Opinion: Will Geldof's point get lost in the crowd?

As a student, I confess to being completely carried away by Live Aid's strange mix of elation and despair. But Live8 is not Live Aid. According to Saint Bob, the aim this time round isn't to raise money, but 'awareness'.

The hope, it seems, is to whip the crowds in Hyde Park and further afield into such a frenzy of righteous idealism that they will all hop onto trains, planes and automobiles to Gleneagles.

Geldof is clear about his aims: trade justice, debt cancellation and more and better aid for the world's poorest countries, as well as ensuring that the world's leaders don't get away with watering down these objectives.

So far so good. Live8's aims square largely with those of the Government's Commission for Africa, of which Geldof is a member. But there is a real danger that these objectives, no matter how clearly understood by the organisers, will be lost in the maelstrom of emotions and differing interests likely to converge on Gleneagles.

As the PR industry realised many years ago, it isn't enough to generally 'raise awareness'. Messages can all too easily be distorted if not finely tuned and targeted. And it seems to be in the nature of protests that messages get lost in the mix.

London May Day protests, for example, encompass such a loose coalition of anti-globalisation grievances - ranging from environmentalism and animal rights to child labour and Third World debt - that no one, even those involved, seems to know what they are about.

Now an equally disparate range of interests are focusing on Scotland, all with their own messages. Make Poverty History is bussing in protesters to form a White Band around Edinburgh city centre. Speakers such as George Galloway and Ken Wiwa will address everything from war, imperialism, privatisation and globalisation to civil liberties and climate change at the G8 Alternative summit on 3 July. Threats from protesters to bring Scotland to a standstill are also appearing on the web. The umbrella network Dissent! boasts 'the G8 (summit) will not pass uncontested', and states its belief in 'a confrontational attitude'.

Such confrontation often amounts to no more than naked cycling and guerrilla gardening, but G8 summits are building a reputation for not being peaceful (with a death and dozens injured in Genoa in 2001). Concerns have been voiced that similar scenes are inevitable at Gleneagles.

It will be a sad day if Geldof's infectious idealism, and the support and emotion he can conjure, end with his point being lost in the crowd.

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