The Conservative Party has launched a website called "Cash Gordon" ( http://cash-gordon.com/). Essentially, this site wanted to rouse up nostalgia for 1979 by creating a media storm about Trade Union finance of the Labour Party. In particular, Unite and Charly Wheelan come in for some sustained attention. The website claims it is a campaign on single issue. Realistically, this is intended to distance it from the the Conservative Party. A quick trawl over the site shows that the presentation is very much the same as a US Political Action Fund (PAC). This is the standard US Lobbyist technique for funding a party campaign without contributing directly to the Party.
The site is not just similar, but uncannily identical to a US website lobbying against carbon-trading legislation ( http://noenergytax.com/). This website is funded by oil giants such as Chevron and Exon Mobil. Another anti-healthcare website ( http://operationwaitinggame.com) that is currently not available, also bears huge similarities. What they have in common is the web platform ( http://act.ivi.st/) "activist". As created and managed by the David All Group ( http://www.davidallgroup.com/) company whose business address:
David All Group
1212 New York Ave.
NW, Suite 550
Washington, DC 20005
(p) (202) 289-8811
(f) (202) 289-8787
makes them of extreme interest as lobbyists. Indeed, they make no secret of their association with the Republican Party ( http://www.davidallgroup.com/about) or of their political agenda ( http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/lydia-dishman/all-your-business/fine-art-trust-makeover). Realisically, there is a question to ask about why a US agency is spending so much effort supporting Conservative Party efforts through such a campaign as Cash Gordon.
Anybody who has ever taken a look at US politics since Nixon will be aware of the Political Activist Campaign Funds (PACS). These are ways to channel money to a campaign, frequently through non financial "in kind" donations - such as time or expensive resources. Maybe even software. Or Tweets ( http://thehill.com/homenews/house/58351-wilson-hires-a-pro-to-tweet) which might not seem relevant to UK politics.
Until you discover how badly the act.iv.ist platform was set up for the Tories.
What the Tories are learning is what a lot of Indymedia people already know: the Internet is not your Private Army. Certainly, Anonymous know that. What the Tories did was create a website that feeds into Facebook and takes a feed from Twitter and gives "players" facebook connect points. The problem was their tweet feed was originally uncensored ( http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23cashgordon). This allowed all sorts of merry pranksters to play as they will. The Tories are blaming a whole range of pornographic links and, images and redirections on Labour party activists. The truth is, that Labour Party Activists would have done a good deal more damage than simply disrupting tweets. Anybody can tweet at #cashgordon. Anybody.
Given that the site is effectively a US Lobbyists efforts, there are serious questions about what they will get out of it. The site claims to be a response to the way Unite the Union has taken financial control of the Labour Party. Which makes such questions as, "who controls the Tories", fair game. It also makes questions about who is participating in the UK elections very fair game ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me2g5QQPiiQ and http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23cashgordon) and what their motives are.
While this all sounds like conspiracy theory nonsense, it is not. It is about participation. Many people on Indymedia do not have their views represented at all (anarchists spring immediately to mind) while others do not wish to have their views regarded as mainstream (anarchists again spring to mind) while others deserve their views being made understandable and unpenalised by the mainstream (anarchists again spring to mind). What is happening is not a conspiracy but the inevitable consequence of the Internet being international.
It is also a measure of how cynically entwined the Conservative Party is with Right Wing Politics. Not only Centre Right politics but the whole array of political movements from the EDL and BNP to the Banks that "place" reports with the BBC. Politicians repeat the mantra "lobbyists will be the next big scandal". What they should be saying is, "the tories want lobbyists to be a labour scandal". That would distract from the Tory lobbyists.
While we all obtain software from around the world, there is an obligation for political parties to obtain software that we can trust. That is to say, software of the highest standard that is open to scrutiny by the electorate. Any other quality of software - or software supply process - will inevitably create mistrust and questions about motives. The software that the electorate can trust is part of the public scrutiny of political life that politicians should know will happen. Indeed, the parties should be registering their software for licence purposes anyhow - it is not a far step to making that register a public record.
Which is all very well and good, but how does it affect radical activism? Well, if the tories win the next election there will be a profound return to the bully boy politics of Thatcherism. That, combined with the bully boy politics of New Labour, will heral the end of such open debate as Indymedia. Yes, Labour are not liked by many, and will end up making deep cuts in public services in order to shore up banking profits. The Tories will do exactly the same. Both parties have painted themselves into a corner by bailing out businesses that should have failed.
What differentiates the Tories from NuLabour is what else they will do. The CashGordon website signals a return for the tories to class war against those they can crush, humiliate and discard. Read the site, it nostalgically talks about Unite as "the new militant" and points out this person was a communist (a sop no doubt to American PAC Funders) . They are much more likely to follow a US inspired (or Republican dictated) agenda of ending all forms of welfare and indenturing anybody without some form of wealth.
That is how it affects radical activism: it returns class war in a new and much more effective form to politics. Having spent decades preaching the mantra of "individualism" the Tories (and the US Republicans) have a wide range of small groups that they can pick off. Each one picked off they can move on to the next. And all the time those small groups will be shouting about how they do not wish to be picked off instead of becoming one big group.
It happened in the US with the Obama campaign: all the small groups banded together behind a big issue. Currently the US is preparing for Mid Term Elections. Where better to test out new methods of propaganda than in an English Speaking Democracy during an Election? Where better to hone techniques of splitting the issues and dictating the agenda. Except it failed.
The cashbrown website is not the same website that was launched. The Tories are claiming it was bought down "labour activists". Funnily enough, the history of the tweets shows differently. The history of the tweets shows that it was a diverse number of people and reasons that shut it down. The Tories misjudged the Internet. What that shows for the diverse groups of the left is: being behind a single issue can work. It worked for Obama's election on the basis of healthcare. It can work to dicate a more democratic government enters parliament.
It is not a dead mainstream media story but a vital lesson in how those who will need to tolerate whatever government is elected can influence events.