Monday, April 04, 2011

Indie Rock & the NDP:: Reflections on 1992's "Rock the Vote"

Jason Collett quote from ApathyIsBoring

BSS members Brendan Canning and Jason Collett represented at NDP leader Jack Layton's unveiling of his plans to double the Canada and Québec pensions. Layton went on to say,
“It turns out even winning a Juno doesn’t guarantee a workplace pension.” 
I've always wondered what the landscape was for "celebrities and politics" here in Canada. I know that Sarah Polley supported the NDP and ex-Toronto mayor David Miller in the past, but was curious if there was an indie rock-politics connection. This interesting article goes into the rhetoric of the 1992 "Rock the Vote" campaign, a year that saw young voter turnout increase. The idea is far beyond a simple associative model of "I like X and X likes Y, so I should like Y too." The authors build a case that in 1992, an existing popular culture rhetorical form {the music video} can be used to foster new behaviours {voting}.
"The Rock the Vote campaign utilizes form as argument. This complements Marshall McLuhan's idea of the medium being the message. McLuhan (1964) argues that meaning resides not in the content of a message but rather in the medium the message uses. In MTV's Rock the Vote campaign, the form becomes the message."
Canning and Collett are pretty low key about their support of the NDP, advocating a more general civic engagement message. While some might say that there should be more of a hard sell, I don't think so. The youth audience is tricky to be "on code" with, i.e., being cool and worthy of following or identifying with.

I think tapping into typically apathetic young voters is a critical strategy for the NDP, in particular. The music video model that worked in 1992, well, that ship has sailed. Resonating with youth through their own creativity and having them share this via social media is a possible way to go. If influential NDP supporters in music and the arts can engage young voters in ways that's beyond overt political messaging and turn the youth loose in expressing themselves through identity creating efforts in music, graphics, video, mashups, etc., that are shared; the form will become the message. The idea is tapping into the next Shepard Fairey. Additionally, I think in order to prevent rampant cynicism and to capitalize on momentum, any resultant grass-rootsy engagement needs to be maintained—not dropped, like the Obama administration. It's pretty damning when the 2008 Obama campaign's lead blogger, Sam Graham-Felsen, wrote an op-ed in WaPo last December that Obama::
"has made it clear that, for the most part, his administration isn't seriously interested in deploying this massive grass-roots list -- which was once heralded as a force that could reshape politics as we know it -- to fight for sweeping legislative change. It's a shame."
Collett is no stranger to the NDP, who is seeing performing here in 2008 at an Ontario event::

Twitterversion:: [blog] NDP & @jacklayton supportd by Broken Social Scene, but how can music+the arts foster enduring political engagement? @Prof_K

1 comment:

linnyqat said...

Fucking hell I just left a huge-ass comment that Blogger ate.

Okay. I think it's a terrific idea to engage the youth vote this way. Social media has the potential to be so much more than just tweets and Likes on Facebook. With the advent of readily available digital hard and software, kids can express themselves with creativity and articulation and have the power to reach a mass market in a way they never could before. I am thinking, too, about the recent success of the "It Gets Better" campaign that encouraged scores of young people to compose their own video messages about bullying.

As for the NDP working with the music scene, I recall that in one of our recent federal elections, there was a fundraiser at Toronto's Phoenix club, headlined by the Barenaked Ladies. Price of admission was taking out membership in the NDP. Seemed a bit OTT to me, but hey, it's politics.

One last: I checked the comments on the Sun article. I didn't see anything about the surnames of the turfed teens. Maybe they got reported?

Great blog. I hope this story gets huge coverage. Off to check the Star to see if they've gotten wind of it yet!