Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Website skewers Stephen Harper to lure young voters

Bruce DeMara in the Toronto Star.

Cartoon by Greg Perry for Harpoon.

Combine “lampoon” with the last name of Stephen Harper and you end up with Harpoon, a website launching this week that aims to energize younger voters by mercilessly skewering our prime minister.

With a federal election on the horizon in the fall, a group of mostly young activists hopes to combine fun factoids, social media and the talents of several well-known cartoonists to raise the dismally low rates of participation of young Canadians in the political process.

“We’re an eclectic bunch of comedy lovers, heartwarmingly united by disgust for our exceptionally bad overlord,” the site proclaims.

“Amongst all of us, there is great concern that young people aren’t voting and it’s their future that’s at stake. So we’re trying to engage young voters in a way that they’ve never been approached before,” said site co-founder Lauchlan Rogers, 24, a recent York University graduate.

Rogers said he and a small cadre of friends looked at a number of previous get-out-the-vote sites aimed at young people and “they all seem to be finger-wagging and shaming people for not voting.”

“We don’t think that works and the last thing we want to do is shame young people or patronize them,” he said.

But Rogers notes ruefully that in the 2011 federal election, there were more than 7 million Canadians between the age of 18 and 35 who were eligible to vote, yet only 42 per cent exercised their right to do so.

In addition to 12 issue-oriented subject areas, ranging from privacy to science to defence, the site also includes information on how to become a registered voter.
Rogers said there will be a major effort to reach out to young voters and updates with new content, such as editorial cartoons and GIFs.

Malcolm Mayes, The Edmonton Journal.

The site features work from contributors including Grahame Arnould, cartoonist for British Columbia’s Georgia Strait.

“As a friend of mine said once in a different context, humour is the lubricant which makes ideas penetrate. That’s not my quote but it’s a good one,” Arnould said.

“In the end, good cartoonists aim to shine a light on the truth,” Arnould added.

Arnould said he’s grown increasingly alarmed by the “anti-democratic” action of the Harper government, citing the recent passing of Bill C-51, a new anti-terrorism bill that confers even greater powers on the country’s security services.

“I don’t think Stephen Harper is particularly democratic these days. Because everything goes through the Prime Minister’s Office, the people on the (Conservative) backbench, they could just be a box of hair,” he said.

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