Bird-dogging is a hunting term. The bird-dog has to run into the bushes and flush out birds into the open. Politicians hide behind rhetoric, party lines and self congratulating rather than addressing issues.
In a political context, bird-dogging means attending an elected official's event and forcing them comment, state their stance or change it. It involves raising awareness about community issues, holding a wily politician to their word or pressuring them to make a commitment. Using succinct, pointed questions bird-doggers force politicians to get on the record about a certain issue. This can provide fodder for alternative journalists, who can produce stories on the subject and expose the official to other citizens. This guide includes:
Questions to ask
The best way to figure out where and when officials will be speaking is to sign up with their email lists, newsletters, add them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. Stay up to date with events run by politically affiliated campus group (Young Conservatives) and local news. Finding and befriending members of alternative media can be extremely helpful in the long run. Journalists can give insider information, arrange for press passes for bloggers and ask questions specific questions when citizens are barred from doing so.
It's also a good idea to organize your own political forum. Creating a panel of activists and politicians can not only create an interesting debate but really draw attention to a specific issue. Community pressure can force some politicians to show up, so advertise heavily.
Questions to ask
Arrive early and have questions ready before the event. Everyone else will be thinking about the questions they want to ask while you will be ready. This can help you be one of the firsts to speak if there is a question-answer period. Sit up front and raise your hand often.
Questions should be fact based and direct. Learn the official's political positions and bring them up. For example:
More than 30 million people worldwide are infected with HIV/AIDS, 90% of whom are in developing countries. Would you support cancelling the debt of countries where more than 5% of their populations are infected with HIV and using that money for stopping or slowing the spread of this disease?
Record the official's answer, either with a digital recorder or write it down. Make contact with alternative and mainstream journalists, who often want to talk to people who have asked questions. Media attention is what keeps the pressure on politicians.
Self publish the official's response in your zine or newsletter or on your blog or tweet it. Get it out to other activists.
Bring a posse. It can be intimidating to call out politicians and the more activists at the event, the more you can co-ordinate follow up questions.
If it's election season, grab a bunch of people and follow politicians around, bringing up your issue. Your activism will become a story within itself for the media, attracting even more attention to your cause.
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