The Egyptian revolution -- brought to you by Vodafone!

Vodafone's new ad claims it inspired the uprising -- even though it is accused of shutting down netw

 

 

Vodafone has sparked fury in Egypt after an advert which suggests that it, and its tagline, helped to inspire the revolution in the country earlier this year.

The commercial starts by showing how Vodafone launched its "power to you" Campaign in Egypt on 1 January 2011, three weeks before the uprising.

It goes on to show images from rallies in Cairo's Tahrir Square, saying: "We didn't send people to the streets, we didn't start the revolution... We only reminded Egyptians how powerful they are".

Perhaps not surprisingly, the film has not had the desired effect. "Never mind the years of activism, the protests, the decades of cumulated grievances, the terrible economic situation, the trampled political freedoms, the police brutality, the torture, etc," said the prominent blogger Mohamed El-Dahshan. "Nah -- we just watched a Vodafone ad, and thought: 'Hey! We're powerful! Let's topple the president!'"

The video is spectacularly misjudged, given that many pro-change activists accuse Vodafone -- and other mobile phone companies -- of following Egyptian government orders to implement a communications blackout at the height of the revolution. Vodafone, one of the two largest mobile phone operators in the country, said at the time that it was not responsible for blocking Twitter. "It's a problem all over Egypt and we are waiting for a solution."

Vodafone have strenuously denied that this film is anything to do with them, claiming that it was made by their ad agency JWT for internal use only (although, seeing as JWT planned to launch it at Cannes next week, this seems dubious).

Attempting to cash in on the cache of the Arab Spring seems to be something of a trend (see my colleague Laurie Penny on Beyonce's latest video). At best, this advert is a cynical attempt to commercialise the revolution -- at worst, it does a serious disservice to all those who lost their lives.

 

 

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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