Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: free speech

Time to grow up Master W W Web

The internet is a quarter of a century old and has changed our lives in ways few could have imagined, including those who created it. From the desk top to the lap top, from the tablet to the smart phone and Smart TV if it’s not connected and you are not connected then what is the point? None. The next big thing is the ‘Internet Of Things’ and we are all nodding in agreement, hurtling to a brave new digital world. But are were actually understanding it or taking a breath to consider whether we should?

The Internet we know now has gone through many evolutions since the switch was first flicked in 1989. The chirpy chirp of dial-up and websites that took forever to load to the revelation of broadband to the expectations of ‘I want it NOW’ super fast broadband. What next? Wicked Super fast broadband with gold bar and oak leaf cluster? Whatever it will be it will never now be enough and the next change will be but moments away. You will have just got your head around all the latest technology and wallop it is all new, again.

The Internet is truly democratic, as intended from the outset. It’s beyond government control and even those governments that try to control it fail. The Internet and it’s offspring Social Media are also home and voice to the angry, unhinged or obsessed. On line they can be found venting their frustrations, conspiracy theories and hounding their victims. There are those who seek to expose others a la Ashley Madison. The Internet gives form and expression to anyone who wants to use it with very few consequences to the user. The target, on the other hand, can be all but destroyed. Some who have been targeted and trolled on-line have taken their own lives. I’m pretty sure Sir Tim Berners-Lee didn’t envisage that back in 1989 when the World Wide Web began.

The Ashley Madison hack and subsequent ‘data dump’ is a very interesting moment for the web. It’s not that all personal data taken and now available to anyone with a computer. No. This is proof once again how vulnerable we are by putting such personal data on-line in the first place. If you think putting anything on-line is safe then you’re a fool.

Millions use the web for sex and, of course, there is a ‘dark Internet’ because any market place will develop a black market. The big and very real digital problem is our reliance on the web combined with our trusting nature. This hacking event shows us all what will be our undoing. Next time it could be Facebook, Twitter or your bank.

If you want to have an affair, sex or watch some weird stuff on-line then it really is all but a click away. And you’re not alone in doing that either. Some of those clicks are illegal and those who do make them to watch stuff illegally or view stuff that is illegal should face the full force of the law. The rest of us? Maybe we need to think about what we are doing. Would you put up your name, address, email details and pictures of your children in the front window of the house for all the street to see? The internet is way bigger than you front window and you can never take it down.

So how to make the Internet grow up? Simple. Remove the ability to have any fake identity that so many wish to hide behind when on-line. I would admire those who hacked Ashley Madison and what they are trying to achieve if they were actually brave enough to put their real names to their cause. Whatever you may think of the alleged rapist Julian Assange, still hiding out in fear in a London embassy broom cupboard refusing to face justice, at least he has he put his name to his on-line work with Wikileaks. Same can also be said for Edward Snowdon, although I don’t think he’s been a ‘naughty boy’ too, allegedly. You may not agree with what they did but they did put their name to their actions. If you are going to cry freedom and free speech then you have the courage to put your name to it otherwise it’s not free. If you believe it, stand by it with your name.

The simplest way to make the Internet grow up would be to make everyone have a real profile using their real name and details. No more hiding, no more trolling and no more extremism, vile intent and perversion hiding behind a shroud of anonymity, freedoms and, ultimately, sheer bloody cowardice.

The Rivers that should flow through us all

This week Joan Rivers died. At 81 she had made generations laugh and the consensus is that she always spoke her mind, said what she felt and she has been widely praised for it. Her last book was Mad Diva and her previous book I Hate Everyone Starting With Me gives you a real insight into her world, just by the titles. Celebrities, Gaza, Jews, Presidents, her husband’s suicide all became her material and through the laughter she made us think about what they are, what we stand for and what they should be. Her comedy was honest, challenging comedy and it is style of comedy that allows us to laugh and come to terms with so many things, especially at their darkest.

We should really value someone who says what they feel and we should mourn their passing. The dichotomy is that we all claim to value free speech yet condemn anyone who dares to step off the safe speaking path for fear of offending anyone. Maybe we should also be mourning the rise of a world where we can’t say what we feel or express our opinion, for fear of upsetting someone as it or we might be considered an ‘ist’ by anyone in earshot. I have written about this and about ‘ists’ in an earlier blog but one thing we could all learn from Joan Rivers is that speaking our mind and letting others know what were are really thinking is not a bad thing, and those who don’t like it are the ones with a problem, not you. Any ‘ist’ be they racist, feminist, fundamentalist… the list of ‘ists’ goes on … who does not listen and believes they are right and you are wrong, they are dangerous. The one thing we can all know is that we don’t all know.

Maybe we could apply a Joan Rivers freedom of free speech test to our world leaders or managers (see earlier blog) who were recently sent to Newport in Wales to talk and come up with the odd plan or two. Quite why 60 world leaders were being punished by being sent to Newport is unknown but one thing is for certain that if you think Newport has problems, they are nothing compared to our world at the moment. Leaders who speak freely could say a lot to those who seem hell-bent on our destruction. They don’t and it was yet another lost opportunity. Joan Rivers would have told Islamic State, Putin and NATO what she thought and that may have made NATO bounce into actual action, or at the very least laugh and think.

NATO was set up in 1949 as an American lead answer to the perceived Soviet threat after the Second World War. How quickly second world war allies become enemies and, as President al-Assad of Syria may find very soon, the reverse can happen too. From the formation of NATO to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world broadly knew what to do. It was like a school playground with two adversaries, one on the east side the other on the one west side of the playground, looking at each other with a ‘come and have a go if you think your hard enough’ attitude. There may have been a bit of shuffling of feet and even the odd flexing of muscles but each side understood the other and each knew what could happen if they did actually fight, so they didn’t.

Communism fails, the Soviet Union breaks up and the Berlin Wall falls. NATO struggles with what to do next. And so does Russia. Twenty-five years on the purpose is back on both sides and, again, each side knows the rules. It may be scary but at least it is territory they and we know. Threats, cease-fires, negotiations, claim and counter-claim but the East versus West game is back on in the global playground.

Islamic State is a totally different situation. There are no rules and they don’t have any rules apart from their own warped view of the Koran. These Muslim extremists or fundamentalists are to Islam what the Klu Klux Klan is to Christianity. They now have their caliphate incorporating large parts of Syria and Iraq so what next? They seem bent on widening their expansion and influence while having no regard to or for anyone who is NOT them. Islamic State and its ‘success’ must be a real kick in the prophets for Al Qaeda. So how do you deal with I S? Simply, you don’t. Bombing them acts as their recruiting sergeant and the West must stay out. It is for Syria and Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to sort out this mess. It is a Muslim and tribal issue and the West must stay out, including aid workers and journalists. Turn off the cameras, turn off the lights and let them all get on with it and they can let us know when it’s sorted.

The one thing that would help us all in the East and West and Middle East would be that the leaders of those countries, together with ALL Muslim leaders in Britain, condemn with out conditions or ambiguity Islamic State. The world needs to hear from Muslims that Islamic State is ‘NOT in my name’, that Muslims do not support I S and their intentions. Only then can we all start to face those who are a real threat and not treat those who may look like a threat as one.

This last week has been about the weak.

In Westminster last week the Leader of the opposition was called weak by the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister was called weak by the Leader of the Opposition. Next week neither will be there as they will both have a note from their mum’s saying they ‘can’t go as they are being bullied’.

Also it is the weak and vulnerable who will suffer with the coming winter fuel bills of the big six energy companies and their average of 9.2% increases in energy prices. What is actually being done about that? Naff all in reality. The ‘Big 6’ effectively said ‘not me mate’, Labour’s price freeze idea is totally potty as it can never work in the global energy market of today, the Coalition’s proposal of a competition review will take 12 months to reach a conclusion and shifting the Green tax into general taxation only mean you will pay more, just differently. It is going to be a long, cold winter for many so warm, snuggly Christmas jumpers might not be such a bad present idea this year.

All this has occurred against the background of Russell Brand calling for a revolution against the political class of today, those who seek to make a profit and pretty much anyone who is not him or who think like him. Free speech is a wonderful thing.

Yet it is free speech that is actually under threat by the very actions of those who benefit most from it, make money out of it and use it to fill the pages of our daily and Sunday papers.

Whether we end up the Royal Charter to govern and control the actions of the press, or they continue to ‘mark their own homework’ as the campaign group Hacked Off call it, one thing is for certain. Thanks to the actions of some journalists and maybe others on trial right now, our press and journalism will never be the same again in the UK.

But this is far bigger problem than just our UK press.

The world looks to us for a free press. Our tradition of free speech and a free press first gained its printed voice in the mewing 17th century newspapers and in the articles of Milton against the puritanical views of Cromwell and his the English Republic. If our press falls under parliamentary control other governments will use our newly ‘state controlled’ media as the very example they need to control, govern, censor what can and can’t be printed. Then it will be the same for broadcasting. Mr Brand may yet get his revolution, but perhaps not quite on the terms he was elucidating.

Why did all this happen? Why did the press do what they did? What made it okay for the press to rifle through the bins of Steve Coogan, ‘convict’ Bristol’s Christopher Jefferies on a series of front pages or hack into the phone of the then missing school girl Milly Dowler? You.

You bought the papers. You bought the stories. You chose the front page of the paper, you fed the beast. It is all down to you. And it’s down to me too. No paper, no journalist, no editor would have done any of the things revealed in the Leveson enquiry if you didn’t buy them.

So now we may not have lost the sensational headlines, but we have lost threatening, penetrating investigative journalism, challenging opinion and, most of all, the freedom of the press that we all enjoyed, maybe just a little too much.

The press will be weak from this last week.

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