Australian political parties either don’t get virtual worlds or they believe they don’t deliver a significant enough political dividend at this early stage. It’s one of the few instances where Australian politics isn’t showing signs of adopting US tactics.

But even if Kevin or John aren’t interested, some of the grass-roots political activity in Second Life has developed into a formal political party. F.I.R.E. is its name, an acronym for Freedom, Improvement, Respect and Enjoyment. Yes, it’s cheesy but there’s an organised political agenda .

Spokesperson for F.I.R.E, Datus Clary is claiming some very broad ground. “We are not a left, nor a right, nor centrist a party. We believe that each issue deserves an unique and ‘best’ solution. Our aim is to represent virtual interests. These interest are common/ universal interests of all virtual citizens and especially the interests of our members”. Clary also states there is an Australian contingent involved with the party. “Of course we also have Australians amongst our members. Australians strike me as very present and active in Second Life. Input from citizens from a relative ‘new world’ can probably contribute much to the development of a new virtual world”.

Actual political activity to date has revolved around surveying Second Life users on their perceptions in a range of areas. The only ideological bent displayed by the party to date is anti-racism and dissent on over-regulation of gambling. With no virtual governmental structures, campaigning for office isn’t an option. This makes it easy to laugh the whole thing off as a pointless exercise. However, these amateur beginnings of virtual world politics are likely to set some precedents that their real world counterparts will take note of in coming years.

Hillary Clinton’s Second Life presence is a grass-roots one , as are most of the other US presidential candidates. It’s partly due to a lack of financial commitment by the candidates themselves but it’s also an awareness that arriving in a new arena and imposing traditional strategies isn’t going to work.

F.I.R.E. asserts that “real life party structures are not fit to guarantee quality of life in SL”. There’d be some of us that argue that current party structures don’t guarantee quality of life in the real world either, so there’s probably something to be learnt from the early adopters of virtual world politics.

Peter Fray

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