I have problems with this campaign. As defined on their website, the "Unsubscribe" campaign is supposed to "...send out a clear message to the government that we will no longer tolerate the abuse of human rights in the name of 'the war on terror'. Most petitions ask you to sign up, we are asking to take your name off".



This short film is not powerful, it's boring. It feels commercial, artificial and composed. If you're going to show something that really happens in prison, don't say it's a performance, and shoot it to make it look believable, home-made and harsh. "This may offend viewers under 14". Heck - they've all seen James Bond naked on a chair getting his nuts whacked with a rope knot last summer. Next.

Next, I don't see how this effort "sends a clear message to the government". If there's anything, Teh Government is thinking "Oh, it's these people going at it again", with a sneer of discontempt hiding behind the kevlar of their indifference. This campaign is not sending a message to Teh Government, this campaign tries to be a people shocker. Again. I think we're thru with that -- we've seen it all. Unfortunately, we've become insensibilised.

While having little or no effect on Teh Governement, the campaign certainly succeeds in sending a clear message to people, though: spreading information can be a real hassle. I think they took every possibility of sharing things over the web, and made a website out of that. I think this is the first example I've ever seen where too much media came in the way of a good message.

And about the message: "unsubscribe"? Does Amnesty honestly think that the majority of us eats up the drivel that Teh Government feeds us with? Does Amnesty honestly think we're not informed and aware about what goes on? I know I wasn't "subscribed", for starters. And I truly don't see how "unsubscribing" or sharing my miscontentment with others will concretely help a political prisoner in the ultra-secret Alpha BaseX99 somewhere in the desert.

What I don't know is how Amnesty works. I see petitions, I see emails, I see photos of political prisoners and people suffering, I see a lot of turmoil and anger. But what mechanisms are behind the work that Amnesty is doing? How do they save people? Who's been saved? Is Amnesty something that actually works? Now *that* would be something I'd want to hear, and to share. Tell me how far can my actions go, tell me there is real potential in my participating. Tell me that my donations don't fall in the Black Hole of Funding, with extra No Reported Return On Investment on top. Because I don't know.

When does a Non-For-Profit Organization set simple, attainable goals for the public? Everything always seems *huge*, and there is always *so much to do*. Scary. The brilliant Kiva.org is the only organization I heard of that sets concrete, attainable goals and shows results. When does a Non-For-Profit Organization take the time to congratulate its supporters? I have yet to see the results of my giving or supporting. It's always "give-give-give, more-more-more".

Have they created Compulsive Humanitarian Capitalism?

When does a Non-For-Profit organization advertise the progress that has been done?Advertising is always about people-shocking strategies or kids with flies on their cheeks.

What Amnesty International needs to do is start a real conversation with us. About them. About their mechanics. And about the results that our supporting generate. Don't unsubscribe me, subscribe me.



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8 Reply to "Amnesty International - Unsubscribe Me"

Mr Crane on 1:09 pm

I think the idea is that when a government acts, in theory it does so on behalf of all its citizens; and unless they actively object to what it does, they are offering tacit support.

In this sense, I think Amnesty are quite right in suggesting that we're all in fact 'subscribing' to torture by default, unless we take the active step to 'unsubscribe'.

 

David on 10:06 am

MrCrane, you should know better: "theory" and "practicality" have nothing in common when speaking about a governement.

I think we all agree that there is no debate around the fact that yes, human rights are broken everyday elsewhere in the world.
Amnesty, stop hitting that nail.

Amnesty International's goal is to "work to protect human rights worldwide", not just "constantly try to gather worldwide agreement on being against injustice and violence".

Amnesty has a two-pronged mission: "preventing" and "ending.
"Voicing an opinion" is preventing. "Acting" on this opinion is ending.

That "preventing" part is only 50% of the solution, and they are only advertising that part. That's the problem I have.

The other 50% is "ending". My point was to say they are not advertising that part enough.

 

Damian on 6:38 am

It's true that stress positions require a level of empathy on the part of the viewer to understand what it must be like to stay like that for many hours day in day out. Moazzam Begg, who was released from Guantanamo Bay tells of his experience before being transferred to the base of seeing two people beaten to death in front of him for slouching during a prolonged stress position session. This and other techniques like waterboarding, where the subject is made to feel they are drowning are classified by the CIA as legitimate and not tantamount to torture. Future films from Amnesty will explore these other techniques.

Your second point is that this is all very well but where is the action? Hopefully you will now notice that the site is calling for people to mail their MPs to sign a declaration that Amnesty has created that outlines not just why Gunatanamo should be closed down but actually says how. The site guides the user through to the excellent writetothem site that makes sure people email their own MPs. The final decalration it is hoped will be signed by hundreds if not thousands of elected representatives from around the world and presented to the US Congress and all the candidates in the US Presidential Election.

At last count, over 60 MPs, Lords, SMPs and Welsh Assembly Members had signed. If you want to make a difference, I would recommend very strongly that you get along to unsubscribe-me.org and lobby your own MP.

 

David on 9:40 am

Damian, your first point is your opinion - but let me tell you, while I agree some people need to see something shocking to act, there are a many great things Amnesty can say in a movie that also call to intelligence or cleverness and not just emotion. The latter is a cheap way to advertise and in my opinion, dumbs down informed people.

Second, no, I did not notice that the site calls for people to mail their MPs. There is way to much visual clutter. I'm sure you had a lot of good pointers in there, but the execution fails to convey the right message. This is a downright poorly-made website.

Believe me, I'm not criticizing the success or validity of this campaign. Amnesty has the responsibility to constantly bring injustice,torture and other means of abusing human rights to the table.

My point is to say that Amnesty is not going down the right path with their current kind of advertising. The principle behind Unsubscribe-me could have been excellent, but in my opinion didn't come out in the best of forms.

 

Damian on 11:05 am

I'm not sure I know what you mean by dumbing down. Certainly the film is there to get across what supposedly benign sounding practices entail. The feedback on bebo and other sites has shown that the film is a very powerful way to break through to younger people in particular. You and I may know that torture should play no part in the way we pursue the 'war on terror' but our experience suggests that the film has a role to play in educating people about what is going on. I'd agree that it is not to everyone's taste though.

I think the site could be clearer about the actions and this is something definitely worth looking at.

 

David on 11:56 am

I'm glad you're taking the time to discuss this, so thanks. What I mean by "dumbing down" stems from this point: I don't believe there is any education to be done about "what is going on". I believe however there is education to be done about "how it is being solved".

In my opinion, Amnesty keeps nurturing the belief that people "aren't aware" of torture and inhuman treatment, and consider this the reason for their inaction. Hence, "awareness" is what they advertise.

Damian, people *are* aware. You don't need to show them more atrocities. The vast majority *knows*. The problem is, they're not doing anything about it because they believe it's "all over their heads". They don't believe stopping these injustices *can* be done, and *is* being done.
They don't remember seeing a precedent. They just don't see how people can successfully fight against a governement. It's all an underground movement of idealists to them. Yes, that's dumb.

And here's where Amnesty dumbs them further: these people are already exposed daily to huge amounts of violence on TV and film and News. They're exposed to negativism all the time. Hence Amnesty is not bringing anything newto the table, other than the sharing of another "gross circus act" on YouTube. People like being grossed out nowadays. With a movie like "Waiting For The Guards", you have the same effect as "Jackass" or "Rotten" - get people to share something disgusting out of simple intention to impress. How does that elevate one's opinion? It's painful to see, then the problem is expressed using superlatives and high numbers, then it's about making the government change something - an action most people perceive as being titanesque. You lose a huge percentage of your "common" audience right there.

Amnesty's communication should be done in a way that motivates people, not overwhelming them.

On the side, Amnesty should have a micro site of "Success And How We Make it Happen" - showing how Amnesty works and how this mechanism can bring an end to injustice.

 

David on 1:19 pm

Adding to that, I just saw that you have lots of great, *positive* info on http://www.amnesty.org.uk/

and

not a single link to there from unsubscribe-me.org.

 

Damian on 9:29 am

There is a huge advert for the site on the right hand side of the homepage:)

What I would say to your concern that people are getting no more than a gross out experience is that you should read the comments on the site, on the lively bebo forum and elsewhere to see what people are saying.

Some would agree that it is a pointless gross out, others think it is pretty tame but the majority are shocked not that this is happening but this is something that we the supposed 'good guys' in the 'war on terror' are doing.

I don't suppose you have the time to do the research and so all I can offer against your hunch is that the evidence is there for you to find.

So we are seeing that it is changing some minds, mostly young minds who are perhaps less up-to-date with what is going on in the world than you or I may be.

But if that was all, that still wouldn't be enough. Unsubscribe has emailed everyone who has signed up on the site and encouraged everyone who has visited to lobby their MP to sign a declaration showing how Guantanamo can be closed down. To date something like 200 MPs, Lords, MEPS and over half the Scottish Parliament has signed this declaration as a direct result of Unsubscribe. The declaration will be shown to the US Congress and to all the presidential candidates in the US election.

We have further actions on Omar Khadr, a child soldier and we will be mobilising people around the anniversary of Guantanamo Bay and to resist the extension of pre-charge detention.

To be honest, we are doing pretty much everything we can think of to improve the situation here and abroad. I'd invite you to do the same.

 

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