Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: John Darvall

Islamic State and the state of social media

A British born jihadist beheads an American journalist in a self-declared Islamic State to affirm a caliphate by posting it on social media.

Those who use social media, and include myself in this, are wondering what these platforms are all about this week. The use of social media by Islamic State, IS as they are now called, is quite brilliant. Many companies and celebrities would love the attention and ‘penetration’ that IS are achieving in getting their message and methods out to the world. This is a world IS want to destroy or at the very least return to their 14th Century version of Islam. The juxtaposition of using the very apex of the 21st century communication to tell the world they are wrong and IS is right cannot be lost on them, or us.

This is the biggest issue with social media and, as has already been proven by the internet, social media is fast becoming out of control as it is being used for purposes unimagined and is now beyond the control of its creators. As fast as IS have an account closed they open another; its like a cyber version of wack-a-mole. Advocates of Twitter and Facebook, who are public companies with shareholders and business models and bottom lines to achieve, have been and are being duped. I include the BBC in this.

It would seem implausible that any BBC presenter, paid from the public purse on a network that does not advertise at all, would be allowed to say ”call me on your Blackberry or Apple mobile ‘phone, using your Vodafone provider or you can use your BT landline and your Currys ‘phone to make that call, or you can even use Royal Mail to write to me using your Parker pen and Basildon Bond paper”? They are all businesses looking for custom and profit, just like Facebook and Twitter yet social media is exempt.

Television viewers and radio listeners are regularly invited to tweet, post or like on Twitter and Facebook. It seems okay for everyone in the media to freely advertise social media providers, encourage their use, to create and enhance the platform of millions of connected users and, by endorsement, imply it’s a good thing.

Here is the reality from this weeks shocking news. A simple click of a link on social media can take you to a video of a kitten in an oversized wine glass looking cute, a drunk Russian trying to stand up in the snow or an innocent man, a son, a journalist being murdered by someone whose twisted view of his faith makes him ‘believe’ his actions are just. You are a click away from the worst of humanity, faith, belief, and what you may know or feel is right or wrong. You have no control over this unless you opt out completely. Social Media has no control either and IS know this.

Sharing views, keeping followers or friends informed is one thing but social media is fast becoming something more and it has now contributed to the murder of James Foley. Social Media gives IS a platform and that platform allows them to ‘share’ their message, ‘post’ their actions, their followers to ‘retweet’ it and there is nothing we can do about it. There is nothing social media providers, these listed companies with shareholders and profits to make can do about it.

So the question is ‘would James Foley still be alive if social media didn’t exist?’. If the act of his brutal murder couldn’t be ‘shared’ or ‘tweeted’ or ‘retweeted’ would IS have done it?

The conclusion could be to beware the advocates of social media, those who claim it is the future and we must embrace it, do more on it, make it part of our every day lives, plead for tweets or posts. Most of all beware of those who have the need for ‘followers’ and ‘friends’. These are some of the many lessons of this week.

One last thing. The bravery of James Foley shown in his face against the masked face of ‘Jihadi John’ who was unwilling to show the world his face by hiding in the cowardice of non identity and clearly lacking in any confidence that his ‘god’ believes in him tells us much about this version of Islam and IS.


I am aware I have used Social Media to publish this blog. That irony is not lost too.

The perils of Father Christmas on the radio

It’s almost here or it is as simple as there are just three more sleeps. Noddy Holder has made his pension shouting about it. Will your Christmas be like it is on the telly? Chances are you don’t even have an open fireplace in your living room. It’s a difficult time of year to be a journalist when the world is point east, toward a bright star or Cribbs Causeway as its better known while you are pointing west, toward a news story.

It is even harder if you do a daily topical phone in on the radio. Getting a listener to talk about something other than Christmas, even if they don’t actually give a monkeys about it, is quite difficult. One could start to discuss the truth and realities of Christmas but this is VERY dangerous ground.

On BBC Radio Bristol this week I ran a series looking at how other faiths and religions mark, celebrate or avoid this time of year. Very illuminating it was too. We had a lot of praise from listeners and some critique too, which I always welcome. As ever in these matters, if your faith does not chime with another there is a conflict of the heart, soul or body. ‘Twas ever thus.

One thing you can never EVER discuss is that Santa Claus or Father Christmas does or does not exist. You can’t even challenge the notion of his existence, his origins or meaning. It’s the law. Whether he is or was a saint, a sinner, German, a construct of the coca cola company or just a retail catalyst to get you shopping for one day of consumer excess I will let you decide.

Here are a few thoughts on this. Parents must maintain the magic of Father Christmas for as long as possible so children believe in him, but at who’s cost? The parents, maybe. As soon as the Santa secret is out, the Christmas stocking stops and the christmas spend decreases significantly. You might say that this is a retail conspiracy. You might very well think that, I couldn’t possible comment, to quote a former fictional Conservative Chief Whip and PM.

Here is another thought. This time of year and the use of Father Christmas is a useful juvenile binary judicial system. Any potential crime or disciplinary infraction committed from early October means you are either ‘naughty or nice’, you are listed accordingly and duly punished on the big day. You can even commute your crime and get a lighter sanction for good behaviour.

One last thought on Father Christmas. He is the ONLY exception to the rule of ‘don’t talk to strangers, don’t engage with them’. Indeed it’s okay for Santa thought to break into your home, steal food, creep up to your child’s bedroom and leave toys.

In short if you even dare to say you don’t believe in Father Christmas it is career suicide and likely to get the local paper on your back with a campaign to have you taken off the air, taken to the local park and force-fed carrots while listening to Shakin’ Stevens Merry Christmas Everyone over and over and over again.

So without actual commitment on Father Christmas/Santa/Ole Nick’s existence I leave you with this final festive thought. The are four stages of Santa. You believe in Father Christmas, then you don’t, then you become Father Christmas then you look like him.

Merry Christmas and a safe 2014.

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