completely coherent message.

    This is Alex C-D from Habs by the way - you're all over my Facebook so I thought I'd have a read...

  4. This article is a logical reaction to such an ignorant slogan. The only way 'jobs not bombs' could be achieved is by expanding an already bloated public sector. The problem with that of course is the fact that the public sector is wholly unproductive and would only exacerbate current difficulties. Furthermore, a reduction of investment in the arms trade would lead to the loss of far more productive and long term jobs. The slogan thus seems to fuse together two very different and conflicting demands and is at best counterproductive.

  5. Sorry to be picky old chap but its 'vice versa'.

    Agreed though, ludicrous sign.

  6. The sign said "Bombs not jobs", not "bombs for jobs".
    Why does the slogan have to mean two different ends of the same "scale"? Why can't the slogan be calling for greater investments in industries that have been hit hard by the current recession? With staff being laid off in many car manufacturing plants, and many more workers being forced to take heavy reductions in wages and hours worked, what is the problem with investing in shoring up these industries?

    All you've done in this article is throw names around. Granted, BAE provides jobs in many sectors, but with so many jobs being lost in so many different areas of the economy, not just in manufacturing, what is the harm in reducing the amount given to one industry to relieve others?

  7. Anon,

    Sorry; I meant to write 'jobs not bombs' in my response, as it says in the original post.

  8. Do you think it is justified to call tens of thousands of protesters 'clueless', using the excuse of a sign that did not properly explain how to deal with an economic recession successfully?

    And given your disdain for protesting, what would you say is a more effective way to get a message across to a government?

  9. The sign didn't just not explain how to deal with the recession, it made an assertion that defies logic and sense. 'Bombs for jobs' is not a trade that initially springs to mind.

    A petition with sound argument and reasonable judgement sent to the government and backed up by rational debate would have more effect. Megaphone-wielders seldom carry these traits (for the record, I believe Freddy Vanson is a notable exception).... Read more

    Finally, if a crowd can be whipped up this easily, then they will be just as easily pacified by half-promises. People will lose interest. The G20 will end, the protesters will go home, and (the vast majority of them) will have no further involvement. Until the next meeting of world leaders on British soil, that is.

    Thanks for your comment.



  10. The question is not whether this particular sign was sensible and logical. The fact of the matter is that you are yourself making a giant logical misstep when you are just taking one sign (stupid as it may be) and use it as your main argument as to why 35,000 people 'do not have a clue' and should just shut up and go home. This was just a ... Read moregroundless assertion, and a rather patronising one too.

    As for your alternative: petitioning can only get you that far and it can be even more easily ignored. In truth, there is no form of popular protest more powerful than a demonstration - especially if you take the media attention into account. And in itself, this protest is (clearly) sparking debate.

    The main purpose of this demonstration is to send a message to the G20 - protect working rights and create a new engine of growth around the concept of green development. This is probably the most important issue of our generation, and people can't be swayed so easily or just lose interest in it.

  11. At no time do I tell them to go home. That would be seeking to restrict their right to free speech, and I would never do that. Furthermore, I did not say who the "not the first clue" was directed at. That particular statement is in reference to the people who were making and distributing the signs in question. I was merely taking it as an example.

    I think you will find that many protests go hand in hand with effective and well-reasoned government lobbying. Again, I'm not saying these aren't necessarily backed up by that, but merely on the surface (from what I saw on the BBC anyway) there appeared to be little else as well, certainly in the early reports of the protests, which is when I wrote the post.

  12. Peter although you may not be intending to, your stance is encouraging apathy, which amongst other things is deeply depressing. George you touched on the point about the media. A protest will always trump a petition when it comes to press coverage. A piece of paper with a load of signatures can hardly produce pictures ... Read morelike a crowd of several thousand. Protests (peaceful I must add) are the best way to manipulate the media into increased coverage and generate further debate. The coverage and debate has a knock on effect and will is some small way give a nudge to politicians and those who wield the power. Even if that nudge just means they have to face more questioning on the subject. ‘Rational debate’ on your terms Peter would leave it all in the lecture theatres and on the bar stools.
    That's my 2p worth.

  13. I don't think in any way I have encouraged apathy. Nor have I said protests are bad, and I don't diffute your point on the media coverage of protests.

    What I said was that the sign was ludicrous, and that there was a serious need for an informed debate as to the application of the demands.

    Petitions AND protests can only go so far to force governmental response. There is a theory that says that media will only change the minds of government when there is already a dissensus amongst the ruling elite, and when the rational debate is already happening within the government. The debate itself still needs to happen.... Read more

    The protest will no doubt bring the issues raised to government attention, but if the only argument offered is 'jobs not bombs', then the demands made will not be taken as seriously as they would if they were backed up with reasoned and well founded arguments.

  14. Do you not think 35000 people marching in London will not bring notice to the "ruling elite"?

    "The protest will no doubt bring the issues raised to government attention". The entire point of the protest, surely?

    The only argument offered is not "jobs not bombs", that is one sign among a myriad of placards. You have taken an overly simplistic view of the protest, and declared the sign incoherent as you do not agree with it. It's a sign, not a manifesto. A sign in a protest is designed to draw attention and be memorable to those that see it, and reasoned debate could stem from this.

    "Finally, if a crowd can be whipped up this easily, then they will be just as easily pacified by half-promises."

    If a crowd can be whipped up this easily? That's ridiculous. These people have gone out to protest something, to voice their opinion to their elected government and the visiting world leaders. This isn't just someone going around and dragging people out because they are curious, these are people who have a real interest.
    "I think you will find that many protests go hand in hand with effective and well-reasoned government lobbying."
    Why can't this protest be one of those that go hand in hand with lobbying? You are criticising this protest because you don't like it, not because it is wrong in any way.

  15. Anon,

    Thanks for your comment. I think you will find that it takes more than just sheer volume of people to make something happen – take Live 8 for example. How much realistically has changed since?

    Also, if the G20 are meeting, do you not think they will have already decided on an agenda? Do you think that they realised about the issues; “oops, we left climate change off the discussions – better add it quick!”

    The governments are already well aware of the three issues raised – climate change, jobs, and ‘justice for the poor’ (whatever that actually means).

    I declared the sign incoherent, because the sign IS incoherent. The immediate implication given by it is that they are treating the two as exchangeable! Also, with regards to a policy of ‘more jobs, less bombs’, you will not find a reasonable human being who would not agree with that statement.

    You are a little quick to judge my opinions – I have at no point said that I don’t support what the protesters are demanding – tackle climate change, create more jobs, and be more ethical towards the third world. I agree with all of those.

    In the Civil Rights marches of America, the participants carried signs saying “we march for effective civil rights NOW” and “we march for jobs for all NOW”. That sends a clear message of the SPECIFIC desires of the protesters. “Jobs not bombs” just doesn’t.

    On your point about the crowd, are they really going to throw another demonstration after the G20 if a sufficient agreement is not reached? How many people in the crowd will be appeased when told “we are dealing with the issue”, or those fateful words “I hear what you say.”

    The group are not even united in their message. From the BBC:

    “Italian trade unionist Nicoli Nicolosi, who had travelled from Rome, said: "We are here to try and make a better world and protest against the G20."”

    I’m sorry, to protest against the G20? Protest against the existence of the countries themselves, or against the mandates of the governments involved, or against the fact that the combined leadership have got together and met to try and resolve issues to attempt to create a better world?

    Finally, I didn’t say that there wasn’t lobbying behind the march – with 150 charities involved, it would be a mass failure of their mandate if not one of them lobbied the government over their issue!

    I did not, at any point, say I did not like the protest – I merely said that this sign was ridiculous, and that the message of the protest was unclear in its aims.

    Again, many thanks for your comment, but I think you have misunderstood what I said.



  16. I apologise if I misunderstood your stance on the protestors and their agenda.

    You've taken a simplistic view of all of this. "are they really going to throw another demonstration after the G20 if a sufficient agreement is not reached?" Probably, yes. That's fairly obvious. Do you think this is the first protest? What about the protests at the G8 meeting? The aims of some protestors may be different, but these protests happen again and again. Additionally, how can you acknowledge the fact that there are 150 charities and 35000 protestors and then criticise them for not having a "united message"? That makes no sense whatsoever.

    How much has realistically changed since Live 8? The complete cancellation of the poorest African countries' debt to the IMF and other lenders is a fair change, for a start. The members of the G8 may be moving slower than they said, but any change is a positive one, and to claim that nothing has "realistically" changed is nonsense. The government published updates on how far it was coming in terms of reaching the goals set, even when these statistics showed shortcomings. How is that not showing willingness to commit? In terms of awareness, 3 billion people saw Live 8. 3 BILLION.

    The message is completely clear on the placard. "Jobs not bombs" at an economic summit will probably be referring to increased spending on saving jobs across the country instead of defence spending. Because its aims are not stated in the format of "We", it doesn't have any specific desires? Because it's laid out as a little slogan, the message isn't clear?

    You've misunderstood the point behind the posters and signs, you've misunderstood the nature of the marches and you've misunderstood the people involved. How many people who have taken their day to protest against whatever they want to protest against are going to be turned away by someone saying "I hear what you say"? That's ridiculous. These protests follow on from the protests at the G8, so I don't think people have just walked away from the issue at hand. Live 8 followed on from Live Aid, which was in 1985. That's 20 years that that campaign had been pushing forwards and applying pressure, and still is now. Doesn't sound like people are just taking soothing responses and leaving to me.

  17. There are some more than questionable points you have brought up.

    You acknowledge that there are 150+ charities and 35000 people, but criticise them for not having a "united message"? The protest was not a spontaneous reaction to something, it was 150+ groups planning their actions to coincide with an important and notable meeting.

    This article shows just a few of the organisations and their aims.

    "I think you will find that it takes more than just sheer volume of people to make something happen – take Live 8 for example. How much realistically has changed since?"

    Looking at Live 8, I think we can consider the complete cancellation of the poorest African nations' debt to the IMF and other lenders as a change. The government also published monthly updates on what they were doing to meet the promises laid out at the G8 meeting. These choices may well have been on the world leaders' minds at the time, but Live 8 drove them forward, brought it to a higher level of public notice and has continued to put pressure on. The G8 may not have met their aims, but they are still continuing towards them. Surely any improvement is a benefit. I think that would come under the heading of "realistic" change, wouldn't you?

    Many of the organisations involved were unions and charities. Do you really think they will just walk away after some soothing words? The entire point of the existence of most of those charities is to push these causes that they are protesting for. I don't really think that they will just walk away.

    "Also, if the G20 are meeting, do you not think they will have already decided on an agenda? Do you think that they realised about the issues; “oops, we left climate change off the discussions – better add it quick!”"

    No, I think there is an agenda, but I think showing opinion and protesting adds pressure. Ed Miliband, the Climate Change Secretary, met the campaigners before the march started. That shows that the protest isn't reminding the government that they have forgotten poverty, the environment and whatever else, it is reminding them that people hold these issues as very important.

    Read up on the protest, and then see if your prior criticisms are still fair or logical. Looking at some of what you have said, you clearly have not looked at it properly at all.

  18. I think both Mr Campbell and the sign are incorrect. It is a fallacy to say that spending on defence things like bombs and tanks will 'create' jobs. Of course, if you only look at one side of the coin- the benefits, you will not get the full picture. But of course the cost of things like bombs has to come form somewhere. That somewhere is taxpayer money, which if it weren't being spent on foreign adventurism would be being spent on something else that people actually want.

    This is the broken windows fallacy- the idea that breaking a shop window will 'create jobs' by making work for the glazier. In fact it just means that the shop owner spends his money where he did not want to. The ludicrousness of the idea can be seen in the fact that it endorses wholesale breaking of windows to 'create jobs'.

    There is of course the argument that defnce does provide a service that would not otherwise have been provided by people's own spending, and that is true of course. But where defence money is spent on wars and state building and adventurism in foreign climes, there is certainly no economic benefit.

    so at the end of this long message, basically defence spending does not create jobs.

  19. By the way, I do think that in this light the sign actually makes sense. But I very much doubt that the protestors had in mind the opportunity cost of spending on bombs. I reckon the protestor's demand is for the money to be spent on large scale public works jobs and make-work programs and so forth. Accordingly, they are subject to the same critique as above.