Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Why Blue Gold is starting to make sense.

Blue Gold book can be read here.

Since January 2007, Beirut/NTSC has been challenging established orders, shaking any status quo, and been bashing whomever needs to be bashed left and right (and center), oh, and my criticism is not for the faint of heart.
During 8 years of blogging I have been called every name in the book (anonymously of course, because detractors do not have enough balls to reply with their name), have been intimidated psychologically and legally and the list goes on.
And - to be honest I am not known to be flexible in attitude. Actually "stubborn" is a better way to describe me.
The above is a good way to pave the road to this post which is neither endorsed nor initiated by Blue Gold or its parent structure, nor does it represent a full endorsement from my side. After my initial refusal to take Blue Gold seriously, attributing it to a combination of egomania and a path to a political career, and having - not just debunked someone's work (which is legitimate) - I went the extra mile of assassinating their character, I tried to broaden my horizons and try - with a lot of cynicism and reluctance still - to view the project from a different angle.
Not known to mince my words, I took to CIH (Civic Influence Hub) with many questions which would not be qualified as subtle.
First, I wanted to know how on earth an NGO which is considered as a newcomer managed to collect enough money for a national campaign. Following the money would allow me to debunk their credibility. My first reflex was of course, being connected socially, it was easy to bring in all the sponsorship they would want in an act of nepotism when other NGOs beg, borrow (but not steal), to get a fraction of that amount - which between the endorsement of Banque du Liban and private donors is in the six-figure range.
Apparently, there was an incredible amount of NOs before getting to YES. The usual suspects turned them down, the immediate business and social connections proved a no-go, and it took the issuing of a full policy in the form of a book to convince some big wigs - and visits by no less than half a dozen people - that the plan was serious and valid.
Now, about that famous campaign.... Why would anyone squander such an obscene amount of money on such a campaign with no tangible benefits (yes, I was exactly kind in formulating my questions). The Blue Gold aims as a first step at gathering popular support to get the project to become a legislation to be presented to policy makers.
The rationale it seems requires to have a lot of Lebanese to support this project - ideally a million of them - to get the policy makers or politicians to understand that the project is indeed popular across all the political spectrum and making it one where Lebanese agree upon. So the "squandered" money will translate on the ground by becoming more of a numeric lobby force even with the risk of people falling into slacktivism (a favorite Lebanese passe-temps!).
All right, let's talk transparency. Anyone working in advertising such as myself knows that for any campaign of this magnitude there is a huge media buy involved. And considering a particular member of the CIH is heavily connected (and is indeed a shareholder) in a media conglomerate, then it is pure corruption for Starcom MediaVest Group to which he is connected, to handle the media booking.
Seems the whole deal went to Starcom's arch rival "Vertical" just to be able to avoid the obvious clash of interest, which in itself a positive thing when a lot of money is involved.
Now, to be honest, previous examples of ad people venturing into the public spotlight have not been encouraging. So is Blue Gold obviously one such example of a person wanting to become a political figure and is simply harping of the usual propaganda tools of which he is a master?
Seems not. Apparently it has been put very plainly that no person associated with the CIH is after a public (read political) post. And - hard to believe for a skeptic - that there is indeed a good will involved in the project, and the concerned people have no intention of becoming politicians in the classical sense.
Which of course, brings the other question - so, which side are they on? Well, seems they managed to catch the attention of a lot of people from all sides. But it also seems politicians liked it so much that wanted - not just to endorse the project - but to appropriate it completely. It is good to know that CIH did not exactly relent on this to avoid what would become a tug of war for something which is supposed to unify as opposed to divide the Lebanese people.
Whereas the project in its current state can still handle a lot of dumbing down for the sake of the masses to make it more palatable, and the campaign could fine tune its target audience better, it seems the project is a serious reality - or at least deserves a better shot at being taken seriously.
For one thing, it seems it's not vanishing into thin air if the determination of the people involved is to be taken into account.
Watch this space.

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